Fine Gael cannot complain if SF do well in any Irish election

Morning View
Morning View

Theresa May is far from the only vulnerable prime minister of a European Union nation.

The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, may yet face a fresh election, after her failure to win the recent election convincingly.

And Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach, has been vulnerable since he took office in June, given that his Fine Gael party was only narrowly ahead in last year’s Irish election.

Now Mr Varadkar is, like Mrs Merkel, battling to avoid a fresh poll, amid a crisis over his deputy prime minister, Frances Fitzgerald, and her role in a Garda controversy.

An election in the Republic will impact on Northern Ireland because Sinn Fein will be unable to participate fully in any Stormont talks until the new year.

Sinn Fein is not as high lately in polls south of the border as it will have hoped, but polls are often wrong.

But if republicans do do well, Fine Gael can hardly complain. In government it has agitated for republican demands in talks, ranging from a standalone Irish language act to an uncompromising position on Brexit. It has declined to put pressure on SF for its destabilising role here and is now talking about a joint stewardship of NI if Stormont fails to come back – which will delight SF.

Fine Gael could have taken the Micheal Martin/Fianna Fail approach and been scathing about SF.

If there is an election that emboldens SF a deal becomes even harder to envisage, and direct rule almost inevitable.