Political Notebook: A Fine Gael/Fianna Fail coalition?

editorial image
Mary O’Rourke, not for the first time, called a spade a spade when she recently held out the possibility of an Fianna Fail-Fine Gael Coalition sometime in the future.

Mary O’Rourke, not for the first time, called a spade a spade when she recently held out the possibility of an Fianna Fail-Fine Gael Coalition sometime in the future.

It is a distinct political possibility. And whether it happens will be determined by the political reality of the day and the usual post-election numbers’ game. The relics of the Civil War have been well and truly buried by time and circumstances.

Mary Robinson, when she became President in 1990, spoke of the need to move on from those faded relics. Her Presidency, which helped usher in a new Ireland, was a contributory factor to a new kind of politics devoid of Civil War divisions.

In time, that new politics disappeared in a welter of incompetence, greed and corruption. And today we are left with a broken Republic, with massive human casualties. One of its many poignant traits is the resumption of forced emigration which was highlighted in a recent RTE television programme.

Yet, in its own way, the destruction of the Republic could hasten the day of an FF-FG Coalition. Now, and for the foreseeable future, the emphasis in this country will be on winning the economic war.

With economic survival the order of the day, few people will have any tolerance for old political divisions.

So, if the numbers are right in the future, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will get together. And it will be in the national interest, you understand!

Fianna Fail’s rout in the last general election also makes it a strong possibility. That the party will recover is not in doubt. But what will the scale of that recovery be?

So far, it is very difficult to predict. Successive opinion polls have shown a significant number of undecided voters and strong support for Independents.Trends can change, even midway through a general election campaign. The slightest whiff of its inglorious past could always revisit Fianna Fail with a vengeance.

All that is in the future.

Next time, Fianna Fail will have a significant number of young candidates in the field. They will have little time for Civil War politics.

The old catch cries will be redundant, as they will be for those voters who supported them.

The formation of Governments is always a numbers’ game. Remember Bertie Ahern bringing in the Greens and Independents, and the remnants of the PDs, in the aftermath of the 2007 election?

Indeed, one could go back as far as 1948 when a Government with an incredible mix of parties and Independents came together to form a Government.

At that time, an FF-FG alliance was not an option. The aftermath of the Civil War still defined Irish politics, with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael the dominant parties.

The two parties frequently traded insults with each other, in the Dail and elsewhere.

Fine Gael, more elitist, would sneer at Fianna Fail’s dark side, as they saw it. Fianna Fail would frequently respond by describing Fine Gael as ineffectual Blueshirts.

There is no doubt that these divisions held back the social and economic development of the country. Fianna Fail’s Sean Lemass was an exception and led the best Governments in the State’s history.

The failure of develop the post-War economy in this country, until Mr Lemass’s arrival, needs to be analysed as much as the later social and economic destruction of our now utterly broken Republic.

Anybody, by the way, who could not possibly see an FF-FG Coalition in the future should look to a relatively recent example of how two parties got together in a very pragmatic way.

Charlie Haughey had Des O’Malley expelled from Fianna Fail for “conduct unbecoming” because Mr O’Malley challenged Fianna Fail’s opposition to a greater availability of condoms in the 1980s.

Mr O’Malley alleged that Mr Haughey was “unfit for public office”, which was subsequently shown to be correct.

And so Mr O’Malley and others formed the now defunct Progressive Democrats. The party bitterly opposed Fianna Fail inside and outside the Dail.

And yet when there was stalemate in the aftermath of the 1989 election, the two parties former a Coalition Government. Politics is the art of the possible. An FF-FG Coalition in the future? It could very well happen. Mary O’Rourke has got it right.