What’s going on?
Aside from the daily statistical count of infections and deaths, it’s hard to know. With the Dáil attenuated, the Government is answerable to no one. Some Ministers don’t even have constituents to worry about, because they’re not TDs any more.
The one thing that is still visible above the icy black waters is the process to form a new Government.
So let’s squint at what we can see and work out what it can tell us.
This is the Gist.
Lookit, here’s what this means in aggregate.
FG are briefing against the very talks they’re in and are at the very least hopeful that they might lead to a new election. Meanwhile, FF are facing down the tube of the cannon that their current leader voluntarily wheeled in and pointed at his own party, for reasons that remain mysterious.
FF have options. But to make those options return from whence they were banished, Michael Martin would have to stop being their leader. That’s not his plan, but it seems to be quietly forming in the minds of a growing group of FF TDs.
Play it all out and you see that FG just need to act as wreckers for the talks with the Greens and they can stay in office, no division of the spoils of office, unless and until it’s possible to hold a new election.
From that perspective we can make sense of Simon Covney’s recent defence of the sacred place the farts of cows have for FG (cow farts being a massive proportion of the greenhouse gas output of the nation).
Today’s story is on the true love FG feels for the Green bugbear of a Liquid Natural Gas pipeline up the Shannon.
The effect is to present Fine Gael as the alternative to green policies- The Sludge Party.
But if the talks fail, and an election is triggered, Michael Martin will never become Taoiseach. And that’s the one thing neither he nor the FF party can accept.
But unlike the party leader, the FF TDs are able to thwart the FG manouver. Which is why Jim O’Callaghan’s recent softening on the question of Sinn Féin in government is an interesting new development. Only candidates who offer what Martin refuses to countenance- the return of FF to Government without FG- have a place in any future tussle.
All of which is to simply say that these talks are unlikely to be the last word on the shape of the post-COVID Irish Government. And that matters, because, for all the talk of the hardships of office, whoever is in power for the next few years will have an unprecedented opportunity to remake society and the State.