THIS YEAR MAY mark the Centenary of the 1916 Rising, but it could be remembered for something even more remarkable.
There are growing signs that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil could bury the hatchet of Civil War politics and form the next Government. Indeed, the predicted results of the upcoming election certainly seem to suggest this could be the ideal solution for both parties, and for Ireland.
Fine Gael are pinning their hopes on winning 62 seats, but will most likely only get 54. Labour, meanwhile, are likely to suffer somewhat of a collapse in support and the party’s target of 12 is likely to dwindle to just 8 seats once the results come in.
So, once the dust has settled, the current government coalition could find itself with a combined total of 62 seats. This will be 18 short of the majority of 80 needed to form a government, and 20 short to ensure a more stable and robust coalition.
It is highly unlikely Fine Gael and Labour could turn to independents to make up such a significant shortfall. Even if it were possible, the result would be a highly unstable and compromised government that would be likely to last months rather than its full term.
Severing ties with Labour
If they were to severe ties with Labour, the option of partnering with Sinn Féin to form a government would give Fine Gael’s leadership sleepless nights and would have its founders spinning in their graves. Indeed, Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald flatly ruled out such a union when talking on Newstalk during the week.
However, when the possibility of joining with Fianna Fáil was raised the minister was, tellingly, far less black and white in her answer. The reason why is simple — joining with Fianna Fáil is looking likely to be the only valid option left open for Enda Kenny and Co to stay in power.
Having the leader of Fine Gael stay in power is important. Indeed, the mantra for the next election should be — “Enda Kenny or chaos”. That is why a coalition with Fianna Fáil is the best option for Fine Gael and for the country.
The reasons supporting this are straightforward. Firstly, with the global economy still fragile and Ireland’s recovery still highly vulnerable, it would give the country a strong, solid government. This will instil confidence in the economy and will mean a full-term, stable government. It would also combine the political talent and insight of Ireland’s two strongest and established political parties. It would also help forge a bond between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that could prove to be historic.
Union of political enemies
A union between these former political enemies would also help reverse the trend towards independents. This trend is highly counterproductive because independent candidates will almost always look to do what is best for their constituency rather than the country as a whole, so if they hold the balance of power in a government it can be detrimental to the good of the state.
Finally, it will also mean that there is a solid opposition in Sinn Féin (rather than a fractured one) to keep the government accountable for their actions.
While at present Micheál Martin is trying to act like he doesn’t want to dance with anyone, and Fine Gael will most likely tell you they would rather dance with the devil himself, when the election results are finally counted they most likely will have a sobering impact.
So when I look into my crystal ball the only union I see is that of Enda and Micheál Martin, because anything else could be a disaster and outright chaos.