October 26, 2018
Towards Fine Gael II minority government
Brexit may divide politics in England, but in Ireland it seems to unite Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in their attempt to preserve the political status quo despite major misgivings. Some party members may be tempted not to extend the agreement that allowed Fine Gael to govern with the parliamentary support of Fianna Fáil since 2016. But the alternative of snap elections in the midst of Brexit negotiations is a risk none of the two parties is keen to take.
Now that the agreement is up for a review, and there is general willingness to proceed, the art will be for both parties to find a way forward without being seen as accommodating each other too much. There will have to be some tiptoeing around sensitive issues, and overcoming deep-seated suspicions will always be a major challenge given these two parties' long history of resentments and opposition.
Despite the display of goodwill to continue the Fine Gael minority government, there is a potential for accidents along the road. Fianna Fáil announced it wants to review the current agreement to identify what has not been achieved since 2016, and whether this was due to political blockage or administrative hurdles. Health overspending and the delivery of housing supply are two areas most likely to feature on this list.
The Irish Times writes that the two parties may end up discussing the removal of those political blockages before budget talks can continue. This gives quite some leverage to Fianna Fáil. Leo Varadkar on the other hand told his MPs and senators that his negotiation team is vigilant of any stalling tactics from Fianna Fáil. The time schedule is for both parties to exchange papers next Tuesday, followed by a full plenary session on Thursday November 1.