It’s Not You, It’s Them



From top: Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin; Anne Marie McNally

The numbers simply dictate that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael must work together in some form no matter what the outcome is to be – Coalition or a Minority led government.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Minority/Majority. Tomato/Tomato…etc. etc. What’s going on with the political scene nationally and do we really understand the merry dance we’re being led on as the two old behemoths circle each other in an awkward scenario where one won’t tell the other that they fancy them so they’ll keep on pretending things are normal and silently hope the other will find the nerve to eventually say ‘let’s talk.’

As they engage in their awkward charade the general public continue to be fed baffling spiel about ‘options’ and what might occur.

There’s lots of talk from the hacks and analysts among us about various scenarios, potential participants and the motivation, or lack thereof, of those participants to make scenarios work.

To the average Joe it’s dull, tedious and frankly difficult to understand given the spurious narrative being trotted out by lazy journalists with their own political agendas. I work in the game and I still have to keep running the numbers through my head and double checking where it’s at.

The Irish Times coalition number cruncher is probably the best tool to make you realise the impossibility of the situation that certain people are trying to convince us is possible.

Here’s where we’re at; the magic number required to form a Government is 79.

Fianna Fáil has 44 (43 now that one from their ranks was elected Ceann Comhairle), Fine Gael have 50. So between them they hold 93 seats.

If they had the chats and decided to jump into bed together then that’d be that. By all accounts they won’t. The likely scenario at the moment is that they have the chat and decide maybe, possibly, to go for a drink together but each buying their own while engaging in a very suspicious relationship that requires the company of others on their various dates.

Those others get to call the shots quite a bit on how the relationship develops and survives and can actually break-up the relationship at any point along the way. It’s hardly a Tinder match made in heaven now is it?

And what of the others? We’re not talking about one or two like-minded individuals here; we’re talking about an eclectic kaleidoscope of political persuasions and interests.

The type of hangers on who could ruin a blossoming romance with the drop of a single demand – be it a colosseum for Killarney or the overlooking of a report in Tipperary.

Sinn Féin the third largest party with 23 seats have categorically ruled themselves out of any support so those 23 seats are not up for grabs by either of the big Two.

While both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would have us believe right now that they both have a chance of forming a Minority Government what they are not making so clear is the fact that they cannot even do that without some form of agreement with each other.

The numbers simply dictate they must work together in some form no matter what the outcome is to be – Coalition or a Minority led by either/or.

It may be that one agrees to abstain from the vote for Taoiseach in order to make the Minority possible (it’s not yet clear which one will win the numbers race but Fine Gael appear to be in the lead) but agree they must.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Fine Gael have managed to convince even 10 Independents to support them (an extremely unlikely unrealistic prospect) that still only brings them to 60.

So even if they somehow managed to convince all the other smaller parties to abandon their principles and go into Government with them (a prospect with zero grounding in reality) they’d still only add 2 from the Greens, 3 from the Social Democrat, 6 from AAA/PBP and 7 from Labour they still only have 78.

Therefore even in the most wildly ideal scenario for Fine Gael it’s still not possible for them to reach the magical 79 without some input from the old foe who they actually hold the candle for.

So while they both spout rhetoric in the media (aided and abetted by some journalists) about others having to ‘step up to the plate’ it would serve us all well to realise that the only plate in town is the one they will share as they drop the awkward charade and finally get it on.

The first date may be a disaster and the whole thing is called off before it ever gets going but either way there’s no getting away from the fact that the date has to happen.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

33 thoughts on “It’s Not You, It’s Them

  1. Panty Christ

    Where’s all the unstable chaos we were promised? They can’t even deliver that.. Wait.

  2. ReproBertie

    “To the average Joe it’s dull, tedious and frankly difficult to understand”

    It’s not at all difficult to understand even for an average Joe like me so ease off the condescension. FF and FG hate each other because they are so alike and neither wants to see the other getting to be in charge and taking the Taoiseach’s role. Tied in with that is the fear of what would happen at the next election were SF to get a run as largest opposition party. The lack of movement towards them working together is not about the logic. It’s about the emotion.

    1. Anne-Marie McNally

      Apologies Repro – my point here was that for anyone who’s not constantly doing the math – and who is – it’s difficult to make sense of the various unreal possibilities that are being trotted out. For example you’ll hear FF on the airwaves saying they can do it etc but the reality is that it’s not numerically possible. I’m having constant conversations with friends/family and political staffers about ‘but is that actually likely?’ or ‘what if this permeation?’

      That’s all :-)

      1. ReproBertie

        Sound, I missed what you were talking about. I have heard party members openly denying in interviews that they can’t get the numbers with their pick-n-mix coalitions so I get where you’re coming from now.

  3. dav

    It’s time for enda to resign and go back to erm “teaching”, it’s clear his ego and lack of intelligence is in the way of any grand collation. even though his yes men have drawn big diagrams and used highlighters he doesn’t seem to understand that he’s no longer in charge and the “whingers” have defeated him.
    Maybe they can send him on a diplomatic mission to The Congo, he’ll get on well there…

    1. rugbyfan

      DAv, I agree with you on Enda going back to where he came from (the classroom) but could you imagine the standard of education the poor students would have as a result.

    2. Kieran NYC

      I love how everyone forgets he’s in his mid-sixties.

      He’d be retiring soon anyway.

  4. Peadar

    Not only is this a little condescending, it’s inaccurate at a basic level. The Ceann Comhairle is not from FG, so they only need 78 votes – a number Anne Marie is at pains to point out they can theoretically reach.

    1. Anne-Marie McNally

      That assumes the CC will cast the deciding vote on every ballot and that’s unrealistic and therefore not a functioning solution.

        1. Peadar

          See DubLoony’s response. The whole thing is unrealistic, as Anne Marie points out. But it’s still inaccurate to hold on to 79 as a “magic number”.

          I’m a fan of Anne-Marie’s (even gave her a high preference in DMW), before I get “pwned” again. I just didn’t like this one very much.

          1. Anne-Marie McNally

            ‘Traditionally’ being the operative word. This is the first time the CC has been elected by secret ballot and therefore not a Gov appointment. Different onions in that dynamic lads.

  5. Nilbert

    This is simultaneously a very condescending and very naïve reading of the situation. From someone who ‘works in the game’ , its very bereft of any insight or God forbid, any innovative approach.

    The reality of the situation is that we will most likely face another election in the near term. All of the parties are currently manoeuvring in that context.

    The dilemma lies in having to appear to be seeking to form a government, while at the same time appreciating the poisoned chalice of being a senior partner in a doomed coalition/minority government facing into a new election.

    Perhaps the second time around they might even consider debating some of the actual issues facing the country.

    Inevitably, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should coalesce, but this would be to ignore the wishes of the vast majority of their foot soldiers, their benefactors, and of course of their elected representatives. The current situation, with them dominating both sides of the house, very well suits this great little country in which to do business .

    1. ahjayzis

      The level of vote transfers between FF and FG candidates would put the lie to that a bit. Even the people who vote for them know they’re no different to one another.

  6. Ronan

    This really could have been addressed in a tweet:

    “What’s the acceptable length of time #FF & #FG must wait, for optics, to agree on coalition ‘for the good of the country’ or quit”

    Any further analysis is superfluous

    1. Anomanomanom

      Most people have the capacity to read more than 100 letters*or what ever a tweet is in length* and like substance to what they’ve just read.

  7. Anomanomanom

    Both parties are in every sense bar the name the same party. It’s a bit like FF being the brother that throws the best party ever, Free drink, food, music everything. The party ends and the house is wrecked. FG the other brother comes homes and cleans up the mess, does a good job but in the process breaks something valuable. Instead of both brothers helping each other and taking equal share they bitch and moan till about 10 mins before the parents get home and panic in to working together.

  8. Steve

    Spare me the horses#%t Anne. There’s a massive difference.

    Michael Collins got the best possible deal for this country in December 1921 while that traitor Dev ignored the will of the people in 1922 and dragged this country into civil war.

    I’ve never forgiving those Irregular pr@&ks for that.

    Let’s do the merry dance, show the irregulars up for what they are, blame them for sticking in the mud,
    Go back to the polls in the summer and pick up a few more seats.

    1. Anomanomanom

      So you must be what age then between 92-112 years old. Otherwise the statement “il never forgive blah blah” make a no sense. Oh or maybe you are just a moron.

  9. DubLoony

    2 cheeks same butt.
    Both know the minority party gets stuffed in a coalition, FF doesn’t want to be in that position.
    The opposition benches are full of people who do not want to form a government, just shout at the those who are in. SF won’t work with anyone unless they are in power.
    FG too small to rule on their own.
    We may end up with FG as minority party, supported from opposition by FF.
    Absolute mes.

  10. nellyb

    Dail had become a self-contained game, nothing to do with people, country or anything/anyone it is supposed to serve/look after.
    There is a glaring lack of statesmen, which is bewildering given that these 2 big parties had been in politics for 100 years or so.
    Media would do good to do a blackout on government formation. In fact, Dail should lock themselves up, like Vatican do for pope election. They can do the white smoke (or green) when done. So we can let them out.

  11. Eoin

    All I know for sure is that I will STILL probably end up having to protest Irish Water, bailouts for billionaires and the general cronyism, after a coalition is formed. Can’t wait.

  12. fluffybiscuits

    Its going to be a govt albeit an unstable one. If you excuse the pun its like a House of Cards. The cards on top are supported by the cards at the bottom and a mild gust of wind could take the whole thing down. This is what the govt is like. They are both conservative scum but will both find at least one issue in the next couple of months that will tear them apart

  13. Paudi O'Shea

    It seems to me that there is a difference between FG talking to FF by themselves, and FG talking to FF with an agreed programme on agreed issues with other TD’s. But sure the Social Democrats just want to sit on the sidelines and write opinion pieces for Broadsheet it seems.

  14. rory

    I urge both sides to get around the negotiation table, put aside the rhetoric, and sort the problem out.
    Because the public have been let down by both sides; the governments acted in a reckless and provocative manner.

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