Various commentators, here and elsewhere, have been opining as to who has and has not got the right to form the next government following the inconclusive result to the General Election.
In a parliamentary democracy such as ours, there is only one constitutional criterion as to who has that right: whoever can win a majority in the Dáil for their chosen nominee for Taoiseach. Barring abstentions, that means getting a minimum of 80 votes in the 159-seat chamber (plus Ceann Comhairle).
Everything else is just so much hot air.
Given that no party got even half that total, only various combinations of parties can hope to reach a majority, and they must negotiate with each other in order to achieve an agreed position on a programme.
Agreement is not mandatory and no one can be forced to take part in a government against their will or better judgment - no matter how much Michael McDowell might think otherwise.
Indeed, the electorate has a tradition of dealing harshly with any party which accepts a junior position in a coalition or supports a government formed by another party through "confidence and supply".
Of course the electorate may also take a dim view of any party seen as responsible for a failure to form a government and vote accordingly if a second general election has to be called, but there is no guarantee that will result in any more decisive an outcome.
The splintering of party political systems seen throughout Europe makes the formation of stable governments ever more problematic. But this in turn only reflects a splintering of society, where the broad consensus underpinning the traditional centre left and centre right parties has been breaking down.
Blame globalisation, the financial crash, climate change, poor public services, social exclusion or growing inequality if you like, but the fact is no widespread consensus exists as to how these issues should best be tackled.
So we should not be surprised if it takes another election and lengthy negotiations before another stable government is formed.
The wonder is our system survived a civil war, the Emergency, the Northern Troubles, the financial crash, and numerous crises and recessions and yet managed to come up with a government every time to the satisfaction of some and the chagrin of others.
That's democracy, and it can be a slow and painful process!