herald

Monday 21 January 2019

Terry Prone: Fine Gael will go to Labour to form stable coalition

There's no time. And there's all the time in the world.

That's the reality of the negotiations between Fine Gael and the Labour Party prior to forming their inevitable partnership.

On the one hand, everybody wants them to get their horse-trading over with yesterday.

On the other hand, the outcome has to be a copper-bottomed agreement bound with hoops of steel, because the one thing we cannot have, in the next few months and years, is a mutual spat which would make us look even more iffy to the IMF and the ECB than we already do.

Those twin pressures were in evidence yesterday, with Brendan Howlin (in English) and Eamon Gilmore (in Irish) confirming a complete absence of contact, thus far, between Fine Gael and themselves.

They didn't sound ratty about it. They just indicated that speed was of the essence.

Except that the man who'll be dealing with him is Deputy Phil Hogan, and nobody rushes Big Phil Hogan.

Fine Gael will approach negotiations with the Labour Party only when it has thought long and hard about doing deals with the new tribe of Independents.

Some of the more prominent of the latter have said they wouldn't be interested in dealing with the biggest party in Leinster House, but it's amazing how the possibility of being a minister or minister of state can soften that cough.

That said, it is overwhelmingly unlikely, for two reasons, that Fine Gael will reach out to any of the Independents, however like-minded some of them may be.

The first reason is that Fine Gael knows what needs to be done by the new government can be done only by an administration which is not weak at the joins, and any arrangement with Independents would simply have too many joins, all of them fragile.

The second reason is that Fine Gael knows and trusts the Labour Party enough to negotiate a programme of government both sides can live with.

It will be tempting for us in the media to portray the negotiations of the next few days in terms of victory or defeat for each political party, but it's more important than that.

Compromise will be necessary on both sides.

And, although each is tired after a long, fractious campaign, neither can afford to get shirty with, or suspicious of, the other.

The people have spoken. And what the people have said, to Labour and Fine Gael alike, is "this is not about you. This is about us". The negotiations cannot afford to forget that.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News