Michael Brennan: Public is entitled to be cynical after latest government U-turn
Published 05/05/2011 | 05:00
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny boldly declared in the Dail yesterday that his Government was not into performing "U-turns or pirouettes".
There was much laughter from opposition TDs -- even though most of them didn't know about the latest U-turn by Mr Kenny's party.
Most voters may have already thrown their copy of Fine Gael's five-point plan into the recycling bin, but given that it was published just three months ago, they may remember the pledge to cut the number of TDs by 20.
But Mr Kenny and his Cabinet opted instead to hand over the issue to a constituency commission. As the Government knows very well, this will not be able to reduce the number of TDs by 20.
The maximum number that can be cut is 16 because the constitution requires one TD per 30,000 people.
The reduction in the number of TDs in the next Dail by 20 would have saved around €5.3m annually -- based on the €268,000 per year cost of their salaries, secretarial assistance, travel expenses and other allowances.
That is a considerable sum, but the political credibility of the Government would have been strengthened if it had stuck to the slogan in the Programme for Government -- 'Change must start at the top'. Would the country be able to survive with 146 TDs rather than 166 TDs? Fine Gael obviously once thought that it could.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan put the best possible spin on the U-turn yesterday by saying it was part of a reform process that would radically overhaul the way Irish politics and Government work.
But the public is entitled to be cynical when one of Fine Gael's key election promises appears dead in the water within three months. How easy will it be for the Government to achieve up to 25,000 redundancies in the public sector in the next four years -- when jettisoning 20 of its own jobs appears to be too much effort?