The Gist: A Most Expensive Bargain

Michael has purchased his stint as Taoiseach from Fine Gael and it only cost Fianna Fáil everything

The Gist: A Most Expensive Bargain

Imagine I have a crisp €500 note in my pocket. And I am out in the market looking to buy a kettle. Two tents, beside each other, have kettles. I stand in earshot of them both and declare three things: that I will never buy a kettle from the first tent, that I absolutely must buy a kettle no matter what and that I have €500 on me.

This is the Gist, and today we learned from Fianna Fáil how to pay €500 for a kettle.

A Party where everyone’s invited. Except them.

Fianna Fáil came first in terms of seats in the election which some of you may remember from the BeforeTimes. Fine Gael came third because they had driven the country stone mad from their quinteessential FG carry-on.

Now Fianna Fáil have agreed to go into a coalition government (or agreed to agree it later) wit FG.

Here’s how the chair of Fine Gael described it to members;

They reaffirmed their commitment to forming a majority government of  three or more parties/groups that will last five years with full and equal partnership between FG and FF at its centre.

Presumably this was followed by another message saying “I know! I can’t believe it either!”

On the 1st March, your friendly neighborhood Gister explained the dynamics of Micheal Martin’s inexplicable sabotaging of his own negotiating strength.

FF+SF might have saved FF, but not Martin. And, as I have tried to explain, the one thing which Martin must do is become Taoiseach. He will make any choice that leads there- and avoid any choice that doesn’t guarantee him that top job.

The key to this deal is this sentence;

There is also an understanding that Fianna Fáil will hold the Taoiseach’s role in the first period of Government.

And thus the kettle was bought.

Except… the two Civil War parties were so diminished at that last election that the two of them together still don’t meet the bar for a majority. They need a third party or a bunch of Independents. And, thanks to Parnell’s invention of enforcing voting with the party, one of those would be a lot easier to hold together.

And so, we have a return of the world’s weirdest effort to find a third coalition party member. The large parties have already agreed their programme. So the offer is to have no impact, but to carry the blame. Media proxy voices for both those civil war parties will be mustered to demand, I dunno, that Greens/Labour/Social Democrats must do what Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael want.

An offer of being an explicitly designated scapegoat is a novel approach to building a coalition. You could only expect it from parties who fell short of their electoral expectations because voters rejected their presumption that power was their by right.

The real mystery would be the psychology of the party leadership that would find it attractive.


The leader of SF revealed that she was recovering from a bout of Coronavirus. The President of the US said he’d cut off funding for the World Health Organisation during the worst pandemic since its foundations. (He probably doesn’t have a power to do that without Congress. Even his lies are lies.)

Tomorrow: barring something eyecatching, I’m going to be taking up a suggestion from a Gist subscriber and do a special roundup on the status of Coronavirus surveillance around the world.