Trouble in, well, not paradise, but certainly trouble in whatever lifeless room the negotiations for a new Government are taking place in:

A senior Fianna Fáil negotiator involved in the talks to form a government has accused Fine Gael of selfishness and of putting their party before the country.

Barry Cowen made the charge after the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government confirmed that it is preparing logistical plans for the holding of possible by-elections, referendums and even a general election.

A spokesperson for Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy insisted this work was completely separate from government formation talks which he said Fine Gael was absolutely committed to.

Imagine being a civil servant and watching these bozos managing to have a row over completely routine civil service work. You’d have to make the assumption that if they can have a row about this, then an election is actually very likely. Rather than exposing some kind of secret scheme, Cowen has only just gone and demonstrated why it’s good policy.

The most depressing thing about all of this, by the way, is that FF and FG can’t even manage to have a decent contrived row about anything meaningful. If Cowen wanted to have a good flounce for the purpose of cheering up the troops – sending the message that we’re in there lads, fighting these blueshirts tooth and nail – could he not have found something on policy? “We’re not going to let FG shelter the rich from the tax pain that’s coming. We need the burden to be shared fairly or we’re walking away”. Something like that – FF fighting on behalf of the working man. But no, couldn’t even manage that.

Instead we get a row about something that the Civil Service should be doing as a matter of routine. It’s in the gift of the Taoiseach and President, if they both so desire, to hold an election any damn time they please. Because they could decide to do so tomorrow, it makes sense for the civil service always to have some kind of plan for the logistics if an election were to come out of the blue.

What’s notable, throughout these negotiations, and the pre-amble to the negotiations, is the absence of any discernable FF priorities on policy whatsoever. The Greens are fairly clear, they want a kind of eco-communism that, ideally, would end with us all living in treehouses or whatever. Fine Gael don’t really have any policy goal beyond “economic stability”, but at least you can see that they’re probably going to fight any madcap schemes to totally re-make the economy. Fianna Fáil? They just want the Mercs, is the impression any observer would be left with.

Anyway, there probably will be an election, sooner rather than later. If these talks don’t break down now, then the Government will likely break up after the economic realities become clear and FF and FG backbenchers start to realise what kind of decisions they’re going to have to defend to an angry and bruised electorate.

And of course, if that election were to happen and there was no plan in place about how to hold it, Barry Cowen would be the first man taking to the airwaves to denounce the Government’s negligence in not planning for an entirely foreseeable situation.

We deserve better. We don’t deserve much, mind you, but we definitely deserve better than this nonsense.