Tuesday 27 September 2016

CJ would have a deal in the bag by now

It's 30 days since the election and they're still not talking. They are just not up to the job

Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30


Where's Charlie Haughey when you need him? Crooked? Yeah, Charlie was crooked. Shake hands with Charlie, afterwards you had to count your fingers.

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Self-serving, deceitful, robbing the poor to feed the rich - yeah, Charlie was the master of the Reverse Robin Hood racket.

But Charlie knew how to read election results.

Back in 1987, Charlie failed to get a majority in the general election. Within 21 days he was Taoiseach, heading a minority government with the support of Fine Gael.

The very name of Haughey made Fine Gaelers grind their teeth. Despite this, within three weeks, Fine Gael was on board.

They called it the Tallaght Strategy, and the government lasted two years.

At the 1989 election, Charlie again failed to get a majority. Without even a blush, he hooked up with the Progressive Democrats, led by arch-enemy Dessie O'Malley.

Fianna Fail had never coalesced with anyone.It despised the Progressive Democrats and vice versa. Haughey and O'Malley had been personal enemies for 17 years. The Progressive Democrats was set up as a reaction to Charlie's blatant corruption.

Fianna Fail stalwarts, on the other hand, said openly that the party would never, ever, ever stand for coalition - that was a "core value", they said. It took Charlie just 27 days to agree a coalition deal with the Progressive Democrats, convene the Dail, get himself elected Taoiseach and appoint a cabinet. Core value? Faced with a choice between office and opposition, the Fianna Fail faithful said, well, that seems fair enough, Charlie.

It has now been 30 days since the 2016 election, 30 long days, with not even an effort to follow the logic of the election results.

By this stage, Charlie had already done the business and was back in Kinsealy accepting his third backhander of the day.

Instead we've had meetings about meetings, little huddles of Independents shuttling in and out.

Simon Coveney puts on his grim face for the cameras and says nothing at great length. Simon Harris stands beside him, nodding solemnly at every sentence. Bad actors with a weak script.

Enda Kenny has, at the time of writing, proudly refused to lift the phone to Fianna Fail.

Equally proudly, Fianna Fail has its nose in the air. Well, we're not going to ring him, so we won't.

It will be the week after next before they go back to the Dail. At which point they're expected to make preliminary arrangements for exploratory discussions as a precursor to arriving at an approach to a position from which they can reach a jumping off point for initial deliberations on an outline for possible negotiation with a view to achieving progress towards a viable proposal.

It's time to say something we all know is true, but which we're usually too polite to say aloud.

And it's this.

The people running this country are not very good at it. And I don't mean just in politics. Right across the board, there are people in high positions who lack a basic competence in the rudimentary skills required for doing the job.

The rewards for doing executive jobs spiralled. At the same time, the ability to competently perform has nosedived.

Something happened. As executive pay went crazy, the people attracted to the money pit were great at corporate networking, but hopeless at doing the job.

Banking is the obvious example. What collapsed the banks was a bog-standard failure to observe the basic rules of lending and collateral. The executives taking home millions literally didn't know what they were doing.

The same with developers and their personal guarantees, while they built houses in places no one wanted to live.

People with small businesses joined the mindless chorus for wage cuts and austerity, thereby cutting the spending power of their customer base.

In politics, Fine Gael's lauded Minister for Finance - who peaked in competence in about 1985 - had to be given a lesson in basic arithmetic by Pearse Doherty.

You can now get huge money for "advising" top politicians. So the parties attract smart chaps who look you in the eye and say something like, "A week is a long time in politics," then smirk, like they've just invented a rule of nature.

"All politics is local," another of their kind might reply, while a third chips in with, "It's the economy, stupid!"

And they all go home, confident that their client understood the parameters of the situation.

And Fine Gael wonders why the bottom fell out of its campaign.

In Enda's case he needs to know stuff about meetings, agendas, negotiating, targets and deadlines.

It's the first time since he took the job that he has had to actually do something.

A stuffed koala could have filled the role of Taoiseach from 2011.

At first it consisted mostly of nodding as the Troika gave instructions. Then it involved nodding as the ECB gave instructions. Today, the ECB has enmeshed EU governments in an array of fiscal rules that limit choices, so that koala could still manage it.

Now, faced with something Haughey did in three weeks, in very much more hostile circumstances, Enda's wheels are spinning.

If these guys were Luas drivers on the Tallaght route they'd take a wrong turn and the tram would end up going through the Jack Lynch tunnel.

Mind you, although it's pathetic to watch such incompetence, the longer it takes, the better.

In the 1980s, under Charlie, the wealthy created an array of tax evasion mechanisms, only some of which were uncovered - such as Ansbacher. Politicians were involved, bankers, businesspeople who lectured us on risk-taking, entrepreneurship and the need for low wages. A Central Bank hotshot had an Ansbacher account.

Hundreds of millions were siphoned out of the economy. Simultaneously, with the co-operation of Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats, Fianna Fail was cutting thousands of beds from the public hospitals and running down public services - to fill the gap in the public finances left by the massive tax evasion.

So, no, some of us are in no hurry to have Fine Gael and Fianna Fail arm in arm in government, taking their instructions from whichever alumni of Goldman Sachs is running the ECB these days, and solving fiscal problems at the expense of the sick and the poor.

Meanwhile, Enda is pleased to let us know, via an accommodating media, that he had a productive meeting with Noel Grealish TD (he's not Greal, he's just Greal-ish - sorry, the politicians' general air of relaxed indifference is getting to me).

I hear you ask, who's Noel Grealish?

I had to look him up.

Seems Noel is an Independent now, but there was a time when he was said to be on the point of joining Fianna Fail, but then he joined the Progressive Democrats instead. In fact, Noel was made party leader. No kidding. They had more leaders than you think. Des O'Malley, Mary Harney, Michael McDowell, Ciaran Cannon, Noel Grealish, Sam Allardyce, Joe Kinnear, Alan Pardew, Steve McClaren . . .

Look, I'm sorry again, this is no time for Newcastle United jokes.

But, like I say, the general air of relaxed indifference is getting to me.

Day 31 coming up.

Sunday Independent

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