The election is over and the results are interesting. Obviously everybody can interpret the results differently based on their own preferences and therefore my interpretation can’t be completely neutral either. But this is what I see:
Fine Gael and Labour were punished severely for how they ran the country in the last 5 years. Labour largely lost their identity and differentiation in the last 5 years and this resulted in a wipeout in many constituencies. But if you think it is over for Fine Gael and Labour, you will be wrong. As we have seen with Fianna Fail, all that is needed is a government that does things in no better way and suddenly you can be back at the races. So if Fine Gael and Labour want to have a chance to win again next time, they should just let Fianna Fail run the country further into the ground.
Sinn Fein definitely is the biggest winner, but many think that they will win as long as they are not involved in a government as their promises don’t seem to be realisable. The rest is just the rest. Yes, some could get a king maker role in the search for a stable government but since most Independent and many others are more interested in their constituency than the country their election is in many cases counterproductive.
What now? The worst would be to have a new election very soon and luckily the politicians agree with that largely. A new election now would result in a possibly totally random result. Some voters could be shocked about the wins or losses of one or the other party and might change thei voting behaviour significantly, so the outcome is unpredictable and nobody who just got voted in would want that.
So then the only other option is to build a government. The two parties are struggling against it, but in my opinion Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should definitely form a Grand Coalition. They have well over 50% of the seats and the voters did want to have them in that position. Micheal Martin’s suggestion of a comprehensive reform of the Dail and the system is a very good idea and the two big parties could work that out together. It doesn’t really matter to the country or the people who is Taoiseach, but I can understand why to the parties this looks differently. A Grand Coalition can be good for the country, but it also can be detrimental to the junior partner in such a coalition. They might get punished in the next election even further.
Sinn Fein might get away again of not having to take any leadership role, but they won’t get away forever. There wanting to stay in the opposition is well justified and makes sense from their point. In control they would have to put promises into reality and that can be very very difficult….and once you screw up, your meteoric rise might not continue.
So there is a LOT of strategising going on. More than is good for Ireland. But ti shouldn’t really surprise us that the parties, like the Independents, more think about their own bacon than about what is good for the country.
By the way, if no government is found, that’s no problem. The Irish constitution has considered that as a possibility: The old government will continue until a new government is found. There will never be a gap. Minority governments are also a possibility. Yes, more negotiation will be required. But essential laws have even in the past been agreed by the big parties, so they could still continue with that. And non essential laws are just that: Non essential! The budget is many moons away and even a need to negotiate a budget that would be acceptable by all might not be automatically a bad thing.
Are we in a mess? Not at all! There is no panic or worry about the future of the country. I hope they will all talk to all parties and see what makes sense and what can be done and at some stage in the next few months, we will probably have a new government again. Patience!! :-)