The former minister and Wexford TD on why the upheaval in Irish politics is only getting started
This will be a lame-duck government – no matter how you dress it up.
I fully expect Fine Gael to get over the line with the Independent Alliance (IA) and form a minority government in the 32nd Dail with the likelihood of Cabinet positions being possibly secured by IA members Shane Ross, Michael Fitzmaurice , Michael Healy-Rae and Katherine Zappone with a junior ministry to Finian McGrath, a deal is very close.
And that suits Fianna Fail just fine… for now.
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They’ll support the new arrangement initially, but make no mistake, it is for purely party political reasons. At the first opportunity that gives the Soldiers of Destiny maximum advantage – they’ll take it out.
Fianna Fail will encounter some serious sniping from Sinn Fein who will hound them at every opportunity on issues like water charges, health and housing and pour scorn on FF for propping up a ‘rag-tag’ administration come the next election.
But the prize that party leader Michael Martin and senior strategists are banking on is that this rejuvenated FF will be swept into power at the next election as the main player in any ‘Grand Coalition’ and will be dictating the terms of any ‘temporary little arrangements’.
When will that be? Personally, I can’t see the new departure lasting to the Local and European Elections in May 2019 – at the very, very latest.
It’s taken too long to conclude all this horse-trading and the betting public is as tired as the general public of all the posturing. Paddy Power tell me they haven’t seen a penny on the outcome since the polling day.
But I’ve a few angles that might help shake that up (below)
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The Sack Race
I predict that three party leaders will either be pushed or fall on their sword by the time the next election comes around.
Chief among them is Enda Kenny. The Taoiseach is now basically a dead man walking and those around him know it. He’ll be given some time to leave of his own timing but I can’t see him being there by January 01, 2017.
Privately FF will tell you that the ‘Enda Factor’ won them 10 extra seats. Michael Martin & Co have opted for the ‘two in the bush rather than the bird in the hand’ approach this time but even they realise that they won’t be able to bank on the ‘Enda Factor’ at the next election.
So who’ll be King?
The FG succession looks like Leo Varadkar’s to lose.
I know Simon Coveney led the negotiations but he seems a Kenny pick rather than a party pick. New Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald will have her supporters – but not enough I fear – to be the next FG leader.
More pressingly, we’ll see Joan Burton gone by this summer. The Labour Party are a busted flush and it may take a decade or more for the part to rebuild its shattered reputation.
Alan Kelly certainly wants the job and has youth on his side while Brendan Howlin mightn’t have the appetite for the long haul this rebuilding will entail. He could be too closely associated with the austerity era anyway.
I did fancy Ged Nash pre-election as he would have solid backing from the SIPTU trade union. But he lost his seat so Sean Sherlock could emerge as the dark horse in the leadership stakes.
Gerry Adams will also step down within the next 12 months and the mantle of Sinn Fein leader will most likely pass to Mary Lou McDonald .
She has the potential to draw a more middle-class vote and will also appeal more to young, urban voters than likely main rival Pearse Doherty .
Even though their Finance spokesperson is very well regarded – it will be hard to lead the party from his Donegal base.