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State of the Nation

Insanity: TDs will spend today doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

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Everybody’s talking about

On the 10 March, the Dáil tried and – as everyone expected – failed to elect a Taoiseach with the leaders of the two largest parties failing to secure sufficient support from TDs. Enda Kenny resigned as Taoiseach, assumed a caretaker role, and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil set about securing the support of independents.

Almost one month on, the Dáil sits later today and will try again to elect a Taoiseach. Everybody once again expects that no one will be successful. In fact it’s likely that, despite the courting, none of the independents will vote for Enda Kenny or Micheál Martin.

8/12/2015. Oireachtas Tree lights Neither of these two will become Taoiseach today. Sasko Lazarov Sasko Lazarov

In effect, TDs are doing the same thing over again and, while no one really expects a different result, it does bring to mind the famous Albert Einstein quote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

It’s only after the Dáil goes through the tedious formalities of today that the real business begins. Kenny and Martin are expected to meet this evening and finally things will step up a gear.  The reality of Dáil numbers means whichever of the two big parties forms the next government, they will need the support of the other.

How the two parties reach a deal is not clear, nor is the likely substance of that deal. If they don’t reach one there’ll be a second election. There will be areas of policy that they will find agreement on and, as we explored last night, that will have to include water. But don’t expect this to happen quickly. It’s 40 days since the election and we could conceivably be waiting another month for a government to emerge.

The agenda

  • 10am: It may still be a caretaker government, but the cabinet meets to discuss what’s likely to be relatively slim agenda.
  • 11.30am: The new cross-party Dáil committee on reform is to meet this morning to finalise some of the reforms to the way the house does its business.

  • Pre-Dáil sitting: Fine Gael will hold last minute talks with independents in a bid to secure votes for Enda Kenny. Labour’s parliamentary party is due to meet in Leinster House.
  • 2.30pm: The Dáil will immediately set about trying to elect a Taoiseach. Enda Kenny will be first, followed by Micheál Martin, and then Ruth Coppinger for AAA-PBP. Expect lots of voting and no Taoiseach at the end of it.
  • Afterwards: There will be statements on Dáil reform off the back of the morning committee meeting. These are due to run until 8.30pm.
  • 7pm: Kenny and Martin are due to hold their first face to face talks tonight.

Inside Leinster House 

Whenever the new government is formed it will need a chief whip, someone responsible for rounding up TDs to ensure they vote with the government. The role has been held by Wexford TD Paul Kehoe for the last five years but he’s not expected to retain it. It takes on new importance this time around given the next government will be operating with a smaller majority – or none – in what’s expected to be a reformed Dáil, with more of an input from opposition parties.

It’s by no means a foregone conclusion, but if Fine Gael leads that next government the names mentioned for the role include Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy and junior minister Simon Harris who’ve both been heavily involved in the party’s discussions with independents. It will be a thankless task to keep everyone onside and even more difficult if independents are involved.

27/3/2014. Nicky McFaddens Funerals Scenes Simon Harris and Eoghan Murphy are rumoured to be in contention for the role of government chief whip. Leo Varadkar probably isn't. Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

What the others are saying 

  • Fianna Fáil has committed to scrapping water charges within six months of taking office, according to the Irish Independent.
  • Meanwhile, the Irish Times says the party will examine a referendum on public ownership of the water system.
  • The Irish Independent also says that Labour leader Joan Burton is being warned not to enter government by her party.
  • Independent TDs have criticised Fine Gael’s document for a partnership government as a “cut and paste job” from the party’s manifesto according to the Irish Examiner.

In case you missed it 

On the Twitter machine 

More revelations from the Sinn Féin leader.

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