Today’s poll in The Irish Times puts Labour in a difficult position if indeed the figures resemble anything like the actual election result. On those figures, it is not inconceivable, if both parties can get their candidate strategies right, that Labour and Sinn Fein could be within shouting distance of a majority, or at least, during the campaign, look like they were. It’s unlikely, I accept, in that neither party will get the sort of seat bonus that Fianna Fail used to get on a similar share of the post 40% vote, but it still raises questions. A Labour/Sinn Fein government, even a minority government, if FF and FG could not do the business on the far side of the house, is a topic deserving debate during a campaign, and it puts Labour in what can only be described as a pickle. Eamonn Gilmore as Taoiseach leading the first genuine left government in the history of the state, which would be a real change, especially if propped up by a few United Left TDs, or serving as a distant second banana to Enda Kenny?
But here’s Labour’s problem: Labour learnt in 1992 that you can’t say one thing during the campaign, and do another thing after the polls close, and there’s a big question as to whether Labour’s middle class voters are ready for Sinn Fein in government. But what if Sinn Fein offered to support a Labour minority government from outside, voting for Gilmore as Taoiseach and then negotiating a confidence pact for, say, 18 months provided they were genuinely consulted on legislation? Would Fine Gael and Fianna Fail really vote to trigger and immediate second election?
This could be fun.