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The Gist: Government snaps into focus
Briefed about the expected impacts of the coronavirus over the next few weeks, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil suddenly drop the playacting.
On Monday the Irish Times was reporting Fine Gael “is not at this stage willing to talk about the formation of a government.” Today there was a joint statement from the two civil war parties that they were “the two parties should now commence in depth detailed talks”. The change? Covid-19.
The calm before the storm
The Government decided to flip a bunch of switches at its meeting on Monday. It announced plans to spend the €3bn Brexit stash on combating the virus consequences. It cancelled the Patrick’s Day parade. But it left another swathe of switches unflipped. Pubs still open for Patrick’s Day. Flights still going to and from Italy. Some manner of Horse Eejitry letting people come back if they decide to go to Cheltenham.
The Ministers must have heard the rising murmur of worry (and sometimes just panic) as the situation in Italy gets profoundly bad, profoundly quickly. They swept out onto the airwaves asking the public to trust their medical advice and that they were only going to take steps when they were needed, and not before.
And I, being not a doctor, grimace but have to accept it’s the right thing to do. But I would dearly love someone to show me all the things that are weighed up before these decisions are issued. I really want to know how those difficult decision-sausages are made. It seems to me the most reassuring way of getting public buy-in for choices to do or not do certain things in a crisis is to explain how the choices are made, wherever possible. And that public support will be vital if we’re on the upward slope towards the Italian experience in a matter of weeks.
FF to Greens: Jesus, stop talking at us
The Green party set out to really take the business of agreeing a government programme seriously. A large negotiation team opened “a multi-stranded talks process” with FF and SF separately. Turns out, as expected, that FF found this got very old, very fast. Not nature’s natural academics, they haven’t enjoyed listening to lectures on policy. We can expect a truncating of that whole process to a single question by the end of the week- In? Or Out?
Before the virus hit, that would have been a very shaky proposition to get through the Green Party delegate conference. Now? Expect to see the three-party government in place in time for the cabinet meeting two weeks from now.
Photo cc confuzzyus