Last week, after the third vote for Taoiseach, I was able to narrow down the list of options for a new government. A grand coalition had already been ruled out by Fianna Fáil, and the party later admitted that Michael Martin would no longer be seeking a Fianna Fáil minority government.
Only 12 options left I thought. This was helped by the exit of John Halligan from negotiations, which you can see from above left two options with no majority. Only 10 left so, with the following TDs still in talks:
However, no story is complete without a twist. This weekend it seems the door has re-opened again for Labour, the Social Democrats, and the Greens to re-enter government talks. After all, they can be certain that Fine Gael will lead the government, not Fianna Fáil. Katherine Zappone’s support for Enda Kenny during the week signals a willingness by FG to adopt progressive policies (possibly a repeal of the 8th amendment), although this hasn’t been confirmed. The new table is as follows:
So, technically there are now seven groups open to supporting/ joining a Fine Gael minority government:
- Social Democrats
- Independent Alliance
- “Rural Alliance”
- Healy Raes
- Maureen O’Sullivan
As always, some mathematics can help us cut through the various options. “Permutations and combinations” (think back to junior/ leaving cert maths) allow us to group all seven groups in a way that produces a “working majority” (anything above 58 seats assuming FF abstains on every vote).
I summarise each below. Lowry and Zappone are assumed to support FG always with FF abstaining. If all seven groups support the minority government, it has a majority of 19. If only one group supports, only Labour provides enough seats for a majority. If a combination of three groups join, the average majority is 5 etc. Think of it this way:
- More groups give a larger majority, fewer give a smaller majority.
- If only one group supports, that group can only be Labour.
- If more groups join, the combinations grow hugely.
- As the number of combinations nears its maximum (7), the possible combinations reduce.
Of the possible 127 combinations, 114 produce a working majority.
10-12 combinations is now 114.
Some of the seven groups will make their positions clearer over the coming days/ weeks. We can narrow the table substantially once this occurs. However the groups may also fragment, particularly the Independent and Rural Alliances, which increases the combinations again. But for now, here are the possibilities:
Let us know your favourite in the comments below.