The magical May Bank Holiday arrived, the sun shone, Lidl and Aldi risked public order incidents by offering garden furniture and barbeques in their middle aisles. And the government announced the national plan for the great escape from a lockdown.
Fianna Fáil still aren’t that government, a problem for them that’s only going to get worse as events unfold.
This is the Gist.
Paths to Freedom
The public is, let me be clear, a bit frayed at the edges. But, at our core we’re still committed to sticking with the common effort to flatten the curve of infections and save the lives of strangers and loved ones alike.
But, you know, we’d like to stop.
So it is that still-the-Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar took to the airwaves with a cheat sheet to tell Ryan Tubridy when we might be able to do that. And the answer is… sort of never. But that wasn’t the answer we wanted to hear, so instead we got a 23 page set of Excel spreadsheets promising jam tomorrow, with tomorrow to be a date yet to be fixed.
The headlines were; no return to school (already clear to every homeschooling parent, but no less painful for that), allowing some restaurants and pubs to reopen (but only in a commercially unviable way), and letting us go 5k from our homes for a change of scene.
Not yet addressed- understandably- how do we manage society and its function after the end of Phase 5 to avoid ending up back in Phase 0? The money problem, here and everywhere else, will eventually become acute. The only means of addressing it so far identified are decades of Austerity to make Herbert Hoover wince or just magicking the problem away with Central Banks’ stroke of the pen.
That there is still an argument about this choice suggests that widespread brain worm infections may be a greater threat to social wellbeing than even this pandemic.
Fianna Fáil and the mystery of the vanishing options
Fine Gael lost the BeforeTimes election held in Feb, coming third. The Examiner quotes a FG TD arguing they couldn’t have done worse. FF shaded it to be the party with the most seats. But FF have let FG set the agenda for both potential government policies and coalition talks.
This is, at first glance, a real mystery. FG did terribly in the election. Even they say so. But they have a social and class base. This means they think they have a chance to do better and they can’t do much worse in a new election FF have no such certainty. (See “The Gist: Poll Positions and FF’s peril”)
Fianna Fáil’s political offering since its creation has been to be the party you vote for if you don’t want Fine Gael in government. And FG, for decades, were so objectionable to the electorate that this was a winning offer much more often than not.
But the agreement between FF and FG to go into government with each other in order to keep Sinn Féin out of office has fundamentally changed what a vote for Fianna Fáil means. Now, a vote for FF is a vote to keep FG in power.
This makes the next election perilously uncertain for the Fianna Fáil. It has changed its core offer to the public- from the main alternative to Fine Gael to being the secondary alternative to Sinn Féin.
And that leaves Fine Gael with the power in this relationship, even with fewer seats.