Sunday 28 December 2014

As Coalition degenerates into a rabble, maybe we should invite the Troika back

The Government has lost all discipline since the bailout boys left town and that's not good enough

Published 30/03/2014 | 02:30

MAKING A PIG’S EAR OF COALITION: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Photo: Mark Condren

AMBLING down Merrion Square in Dublin city centre on a fresh morning, the man in the long black coat stopping along the way to talk to passers-by didn't seem to have the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was taking his customary walk to work – the short distance from his apartment in the Pearse Street area to Government Buildings – at about ten past nine on Monday morning.

"He was strolling slowly and chatting with lots of people," an executive heading to work at the same time observed the following day.

The previous evening the Taoiseach had been informed of the startling revelation that had wide-ranging implications across the criminal and civil justice system.

Already, from his talks with the Attorney General, he knew his Government was most likely going to have to set up an independent inquiry.

The development had exacerbated a crisis that had already resulted in the most public falling-out in the Government's three years in office.

The following day, the Cabinet was due to meet with the outcome of the standoff over the Garda Commissioner's views of the actions of whistleblowers quite unclear.

Here was a leader ahead of a defining moment.

The Taoiseach ignored all of the rules which had served him so well, guiding the country through – and out of – the bailout.

Mr Kenny isn't the only guilty party in this regard.

The self-professed 'Government of National Recovery' has disintegrated into an undisciplined rabble since the departure of the Troika. The imminence of the local and European elections has resulted in the coalition parties forgetting about what got them this far and returning to self-serving partisanship.

The record size of their majority in the Dail has led to a misguided air of invincibility embracing the Government. But the events of recent months have shown just how vulnerable the Coalition is to its own arrogance and presumption that voters will thank it for dispatching the Troika.

Quite the contrary at the moment, as the perception is growing that the Government has lost all focus since the IMF-EU-ECB bailout team left these shores.

Fine Gael ministers have talked up the prospects of further tax cuts to come – as Labour ministers simultaneously talk about wage rises.

The parties have displayed a distinct lack of cohesion on the reform and budgeting of the health service, the implementation of water charges and the various scandals engulfing the Garda Siochana.

Despite the bailout exit, the Coalition has now been tarred with the accusation of incompetence as a result of its handling of a range of affairs.

FURTHER ANALYSIS PAGES 19-25 & 34

Mr Kenny himself has been at the centre of squabbles with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore on the PR attached to the bailout exit, Health Minister James Reilly on the formulation of the health budget and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte on the pylons review.

The outbreak of dissent in the ranks over the treatment of the whistleblowers was the nadir for any semblance of unity of purpose.

Mr Kenny's attempt to slap down Transport Minister Leo Varadkar for speaking out in frustration on a matter of public interest was damagingly perceived to be an innate criticism of the Labour Party for going down the same route.

Mr Gilmore expanded the rift further by calling on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to make his own recompense.

The Taoiseach eventually got to grips with Mr Shatter, but not before wider events had spiralled out of control.

Questions are validly being raised about why matters were allowed to drift so far and a crisis was allowed to build up.

Mr Kenny abandoned the requirement to keep his Labour colleagues closely briefed on all items of importance.

The Taoiseach set up a mini-cabinet, the Economic Management Council, to ensure the junior coalition party was not kept in the dark.

But Labour knew nothing about the taping for a solid 36 hours after the Taoiseach was informed and had effectively decided a course of action on his own.

Mr Gilmore has every right to feel aggrieved and the experience will unquestionably cast a doubt over the levels of trust within the Coalition.

Mr Kenny can also be validly accused of failing to keep the Dail, and by extension the public, adequately informed of the full facts of the emergence of the taping affair and the engagement with the Garda Commissioner leading up to his resignation.

The Taoiseach has been on the back foot on his level of knowledge and been seen to be deliberately selective in what he has disclosed about his role in the affair.

He has failed to apply the same level of diligence to non-economic affairs as he did to the bailout.

It has led to the belief the Troika ensured the above-normal level of concentration which is now lost to the Coalition.

When he won the general election, the Taoiseach told the country: "Paddy likes to know what the story is."

This weekend, Paddy doesn't have a blue clue what's going on.

And he's not impressed by what he's learnt so far.

Sunday Independent

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