The air in political circles is dense with anxiety these days. Having been pulled back from the brink of a cliff edge which was heading straight into the depths of an election nobody wanted, TDs remain cautiously hopeful that more time can be had before facing the electorate.
The general public, which makes up this electorate, can be a funny bunch. “No regard for all the hard work I’m doing,” as one TD put it to Insider recently. There may be some truth to that, but politics does not always reflect reality - hard work by some simply is not enough. The impression of hard work by others is more than enough.
Next week, this current Dáil will celebrate its first anniversary and yet it feels like it has been here for years. It has been a very difficult year, particularly for Fine Gael. First, the challenge of forming a government; then, the challenge of staying in Government; followed by ongoing water charges issues, crisis in the Garda, hospital waiting lists, homelessness - the list goes on and on.
Yet despite the Governement's own best efforts on occasion, it remains in office. It does this at the mercy and blessing of Fianna Fáil who like 99 per cent of TDs, and maybe more, simply have no appetite whatsoever for an election. For all of these elected members of parliament, despite their musings and suggestions they will do almost anything to avoid going to the country. However, Insider is of the belief that notwithstanding all of the above, this year will not pass without exactly that happening. Here are some of the reasons why:
Firstly, before the June Bank Holiday weekend, Fine Gael will have a new leader and the State a new Taoiseach. It appears right now that this is a two-horse race, or as political observers feel a race between “work horse Coveney” and “show pony Varadkar”. The outcome of this could be significant.
Fianna Fáil has no care for either man. It sees Minister Coveney as the man who for all intents and purposes brought about the downfall of their man, former taoiseach Brian Cowen. And whatever is said or done, this will never be forgotten by the “dyed in the wool” FFers. That said, the party appears to like the alternative less. Now that is saying something!
FF view Leo Varadkar as a lad that gets a soft time off the media simply because he announced he is gay. Furthermore, "Leo" does not like Fianna Fáil and does not do a lot to hide it. That is never helpful when confidence and supply is in play. Also, any politician who can be identified simply by his/her first name (eg, Bertie, Napoleon ) is regularly not loved by their opponents. Insider feels that if Coveney is first past the post, this Dáil will survive a bit longer. Under Leo, it’s unlikely to make it to the Budget.
Secondly, Fianna Fail will not put up with much more incompetence from this Government. It hopes that it can survive because, as stated above, it does not want an election. A lot of the current FF TDs are first timers - virgin deputies who paid out a small fortune to get to Dublin. At this stage, they have just 12 months’ salary received and need many more months to get their money back, never mind invest in a new campaign.
If the white flag was raised and they ended up out on the canvass, the cost of tea and sandwiches for their canvass teams would be a challenge, never mind the serious costs such as leaflets, posters, and advertisements. The cost to run a campaign for many candidates is circa €25,000. And that’s with ham sandwiches, forget beef!
Again, the reality is, in the world of politics, Fianna Fáil might have its hand forced. Further revelations about the Garda, some unnecessary event in the health service, or a plain gun to the head from Fine Gael's new leader on some issue, and the game will be up. Fianna Fáil might just feel it has no choice but to stand on principal and hope it all works out. Insider has seen over the years that often momentum is a greater force than all others, and when that sets in, there is no stopping it.
The final reason that an election might be called is the Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross.
This man is a rookie in government and so far, he has not done, or been seen to do a good job - and the bus drivers are about to make his life a whole lot more difficult. If, as it looks currently, an all-out bus strike along with possible rail strikes occurs next week, Ross will not know which way is up come the following week. This will be brought on for two reasons - his own lack of political nous, and from the Opposition, who largely view him as a man out of his depth, who cannot cope at senior minster level.
The “Ross issue” is the biggest threat to the stability of this Government in the coming weeks. All of the Opposition will be on him. If the strike persists then the pressure will continue to mount. Insider feels if it does go ahead next Monday all bets are off for the Minister, and he will find himself in the very difficult position of either having to hold the line or give in to some sort of climbdown. This is known in politics as a 'lose, lose'. If he is clever, he will work every minute over the coming days to have this strike postponed. If not, it will be the rock he perishes on, and also, possibly this Government. If that happens, the next taoiseach will probably be Micheál Martin, not Simon or Leo. Only in politics!