Impossible coalitions and the Unthinkable Alternative

Yes indeed, Virginia, it does feel as if a year has passed since the election in the south, not one week. First there was the eyeballs-on-stalks viewing of the results on Sunday, with Sinn Féin topping poll after poll and  – oh God, should I cheer or cry? – the huge surpluses that candidates like Aodhan Ó Snodaigh left but which no running mate could pick up. At points I found myself wondering if the present Mrs C hadn’t slipped some hallucinatory drug into my Rice Krispies.

The results removed one nagging worry a lot of Shinners must have had: Mary Lou for the past few years has been making it clear that Sinn Féin would serve in government as a junior partner. Labour and the Greens and others were slaughtered at the next election and blamed for all of the mistakes of the big parties when they were junior partners. But can you believe it? Sinn Féin couldn’t, even if it wanted to, enter government as a junior partner, for the good reason that Sinn Féin got more of the popular vote than any party and  it got the same number of TDs as Fianna Fail – 37. ( FF has 38 because the Ceann Comhairle is FF and is automatically deemed elected to the next Dáil. ) Sinn Feín has out-grown its junior partner gansey.

We’re now in the messy part of trying to form a government. Richard Boyd-Barrett may think there are the numbers by including all the smaller left-wing parties, but there ain’t, especially since the Labour Party has said they’re going to sit in opposition this time around.   So it’s FF, the Greens and Sinn Féin as the most likely combination. Except that Micheál Martin has declared that’s not on.(Because, Virginia, if Micheál doesn’t get to become Taoiseach this time, it’s good night Vienna. )

There’s going to have to be some political somersaults if a government coalition is to be agreed. You might think the parties and their leaders are too stiff in the joints to somersault, but you’d be amazed what most politicians (excluding Sinn Féin) would do rather than face the icy blast of a second election. Once slaughtered, twice shy.

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