From top: Ciaran Cuffe, Dan Boyle and Eamon Ryan during the break of a conference of members of the Green Party on whether or not to enter a coalition Government with Fianna Fail, June 2007; Dan Boyle
It is inexcusable that five weeks after a general election the two largest parties, ideologically indistinct, have yet to seriously broach the subject of being in government together.
Dan Boyle writes:
This time around, to the relief of many, I have had absolutely nothing to do with talks on forming a new government.
From what I have been able to gleam it seems that Fine Gael has learned absolutely nothing either from the recent election.
Like the other centre right party (with whom it has ‘nothing’ in common) it believes itself to be natural party of government.
When circumstances have deprived them of that they reach out to others, whom they believe will be happy with a seat at the big table, to allow Fine Gael to continue to do what it has always done in government.
It was the party’s approach in the last government that contributed to its loss of mandate. The last thing the party should expect is to be able to carry on as it has before.
I sat across a table when [Fianna Fáil grandee] Seamus Brennan made his “You’re playing senior hurling now lads.” remark. It was funny and was said without malice. However it had an implied intent of letting us know what our supposed place was.
Fine Gael seem to be approaching these discussions on government without humour, expecting a respect that frankly it isn’t due. Without being willing to shed any of its acquired baggage Fine Gael is making it impossible to acquire new partners to form a new government.
Perhaps that’s its intention.
Whatever the strategy, or lack of it, it is inexcusable that five weeks after a general election the two largest parties, ideologically indistinct, have yet to seriously broach the subject of being in government together.
In Spain or Portugal clear ideological differences exist among their political parties, making coherent government there difficult.
In Ireland it is only nuances of tone magnified by ego, pride and imagined slights, that prevent Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil from looking in the mirror and seeing each other’s reflection.
We’ve done single party majority and minority governments. We’ve done two party and multi party coalitions. Now it’s time for the Grand Coalition. It’s the last dance of the evening where the band is playing the last song in its repertoire.
It isn’t the government I want. I’m fairly sure the policies it will put in place will rub badly with me and many others. It is though the government that most of the voters in Ireland want and have chosen. It reflects the Ireland of 2016.
If it happens I don’t see it heralding any great left right divide in Irish politics. The salami slicing of the left will ensure that doesn’t happen.
We also need to be aware that over the last decade of electoral change the left vote hasn’t really changed at all. Sinn Féin’s vote has increased by about 7%. PABAPA secured less votes in this election than The Greens did in 2007.
The left vote may have gotten harder but it hasn’t gotten any larger.
So to my friends in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil I say give it a bash lads. It’s not as if you have any principles to lose.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD (and senator). Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle