The Cabinet in waiting
(Click on image to enlarge)
The alternative government of Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens is not without credibility as the above suggested cabinet illustrates. It would be possible to have four women in the cabinet and three members relatively young (Simon Coveney, Olwyn Enright and Mairead McGuinness). There would also be a wealth of experience with Ruairi Quinn, Brendan Howlin, Michael Noonan, Richard Bruton and Enda Kenny himself having served in senior ministries.
Among the team of junior ministers would be Eamon Ryan and Ciaran Cuffe (Greens), Liam Twomey, Paul Keogh, Brian Hayes and Dan Neville (Fine Gael), plus Kathleen Lynch, Roisin Shortall, Tommy Broughan and Jan O'Sullivan.
The prospect of new faces, some younger ministers and a bedrock of experience may seem attractive to the electorate were that choice presented to it vividly.
Fine Gael has its best chance of being elected to government in a quarter of a century (it was in November 1982 that the party last “won” an election), although that chance is slender. But if Bertie Ahern fails to dispose of the payments issue, there could be a collapse in the Fianna Fáil vote, thereby handing the election to Fine Gael. There is also the prospect of a tchnicolor coalition after the election (Fine Gael, Labour, the Greens and the PDs) if Bertie is so damaged in the course of the campaign that no party is willing to do business with Fianna Fáil.
The issue hangs on the payments question and Fine Gael is terrified by it. The party lost support, as measured by the opinion polls, last autumn after it pursued Bertie on the first instalment of payments. There is apprehension in Fine Gael and Labour this may happen again and yet there is the temptation to go for it. The Greens have.
Both Fine Gael and Labour have researched their policies well. Their two most prominent spokespersons, Richard Bruton and Pat Rabbitte are capable and persuasive. Fine Gael has been encouraged hugely by the Irish Times opinion poll of Friday, 27 April, which showed them just four points behind Fianna Fáil.