| 8°C Dublin

Eamon Keane: Merkel to make sure honeymoon is short for Enda and Eamon

FOUR more days of foreplay. And a weekend consummation. It has to be done. Then back to work. Especially in a partnership which has to last for five years.

As Labour and Fine Gael jump into bed, we are watching an elaborate mating ritual which is more about show than performance. Moreover, it will be rendered impotent by events outside their control. There will no honeymoon when stepmother Angela Merkel demands the dowry.

Still we all like to play the Guessing Game so here is what will happen in the Coalition Negotiations.



Leaks

First off, there is all the usual tough talk coming from "well-placed sources". Ignore it. There will be leaks aplenty about sticking points and talk of "no compromise". We may even have a bit of table thumping and all the better if we have a walkout.

But you see these boyos have waited years to be in power. As I predicted weeks ago Coalition was always going to happen. They won't blow it now.

Now the negotiations are really about two things. Giving out the goodies and trying to get a unified front for Europe.

When it comes to sharing the spoils, there is a pecking order in each party. It is based on loyalty and seniority. Enda Kenny told me he wouldn't give out ministries on that basis. He may not have a choice.

Don't forget the rebels' coup last year. Those who helped him see it off will want good ministries. Ministries that let them have money and power. That will be important come next election time. Once Kenny has dealt with that internal problem, he has Gilmore to face.

Labour says it wants six ministries. FG will offer four. There is also the Attorney General position and the Ceann Comhairle role to give out. So Gilmore could end up with five to six plum appointments.

And what about the appointments to the various State boards? Both parties have promised not to give out jobs for the boys. Of course they won't and Charlie Sheen is giving up girls for Lent.

Policy on the bank bailout will be important when the new amigos head to the High Plains of Europe. It will help that one hand will know what the other is doing. Brian Lenihan was, I believe, shafted by people in his own party when it came to the IMF/EU deal. Notice a lot happened when he was away in Brussels.

Also it will be important in these negotiations that Eamo and Enda communicate clearly with each other. Do you remember last January's Night Of The Living Dead when Dermot Ahern re-incarnated himself as a minister? This was after Cowen said he had resigned. The tone and clarity of these talks will set a template for the future Government's operating style.

There is one good thing to emerge from this mating ritual. The fact that it is happening so quickly. Recession and the banking disaster mean we have been spared the histrionics of a three-week dance-off with a 'will they, won't they, carry on' between FG and Labour. It's down to business quickly.

It also helps that Gilmore and Kenny get on. I'm sure you noticed the love-in during the final week.



difficulties

However, a shadow looms over all this. Angela Merkel. Stepmother Angela is already in trouble with her own domestic difficulties.

Enda's new bosom buddy may not be inclined to lift our debt burden to the extent we all expect. Maybe a shift in interest rates but it will be far more tricky when it comes to burning bondholders on a pan-European basis.

So let's enjoy the ritual. Watch the posturing and manoeuvring unfold.

But beware the ninth of March. That's when the real negotiations take place.

Then and only then will it be Game On.