a week of turmoil will focus minds

The upheaval of the past week brought some positive developments. It has concentrated minds on the need for a united political front in resisting a hard Border during Brexit negotiations and provided Ireland’s chief negotiator, Simon Coveney, with additional clout. Having considered the implications of an unwanted general election, cooler heads within Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are unlikely to repeat that precipice-gazing exercise unless significant changes in party support occur or an unforeseen crisis develops. They are, however, keenly aware that the balance of opportunity has shifted between the parties.

Events surrounding the resignation of former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald damaged Leo Varadkar’s image as a shrewd, competent leader destined to reinvigorate Fine Gael. Simultaneously, it rewarded Micheál Martin for his statesmanlike approach and his willingness – in spite of internal party grumbling – to engage in lengthy, problem-solving discussions under the confidence- and-supply agreement. That allowed the leaders to get to know one another better. More importantly, it sent out a message to Sinn Féin and others that the political centre can hold.