Taoiseach Brian Cowen - Making backroom deals to consolidate a full term?
As the trade union leadership prepares to ballot its membership on a deal to protect public sector pay, could the membership, by rejecting this deal actually end up doing us all a favour?
Last week in a timely manoeuvre, the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, announced the transfer of the first tranche of taxpayers money to NAMA along with the announcement that the bail out of the now nationalised Anglo Irish Bank may exceed €22 billion. I say timely in that the Government scheduled these announcements in the last week of government business before a three week Easter break.
In the midst of all of this, without providing any detailed explanations behind the Government’s actions, the former Minister for Finance and current Taoiseach even found time to be deeply hurt by an accusation of economic treason by the Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore. Of course, the media jumped all over this story as it had all the right ingredients for a personality colour piece replete with emotion and what political reporters like to describe as ‘heated exchanges’. The real story of these ‘heated exchanges’ was Enda Kenny’s quick reposte to Cowen when he claimed that he would treat with contempt any attempt by Fine Gael to personally link him to the banking crisis, when Kenny replied, “That’s precisely your problem. You also treat the citizens of this country with contempt.”
Kenny hit the target with the real story of the week – a government announces what economist Peter Bacon claims has amounted to a financial Celtic Chernobyl, leaving little time for debate, providing the legislature with little or no detail as to the facts and figures behind its decisions except for the spin-doctoring phrases of TINA (There is no alternative) and WAWA (We Are Where We Are) and then hides behind a three week break and brazenly avoids the vital, necessary and legitimate questioning by the opposition on the people’s behalf.
And as if to add insult to injury, the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, responding to yet another huge drop in tax receipts, claimed that his budget is still on course and that house prices have now bottomed out. So we’re treated to more of his ‘we’ve turned the corner, green shoots’ line. This is indeed utter contempt when you consider that the European Central Bank is on record claiming that NAMA will not free up credit. In fact, the new Finance Regulator has given AIB such a huge capitalisation mountain to climb that any monies going AIB’s way will be ploughed back into its capitalisation fund. Financial experts claim that it certainly won’t find its way to fund the frantic survival strategies which Ireland’s struggling business community has been pleading for.
But it’s not the only story unfolding. Cowen has been wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to secure his unpopular administration’s future. Having secured the Greens support through various appointments including a second junior ministry, he is now completing a series of ‘secret deals’ with independents
Included in these deals is Independent TD Finian McGrath, the ‘socialist in the mould of Connolly and Tone’ as he humbly likes to describe himself. Last week this ‘socialist’, astonishingly, voted to support Fianna Fáil’s massive bail out of Anglo. Once again, sectoral interests raise their ugly head with McGrath now openly and shamefacedly admitting that he is putting his own electoral interests ahead of the people he claims to serve.
There’s another little known story lurking quietly in the background which fits nicely into the final pieces in this ‘cynical ploy of the coalition parties to retain power at any cost’ jigsaw puzzle. Independent Dublin City Councillor, the author and playright Mannix Flynn, resigned last week from the Dublin Inner City Partnership quango when he discovered that its staff were paying themselves massive salaries with funds destined for Dublin’s poorest. On its website the partnership claims that it ‘opposes all forms of poverty, discrimination and exclusion…..and ……..aims to enhance the quality of life for all inner city residents who experience deprivation and disadvantage.’ A recent report/audit found serious irregularities in its financial governance which resulted in government funding being stopped. The chair of DICP is Professor Joyce O’Connor, president emeritus of the National College of Ireland and sister of Sean Fitzpatrick.
At the same time the Daily Mail and Phoenix were reporting that the Green Party leadership have been busy appointing staff members, key party apparatchiks and failed candidates and former councillors to key quangos and boards in order to shore up green leadership support to keep them, and a Government the people don’t want, in power for its full term.
The final piece in this jigsaw are the unions, who, demoralized by their failed attempts to win the public relations war before Christmas were back at the table attempting to protect public sector pay for the next four years. And so, while the overpaid senior union officials eventually cut a deal on behalf of its membership, this deal will now be put before said membership in a series of private ballots.
In many ways it is these comrades who, by rejecting the deal and reverting to strike action, may hold the key to bringing down this unpopular and unwanted Government . Could the public sector union members, acting in pursuit of their own sectoral interests, actually do us all a favour and return a mandate for governance back to where it belongs, with the people?