Dysfunction and distrust won't win anyone a PR battle
Published 25/07/2016 | 02:30
The launch of 'Rebuilding Ireland' last week was a glitzy affair with a nicely edited promo video, a PowerPoint presentation and orange backdrops.
The housing action plan was to a large degree the first piece of 'good news' that the minority government actually stage-managed since taking office.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Housing Minister Simon Coveney, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and junior minister Damien English all had the top table.
There were front-row seats for Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar and Independent member of Cabinet Katherine Zappone.
But it didn't take a well-seasoned political analyst to spot the lack of representation from the Independent Alliance.
Naturally, a row ensued for 24 hours before everybody tried to move on, with Finian McGrath now describing it as "a misunderstanding".
However, the Irish Independent has learned that not everything was rosy behind the scenes with Fine Gael either. Sources say some ministers were left in the dark about the contents of the plan until just hours before they would be expected to publicly declare it as the answer to the housing crisis. A lucky few saw it on Monday night but others didn't clasp eyes on the 115-page document until Tuesday and felt "bounced" into signing off on it at Cabinet - without studying the fine print that affects their own department.
It's just another example of a Government that can't communicate with itself, never mind the public.
One minister speculated that the leadership contest in Fine Gael meant Mr Coveney wanted to ensure he had total control over the release of information on his pet project, although other sources say the finalising of the plan went down to the wire. Whichever was the reality it shows there is a level of dysfunction and possibly distrust in Fine Gael at the highest level. At the same time, party sources are hugely critical of the Independent Alliance for not hiring a sufficient number of advisors and political gurus so they can sort out their differences before they appear in the public domain.
A €90,000 job as Deputy Press Secretary representing the Independents can't be filled, as the Alliance can't reach an agreement with Denis Naughten and Ms Zappone.
Sources on one side say security of tenure in finding a suitable candidate is the issue, while sources on the other say Shane Ross is the problem.
Mr Naughten even went so far as to ask former Government Press Secretary Eoghan O Neachtain (who communicated on behalf of Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny) to draw up a shortlist of potential candidates - but this headhunting initiative wasn't acceptable to the Alliance.
In a world of 24-hour news, any PR battle is hard to win. But when you can't sort out your internal one, it becomes impossible.