The negotiations for a new Irish government are being conducted with all the charm of the Irish wedding proposal: “Would you like to be buried with my people?”
We may have a government this Thursday, April 14, or we may not. The pundits say that Fine Gael could lead a minority government for two years maximum with tacit support from Fianna Fail, who would abstain on key agreed issues, with some independents agreeing to vote with the new government.
It is a deeply ambiguous situation with all sides claiming they are working with the “national interest” in mind -- as long as that national interest coincides with their interest.
Power is all that matters, once summarized in brilliant style by an Irish politician who once remarked that one day in power is better than five years in opposition.
Dividing up the goodies this time is proving very difficult. Like electorates everywhere, the Irish electorate is contrary and not concealing its hard bitten disappointment.
It is easy to say why. They went through a massive belt tightening to keep the European funds coming after the economy almost collapsed. Voters in rural areas especially have not recovered.
As a result, voters have handed whatever party gets in a poisoned chalice. Minority governments are constantly on edge, on the brink and unstable.
If the parties cannot agree it will be back to the hustings and a general election that may turn up an even more confused decision next time.
The whole mess is puzzling for outsiders too, including Americans used to the first past the post system and the cut and dried nature of congressional elections.
On the sidelines for now are Sinn Fein, various left wing groups and the Labour Party which got a severe shellacking from voters for its role in the last government.
Back in favor is Fianna Fail, a party which only five years ago were such a cipher for corruption and collapse of the Celtic Tiger that they were almost wiped out in the election then. They have bounced back like Banquo’s ghost to haunt the political process.
What is amazing is the voter amnesia about Fianna Fail’s past, the venal corruption of Irish politics started by Charles J. Haughey and carried on with gusto and bluster by senior Fianna Fail ministers in his wake. This seems completely forgotten.
Far from sackclothes and ashes, it is garland of roses time. There is no question that Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has done a brilliant job of rehabilitating his party’s image.
On the other side, Fine Gael leader and acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has barely escaped a poor election result and is fighting on looking for that minority coalition that would make him the first Fine Gael member in history to be re-elected as taoiseach.
If he does not succeed this week in cobbling together a government his own position as Fine Gael leader may come into question. Next to power, ruthlessness is an Irish political trait.
It is no coincidence that Game of Thrones is made in Ireland.