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Deputy leader leader… August 13, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Not a bad point from Harry McGee at the weekend about how the current administration is significantly different to previous administrations in one key respect. He writes:

In Irish coalition arrangements there is a pattern that you can’t argue against, and it is that the smaller party will usually take the brunt of the damage in the next election.

When Labour has gone into government with 30-plus seats in the past, it has tried various means of countering this “mudguard” phenomenon. It put in programme managers, created a well-staffed office of the tánaiste with delegated powers, ensured Labour policies were foregrounded. It never worked.

The posters may have said “Gilmore for taoiseach” but despite the effort the tánaiste role remained markedly subservient to that of taoiseach for Eamon Gilmore, for Joan Burton, and for Dick Spring before them.


It’s different this time around. Varadkar is Tánaiste, but not in the same way as Simon Coveney was, or Gilmore was. His relationship with Micheál Martin is more akin to the office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister in the Northern executive – a co-leadership, with Martin, for now, being first among equals.

There may be something in that. There’s a significant issue of perception here about who and what Varadkar is and is not. Granted he’s not Taoiseach but the memory of the time he was is very fresh and that has to have an effect. And I’m trying to recall has any Taoiseach become Tánaiste before? McGee argues that unlike other coalitions Varadkar has a strange license to critique his own administration from the position of Tánaiste, whereas previously such critiques were delivered in often slightly coded ways by backbenchers.

McGee wonders if Varadkar is able to carve out a new sort of role of Tánaiste, distinct from those that came before. But then he is distinct from those who came before by dint of his previous role. And it’s not that much of a stretch to reinforce that at a time when FF is remarkably low in the polls and FG is the most popular center-right/right of center party in the state.

Perhaps as interesting a question is whether Varadkar and Fine Gael will fritter away this advantage they currently possess. But then again, as one comment BTL noted, this is a party that was in power since 2011 and we hardly live in a paradise. And that spike in popularity may be fragile. Yet FF’s underlying weakness is self-evident. And the GP seems oddly remote in all this. So perhaps this is a moment for FG?


1. gypsybhoy69 - August 13, 2020

I read that article and found it nauseating. It read like a job application to me, which in light of the way political commentators suddenly become political advisers is probably not surprising. It’s probably true that Mehole will make people look back longingly to Leo but he’d been given a lot of slack as Taoiseach during the crisis by whom one wonders, oh yeah, political commentators. Let’s not forget that this was the leader of a political party who had a disastrous election campaign and were taken over by Sinn Fein as the largest party in the state. A party who didn’t run enough candidates through no fault of their own and who probably should be the leading party in Government.
And what is it that Harry is so awe struck by, it’s Leo’s ability to tell it like it is. Reminding uppity workers not to get above their station and remember who the ruling class are, crisis or no crisis. Harry loves the class war but he’s just not on our side.

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WorldbyStorm - August 13, 2020

That’s an excellent point you raise re the way it reads and while I still think his point is valid re the relationships between FF/FG it is well worth bearing in mind why that point is raised in the way it us and in the context of the overall piece as you say. And agreed I hate the stuff about ‘straight talking’LV. That’s a nonsense from the off. LV had one good campaign that being the pandemic at least until his last few weeks as Taoiseach – prior to that he was mediocre (and far from food in class terms). But even those last few weeks were telling as approaches buckled under political and business lobby interests. Of course a rosier analysis is that it all goes down as the public sees the essential sameness of the two traditional parties and decide that’s not for them again.

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