Picture the scene. It’s the week after Election 2016. Both Fine Gael and the Labour Party have suffered very significant losses, depriving the coalition of a majority without the support of a large number of independents demanding expensive special treatment for their constituencies. Sinn Fein have won enough seats to form a majority with either FF or FG. And suppose Labour have taken such a battering that they do not wish to go back into another government.
In such a situation, it is hard to imagine Michael Martin honestly claim that Sinn Fein is closer in values than FG, and that FF is more comfortable in the company of former terrorists with a left wing economic platform, or that FF has a bigger problem with Alan Shatter as justice minister than Martin Ferris. Is there anyone who really believes that if one room held four FG negotiators, and another four Sinn Fein ones, that an FF team would actually have an easier time negotiating a programme for government with SF? And no, just repeating the vague and shapeless shibboleth word “republican” does not actually count for anything. Can anyone name what exactly would be the fundamentally intractable legislative problem that Michael McGrath, Michael Noonan, Willie O’Dea and Phil Hogan would be incapable of overcoming, jackets off, around a table?
That’s not to say that it will be easy. There’s a lot of history on the table. But that’s all it is, and if there are men or women in either party unwilling to put that history aside in the interest of forming a centrist progressive government with solid democratic credentials, they are not patriots and have no place in either party.
Sensible people in FF and FG should be quietly preparing the ground behind the scenes, and making sure that neither party says anything stupid which they might have held against them in a post election scenario. Yes, we are potentially years away (assuming Labour doesn’t have a nervous breakdown) from an election, but this needs patriots in both parties to start thinking the unthinkable, from policy issues to an eventual constituency pact, because neither parties’ historical hangups overrule Ireland.