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(Academy RP) A Crucial Crossroads for Gaellicia


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“-rioting continued through to early the next morning. In Penzance, police managed to redirect unrest away from Government House and the Riogan Estate, towards Marian Circle. The gathering was dispersed by 2300 hours. Small groups continued to roam the city well through the night and into daylight hours. The capital’s fire brigade said that small fires started by rioters were snuffed out before they could grow into anything more sev-” The news anchor’s sentence was chopped short by the sharp chirp of the old CRT TV turning off. Jamie Dugdale focused his eyes and blinked sleep out of them. The blurry image slowly crystalized. 

His wife, Lea, stood before him in the door frame of their cramped home office. She clicked her tongue, “Falling asleep with the TV on. Dot you can na do that these days. Especially with that ol’jobby. It’s a power sink.” She jerked her thumb towards the TV perched on a stool with three and a half legs, the difference being made up with old books. 

“Aye hen.” He said sheepishly. 

“Hop in the shower now don’t ya. Ya look like ya need one… or two.” Lea teased, then continued authoritatively. “I’ll have breakfast ready in a minute.” 

Jamie took as brisk a shower as he could while still scrubbing off last night’s dross. He was, to his displeasure, confined to using the cold water knob only. The cold water stabbed his skin, causing him to involuntarily whimper. He hopped out of the shower and saw to his morning grooming, ensuring that he thoroughly shaved the dark shadow on his face. He stepped into a crisp suit, a touch nicer than his business as usual attire, and creaked down stairs to the kitchen.  

“Morning sunshine.” Greeted Ralph Raskin, a 20 something just out of university, in a nearly sing-song voice.    

“Aye. Morning to you Ralphie Boy.” Before he could say more he was interrupted by a cheer. 

“Morning da!” 

“And good morning to you too, sprout! Ooof you are getting heavy.” Jamie grunted as he lifted his son up into a hug. “Did ya have yer breakfast already sprout?”

“Aye da.”

“Very good now make sure you go pack yer bag for school.” Jamie glanced at the clock on the wall and set his son back on the ground. He listened to his son scamper up stairs as he sat down at the dining table by the garden window, across from Ralph and next to his wife. 

“I hope you enjoyed your sleepover with us last night Ralph.” Lea teased before taking a sip of coffee. Jamie took a bite of scrambled eggs as Ralph blushed and once again offered his thanks. “Oh it’s really no trouble dear. I was just giving you a hard time. You’re always welcome here, especially on a night like last night.” 

“Aye.” Jamie agreed. “I know you don’t live too far but on a night like last night, who knows. Coulda picked a fight with you just for being a politico. Who knows?” He took another bite of his eggs and then a bite of toast. “Hen this breakfast is really class stuff. How did ya make it?” 

“I dug out the old camp stove, used it in the garden.” She replied, pleased with her ingenuity. 

“That’s good thinking, that. I’m surprised it turned out so good.” He paused and furrowed his brow at Ralph. “Is that me pajamas yer wearing?” 

Before Ralph could answer, Lea butted in. “Aye it is, I lent them to him. I’m not letting a guest of ours sleep in a suit. Plus, he needed a good night's rest before meeting the new Taoiseach.”

Jamie raised an eyebrow, “Ol Dougie is na Taoiseach yet and there’s no guarantee. Let’s not dip ahead of our skis here.” 

Lea rolled her eyes. “Oh you think I do na know that? Ya got so dour in your middle age Dot.”  

Jamie finished his last bite and countered more lightly, “Besides, Ol Dougie already knows the lad well. No amount of rest, no matter how rejuvinating, is going to repair the damage that’s been done working alongside him for a year and a half.” 

Ralph interjected cheekily, “I just happen to look more presentable in your pajamas than you look in a suit. They bring out me eyes.” 

Jamie cracked a smile then laughed. “Oh you cheeky you.” He reached across the table and tussled the lad’s hair.

Ralph straightened out his face and said sincerely. “Again thank you to you two for allowing me to sleep the night.”

Jamie responded in kind, “It really is no trouble lad. You are always welcome in our house. I’m sorry we didn’t get better news last night. Wouldn’t have had you or the other office staff over if I’d known the results were going to be so underwhelming.” 

Lea joined wearily, “That’s politics. Always surprises. Can never predict exactly how it will go.” Then she hinted more concretely. “Oh look at the time won’t ya.” 

Jamie looked at the clock once again. “Change into some morning clothes Ralphie. I’ll drop you off at your flat on the way to Arthur’s school then I’ll pick you up on the way to work. We’ll take the Macca.” Lea gave him a look of genuine concern and anxiety. Jamie tried to soothe her concerns, “I know hen, but I do na know what the metro is going to be like this morning. I do na know if it will be safe to walk to school with Arthur either.” At this last part he instinctively glanced at the ceiling, up towards his son. He cracked a wry smile and continued, “Besides today is going to be a big day. We oughta arrive in style.” Lea tried and failed to hide her anxieties with an approximation of a smirk before nodding in reluctant agreement. 

***

 The Dugdale’s MacNamera S4 twisted through the streets of old Penzance. A mid range sedan, it was getting on in years. Jamie braked for a stop light. Across the intersection he could see graffiti that had been building up over the past few months. The vacant corner store had become a favored canvas for the worst off residents to make themselves heard. Amongst the expletives there were some more thoughtful messages.  

“MORE GAS NOW!”

“Citizens suffer for government failures!”

“The witch still haunts us!”

Posters of Bricius IV’s portrait crossed out were placed in a cluster. Next to them a message read, “Off with his head!” 

Jamie’s favorite bit of graffiti was the simple demand to “TURN THE f*ckING LIGHTS BACK ON!”

The light turned green. Jamie steered right. As the crow flies, the school was no more than a mile from the Dugdale residence, yet the winding and twisting streets of old Penzance made the journey around 15 minutes. Ralph, sitting in the front passenger seat, turned to Arthur in the back to ask, “So what are you learning in school lad?” 

Arthur responded happily, “It’s science week! We’re learning about plants and rain and the sun and stuff!” 

Ralph smiled genuinely. “Aye pay good attention. Listen to your teachers well ya ken. We need more scientists, less politicos like me and your da.” 

“Aye mister Raph. Did you know that the sun is made of gas? Ma says that there isn’t enough in our country and that’s why there isn’t enough” he paused, sounding the word out carefully,”e-l-ec-tri-city.” He continued excitedly and pleased with his pronunciation, “Maybe we can send a rocket to the sun and bring some more gas back.”

“Look at you. Already figuring things out.” Ralph responded encouragingly. The car stopped beside a wedge shaped midrise. Ralph tussled Arthur’s hair and hopped out of the car. “I’ll meet ya on the other side, boss man.” He said as he jogged towards the building to execute his famed lightning quick change. 

“Don’t call me that you cheeky…” Jamie called out the window after him before giving up the sentence. He put the car in drive again and continued down the street. 

Arthur strained in his car seat excitedly as they rounded a bend. “Fire truck! Da! Fire truck!” 

Jamie focused on driving as he squeezed the car past a parked squat red fire truck with flashing lights. It was parked beside a crumbling and now fire damaged building. Until recently it had been a populated tenement building, which in turn had been converted from an ancient boarding house. The entire west side had fallen off of the building a fortnight ago. Failed and shoddy maintenance, poor inspection, and an outdated city building code. The city had been forced to order the building vacated and condemned. Jamie didn’t know it but the fire in this spot had not been started by angered youth, but was in fact a pure accident. Some of the residents had attempted to move back into their home, those who couldn’t bear the temporary city housing any longer. Due to the especially biting cold of last night, a resident had attempted to turn the building’s water heater back on. Jamie checked his rear view mirror to ensure that he was past the fire engine and got a glimpse of his smiling son in the back seat and the scorched maw of the crumbling building out the rear window. 

Soon they arrived at the school. Jamie hopped out of the car and ran around to unbuckle his son and help him out of the car. “You be good to your teachers today sprout, ya ken. Learn lots.”

“Aye da! I will!”

“I’ll see ya tonight sprout.” He embraced his son in a tight hug and then watched his boy bounce through the school gates under the supervision of a teacher. 

Just a little bit more driving and Jaimie was by Ralph’s flat building again, on the lower side this time. The eager staffer was already dressed smartly and waiting on the curb. “Morning again sir.” He beamed with a touch of mischief as he climbed into the front passenger seat. 

“Don’t you go calling me sir or boss now you bellend.” Dugdale chastised as he accelerated. He turned the radio on, in part to drown out the youth, but also to get himself focused for the big day ahead. 

An officious female voice greeted the listener, “Good morning. It is Monday, October 26th, 2022. The time is 0800 hours, time for the RBC morning news hour.” The brassy news theme sounded through the car speakers as Jamie turned right. The car dipped down a hill and flowed onto a wider and flatter grand avenue. They’d just crossed the threshold from the àirdean cashel to the new city. “Civil unrest continued last night across the nation, with no signs of cooling down. With the final election results having been released last night, riots and demonstrations were the most numerous and disruptive they have been in three months. In the capital, the Garda directed crowds away from Government House and the Riogan estate, towards Marian circle…”

“Get a look at that.” Ralph gaped. 

Jamie moved the car at a slow crawl through one of Penzance’s grand traffic circles, Marian Circle. As the car inched past the Army Staff College, the two men looked to the lane on their left. It was taken up by an overturned police van. 

“Someone was properly mad.” Ralph joked. 

Jamie nodded quietly but focused on inching through the circle. They passed more police vehicles, these ones upright and functioning. Dugdale was reminded of his university days, 20 years ago now, and what it was like to face the Garda and their clubs. A police officer in a yellow green hi vis coat ushered them out of the circle and back on to an avenue. 

“Prices continue to climb after a brief moratorium.” Jamie glanced at the fuel gauge. Half a tank. “As a result electricity bills grow more and more unmanageable. Anxieties and unrest only continue to mount as winter approaches. When confronted by the Leader of the Opposition in the Dáil on the failure of the ADC to improve the situation, Taoiseach John Peytr Hillgauntlet had this to say.” 

“The party is in a state of transition…” He is interrupted by groans and jeers. “I say the party is in a state of transition. I have taken the helm of the nation only in the last month. I understand frustration but the old leadership is no longer running the show.” More jeers are met by half hearted applause and rapping from the government side. “Myself and the new cabinet are running the show. I’ll remind you that I’ve held the office before and am prepared-”

An opposition backbencher interrupted Hillgauntlet, backed by approving laughter and raps of agreement, “You’ve only told us about how you’ve done it before about a hundred times in two months! Why don’t you tell us what you are doing now, in the present!” 

“I’ve held the office BEFORE, and I will hold it with dignity and competence once AGAIN! I ask that the citizens of the nation place their confidence in myself and the party in next week’s election. With a new mandate for the party, we will stay the course and provide the steady, dependable hand that the nation requires and desir-” Hillgauntlet was drowned out by the sound of cheers of approval and jeers of disapproval doing battle in the chamber. The jeers had the advantage. 

The news anchor continued, “With the last election results in, after an unexpected and unusual delay, Hillgauntlet and the ADC do not have the mandate, nor even the majority that they were asking for. To help us better understand the snap election results here we have our senior political correspondent and analyst Arjun Neilsen.” 

“Thank you Mary. Now just to remind listeners of the final tally, as it was not released until last night, the ADC now holds 193 seats in the Dáil. That is a significant drop from their 2020 numbers, 35 seats lost. The Laird Riochdaire now has 21, a significant 11 seat gain for them. If i’m not mistaken that is the largest electoral gain they have ever experienced. The extreme right wing Naiseanta Gaelica now has 7-“

“Just call them what they are: fascists!” Ralph muttered while looking out the window. 

“Center left Talamh, the second largest party, gained 19 seats meaning they now hold a total of 178 seats. This is the largest gain of any of the parties this election, but many believe they have underperformed. Expert consensus was that we would see Talamh gain a larger number of seats, perhaps even enough to form a government on its own.”

Mary interrupted Neilsen, “And Arjun I believe we actually reached out to someone from Talamh on the election telecast last night, before the final results were all in.”

“Yes, that is accurate Mary. The presenter had a brief interview over the phone with Jamie Dugdale. He is a senior Talamh strategist and the chief of staff to the party leader Douglas an Gael.”

Ralph turned his head to see his boss’s face as Dugdale’s own voice came out of the car speakers. Ralph remembered the moment during the watch party last night when spirits were highest and Jamie had stepped into his office to phone in. At that point in the night, it looked like Talamh was going to gain seat after seat. “No matter the final results, the Gaellician people are ready for new leadership. No matter the number of seats won, Talamh is ready to share the responsibility and the decision for the future of the nation with those who want to meet us. Our hand is offered.” Jamie scoffed at his own statement as he threaded the car through Bonan circle. Not because he disagreed with the sentiment, but because he found himself unconvincing. 

“A rather diplomatic statement that was. What do you make of it, Arjun?” The anchor queried. 

“Well Mary, I’m glad you asked. Talamh is leaving the door open here for a coalition or a partnership with Ataqatigiit. Now that the election results are fully in, I'm sure the party leadership is very happy for Dugdale’s statement.” Neilsen paused for a moment before pivoting. “Just to wrap up our listing of the results before we get into analysis, allow me to list off the final parties. The Green Party took a significant hit, losing 8 seats. They are only holding onto 1 seat, and by their fingernails at that. The party that did incredibly well for itself this election, the party with the best showing was Ataqatigiit. They gained 15 seats, going from 29 to 44. This is the newest party in the nation I’ll remind listeners, the first Federal election they participated in being in 1995. They have gained seats in every Federal election since then, but this most recent instance is absolutely a breakthrough for them.” 

“Now I’ve saved Okkar for last because the results here are truly an upset. Okkar has always been a Separatist party for the Nunuvat lands. It is a foundational belief of the party that Nunuvat should be independent and that the Federal government should have no say, no involvement in the affairs of the indigenous people.”

Mary added on, “That’s right Arjun and Okkar has always practiced abstentionism at the Federal level. That is, members will stand for TD elections but when elected do not participate in the Dáil in any way.”

“That’s right and so traditionally Okkar has held the same 10 seats. Representing the same 10 eyjas, the most hardline separatist areas. In this recent election though, 4 of those eyjas defected. Their votes went to Ataqatigiit, which has always represented a different approach to government for indigenous people. Active participation at the Federal Level to improve things in what ways possible for not only indigenous, but all Gaellicians.”

“And Arjun with Okkar having only 6 seats now, this changes the nature of the Dáil?” 

“That’s right Mary. With 4 additional seats now on the table, the threshold that a party or coalition needs to pass to form a majority government has increased. There are 450 seats in the Dáil, total. Since 1950, when Okkar was first legally permitted to stand in Federal Elections, 10 of those seats were out of consideration. For more than half a century, to form a majority government, you needed 221 seats. Now, with 4 more seats in play, you need 223 seats to form a majority government.”

“So Arjun what does this mean?” 

“Well Mary, it will be very interesting to see. No party is capable of forming a government on their own now. Even the ADC and the Laird Riochdaire, traditional coalition partners when the circumstances have called for it, do not have enough seats to form a government. Now, it is possible that Hillgauntlet will approach the Naiseanta Gaellic about including them in a coalition government.” 

“He would be reluctant to do so though I imagine.”

“Indeed he would, but the ADC and the LR likely believe that they could keep the NG in check and in line. The two parties are likely discussing it right now.” 

“Fascists!” Ralph and Jamie exclaimed in unison. The two of them burst out laughing as the police officer manning the gate to government park gave them both a steely, unamused gaze. This only led to the two laughing further.

As the police officer checked their identification in a computer in the gate house, Arjun continued his analysis. “Even if the right wing were able to form a coalition government, they would still lack the numbers needed for a majority. They would only have 221 votes, meaning they’d be acting as a minority government. A right wing success is going to require a left wing failure.” 

“Encouraging.” Jamie muttered.

“Confidence boosting.” Added Ralph. 

Mary prodded further, “Expand upon that Arjun. Is a Talamh/Ataqatigiit coalition not happening?” 

“I am not ruling it out, but it is not guaranteed. Talamh and Ataqatigiit do not always get on.”

“Why is that?”

“Well you see though they are aligned in a lot of ways, they have had major disagreements in the past. Talamh have in the past accused Ataqatigiit of being perfectionists. Of not having respect for the established way of governing. Meanwhile, Ataqatigiit have voiced displeasure with the broad appeal of Talamh. They have criticized Talamh for catering to the center and social Democratic end of the political spectrum, for failing to fully capitalize on the moments they do have in power to implement greater and more foundational changes. In the past Talamh has also contributed to the repression of indigenous people.” 

“Does that extend to the 21st century? Douglas an Gael has been outspoken in favor of indigenous self determination. Even when the party was more center oriented under Ariel Orains, they signed the New Spring Agreement.”

The police officer exited the gate house and returned the duo’s identification to them, before lifting the gate. Arjun’s voice piped up simultaneously, “It is true, yes, that current Talamh leadership has a good record on this area. Douglas an Gael famously was called up for national service as an officer and was deployed to Tshiuetin, and then to more remote eyjas at the height of the conflict. Famously, he became an outspoken critic of Federal policy and of the war. He has been consistent in that way, even when he was in his wilderness years in the 2000s, he was pushing both publicly and behind the scenes for the Orains government to come to a peace agreement with the NLA and Okkar. I should also add that the current leader of Ataqatigiit, Nive Anselm, has somewhat of a reputation as a team player. Even then, a coalition of the two of them would only bring their government to 222 seats. They would probably want to add in the lone green seat for a true majority government.” 

Jamie pulled the car into the parking lot beside Talamh’s main office within the government campus. He cut the engine as the anchor asked, “So Arjun will we soon be calling Douglas an Gael Taoiseach once again?” 

“Mary, it is not guaranteed but I will not rule it out either. I appreciate you having me o-” Arjun was cut off as Dugdale turned the radio off. 

Ralph stepped out of the car, making sure he had everything he needed in his shoulder bag. “What do you think? Is Ol Dougie gonna make a comeback?” 

“Who knows?” Jamie responded with a cryptic smirk.

***

Ten-Penny Hall has been the traditional headquarters of Talamh since the very start. Talamh got its start renting out the attic of the building because it was cheap and close to the heart of government. As the party grew and the amount of money in its coffers increased, Talamh began to rent more and more rooms. Eventually the party bought the entire building and the land it sat on. The original party’s choice of location proved a good one. When the land around Government House was expanded in the 80s to create Government Park, Ten Penny Hall was nicely inside the new boundaries. A major renovation was undertaken in 2008, when Ariel Orains led the party, to fix significant structural problems that had piled up over the years, to say nothing of bringing the building up to modern standards. The 2008 project also saw the offices of the party expand, with a brand new modern building being built next to the old, with a connecting bridge between them. 

In the classic old second story conference room, senior TDs and party strategists gathered. The Eastern wall of the room housed impressive tudor windows that overlooked Loch Carolinea and let in the morning sunlight. The west wall was an intricate hand carved affair with a large wall clock as its centerpiece. A gentle fire simmered in the stone hearth beneath it. The room was by no means small, yet was crammed to capacity, with the lower ranked staffers and TDs hugging the walls. Benches had been brought in to accommodate the increased capacity for the leadership meeting but some were still required to stand in the corners. The air of the room was filled with a gentle din as the party members exchanged findings. 

The clock struck 9 and the sound of rustling could be heard as members made way for one of the double doors to open. Party leader Douglas an Gael entered the room accompanied by his chief of staff Jamie Dugdale. The room went quiet and those who were sitting began to stand. 

“Oh sit down will you.” an Gael growled good naturedly. He took his seat at the center of the long conference room, in front of the fireplace and underneath the clock. He was getting on in years, his hair was all white at this point and wrinkles had gathered around his eyes and on his forehead, he walked with a limp and as a result used a cane, however, his mind was still razor sharp as ever. “Right, results are in. Let’s get to the bones of it. What are our next steps and what is our path to forming a government?” 

A TD, Seth Montgomery the shadow minister of foreign affairs, questioned unsteadily, “Don’t you want to discuss the election results, now that they’re all in? I think we ought to know why we did poorer than we expected.” 

“There will be time for that. There will be time but we need to focus on the immediate business at hand for now. We have a meeting soon… Jamie what time is our meeting with Mrs. Anselm?” 

The chief of staff was towards the north end of the conference table. Peering over his spectacles he piped up for the benefit of the entire room, “That would be at 1300 hours sir. Early tea with the Ataqatigiit party leader Nive Anselm, senior TD Chatan Hakan, and a few of their staff.” 

The party leader nodded. “Four hours then. A little less.” He paused and cracked a smirk. “Besides I can tell you what went wrong. The nation said bugger it all to the whole lot of government. I don’t think you can blame them considering the last few months.” The room lit up with a polite chuckle. When it settled an Gael continued, “So what are we bringing to the table with us?” 

“Well, in a coalition they’ll probably want the foreign ministry to be under Hakan. He’s known to be a bit of an international wonk.” Montgomery offered. He was unfocused on the big picture. He was distracted by his fear that he was not going to be in the cabinet in a coalition government. 

The meeting was saved from a narrow tangent by Margaret McGillis, Shadow Minister for both the Treasury and for Commerce & Trade. She was somewhat of a protégé of an Gael. Highly valued. “Well. We share more with Ataqatigiit than it’s sometimes made out to be. I’m sure many of us here have worked with some of their TDs. If we want to form a coalition, we need to make a case for it both to our counterparts in their party, and to the nation we hope to serve.” 

“I definitely agree with that.” A strategist chimed in. “Ideally we would have started the process for doing so earlier, but I suppose the thought of winning a majority alone sidetracked us from working on that with gusto.” 

“No time like the present.” an Gael responded. 

“Yes. What we need to do after this meeting is adjourned is that those of you who have working relationships with TDs in Ataqatigiit need to reach out. Those of you who share committees especially. Either call them on the phone, or arrange meetings. Talk to them about a coalition. Express your desire for cooperation and emphasize the importance of this moment.”

Sam Wood, the senior communications specialist for the party chimed in. “Comms teams we are going to be meeting right after this one adjourns. To summarize for the rest of the membership, we will need to start drumming up support, running the circuit. Emphasize the commonalities of our parties, our compatibility. Most importantly, the good it would do for the nation. Jamie, nicely done on the telecast last night, you set us up beautifully.” 

Moira Kelly, the chief whip waded in. “Politically we share a lot of planks. In fact it’s easier to list where we differ. The biggest difference is that they want a referendum on Nunuvat independence at some point in our term of government.” 

The room erupted as everyone tried to get their opinion in.

“The whole country will splinter!”

“It won’t be that bad but it will only make things more unstable.” 

“What about non indigenous people who live in the territories?” 

“We’ll never win another election.” 

The loud hum of discourse continued for several minutes. Finally, an Gael cleared his throat several times until the room began to turn its attention to him. “Do they want a referendum immediately? Or just in this term of government?”

“This term.” Responded Kelly. 

Douglas nodded. “We can do that. That can be done.” The room began to protest but he put his hand up which brought the volume back down. “I would not say it is politically wise. It will certainly hurt us in the short term, but we are in the process of forming a government. When you govern, you have to play the game. You have to give a little to get a little. At this point, I do not think our nation will survive even three more years of the ADP, not with the fascists in the mix of it.” He took a breath, thinking for a moment. “What will it cost us?” 

A staffer, some kind of statistician, began to lecture. “Polling shows that an independence referendum is going to lead to a decrease in the popularity of government and democratic reforms. It may put a damper on the ministry restructuring program and…”

Douglas interrupted. “To be completely frank, the polling told us that by today I would be Taoiseach. I need… something more concrete.”

Jamie cut to the point. “The truth is Doug, that it will likely cost us our shot at officially restricting the powers of the Clans.” 

The party leader gave a pained look, closed his eyes and nodded. The room went silent for a moment. Finally, an Gael opened his eyes again and resumed their business. “Seth you know Ms. Getty, of the Greens. How long will you need to work on her to get her in line?” 

***

The Brisbane tea house was a famed meeting place on the Penzance waterfront. It was near Government Park as well as in the planned core of the city. With a highly trained and experienced staff, it was a popular place to meet. Business and dealings could be done in private here, but one could ensure that they were still seen to be doing business. The building was easily recognizable with its art nouveau architectural style and pink stucco.

This happened to Nive Anselm, her chief of staff Molly Park, and Chatan Hakan. The trio rounded a corner to find the pink building suddenly taking up much of their field of vision. They approached the building, discussing heatedly, before entering the establishment and giving their name. They were led through the building, past the grandiose and airy main tea room, to a private room. Already awaiting them were Douglas an Gael, Margaret McGillis, and Jamie Dugdale.   

The group exchanged greetings and introductions. Hakan and an Gael each recalled to the room having worked together during the peace process.  

Anselm shook an Gael’s hand firmly. “Mr. an Gael I presume?”

“Ms. Anselm? And please call me Douglas. We try not to be too stiff.”

“Well then please call me Nive.” She said graciously while taking her seat. She couldn’t help but notice that the walls of the room were absolutely covered in oil paintings.

A waiter entered the room and took everyone’s order. Upon his exit the group began to discuss superficialities. The results of the election, how grateful they all were to be here for the present moment, and so on. Soon multiple waiters entered the room. One placed a tower of treats in the center of the table, finger sandwiches and macaroons, while the others placed the fine tea cups at each place at the table. The waiters poured the first cup for each patron before placing their tea pots beside the cups. A very rich black tea for Hakan, darl grey with cream for an Gael, green rooibos for McGillis, and chamomile for Anselm. The waiters exited the room in a line just as swiftly as they came.

Hakan added a pinch of sugar to his cup and stirred lightly as he cleared his throat and began, “So. With our TD’s phones blowing up this morning, it sounds like you’d like to go into government together.” Hakan was an experienced statesman, in his 50s at this point. Currently he was the chief whip for Ataqatigiit, but in truth this was a role that was below his abilities. He had been one of the principal negotiators during the New Spring peace process. His reputation preceded him and he was both respected and to an extent feared for his negotiation skills.

McGillis took the opening and made her pitch. “Yes we think that the nation requires new leadership, and that were we to form a coalition government, we could provide that new direction together.”

Anselm was silent for a moment, as if in thought, before asking knowingly, “And are our two parties… compatible? Do we share enough goals?”

The three Talamh representatives whispered to each other for a moment before an Gael came forward directly. They decided that being coy would only drag things out further, that the best path was the direct one. “The truth of the matter is, yes we think that we are. There are only two major positions that we see as a potential conflict. We are willing to take the hit on our end if Ataqatigiit can concede as well. For the strength of a coalition. We will support, officially and publicly, a Nunuvat independence referendum this term, though the closer to the end of term the more preferable it is to our membership.” He studied the faces of the trio across from him. “In exchange, we will need Ataqatigiit to strike any republican planks from the platform. Of course the beliefs of individual members cannot be controlled, but the official stance of the party on the role of the Ríog will need to be either non committal, or more preferably in favor of reform and a concrete division and separation of powers rather than abolition.”

The Ataqatigiit faction nodded before Molly Park answered. “We can manage and agree to those terms. Now if we are to form a coalition, we would prefer not to incorporate Ellen Getty of the Green Party.” The Talamh faction all took on a confused posture.

“The Green Party does not consider indigenous rights a matter of priority, even in environmental matters.” Anselm explained.

“And you are likely aware that they do not tend to make a good coalition partner, even if they are now reduced to one vote.” Continued Park.

“Governing with only half the Dáil…” Dugdale sucked his teeth.

Hakan set Anselm up for the counter pitch smoothly. “However, we do have an alternative. A way to maintain a majority.” The Talamh faction looked even more confused.

“After a series of many meetings, and they were long meetings, with Mr. Hanta of Okkar, they are prepared to make a major policy change.” The Talamh trio’s eyes widened. “Okkar is prepared to forgo abstentionism and to join a coalition government. In exchange, an independence referendum would take place sometime during this term. Since Talamh is already willing to support such a measure, we see a path to form a government.”

Douglas looked down at his tea, thinking. McGillis and Dugdale came to the same realization and said in unison, “But there is another condition. Isn’t there?”

Hakan took a bite of a cucumber sandwich, finished chewing, and replied in the affirmative. “Yes.”

Making eye contact, Anselm followed on, “They need me to be Taoiseach.” 

***

It was 18:00 and Talamh leadership were gathered in a sitting room at Ten-Penny Hall. They had been engaged in spirited discussion, argument, and by now were talking in circles. As it became evening, they had concluded that it would be possible to get the party to agree to the proposal. The only question now was, should they?

Douglas an Gael was red in the face, flustered. “I have to respect the gall. The chutzpah.” He mumbled the next few sentences before speaking up. “Is this a serious proposal?”

Strategists, analysts, and TDs all tried to answer with their opinion, drowning each other out so that all that could be heard was a medley of ideas. Margaret McGillis and Jamie Dugdale found each other’s gaze. Without speaking the two of them both knew they were in agreement. It was just a matter of persuading an Gael.

“We would na be in this position if people had actually turned out to the bloody polls. Useless.” Ralph Raskin was in the corner of the room complaining to another secretary.

Douglas’ head perked up. “Who said that? There’s too many of you speaking at once but I want to make something clear. And I do not say this to chastise or embarrass anyone, but as a matter of principle. We do not blame the citizens of the nation for our troubles, for our problems. We work in government, our trade is politics. We play with the hand we’re dealt. We devote our energy to the current circumstances, not what we wish they were.”

McGillis took the opening and addressed the room. “And that is why we must meet the present moment. Who knows when we will have a chance again. Now the terms may not be exactly how we want them to be, but they are not a flight of fancy. We can make changes for the better if we can put aside our pride and our ambition and focus our energy on getting into government.”

“It’s easy for you to say Margaret.” Sniped Seth Montgomery. “You’re going to have the Treasury should we bow to their demands.” The room erupted into discourse once again.

Dugdale made his way to an Gael who was sitting in a wingback chair. “Doug. If we don’t do this, things are going to stay the same as they are. More people are going to get hurt." Jamie thought about his family in that moment. His wife and his son. "Doug… people aren’t going to survive the winter.”

Douglas closed his eyes, his face in the same pained expression as in the morning leadership meeting. He nodded then opened his eyes. He took his pipe out of his coat jacket and lit it. He took a draw then stood. The room gave him its attention automatically. “Right Jamie, let’s set up a meeting with Ataqatigiit again for tomorrow. Sam, start putting whispers out there about a major platform change, but don’t say what just yet. The rest of you, go home and get some bloody sleep. You are going to need it, you will have a government to run in around a week’s time.”         

 

 

Edited by Legnut (see edit history)
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