Poor old Sinn Féin. The biggest party on the isle of Ireland and still locked out of government despite the giant strides they have made. Yes, the “anything but SF” battalion have cast aside their differences and, along with a couple of Independents, will likely make up the next Irish government in an historic coalition. But this government will be watched very carefully. It will surely be presented as an unprecedented case of selflessness epitomised by compromise for the good of the nation amidst a global pandemic.
But this agreement being reached depends on the support of both parties. Michael Martin will sell this deal internally by saying “Mon now lads I’ll be Taoiseach! Please now lads I’ve waited a decade for this now c’mon” and my expectation is that the party will reluctantly agree that this option is the most attractive, or the least ugly. On FG’s part, they have published a comprehensive, detailed document stipulating the criteria that must be met should they engage in this arranged marriage. Did I say comprehensive and detailed? I meant meaningless. Utterly meaningless and alarmingly hollow. Reading this reminded me of the risk assessments I used to carry out in Science when I was 12, “make sure hands are clean”, “tuck your tie in”, “make sure fire is out before putting away equipment”. It is absolute drivel. Political buzzwords that have 0 consequence and 0 vision. Someone should make a game of FG bingo. Here are some of the classics they have rolled out in this latest display of bureaucratic language, “Protect our people”, “A new mission”, “durable government”, “distinct character”, “vibrant policy agenda” and “we back in business baby”. Alright they didn’t say the last one. But they might as well have. These “7 tests” are merely a guise that Varadkar and co can point to when people question why they got into government with FF. The party line will be rolled out “Well we, ehhhh, had very specific, ehhhhh, demands that had to be met by our partners in government and ehhhhh, we are happy to say that they ehhhhhh, met and passed all of the intricate tests we ehhhhh, put in place”.
But that is what will be swallowed. At least for now. This partnership has a chance to succeed in the current crisis. A united front that will have to have honesty at the heart of it. Tough truths delivered coherently, sensitively and rationally will be looked on very favourably by the electorate. But what happens when the binding damages of COVID-19 begin to subside? The tug of war between FF and FG will begin. Cracks will appear and the Shinners will hurl the stones that gained them so much support once more. So, of course SF are glad they are not losing their rediscovered governmental virginity right now. To be in an executive that’s very foundation is COVID-19 is a monumental task and any mistakes that SF made would be severely exposed. It is easy to protest things in which you do not have to make decisions. A perfect time to be whinging from the benches, something they have an abundance of experience in.