The Loyal Opposition




From top: Micheál Martin at Leinster House last week; Anne Marie McNally

Fianna Fáil’s confidence agreement with Fine Gael leaves us with an opposition party on the fence.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

The white smoke has billowed. Just 70 days since the country went to the polls we have a Government – or something resembling one anyway.

It wasn’t without it’s drama and Frank Underwood would probably blanch at the deals that were likely done by Michael Noonan in the 12th hour as Independents wavered on the brink of acquiescence.

The juicy prize was wagging in front of them but in their peripheral vision they could see angry constituents asking them to uphold their pre-election promises.

In the end the spectre of the prize won out for the majority of them and Enda’s wife relaxed in the Dáil gallery safe in the knowledge that her trip to the Dáil to witness the coronation was not to be in vain. For those political anoraks amongt us it was akin to a really gripping episode of House of Cards.

And what a house of cards it has delivered; a situation where the ‘main’ opposition party has a supply and confidence agreement with the main Government party. It’s kind of hard to oppose stuff when you’re tied into expressing confidence in it.

That said, I welcome the new form of politics that this Dáil will inevitably require however I think a signed agreement to supply confidence goes a step further than simply acting constructively in opposition.

It’s one thing to be a practical opposition party or independent that will consider each issue on its merits and vote accordingly (opposition should not mean NO to something just because it originates from the Government side) but it is an entirely different thing to have a signed agreement forcing you to support a No Confidence Motion in a Minister about whom any kind of dodgy revelations or evidence of poor decisions might surface.

It’s going to be a really difficult fence for Fianna Fáil to sit on and their arses will be tormented with splinters by the time the fence topples. While they sit on that fence Sinn Féin will continue to lob dung balls at them as apparent supporters of Government and some of that dung will stick.

To counteract this, Fianna Fáil will feel the need to assert their opposition credentials by creating the odd convenient row with Fine Gael but nothing that’s going to be too controversial or threatens to bring the cosy arrangement to the ground – at least not before the opinion polls suggest it might be in their interest to do so!

I love an auld opinion poll, it comes with the territory of being one of those nerds but watch now as suddenly opinion polls become a main conversation point in the local boozer on a Saturday night.

Plenty of ‘Jaysus, Fianna Fáil are hitting 33% and Enda’s only on 26%, I’d say they’ll pull the plug soon’ dramas will ensue and in the midst of yourself and myself looking at them, behind the scenes the strategists of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will be glued to them.

To say that they won’t impact on longevity of Government decisions is wholly unrealistic. Of course they will and it’d actually be irresponsible if they didn’t.

There’ll also be key flashpoints throughout the next few months not least the leadership issue within Fine Gael. While the general wisdom on the surface suggests that there is no grá for a bitter leadership battle and the door will be edged open to allow Enda to exit stage left gracefully, in reality once the knives start circling they tend to become sharp very quick.

The same general wisdom suggests that Leo Varadkar is the front-runner by a country mile to take the reins. Should that be the case, I reckon you’ll see Fianna Fáil’s supply of confidence go south very quick as Leo sharpens his teeth on their neck!

All this before even getting to Michael Lowry’s agreement with Fine Gael –  but that’s a whole other days work right there.

There are interesting times ahead, no doubt, but let’s hope those interesting times don’t result in painful times for citizens.

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

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64 thoughts on “The Loyal Opposition

  1. Truth in the News

    It will last as long as FF stay under 30% in the opinion polls, once this critical figure
    is crossed and maintains it self, Kenny and co are gone.

    1. DubLoony

      If the world is nuked,cockroaches and Fianna Fail will survive.

      Can someone please explain to me how a party can cause such economic damage, wreck lives by the hundred of thousands and still exist? Seriously?

      1. Owen C

        (1) apathy
        (2) Irish political legacy
        (3) weak-to-terrible alternatives
        (4) myopic irish political discourse, ie “whats in it for me”.

          1. Owen C

            Serious question. Lets say you are centre-ist in nature (ie you aren’t really going to go way left). You had previously voted for the likes of FG, FF and Labour, depending on individual candidates and positions at the time. You did not feel FG had been a good lead party in government, and Labour likewise their junior. Who do you vote for?

          2. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

            I don’t know what I mean.
            I’m getting rid of your avatar until you stop slagging me.

  2. Clampers Outside!

    “It wasn’t without it’s drama and Frank Underwood would probably blanch at the deals that were likely done by Michael Noonan in the 12th hour as Independents wavered on the brink of acquiescence.”

    Is there somewhere this can be read?

    1. They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

      total waffle – these columns just get worse and worse every week

        1. Owen C

          I worry impressive centre-left front office(Shorthall, Donnelly, Murphy) is being undermined by whingy further-left underbelly.

          1. Clampers Outside!

            The reference to Enda’s wife is particularly off putting catty nonsense.

            I’d’ve expected more maturity from the SocDems considering the decent caliber of their pre-election efforts which appear to be falling into the name calling / personal digs and dross we know from all the other parties…. the “NEW” sheen is wearing off already…..

  3. Supercrazyprices

    “Frank Underwood would probably blanch”

    I hate it when people reference or quote fictional characters.

    1. Keeks O'Gorman

      Time was when it was The West Wing that political spods performed vigorous acts of self love to. Then when they mopped up the spooge, tried to crowbar some element of the plot into the completely fabricated “convo in the pub” story to deal with the crippling shame and self loathing.

      1. bisted

        …ah, The West Wing…my political education is now surely complete. I’ll add this to the revelation that the much-vaunted Scandanavian Model is based on another TV show called Borgen – all available in boxsets according to Tubs.
        If I may drop a name and paraphrase from a twitter poet called Brian Bilston who wrote yesterday:
        ‘I’ve never seen The West Wing or Borgen or even Game of Thrones
        They will remain my known unknowns’.

          1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

            microSDs are all the rage nowadays.
            -According to my kids about two years ago ‘…you can get them in 32GBs now Dad. What is this joke of a thing? My friends will laugh at me…, so I think you can easily fit al….

            Hang on, what was the question again?

  4. J

    “For those political anoraks amongt us it was akin to a really gripping episode of House of Cards”
    Enda & Inda dancing at da crossroads … grippping?

  5. Jack D

    I feel what hasn’t been said in relation to the ‘formation’ of this government is: at the heart of these deals and negotiations was that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and certain Independents did not want to be seen to trigger another election.
    What we are witnessing is not politicians wanting to form a government, it is politicians not wanting to have to go back in front of the people again, and be the cause of it.
    The narrative of the post-election media coverage had Fine Gael, with a couple more seats than Fianna Fail, take the lead in attempting to form a government. About two weeks went by, and people started to question why FF were seen to be taking a back seat, and thus if FGl didn’t manage to form a government, they could say ‘at least we tried’.
    Suddenly Martin was seen to be talking to Independents to see if he could form a government, because now FF needed to be seen to TRY. But funnily enough, that didn’t work out.
    Then the two sides went into negotiations with each other, and the water issue dominated the media. Why? Because their political ideologies are so similar, it was the only issue that separated them during the election campaign.
    Finally after they reached a deal, it was now up to the Endapendents not to mess it up, and trigger the next election.
    Now that we have a government, the political narrative we’re being fed is of a ‘new Dail’ and a ‘new way of government’.
    But that’s not true.
    We witnessing a game of political buckaroo between the three sides, as no-one wants to be the cause of the horse bucking and scattering all the elements back to the people. None of them want to explain ‘why’ they are the cause of it.
    So every political decision in the coming months will be those three sides carefully considering how their moves look to the public, and not truly governing.
    FG are in a position of power – they can go back to the public and say: ‘Hey, we were trying.’.
    But the Endapendents, but more FF, need to be ‘on the side of right’ when they pull their support. It will need to be an issue they feel that the public will support and be on their side.
    This government is not built to last. This government is not built to govern. This government was built not to have to go back to the people and campaign for their jobs.

    1. They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

      very well put

      you can add to that however that you always have idiots like the soc dems and shinners etc saying they were not elected to govern and playing into the narrative (Soc dems have cornered the market on this one) about how what we are seeing is a new form of government. it is in its hole. its the same tired old crap with an even more fractured and divided coalition. it’s directly giving the permanent government and the judiciary for example yet more power and say in what is really going on as well as giving more carte blanche to screw the poor and do the bidding of foreign landlords and rent-seekers

    2. Owen C

      “The narrative of the post-election media coverage had Fine Gael, with a couple more seats than Fianna Fail”

      7 more. Or around 16% in proportional terms.

      1. Jack D

        Technically there was only 6 seats in the difference (it becomes 7 because of Seán Ó Fearghaíl elected as Ceann Comhairle).

        7 seats is exactly the amount that Labour TDs have. 6 seats is how many the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit have.

        My point is that Martin wasn’t seen to be discussing with anyone the possibilities of forming a Fianna Fail led government. Because as the above two options show – there were possibilities and options for them to do so.

        Two weeks in, he had ‘to be seen’ to try and discuss options. And we then get a media narrative of him trying to do so.

        And thus my point being, it’s all about how they ‘look’ to the public and not about actual governing. The policies and political ideology of the parties don’t matter. Just holding on to their jobs and facing the public to do so.

        And perhaps it’s my lack of understanding of statistics and maths and ‘proportional terms’ – but in a Dail of 158 seats, 7 seats is 4.4% of the overall figure. But I’m genuinely crap at maths and stats.

        1. Owen C


          “Technically there was only 6 seats in the difference (it becomes 7 because of Seán Ó Fearghaíl elected as Ceann Comhairle).

          7 seats is exactly the amount that Labour TDs have. 6 seats is how many the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit have.”

          Given the maths involved, FF would have needed 10 additional seats to form a minority government , not 6-7 (158 – 50 = 108, divided by two = 54). And they did, unsuccessfully, try and court the Independents. Further, the Labour Party went in to the election with a formal pact with FG, so suddenly expecting them to jump ship to FF is not particularly coherent.

          1. Jack D


            This is about the optics of ‘trying to form a government’.

            “And they did, unsuccessfully, try and court the Independents.” This is correct, and in my original posting I DID mention this. BUT it was only after two weeks of FG seen to be attempting to form a government, and talking to the Independents.

            6/7 seats (of which Labour and the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit had each) means that FF could have been seen to court them, but weren’t. Again, this is about how the media narrative was playing out, and not wanting to be the ones to be the cause of another election.

            If Labour did have a formal pact with FG, why did it suddenly fall apart after the election? Why wasn’t it an immediate FG/Labour minority government? [Because Labour needs to salvage what’s left of its reputation with the public and need to distance themselves from FG].

            So if all bets are off after an election, FF COULD have been seen to attempt to court Labour (again the optics of not being the ones to trigger an election). Even if Labour said no.

            The problem is that it’s not the maths, but the game of maths. After two weeks of Enda and FG taking the lead of forming a government, people began to question why FF were letting them take the lead, as there WERE numbers in the Dail for FF to be SEEN to TRY and form a government.

    3. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

      Careful now Jack D…You aren’t allowed to be clever here. They hate it.

      What you should say is;
      -It’s not a ‘castle built on sand’ we have, it’s a mud-pie built on 5hit3.’
      -Then just run away.

      -You’re way too good at this for this place. Take it from someone who knows.

  6. Jimmee

    McNally completing misunderstanding the new landscape that minority Government presents. It’s not a clear cut Govt versus Opposition anymore. There are degrees of compromise and disagreement where somethings will be supported by the opposition and others will be shot down. This arrangement doesn’t suit small parties like the Soc Dems, but it does suit the wishes of a larger share of the electorate who will see a more blended approach to legislation rather than the rail-roading from cabinet table through Oireachtas via the whip system we’ve been used to up to now.

    1. DubLoony

      It also means that the “purer than thou” parties who wouldn’t be caught dead talking to their opponents would actually have to take part in a meaningful way. Will be interesting to see of the AAA/PBP if they take part rather just complaining all the time.

      1. They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab


        with a bit of luck most of these parasitic whingers will be annihilated at the next election

          1. They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

            huh? how can you effect meaningful change if you don’t participate in the parliament or executive?

            What do we want? meaningful change
            When do we want it? never
            What do we want? meaningful change
            When we do want it? when only our rivers run free


          2. Nigel

            How can you enact meaningful change when any association with or compromise with the main parties immediately sullies you in the eyes of the electorate who will destroy you next time around while still returning the main parties? It’s like an illustrated lesson in the useless sterility of cynicism.

          3. They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

            That’s a very cynical and jaded response Nigel

            There’s a way to make a principled opposition while still being participatory

            As I’m sure an intelligent guy like you is well aware.

  7. Clampers Outside!

    Why even mention Enda’s wife, sorry Anne Marie but this is dreadful muck, I certainly did not vote for a hissing cat, which is all this drivel boils down to.

    These pieces are getting more and more disappointing Anne Marie.

    Pre-election there was none of this spiteful nonsense…. please don’t continue down this route.

    1. Anne

      Ah tell us how you really feel..

      What’s your problem with it exactly? Is it not descriptive of the farce that went on no?

      There’s a certain misogyny I don’t like about your Clampers.. You pounced on the mansplain comment last time on Anne-Marie’s post and set off the bandwagon, who feel the need to repeat the same thing.

      Remember the post from the female college student who was raped? You got up in the arms about the word demographic and the fact that it’s women who suffer a much higher rate of sexual abuse.

      I don’t see you targeting the male columnist on here as much as Anne-Marie.
      You have latent misogynist tendencies that need addressing IMO…

      1. Anne

        columnists.. I should say.

        If that’s the right word.. Frilly-Mean tells me that’s what they are and she rarely comments on their posts too.

      2. Owen C

        “There’s a certain misogyny I don’t like about your Clampers”

        Fupping hell. Is this gonna be the standard response to criticism around here?

        1. Anne

          It is when it’s appropriate yeah. I don’t recall you being around when that post about the raped college student was posted.. so kindly butt out. The comment wasn’t addressed to you.

  8. Baz

    Anne Marie was passed over by the voters at the ballot box in the election just gone so luckily she returns to her handy gig working for Ms Murphy, as Red Flag provide a lot of Ms Murphys scrolls it appears Anne Marie is freed up to write spiteful catty waffle.
    Keep it up Anne Marie, it’s as silly as Stephen Donnelys excuse making on Claire Byrne Live earlier in the week. (When’s the infight expected and when will Roisin be leaving?)

      1. Anne

        It wasn’t spiteful catty waffle, at all at all..

        And before anyone says anything.. Yes I remember sh*t.

      2. Baz

        Who knew, the dumbing down has now reached the Seanad faster than expected, pity the fools that have to listen to her drone.

  9. Anne

    It’s going to be a really difficult fence for Fianna Fáil to sit on and their arses will be tormented with splinters by the time the fence topples.

    lol Willy O’Dea with splinters on his arse pointing a gun at you is not a good place to be..

  10. some old queen

    I think this governmental arrangement is actually no different from the last, and practically all before. The two main parties have always set narrow parameters of what opposition means. The only thing that has changed is that because of diminishing numbers it is now out in the open from all to see.

  11. Kieran NYC

    This Dail has a real opportunity for every TD to have in input into shaping, proposing or defeating legislation, and not just cabinet ministers. If enough opposition TDs worked together, they could pass something the government didn’t want to. It could really be a new way of governing, where everyone has a stake.

    We could have a list of what the SocDems would propose and who they are willing to work with to get it done. Specific bills or policy areas they want to focus on. Get the ball rolling on making an actual difference to people’s lives.

    Instead we get hands rubbing with glee about how soon the political intrigue can start.

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