Coalition, compromise or con? How the “equal partnership" was always a non-runner

Our political analyst Odran Flynn takes a closer look at the 'bones of contention' between the two parties

18:32 7 Apr 2016 Odran Flynn 18:32 Thursday 7 April 2016

The only surprise about the decision of Enda Kenny to offer Michael Martin an equal share in a grand coalition government - including the hoary old chestnut of a rotating Taoiseach - was that so many commentators seemed surprised.

After 40 days in the wilderness the farce needed to go in another direction and this was the route that was inevitable at some stage.

If there is no government in place by next Thursday it will be the second longest ever period between the date of election and formation of a government.

We are already half way to the longest which was in 1922 - but the delay then was due to the not insignificant matter of the Civil War.

The Civil War reference offers a segue to the prospect of the actual end of the political Civil War.

In reality, the division of the electorate into two distinct camps ended a long time ago.

Given that between them Fianna Fail and Fine Gael could not even muster 50% of the vote, it appears while they were staring each other down they were being outflanked by those who espoused values long removed from the fledgling years of the State.

Now there is no shortage of examples of politicians justifying 180 degree turns on promises previously made.

Indeed sometimes they make 360 degree turns and just forget where they started from. However, some statements are more difficult to back away from that others.

Fianna Fail claim that they won the election and that they would be betraying their voters by facilitating a return to power by Fine Gael.

Equally Fine Gael have been adamant that, as they see it, it would be unconceivable to allow the party that destroyed the country get their hands on the reins of power so soon again.

Minority government vs grand coalition

It is difficult to ignore the probability that the offer was a clumsy ploy, designed to avoid blame should the whole process implode - and the 50 first time TDs are back knocking on doors while praying that they are not going to have the shortest Dáil career on record.

However the only options we have left are a minority government or an election.

But would a minority government be any more feasible than the grand coalition?

For a start, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are diametrically opposed on Irish Water.

It would be very difficult to pretend that the issue could be hidden from sight, yet to compromise would commence the destruction of whatever trust their supporters still retain.

The USC is another bone of contention - but there is a bit more wriggle room on this compared to Irish Water.

Both agree that school class sizes should be cut, although by different amounts over different time scales.

However it is ironic that when there is common ground it is on an issue that would cost so much that it is not feasible to make little more than a dent in the problem.

Maybe they can find a way of getting off the hook of promises made by blaming a shrunken fiscal space.

The collapse of the Pfizer and Allergan tax inversion merger was effectively brought about by pressure from the US government.

With our economy so dependent on multinational companies, and especially those from America, our politicians could be forgiven if a shiver ran down their spines at that news (yes I realise that some would consider that is an oxymoron).

Clinton vs Sanders

The tax base has been boosted primarily by a surge in corporation tax from the multinationals - but if that source is to be closed off or at the least significantly reduced, then with it goes much of the fiscal space.

And it’s not as if, as in previous times, a new American pesident would take a different view and the problem would be resolved in that way.

The probability is that Barack Obama is more liberal than any of his potential successors.

Hillary Clinton has already condemned the practice of inversion as "perversion", while Bernie Sanders singled out US multinationals involved in profit-shifting overseas - describing them as the "top 10 corporate tax dodgers".

However if the unthinkable happened and Donald Trump ended up as leader of the 'free world', the American executives of the US multinationals based in Ireland may well be shipped home as criminals and put to work on building the fence to keep out his much feared Mexicans.

This of course ironically cuts off one of his country’s sources of cheap labour.

Maybe a coalition with Kenny and Martin standing shoulder to shoulder defending broken promises is the strongest foundation for a new tomorrow.

Who prefers another general election?