POINTS TO PONDER IN 2016
Political Commentator DR JOHN COULTER has been looking forward to 2016 and outlines some pointers which should be considered in what is certain to be a contentious year.
The 2016 Dail General Election outcome could see current Taoiseach Enda Kenny forced to bury the hatchet with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and form a Fine Gael/SF coalition in Leinster House with Adams as Tanaiste.
And don’t say it’ll never happen. Just look at the Northern Ireland Assembly where the late Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists entered a power-sharing Executive at Stormont with Martin McGuinness’s Sinn Fein.
As for the North’s Stormont General Election, Sinn Fein could crown the Easter Rising centenary by becoming the Assembly’s largest party, thereby deposing new DUP First Minister Arlene Foster as McGuinness finally becomes the head buckaroo on Stormont Hill.
But in the Republic, the proposed rainbow coalition to stop Adams becoming Tanaiste may fall apart as Sinn Fein needs to break through the 40 TD mark in Leinster House.
If this happens, Fianna Fail, Irish Labour and the Greens will start a ‘political bitch fight’ as to who gets what posts and adopts what policies.
Kenny may finally throw up the head and do a deal with Adams just as Paisley did the deal with Adams at St Andrews a decade ago – a move which will spark a rebellion in Fianna Fail ranks, toppling current boss Micheal Martin who will probably be replaced by a more hardline republican within the party to combat the Sinn Fein bandwagon.
In exchange for Sinn Fein behaving itself as a party in both Leinster House and Stormont by implementing Looney Left policies, massive concessions will be given by Fine Gael and Westminster – the payback being that Sinn Fein MPs take their seats in the British House of Commons, thereby ending Sinn Fein’s historic policy of abstentionism.
In Great Britain, as the clamour grows for the UK to vote to leave the European Union, the British/Irish bodies could prepare for this by allowing the Dail to be an observer partner in the influential Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
This could force the Dail to vote to leave the eurozone and re-introduce the popular Irish punt. In May’s Northern Ireland elections, Sinn Fein finally puts the last electoral nail in the SDLP’s coffin as under new boy leader Colum Eastwood the SDLP is reduced to fringe status.
On the tourism front, the centenaries of the Easter Rising in April and the Battle of the Somme in July will bring huge financial benefits on both sides of the border.
Having lost the referendum vote on gay marriage in the Republic, the Catholic Church will try to bolster up its flagging influence by arranging for Pope Francis to visit Ireland.
But his trip North will do nothing to stop gay marriage being legalised there in spite of constant votes against it in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Arlene Foster will remain as DUP leader even if she loses the First Minister’s post to Sinn Fein in May’s Stormont poll. Her reaction must be to push for a merger between the DUP and its rival Ulster Unionists as the unionist family internal feuds continue to cause splits.
Unfortunately, it seems likely Ireland as an island will suffer a major terrorist attack from Islamic radicals – aided by dissident republicans – as a result of allegations that Shannon airport was used by the Americans as a pit stop for their planes on rendition flights.
Any terror attack on Ireland will spark a joint response from the British and Irish security forces which could mark the end of the dissident republican terror threat for at least a generation.
However, still on the religious front, there is still the danger that the courts north and south become bunged up with Christian fundamentalist clerics trying to get themselves jailed, fined or chastised for making hell fire sermons against Islam.
Such is the fallout from any terror attack on Ireland, that the Dail and Stormont could agree to the introduction of Israeli-style National Service where all able-bodied citizens are required to do at least two years in the army – either the British Army or the Irish Defence Forces.
Ironically, the election of a hardline Republican Party President in the United States could prompt Ireland to develop closer ties with President Vladimir Putin’s Russia to avoid Irish troops being sent to fight in the Middle East.
On the sporting front, the soccer teams from the North and South could pull off surprises at Euro 2016, and in GAA, an Ulster team stands a superb chance of lifting the ‘Sam’.
In horse racing, for those who fancy a flutter, 2016 seems destined to be a year where you put your money on Irish riders and trainers as Irish-owned horses could romp to victory in many of Britain’s leading racing festivals.
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter