No joke, we’re working together now. Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin have worked out a deal for future governance. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Ray O’Hanlon
When he first became taoiseach, the New York Times dubbed him “Edna.”
Well, “Edna” is about to make new headlines and a little history by being the first leader of Fine Gael to be re-elected to Ireland’s top executive political post.
Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have reached a deal that will result in Kenny leading a minority government with the cooperation of Fianna Fáil.
The deal reached between the two party leaders is so seemingly simple that it’s a wonder it wasn’t achieved weeks ago.
But that’s politics, Irish politics, and a phenomenon that began with Patrick Pearse declaring a Provisional Government has, over the years, delivered majority government, inter-party government, coalition government, acting government and, now, minority government.
Kenny and Martin finally nailed down their deal yesterday (it is yet to be formally ratified) and came up with a document with the less than inspiring title of “A Confidence and Supply Arrangement for a Fine Gael-Led Government.”
What this means in effect is that Fine Gael will be in government and Fianna Fáil in opposition, but the latter will abstain in the vote for taoiseach and ministers, thus clearing the way for Kenny to resume his old job.
Fianna Fáil will also hold fire on budget proposals and any no confidence motions in the government – within its version of reason of course, and will purr like a cat who stole the cream because Fine Gael has agreed to its condition that the widely reviled water charges will be suspended in the next few weeks and for a period of nine months thereafter.
Fianna Fáil will also be able to present policy proposals and private members bills, and presumably Fine Gael will have to bend a sympathetic ear.
It’s a coalition of sorts, but one in which Fianna Fáil holds a get out of jail free card which can be used at any time.
The deal is to be reviewed at the end of 1918 which would appear to deliver about two-and-a-half years of more or less stable government to the Irish electorate.
Much will depend, presumably, on how Kenny and Martin can work together, or indeed how their respective party rank and file members allow them to cooperate.
For now at least, all seems to be palsy and chummy.
As such, the arrangement is certain to raise a few wry smiles from those who see little difference between the old civil war rivals in the context of present day political and economic life.
One way or another, Fianna Fáil will be playing a part in government while not being a part of government.
In advance of the next vote for taoiseach, meanwhile, Mr. Kenny has been speaking with independent members of the Dáil.
Clearly, he wants to secure as many votes as possible, even with Fianna Fáil sitting on their hands.
And that would suggest that independents, as individuals or in their various groupings, will also have an input into the next administration.
It’s all a very new arrangement, a very new Irish arrangement.
Its effectiveness and staying power will be tested in the days ahead.