Coalition government is the only way to go
THE local folklore has it that when Gerry Collins succeeded to the seat of his late father in a by-election, his success was greatly assisted when scoundrels burned an effigy of the great man in Abbeyfeale.
The identity of the perpetrators has remained a subject of much speculation since, point being that it wasn't necessarily Collins' enemies who were behind the incident but could well have been some supporter or other seeking, successfully as it happened, to garner sympathy for his candidate.
I was reminded of this when campaigning with young Labour candidate James Heffernan in Limerick West.
He told me he was unhappy that a couple dozen of his posters had disappeared in Kilmallock.
However, he was bemused when they reappeared on poles in Newcastle West -- but on poles that somehow had been denuded of the original Fine Gael posters! The switch was not made by James Heffernan or his Labour canvassers.
This kind of tomfoolery is the exception in this general election.
I have never experienced so many serious people so engaged with an electoral contest.
People are listening, watching, questioning, arguing, hoping; they are apprehensive, fearful, and uncertain. Whatever the polls say, the people have not decided. They had decided three months ago that Fianna Fail is brown bread.
And they have moved on to evaluate what is on offer from the other parties, in particular Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
Only a minority are satisfied with the answers they are getting from either party.
But they understand perfectly that this is because there are no simple answers.
And that's why it is interesting that behind the spin, the preferred outcome remains a coalition government comprising Fine Gael and Labour.
The reason for this preferred outcome is that many thinking people are convinced that only a broadly based, balanced government can lead the country to economic recovery.
This general election should not be reduced to a contest between who can tax the most and who can cut the deepest.
Everyone knows that we already have painfully high taxes and will continue to have for some time.
And everyone knows that before we turn the corner there will be further cuts.
Everyone knows that it is about how these things are balanced -- everyone, that is, except Sinn Fein. Mr Adams pretends that Sinn Fein "will reverse the Budget cuts" and walk away from the IMF/EU bailout deal. Nobody believes that can happen except voters who are so alienated by the recent failures of government that they will be content to register a protest vote.
Whether that protest vote goes to Sinn Fein, or certain independent candidates, it is a wasted vote because it will do nothing to help families struggling to make ends meet.
And it is unthinkable that any serious party would risk the international fall-out that would occur towards any government at this time that would involve a pact with Sinn Fein or reliance on independents.
Commentators who, after the 2008 crash, advocated a national government now appear content with, or argue for, a single party government.
Yet the situation now is worse than then.
There has been paralysis on the banks which, in turn, means that jobs have been needlessly lost and new jobs have not been created because credit is not available. If we fragment as a society, we will be in a dangerous place.
If a new government is fair then, I believe, that people will give it a fair wind
That new government will need to be built on broader foundations than any single party can offer.