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Straight from the orthodoxy… February 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

A remarkable piece in the IT at the weekend. It’s well worth a read for an insight into a certain frame of mind found close to our current government. It’s also revealing for what it leaves out as much as what it includes. And who wrote it? Why step forward Stephen Collins.

In his world things are going well, for Bank of England governor Mark Carney is quoted as saying…

The rapidly improving state of the Irish economy was highlighted by the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney during a visit to Dublin during the week. “This is an economy that’s growing. This is an economy that’s become much more competitive, that has moved into a current account surplus for the right reasons. This is an economy that’s fixed the core of its banking system,” he said.

The view of an expert like Carney, that “Ireland has made tremendous progress”, was naturally welcome to the ears of the Government, which launched its 2015 Action Plan for Jobs. The annual plan, driven by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, has been one of the outstanding success stories of the Coalition’s term.

But as noted in comments beneath the piece this is the same Mark Carney who during the very same visit:

…launched a strong attack on austerity in the eurozone as he warned that he single-currency area was caught in a debt trap that could cost it a second lost decade.
Speaking in Dublin, Carney said the eurozone needed to ease its hardline budgetary policies and make rapid progress towards a fiscal union that would transfer resources from rich to poor countries.
“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, if the eurozone were a country, fiscal policy would be substantially more supportive,” the governor said. “However, it is tighter than in the UK, even though Europe still lacks other effective risk-sharing mechanisms and is relatively inflexible.”

That’s right, the very policies that we are caught within.

There’s more. Of course there is:

The nasty abuse directed at President Higgins by anti-water charge protesters and some silly Opposition antics in the Dáil may have generated headlines during the week but they couldn’t quite mask the flow of good news on the economy.


Since the Dáil resumed, TDs in both Coalition parties have been buoyed up for the next election by the prospect of positive economic developments this year.
The mistakes and poor political judgment that characterised the Government’s performance last year have been minimised so far in 2015. If anything, it seems to be the Opposition’s turn to stumble into unforced errors.

But hold on. The only evidence that he gives in the entire piece is the Carney quote above. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the economy, and at a time when:

The International Monetary Fund has queried the strength of Ireland’s economic growth, suggesting it is being exaggerated by offshore manufacturing conducted on behalf of multinationals in the pharma sector.

The IMF says ‘we’ are doing ‘well’. Great. But not that well. This though is the sort of great news he’s talking about? This is the ‘rapidly improving state of the Irish economy’. Oh, and not a word of the cumulative effects of the best part of a decade of cut backs.

And those errors? Well, there’s ‘Trotskyist [sic] TD Paul Murphy’ who is given the lash for not being sufficiently exercised by the comments directed against the President (just on that, stupid pointless comments, but given the focus on freedom of speech, yes, even ‘unpleasant and offensive speech’, seen earlier last month it does seem curious that suddenly such stupidity and pointlessness is suddenly out of bounds). Though the President himself gets an implicit… well, read on:

To be fair to Murphy, the President has made a series of speeches in effect taking issue with the thrust of Government economic policy as well as the EU response to the financial crisis. So far they have been ignored, as a constitutional crisis is the last thing the Coalition needs, but the potential for a breach is there.

But nothing is too trivial for the forensic gaze of our intrepid envoy from the orthodoxy:

In the Dáil during the week, the flashpoint was a row over the fact that a debate was not allowed on the Government’s decision to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the Cavan-Monaghan division of the Garda following the allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.
The decision to rule out a debate was made by Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett on the grounds that it could be regarded as an interference with High Court proceedings being taken by former minister Alan Shatter challenging the Guerin report that prompted the establishment of the inquiry.
Both the Ceann Comhairle and Taoiseach Enda Kenny resisted an attempt by the former minister to halt the inquiry in its tracks but Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin went apoplectic about the fact that a debate was disallowed on legal advice.

That last is fascinating, what legal advice and from who? Any chance it will be detailed in full? But don’t let such minor details derail us on the way to the main point of the text, the egregious error by… Fianna Fáil. And what would that be?

Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams led their troops out of the Dáil chamber and gave an impromptu press conference on the plinth at Leinster House to air their grievances. Martin’s decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with Adams raised an eyebrow or two, particularly as he had ruled out coalition with either Sinn Féin or Fine Gael a few days before.

Now this is bizarre. Why on earth should ruling out coalition with SF forbid him from appearing on the plinth with SF on a matter relating to the conduct of the Oireachtas? No explanation is given, just more stuff from the usual sources about how this will play… they hope.

There was glee among Fine Gael TDs who see themselves locked in a battle with Fianna Fáil for the middle ground at the next election. “I’m sure the pictures of Gerry and Micheál standing together will feature in our election literature when the time comes,” said one Fine Gael TD.

And then there’s Aer Lingus, no really.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were also united in their outright opposition to any move by the Government to sell the State’s 25.1 per cent share in Aer Lingus and are clearly lining up to paint the Coalition has being unpatriotic if a share sale goes ahead.
This would be rich coming from Fianna Fáil, which privatised the airline in the first place, but in fact all the signs are that the Coalition has no intention of selling the State’s share.

Far be it for me to allow FF off the hook, but it’s entirely coherent for them not to want to lose a state share in the airline even if they privatised it in the first place. It’s not particularly admirable, but it’s hardly beyond the abilities of them to be able to want a hands off but still extant relationship with the company. There’s no contradiction there.

Meanwhile, good news at last. No more firesales. Perhaps.

The exchequer would gain about €300 million from a sale and while that might have been irresistible when the State was broke a few years ago, there is no longer a financial imperative to sell.

I don’t know. How one threads through this concoction of contradictions is hard to determine.

But there’s so many involved. For example, yesterday our beloved Minister for Foreign Affairs waded in on behalf of the CC.

“In the Dáil the Ceann Comhairle is the first among equals. The office should have the respect of everybody in the chamber,” Mr Flanagan said.
“One of his main functions is to maintain discipline. That in recent times has proved difficult and challenging as the type of street protests that we have seen in recent months have now entered the Dáil chamber.
“It’s essential the speaker commands respect. I detect an element of political opportunism on the part of the Opposition who are attempting to obstruct the workings of the Dáil.”

But some it would appear are less equal than others in that schema. Because…

Mr Flanagan was critical of what he described as the “spectacle” of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams together staging a Dáil walkout in a row over Mr Barrett’s ruling.

Are they not allowed an opinion, is there no room for assessing matters? Does he genuinely believe this? Who can tell?

And what’s this from another name that crops up perhaps more often in relation to these matters than might be expected.

Mr Barrett has maintained he was acting on legal advice. However, Labour TD Pat Rabbitte yesterday indicated he had reservations about that advice.
“The whole reason that parliament came into being was that powerful vested interests or others could not gag parliament,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme.


And FF aren’t exactly taking this lying down… this morning one will read:

The Fianna Fáil Party Whip has said a claim by Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett that Fianna Fáil was trying to undermine him in the Dáil was “without foundation, completely false” and “totally erroneous”.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl said he believed Sean Barrett had made the comments “inadvertently” and called on him to consider what he said.

Something curious about all this – who is undermining who? And as noted last week, never good to be the story, something that seems to have been forgotten. Some will be concentrating on this in the days and (perhaps) weeks to come.


1. que - February 2, 2015

Stephen collins’ piece shows the weakness of being a political sage.

I reckon Pat Rabitte will want to introduce ceremonial robes befitting his good office should he get called to preside over democracy.


WorldbyStorm - February 2, 2015

Heheh… yeah. That sounds right.


2. ivorthorne - February 2, 2015

So is it just me or has the general impression of writers like Collins and O’Brien changed over the course of the past 5 years? I’m not talking about the impression of places like CLR, but in general.

It seems to me that they are not really looked upon as quite as unbiased and mainstream as they once were.


WorldbyStorm - February 2, 2015

I hope so. That’s a very interesting question. I do think there’s a greater scepticism abroad that they’re in any sense reaching for, say, a degree of objectivity. But I also think that their output is much more openly pro-govt.


3. Stop Irish government’s water charges | Dear Kitty. Some blog - February 13, 2015

[…] Straight from the orthodoxy… […]


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