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Last week was a good week for the government? Really? February 14, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

Given the events of last week Backroom in the SBP was less interesting than might have been expected. No mention of Magdalen and the curious performance of Kenny during that debacle. Kind words for Michael Noonan and the deal on the promissory note. And this, which I thought was intriguing:

That is why the Fine Gael troops were so relieved when last week’s deal on the notes unexpectedly emerged. It killed off Gilmore and his party’s nerves on the subject and also reminded them, where nagging doubt had crept in over recent months, that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is still some operator.
In their private conversations, a growing number of the bright young men and women on Fine Gael’s very congested backbenches had started to doubt Noonan.
While quick to recognise his wit and enjoy his good company, they feel that, as his 70th birthday looms in three months, retirement from government might suit him (and open up at least one knock-on junior ministerial vacancy somewhere else).

Apparently all is changed, utterly. But one wonders how long that change will last if there is no substantive and visible impact on austerity for the electorate from the deal.

Fine Gael though, is not complacent:

While events in the Dáil and European Central Bank last week may calm Labour’s nerves for the time being, Fine Gael handlers are resigned to something else arising before long to create new tension. The back-slapping and congratulations of last Thursday will be quickly forgotten, as is always the case with good news announcements.
Indeed, the success of the deal may increase pressure in Labour, and from without, to ease off the austerity in the belief that somehow the case for cuts, taxes and charges is now weaker. The wave of special pleading for all sorts of cuts to be reversed or ameliorated has already begun.

And what of this disturbing insight into its ambitions. One doesn’t often read them put as bluntly as what follows here:

Such views will meet stern resistance in Fine Gael where there is still a strong appetite to press ahead with sorting out the public service and elements of the welfare state.

‘Sorting out’ ‘elements of the welfare state’. You know, I read that and I think of Gene Kerrigan’s point at the weekend about newspaper editors on €220,000 and more being unable to understand, or even come close to understanding, the impacts of the austerity that they champion but which they simply cannot have any direct experience of. There’s something of that in the very concept of Fine Gael getting close to any input into the welfare state (such as it is in this state).

Still, it’s not all plain sailing for them. Many a slip twixt cup and lip and so on and so forth:

There are still plenty more issues on which the council will agree the government’s direction to the displeasure of other ministers. The government parties will return to Leinster House this week to find that the voters have already moved on from promissory notes onto the next big thing that annoys them. Labour is still tetchy and fragile. Fine Gael is restless and harbouring too much unfulfilled ambition where talk of a summer reshuffle grows, no matter how much Enda Kenny tries to play it down.
A by-election in Meath East is only four months away and government victories in by-elections are rare, even to fill vacancies left by men as popular as the late Shane McEntee.

That’s it, isn’t it? Magdalen made the government, and Fine Gael in particularly, look positively ropey, if not quite shaky. And that may come around again − and should, it should if there’s any justice at all. But there’s a lot more waiting out there in the long grass. And one wonders at the capacity for this government to absorb it. It’s an oddly brittle crew, isn’t it? As an example, consider that there’s a tranche there, and not just in Labour, who are on their final political lap. All those FG TDs pressed back into service in 2007 for one last time who then were reelected handily in 2011 are nearing retirement. There’s an impatience abroad there that subtly undercuts the efforts to promote an efficient face to the world. That – as noted yesterday – the Irish Times poll came too late or too early, given that it didn’t factor in the promissory note, but, whether there’s a fillip for FG and the LP or not, much damage has been done already and the point is that we now know that the FG vote can go very low indeed and that the FF vote can go, well, not that high, but high enough, high enough, for a party that got a bare 17.4 per cent last time out.

And here’s the thing. Backroom isn’t wrong on the following:

One good week is always great, but it passes into history with amazing speed. The handlers and advisers in both government parties need to be vigilant in the months ahead. The ties that bind the government parties together are still straining more than they should be.

That’s one good week and how many middling to bad one’s preceding it, and bound to succeed it.


1. ejh - February 14, 2013

I like “special pleading”. One of those terms which is almost exclusively used by people who don’t themselves expect to be affected. (Also see “brave”, etc etc etc.)


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