Monday, October 12, 2009
The Irish parliament needs a speaker, after the last one was caught swanning around the planet like Marie-Antoinette at the taxpayers' expense.
This is a problem for Fianna Fail, because while the ideal would be for a member of an opposition party to take the chair (thus boosting the government's slender majority), it's unlikely that anyone from Labour or Sinn Fein can be bought off, and Fine Gael will have those who might be tempted on a tight leash in the hope of forcing an election or change of government.
Hence we're seeing some strange names popping up. The latest is Trevor 'I won't lead the Greens into Government with Fianna Fail' Sargent. On the one hand, that would ensure at least one Green in the next Dail, as literally all of their seats are now under real threat.
From a Fianna Fail perspective, it makes holding what they have in Dublin North very difficult. For them to win two seats, as they currently have, next time out would be a huge ask in the current climate.
But given the utter anonymity of their two deputies there, and the vast backlash against Fianna Fail, putting Sargent into the chair would leave them trying to defend two seats out of three when they could well be pushed to get one.
This is why I suspect Biffo will reverse one of the most egregious casualties of his Culchie Coup and elevate Tom Kitt, former Fianna Fail chief whip, to the post.
Kitt was always a good operator, knows the procedural elements of parliament backwards (unlike John O'Donoghue) and is civil and respected by the other parties (again unlike John O'Donoghue.)
But more importantly, he's threatened to step down from his seat in Dublin South, the constituency where former minister Seamus Brennan died and Fianna Fail were unable to defend the seat in a by-election that took a full year to be held.
Currently, that would leave Fianna Fail in the desperate position of having no one except Shay Brennan (Seamus' son) who was wallopped into a distant third place when he was parachuted into the aforementioned by-election, to run in the hope of regaining two seats.
But if Kitt retained his seat as Ceann Comhairle, a totally different picture emerges. Suddenly Fine Gael are in the position of trying to defend three seats in a four seater - impossible, frankly. And Fianna Fail retain the reins of the parliamentary chair for some time to come.
Fianna Fail are already in major damage limitation mode. They can smell the election coming. They saw at the weekend how close the rump Greens are to walking out of government. They've had to issue a stern warning just to whip the Greens into line on the forthcoming budget. In short, they know the gig is soon to be up.
So already, they're plotting for a life after government. A term in opposition, with a favourable Ceann Comhairle, and the opportunity to take at least one Fine Gael scalp during the forthcoming meltdown, would seem to be their best option.
If Kitt's not dead set on retirement (and I suspect he only promised to quit because of how he was ousted from cabinet by Cowen when he had reason to expect promotion), then I imagine he will be placed in the post.