Posts Tagged 'irish politics'

Labour Messaging – and over-reliance on Gilmore?

 


Labour’s messaging during the campaign to date has seen an over-reliance on Eamon Gilmore’s undoubted talents but has reached nearly Ceaucescu-like proportions with the Gilmore for Taoiseach and the Gilmore Le Chéile posters.

The negative newspaper advertisements have also sidelined the appeal of a Labour manifesto that has so much positive policy to offer.

Why concentrate on the obvious ‘hurt and anger’ that voters feel about a discredited Fianna Fáil regime?  The narrative, the story has moved on.

Even at this late stage it is not beyond the communications team to promote the positive elements – the hope, creativity and vision, the human face that a Labour party in coalition can foment in a FG Labour coalition.

Voters now have a choice – a single party majority Fine Gael government backed by ‘backdoor deals’ with centre-right independents or a real coalition balanced between Fine Gael’s fiscal rectitude policies but offset by the positive social justice policies that Labour will undoubtedly bring to the table.  Voters are now left with a clear choice.

However a second question arises – voters may leave Labour in a ‘no win’ situation by returning a large majority for Fine Gael.  This will leave Labour with few policy bargaining positions, where a decision to enter government may seem a decidedly unworthy call.

That is the stark reality – replace Fianna Fáil with a majority Fine Gael government or produce a coalition ‘dynamic’ for creative and positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

Cowen to blame for shameful era of croneyism

The problem is that Brian Cowen, identified by name or not, is synonymous with cronyism and a shameful era of lazy governance. People can change, but there is no indication in his demeanour, his excuses or his utterances that he can or will.

Read full article here

Cowen, Lenihan, cynical manoeuvring, secret deals and the consolidation of power

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?

Lee’s resignation will be seen as a massive FG own goal

After all the bad news stories, George Lee’s resignation from Fine Gael will have the Fianna Fáil handlers rightly rubbing their hands with glee.

George Lee’s dramatic resignation will hang around the necks of senior Fine Gael parliamentary party members as an indictment of incompetence and a lack of creativity and imagination.

FG will now back peddle fiercely and spin that Lee has been impatient and unreasonable in his expectations.  And he probably has been.

However,  to attract such an economic heavyweight, a person who was so widely respected as an incisive economic commentator and then  fail to accomodate this talent, is pure folly and displays a clear lack of leadership and imagination.

At least the voters of Dublin South may now recognise the talent of Alex White, who surely must have felt hard done by  following the announcement of George Lee’s candidacy for the bye election last year.

Of course, I believe there are only losers here.   Fine Gael will be perceived as a party that has started to drop the ball all too frequently in front of goal while under no real pressure.

George Lee will be perceived by many as an unrealistic and impatient man who failed to understand the real inner workings of politics.  He may also be branded as having let down the people of Dublin South and to a degree,  the national electorate.

Fine Gael’s lack of imagination and George Lee’s impatient exit is not just Dublin South’s loss,  it also adds to the frustration of all of us  and only  fuels the widespread cynicism among voters at the paucity of creativity, imagination and leadership inherent within the Irish body politic.

A bad day for Fine Gael.  A bad day for Enda Kenny, A bad day for George Lee.  A bad day for the body politic.  A bad day for the electorate.

Of course,  this major story comes hot on  foot of Fianna Fáil Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micháel Martin’s defence of the massive €4.4 million refurbishment of the Irish ambassador to Canada’s residence;

Mary Coughlan, Fianna Fáil Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s defence of the granting of an €18,000 per month  PR contract to former FF spin doctors for a quango, the National Consumer Agency, even though the agency is to  be subsumed into the Competition Authority;

Accusations of croneyism aimed at the Green Party for appointing party members to State boards;

and the staggering revelation that former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern TD hopes to get to heaven.

A bizarre day for the little people of Ireland?

Ceann Comhairle’s position appears inconsistent and contradictory

John O’Donoghue claims the Ceann Comhairle position does not allow him to enter into a debate on what appears to be extraordinary expenses and that, anyway, the expenses were incurred by civil servants and not directly by himself.

In fact, he invokes the Constitution and states that “the Ceann Comhairle is the neutral officer in the House who is impartial and should be seen to be above politics and controversy”.

Of course, O’Donoghue’s stance would appear  contradictory and somewhat hypocritical  if you consider that  he has sent a solicitor’s letter to the Sunday Tribune in a direct attempt to silence the newspaper.

O’Donoghue also claims that it would not be normal for him to be acquainted with the finer details regarding financial arrangements for booking hotels, chauffeurs, booking his wife onto flights, hiring hats for her or paying €450 for a three minute trip between air terminals among many others.   What he is actually doing here is ‘passing the buck’ to his civil servants when, in fact, it is the Minister who, in law, takes responsibility for the workings or non-workings of his or her department, largesse or not.

Ceamm Comhairle John O'Donoghue

A side story here is the position of Tom O’Higgins, the political expenses watchdog who resigned in disgust last week at the foot-dragging by politicians who have failed to introduce vouched expenses and a cap on annual expenses. The chair of the Oireachtas Commission’s Audit Committee, which advises on internal controls and value for money issues, just happens to be Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue.

Meanwhile Taoiseach Brian Cowen today ( Monday 14th September 09 ) claimed that we are living beyond our means.

Brian Cowen, Political Culture & Loyalty v Respect

So is John McGuinness telling it like it is?  Uncomfortable as it may be for some,  his arguments expose  the ‘groupthink’  mentality that exists in most organisations.    Brian Cowen may be unlucky,  he may be stubborn,  he may even be incompetent – I don’t know – but to accuse him of being tribal is to accuse him of being human, being Irish even.

In most organisations throughout the country,  CEOs, football managers, political leaders pick their teams and while talent should be top of the agenda – loyalty to the captain and hard work will more than not be rewarded over the talented outspoken one.   In fact, the one who tells it like it is rarely gets rewarded.  Eventually they may do so,  but it is usually based on pacification and the ‘squeeky wheel always gets oiled’  approach rather than any real desire for  a change of strategy or outlook.

The culture of the political system in Ireland is a star culture – one where TDs are independent republics and where the crucial rules of survival are ‘win thy seat’ and ‘defend  thy seat’ at any cost.  It has also become a highly paid job with lavish expenses with considerable administrative and research back-up.  Added to this is the ‘Bertie Ahern legacy’ of five year Dáil terms,  the culture of keeping the team on message through appointments to Junior Ministries,  Chair of Dáil Committees,  the overall jobs for the boys culture and you can see how rapidly politicians across the political divide have lost touch with their electorate.   Once elected to office, Ministers set about building their teams,  often hiring  party members and family to lucrative positions while appointing political party members and supporters to State Boards and authorities.  All of this is done behind closed doors,  there is no transparency despite repeated calls from outside the walls of Leinster House for reform.    It also imbues a culture of fear – be loyal at all costs or you forfeit your right to reward and a promising career.

Becoming a TD is a lucrative business these days.  You can forget all that guff about TDs giving up the chance to earn lucrative salaries in the private sector – the majority wouldn’t pass the test.    This is a political system of power, of entering politics for monetary gain.  It is not a political system based on achievement and legacy.

As Professor Ray Kinsella pointed out in the Irish Times recently,   “Political institutions and the system of governance are semi-detached from the pulse-beat of individuals who have lost their jobs, businesses teetering on the brink of failure, and families that are crushed by the circumstances in which they have suddenly found themselves.”

He goes on:  “They are still dominated by an apprenticeship system, which favours those who have served their time over those who can contribute most to addressing the problems now confronting the country.”

No doubt Brian Cowen, Mary Coughlan, Government spin doctors and the ‘loyal’ band of backbenchers eager to please (for now)  will be busily engaged in briefing columnists and a select band of embedded journalists to spread doubt about John McGuinness and what they will insist is really just his very public ‘throwing of his toys out of the pram’.

Brian Cowen has made it abundently clear that he values loyalty over talent and yet John McGuinness has challenged  our whole perception of the culture of groupthink and of loyalty.  His premise is that the overused tag of loyalty needs to be replaced with respect.  Of course, respect infers equity and balance.    Respect means that a true friend will tell you if you have got it wrong or made a mistake rather than pledge blind allegiance to a sinking ship.

And finally this is what economist Dan O’Brien observed in the Irish Times on 20 March 2009:  “To set out the inadequacies of Mary Coughlan as Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment would be inappropriate and unhelpful. It suffices to say that at a time of national emergency, the patently and grossly unable, by their mere presence, should not be allowed to obstruct efforts to prevent outright meltdown.” 

OUCH!

Wanted! – New Value System in Politics

The emergency Budget was seriously misconceived and our existing politics are incapable of resolving our problems. We are in dire need of political realignment and valued-based politics that eschews cronyism  – so says Professor Ray Kinsella.

Read his thought-provoking article here  – We’ve screwed up and that’s the truth


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