Michael Gove thinks it’s all over – and it probably is – but that pesky ‘democracy’ bit still has to be overcome!
If a week is supposedly (and famously) a long time in politics, then 128 days is…well, a very, very long time.
Finally…finally…finally…to considerable interest, some enthusiasm, some apathy and some cynicism, a Programme for Government has been agreed between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.
And while each party’s grassroots (members) have to approve the deal – that’s the pesky democracy bit – it does look as if political obituaries of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will need to be rewritten.
Martin is facing some opposition to the deal within his own party, and certainly the Green Party membership could vote either way – but the FF leader still looks very likely to be the next Taoiseach. Hence the congratulations already issued in the House of Commons by the silver-tongued Michael Gove, who sent good wishes across the Irish Sea to “Taoiseach-elect Micheál Martin”.
If, as he’s expected to, Martin gets across the line, he will have successfully avoided those pages in the history books which were being reserved for him under the heading ‘First FF leader never to be Taoiseach’.
If the new Coalition gets the…er, green light, then we’re into historic ‘Revolving Taoiseach’ mode. And once you start revolving Taoisigh, you get used to it (I imagine). So, it’s an intriguing new future; Martin in the top job until the end of 2022, then the second coming of Leo (Varadkar taking over for two and a half more years).
There is some irony in the fact that Martin is taking over at a time when his party is languishing in the polls, while Varadkar is stepping down when he’s just burst the poll-ometer (75% rating in an Irish Times poll, FG flying too).
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil grassroots will endorse the deal, although there are rumblings of discontent in FF particularly. Amongst those opposing any love-in with Fine Gael is Roscommon councillor, Orla Leyden.
If the new Coalition gets over the line, Senator Eugene Murphy will suddenly find himself as the only Government Oireachtas member who is based in Co. Roscommon (Deputy Frank Feighan of FG now represents the sprawling Sligo/Leitrim constituency, which takes in part of North Roscommon).
Meanwhile, as matters stand (and a week is a long time in…you know the rest) our high profile Independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Denis Naughten appear to be out of the ‘Government equation’. Of course that could change. Both men were involved in Government formation talks, but not in actual Programme for Government talks! They are both understood to be studying the latter document as we speak – that’s 140 pages or so, just over one for every day of the tortuously long negotiation process.
First-time TD Claire Kerrane (Sinn Féin) looks set for opposition, which is not a bad place to be just now. She is likely to be sharing those benches with Fitzmaurice and Naughten, with Murphy wearing the Govt. jersey in the Senate, and it’s anyone’s guess how that landscape will impact on the political dynamic here in Roscommon/Galway.
But if the Greens vote to scupper the deal, while Sinn Féin are still unlikely to get a “We’ve had a cancellation” call, Deputies Fitzmaurice and Naughten could very quickly come back into play and find that FF & FG want to speak to them again!
Another election cannot be ruled out, but pragmatism is almost certain to prevail. The Greens are likely to come on board. Micheál Martin can probably start looking for Louis Copeland’s number.