The national interest, that long hackneyed phrase, is finally being recognised by the larger parties as they appear to near agreement on the formation of our new government.
A minority administration is the likeliest option after Fianna Fáil rejected Fine Gael’s offer to enter a partnership government, leaving independents as the likely kingmakers when it comes to whether Enda Kenny or Mícheál Martin will become Taoiseach.
At the time of writing, the smarter money would appear to be on Mr Kenny becoming the first Fine Gael leader to be re-elected to the premiership.
That common sense, almost seven weeks after the election, is finally kicking in after several weeks of horse-trading in Leinster House, and that another vote will be avoided, much to the relief of the public, is welcome.
Whispers that the water charge may be merged into the property tax suggests that Fine Gael is moving away from an absolute position regarding Irish Water.
Nonetheless, this suggests some movement on the matter by the country’s largest party, which may be viewed within Fianna Fáil as a minor triumph of sorts.
Whether any of us like it or not, upgrading our water system will have to be paid for but another source of funding, such as the suggested amended property tax or other revenue raising exercise to make up the shortfall, is all but inevitable.
A resolution is needed too for EU approval on such a measure in the wake of the bailout, but the house always wins, and a water utility/water commission/call it what you will, is surely a part of our future, whoever holds the reins of governance.
The prospect of a minority government running a full term is highly unlikely, which puts an onus on Fine Gael to do things differently, espousing the ‘new politics’ they promised five years ago.
It also means that whatever government they will presumably lead, must do what it can to be an administration of consequence and purpose, which may well entail some Independent TDs sitting at the cabinet table a few weeks from now.
It also means it must reach some form of agreement with Fianna Fáil when it comes to gaining agreement on the passing of financial bills (i.e. the Budget): an essential component of the ongoing discussions between the ‘big two’ ahead of Thursday’s vote for Taoiseach.
Such a rolling agreement, and having more open discussions between the government and the opposition may lead to a welcome and necessary change in our political culture. And not before time. Working for the common good, as opposed to attention seeking, headline grabbing antics during Dáil business, would represent a change for the better.
We need politicians, and for all the criticisms of our system, our parliamentary democracy has proven particularly robust over the past century, unlike many other European states.
But most of us now readily agree that the ‘Tweedle Dum’ and ‘Tweedle Dee’ approach to politics must change, and that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s inability to no longer control both government and opposition, will facilitate such a change.
A united left-wing approach to politics remains elusive, but the arithmetic of our politics has changed, and the role of Independents in recent weeks has been notable given their prominence in the discussions to help form a new government.
More action and less grandstanding would be a welcome motto for our new administration, if and when it is formed. Let’s hope that’s sooner rather than later.