Serious talks at last – but is the end in sight?

We had a third inconclusive vote for a Taoiseach last Thursday with neither Enda Kenny nor Micheál Martin winning out. So, what now?

Well, the good thing to relate is that serious talking has begun. The Fianna Fáil party has ruled against Micheál gaining Independent votes to become minority Taoiseach. Once that lid was put on, Micheál Martin made it known to Enda Kenny that the two sides were willing to talk about a minority government.

The term ‘minority government’ rolls off the tongue very easily, but I can tell you that it will be a very difficult feat to establish and even more difficult to keep going once the parties have agreed a framework document. I told you all about the difficulties in such an arrangement a couple of weeks ago when discussing the Tallaght Strategy practised by Alan Dukes.

Alan Dukes and I were on the Seán O’Rourke programme last week and there was a very good detailing of that Tallaght Strategy and what it meant to the participants in it.

For me, the real challenge in this scenario will be how to keep faith with whatever the framework document says, which will be that you will vote with the Government on things like budgetary matters and votes of confidence. Yet, within that framework, how can the Fianna Fáil party put forward credible ideas and legislation and hold their stance on it?

It will be easier for that to happen now because no longer will the Government (the Executive ) have a say on which legislation is coming forward and what length of time is to be given to it, ideas which Micheál Martin put forward early on in this post-election period for reforming the Dáil.

The work to bring forward ideas on that is under the aegis of the Ceann Comhairle and he reported last Thursday that they have had four meetings and they hope to have hard and fast recommendations. They made some recommendations to the Dáil which were agreed on and they hope to make some more next week.

Now, what that will mean in essence is that every member of the Dáil will get his/her hearing if they have ideas or legislation to put forward and there will be an opportunity for these to be accepted and put into law. This is all a far cry from the willy-nilly guillotine of motions in the Dáil and the belief that the Government of the day rode roughshod over the house.

Most of these measures will give room for manoeuvre to Micheál and his parliamentary party, many of whom are keen and eager to be up and at it and find the long wait very tedious and frustrating.

The Mayo readers of this newspaper must feel a sense of pride when Lisa Chambers stands up to put forward Micheál Martin for the role of Taoiseach. She says her proposal with such dignity and confidence that, no matter what your politics are, you could not but be pleased for her. Indeed, Mayo has four fine TDs - Dara and Lisa for Fianna Fáil and Enda and Michael for Fine Gael. Mayo will be well served by those four fine people.

For me, I feel a sense of delight each time I see Lisa standing up because I played a small part in her campaign when I went down and did the coffee morning about six months ago. I thought then that she would make it and so it proved to be. She, her family and her team worked day and night to bring in the votes and they succeeded.

The very interesting development to emerge last weekend was that the Labour Party are keen to go back in to government with Fine Gael and so bring up the numbers supporting Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. I am not sure how the elected Labour Party deputies and the wider party will wear that proposal, but it seems sensible to me reflecting on it.

Now, there is a very interesting sideline to all of this and it is the Seanad elections, which are going on all over the country. Many counties have already voted and more will do so in the remainder of this week.

There is a highly interesting political angle to this which I have neither read nor heard anyone comment upon. The Seanad will be elected by the end of next week. However, before it can be summoned to sit, the Taoiseach of the day has to appoint his/her 11 nominees to the upper chamber. If the talks are not concluded between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (and possibly Labour and the Greens ) by then, will the Seanad lie in limbo until they are and the elected Taoiseach will be free to make his Seanad nominations? It is an intriguing aspect and one that we will be watching.

I was glued to the television last Thursday. The most brilliant speech of the day was made by Catherine Martin, who is the second Green TD with Eamon Ryan who made it to the 32nd Dáil. She spoke in Irish and in English with passion and great competence. I saw the leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan, looking at her with great delight and I am sure both felt proud of one another.

Let us hope there will be real political developments before we talk again.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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