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Noel Dempsey? …he’ll talk about anything to do with government. Anything, I tell you! February 25, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economics, Economy, Irish Politics.

One of the defences raised by those close to the Green Party over its seeming focus on its specific issues and its lack of interest in the broader picture has been the notion that due to the nature of Cabinet government their Ministers are unable to impact in any serious way beyond their own Departmental concerns. It’s a compelling argument in some respects. The Green Party representation at the Cabinet table is obviously very limited indeed and their ability to sway an argument is constrained by that fact.

And so excursions by those Ministers into other areas of Government policy have been remarkably limited and in the main restricted to generalisations or subdued suggestions as to future policy changes.

However, this doesn’t mean that opposing arguments should and cannot be put. For example, consider yet again the case of Noel Dempsey who remains, perhaps inexplicably, our Minister of Transport. If he were to follow the lead of his Green Party colleagues one might be forgiven for thinking that he would be unlikely to proffer the following:

…[he] has said he believes that the Government should engage with the social partners in a bid to reach agreement on proposals to reduce public spending.

Mr Dempsey said no changes to the public service pension levy are proposed, adding that a certain sum of money needs to be recovered and that will not change regardless of any alterations made to the levy.

He said if the plan to introduce the levy on 1 March is delayed the amount of money that needs to be recovered this year will be increased.

He said the levy is just one measure to help reduce public spending which has been put in place by Government

Or this:

He said he felt over the coming months there should be engagement with the social partners to see if a consensus on the way forward can be reached,

And howsabout this?

However, he said the difficult decisions that have been made have to stand.

He said the Government has no issue engaging with the social partners, but he said the luxury of time and the postponement of difficult decisions cannot be afforded.

For it is only after those sallies that he actually focusses on the core of his Ministerial responsibility – although as we are all aware now, he doesn’t really consider the situation down at Dublin Bus to be really his responsibility at all.

He notes:

The minister also said industrial action by Dublin Bus drivers will serve no useful purpose.

He pointed out that drivers have voted to take industrial action due to proposed cuts at the company.

Mr Dempsey said this morning that the Labour Court and Labour Relations Commission should be used to resolve the issues which Dublin bus drivers have.

Mr Dempsey said inconveniencing members of the public and customers of the service who need a good service serves no useful purpose.

What I find interesting about this is that Dempsey appears to have been given license to wax at length about the broader crisis more or less as he sees fit. His talk this week about ‘economic treason’ is clearly positioned to strike a chord with a public seething over the bank crisis. His words here are triangulated in such a way as to allow him to both agree and disagree with the unions – again, fascinating how the government is having to take them seriously after the march. They may not want to, they may do all they can to avoid dealing with them, but that volume of marchers was simply too great to ignore… hence his souped up rhetoric. That he belongs to the larger party and has the latitude implicit in that is significant, but not the only factor.

Now, it’s not that the Green Ministers have said nothing, that wouldn’t be accurate. But their utterances have been so cautious as to verge on the anodyne. It is true that Gormley, in particular, has been more assertive as of late, and broadly speaking the mood music out of the Green Party has been a little less wedded to remaining in government than it was even prior to Christmas.

The problem with all this, and I noted something yesterday that relates to it, is that it can appear remarkably detached while all around a political storm rages. No doubt concern about climate change can inspire people to take the long-view. But this?

And in a Cabinet where Dempsey is able to address every issue bar that which, by rights, the Green Party might be expected to take some ownership of, that being the Dublin Bus fiasco, it might be no harm for them to start expressing themselves a bit more volubly. After all, if they don’t see their way to doing so the question, quite reasonably, may arise, what precisely are they there for?

If that question deserves an answer, perhaps we shall find it in a truth spoken, possibly unconsciously, by Paul Gogarty in the interview out tomorrow where he explicitly notes the low level nature of some of the Green Party concerns where the concentration is on ‘bikes and light-bulbs’. Place that against an economy that to all intents and purposes has slammed on the brakes and one can see just how little relevance it appears to have to those who live and work in said economy. This is a real problem for the Green Party, and something they’d be as well to start addressing as soon as is possible. Because the concerns they do articulate on the global level are so crucial that some expression of them at state level is vital.

Meanwhile, someone who theoretically has more right to be discussing the global on behalf of the government is also using a much more emollient tone. And fair dues to Tánaiste Mary Coughlan. Her absence from the public eye these past number of months has been intriguing. As the going has got tougher she seems to have gone. But, she’s back. And in fine form.

Indeed if Brian’s Cowen and Lenihan have been gloomy cops she is positively bursting with an Obama like insouciance about the future… For her every day brings sunshine and rainbows and happiness all around (perhaps in no small way assisted by Paul Gogarty’s profession as to her fanciability…).

No matter that:

Shortly after the Government announced details of its recapitalisation plan, which will see the State contribute €3.5 billion to Bank of Ireland and AIB, both increased their bad debt forecasts.

AIB almost doubled its projections for loan losses to €1.8 billion, or 1.37 per cent of the overall loan book, while Bank of Ireland raised its three-year bad debt estimate to € 4.5 billion – and in a possible worst-case scenario of € 6 billion – from €3.8 billion.


The Tánaiste has said the public finances are under control and ruled out further spending cuts or changes to the tax regime until next year’s budget.

And for those naysayers who would suggest that matters are otherwise and that a revised Budget should be rushed in post haste (and that glum group includes Peter Sutherland, who curiously seemed to tilt more towards the tax than cuts end of the spectrum in his latest broadside) she…

…cautioned against talking down the economy, saying Ireland had to “make sure that our international reputation is not damaged to such an extent that we will not have access to borrowing requirements, that we will not have access to money for our banking systems”.

There’s a plan as well… check this out:

She defended the Government’s response to the recession saying it has a three-fold plan to restore the public finances, manage the economy, sustain the banking system and sustain jobs.

Yep, that’s it. That’s the plan. Or more precisely all she told us. Now you and I might think that this sounds less like a plan than a set of aspirations. But what do we know?

I’m feeling safer already. I surely am.


1. Wednesday - February 26, 2009

His talk this week about ‘economic treason’ is clearly positioned to strike a chord with a public seething over the bank crisis.

If the rumour I’m hearing is true there’s more to it than that.


2. sw - March 3, 2009

anybody see the ryan dempsey session at the ard fheis?


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