We are at least a few years away from the next scheduled general election and just about a year into the current government coalition.
This raises the question, if we are to rely on the latest findings from the latest Sunday Times/B&A poll, which shows that Sinn Féin have 34% of support for first preference votes, while Fine Gael have 24% of support and Fianna Fáil have 20% of support, what are the viable government options after the next election?
Sinn Féin – Fianna Fáil
If we are to trust these poll results from the Sunday Times/B&A, then the probable coalition may involve a two-party coalition, of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. This would be a historical coalition for two reasons, first that it would end Sinn Féin’s long-standing record of not serving in government in Southern politics and second, it would end Fianna Fáil’s policy of ruling out serving in government with Sinn Féin.
In terms of first preference votes, this coalition government would have, a majority, as it would garner 54% of the support of the electorate. However, Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin continuously ruled out serving in government with Sinn Féin in a coalition government. Despite this, with the likelihood that Martin will not be leading Fianna Fáil into the next general election, if Fianna Fáil elects a new party leader, this new leader may have a softer stance towards Sinn Féin.
According to The Irish Times, in February 2021, ‘almost 20 Fianna Fáil TDs said they would not rule out holding coalition talks with Sinn Féin after the next election’. These names included Jim O’Callaghan and Minister of State, Robert Troy. Alongside this, Sinn Féin have never explicitly ruled out going into government with Fianna Fáil.
Assessment – There is a viable chance of a Sinn Féin – Fianna Fáil coalition government after the next general election. It is likely that Fianna Fáil will be the junior party in the coalition government as Sinn Féin has a significant lead over Fianna Fáil.
Sinn Féin – Fianna Fáil – Social Democrats
Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil may go into government, with the Social Democrats. This might happen for two reasons, first because by election day, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil may not have enough support between them to form a two-party coalition and may need to serve with the Social Democrats to form a majority and second because the Social Democrats may be seen as mediators between the conflicting parties.
The Social Democrats have never ruled out going into government with either party. While it ruled out going into government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in May 2020, it never ruled out going into government with Sinn Féin and would have happily played its part in a left-wing government. According to the latest Sunday Times/B&A poll, the Social Democrats have 4% of support for first preference votes.
Assessment – There is a realistic hope of this three-party coalition government forming. It is possibly more likely that a two-party coalition government of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. It is highly likely that the Social Democrats will be the fourth largest party in the 34th Dáil and while the Green Party will be lucky to return any seats, the Social Democrats are likely to have more seats than the Green Party and the Labour Party.
Sinn Féin – Social Democrats – Labour – People Before Profit - Green Party – Aontú – Independents
From the latest findings in the Sunday Times/B&A poll, it seems that this coalition government is least likely. A government of left-wing parties would struggle to garner enough support to form a concrete government for change.
While Sinn Féin are on 34% in the latest poll, the Social Democrats are on 4%, the Green Party are on 4%, Labour is on 3%, People Before Profit are on 1%, Aontú are on 1% and independents and others are on 9%.
It is highly unlikely that all independent TDs elected in the 34th Dáil will support a left-wing government. Considering that many of the independents currently on opposition benches, are gene-pool independents (ex-Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs), it is very unlikely that this government will have a mandate for change.
Then, you have Labour’s policy of ruling out serving in government with Sinn Féin previously, and you have the drop in support for the Green Party to take into consideration, between now and the next election.
Assessment – If current polling figures are accurate, this coalition government is the least likely. Divisions on the left will make this coalition government even less likely. It remains to be seen, whether there is enough of an increase in combined support for parties on the left.
Fine Gael – Fianna Fáil – Green Party – Labour Party Coalition
From the latest Sunday Times/B&A poll, this is another possible government. However, this government of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Green Party and the Labour Party appears unlikely as it would only have a majority of around 1%, with 51% support, combined.
While Labour have never served in government with the Green Party, it would happily serve in government, once again with Fine Gael and possibly repair fractured relations that it had in its short lived government with Fianna Fáil in the 1990s.
However, a four-party government is hard to envisage. There is a risk that the smaller parties, the Green Party and the Labour Party would become stifled in this potential government. Despite this, Fianna Fáil is not exactly battling to be the biggest party, rather it is battling for damage limitation in the next election.
Assessment – As it stands this coalition seems unlikely. It may be the only realistic chance of Fine Gael serving in government, as it is unlikely that Sinn Féin and themselves will serve together in government for the time being. It is also unlikely that Fine Gael will serve in a government with Fianna Fáil and independents.
Out of these 4 options, the likeliest government option is Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the Social Democrats serving in government together. It is unlikely that Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil will solely serve in government together themselves.
Meanwhile, this will rule out People Before Profit from serving in government as they have a policy of being opposed to serving in government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It will be intriguing to follow the current polling trends, which will, have an impact on the parties ahead of the next general election.