The Yates anthology: No love lost
Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30
As the Siteserv sale saga unfolds an intriguing irony emerges. It is the underlying tension, rivalry and personality clash between Michael Noonan and Alan Dukes.
As a Fine Gael TD colleague for more than 20 years, I observed them in action at cabinet meetings. Without equivocation, I rate both guys amongst the most formidable and able politicians of a generation - with starkly contrasting characters. Dukes is highly cerebral; principled to the point of supreme stubbornness. Noonan is the most skilled political pragmatist you'd ever encounter, almost devoid of principles - that's why he's survived in Fine Gael cabinets over four decades. They're on a collision course right now. Deep-rooted divisions existed since early 2011, when Dukes/Aynsley/IBRC dealt with the new FG/Labour Coalition. I don't believe Noonan would have appointed him chairman of IRBC as Brian Lenihan had. This turf war was essentially about IBRC autonomy over personnel appointments, remuneration packages and asset disposals. While both may dispute this, I don't believe it. Noonan bluntly told Bryan Dobson on RTE that Dukes's personal assurances were the sole basis for not having an independent review of the Siteserv deal, dropping Dukes squarely in the manure.
Mutual hostility and distrust began after Garret FitzGerald stepped down as party leader in 1987. Noonan opposed Dukes's successful candidature, strongly supporting Peter Barry. In 1990, he was instrumental in ending Dukes's leadership, having been an internal critic of policies such as the 'Tallaght Strategy'. They briefly combined forces against John Bruton in 2001, but Dukes lost a seat under Noonan's leadership a year later. This may appear superficially as FG controversy, but beneath the surface their conflicting personas add fuel to the fury over a reputational spat. Don't expect either to take prisoners when it comes to blame games. The drama of some 30 IBRC deals (surpassing €10bn losses) will unfold over coming months.