Monday 24 October 2016

The Yates anthology: The minister with merit

Published 30/05/2015 | 02:30

FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter

Usually my pen is poised to critique, even savage, ministers for their stream of ministerial-speak - or waffle - to disguise fudges and indecision. It's a rarity for me to praise a minister's handling of a brief with particular precision, political skill and straight answers.

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But Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe deserves credit for the straightforward manner in which he dealt with the potential sale of the State's 25pc stake in Aer Lingus.

Preparation is always key to performance. He gave precise answers to questions about: 635 net new jobs; unpredictable futures for Cork and Shannon airports beyond 2022; the infrastructure fund of €335m from the proceeds; job security prospects of Registered Employment Agreements for unions; and a prospective timetable for IAG share completion.

His surefooted presentation succeeded in allaying the fears of Labour backbenchers. It also muted the resistance from Siptu. Thus a consensus emerged in favour of the growth opportunities for the fleet and the prospect of route expansion.

Many FG backbenchers resented Enda Kenny's fast-track preferment of Paschal. Despite only being a TD for the first time in this Dáil, he leapfrogged other long-serving deputies to replace Lucinda Creighton as European Affairs Junior Minister. A mere year later he was catapulted into Cabinet last July as Enda's pet protégé. Double promotion for a guy in his 30s created envy and resentment, particularly amongst Kenny critics.

But the bouquets may be short lived. Donohoe was comfortably elected by topping the poll in Dublin Central in 2011, having struggled in the previous (Tony Gregory) by-election. The departure of Bertie Ahern opened up the prospect of Paschal having a long tenure. Alas for him, the Constituency Commission redraw was disastrous.

The new three-seat constituency bisects his previous vote. Minus one seat, electorates of Drumcondra and Ashdown have moved respectively into Dublin North-West and Dublin West, making the constituency far less blueshirt and much more blue collar. Rest assured FG HQ will spare no resources to save his seat.

Speaking of the next general election, significantly some shrewdies have caused Paddy Power to slash the odds of the next poll taking place later this year from 5/2 to 10/11. A few little birdies have been repeatedly singing that the Taoiseach favours an early election in November, in the warm afterglow of a €2bn-plus giveaway budget.

But don't rule out Labour preventing an early exit.

Farcical Fifa

Anyone who read 'Foul' by Andrew Jennings will know, since 2006, of Fifa's murky world of scandalous sweeteners in return for votes.

Many of the six confederations that comprise the Association have been Sepp Blatter's staunch allies for decades, particularly CAF (54 African members). He gets all their votes all the time, assuring him of a majority of 209 countries.

Blatter's re-election in the week of unprecedented arrests of Fifa officials and executives shows utter contempt for any form of ethical behaviour. His dismissals and denials of any responsibility of a culture of corruption under his watch are beyond credibility. He's been slow to implement reforms. So there are only three options for change: the Swiss justice authorities' comprehensive indictments in Zürich; sponsors Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa and McDonald's withdrawing revenues; or a multi-nation boycott of the Russian or Qatar finals.

The fundamental problem is one of amateur guys in blazers controlling constituent associations in an era of revenues of $5.7bn between 2011 and 2014. My uneasiness extends to our other big global sports finals, the Olympic Games.

The International Olympic Committee has many similarities: based in Lausanne, Switzerland; constituent membership, including 33 honorary members; and there have also been previous US Department of Justice probes into bribes to host games. A new template and constitution of transparency and democracy is required for both organisations.

Wicked Weekend

Despite that persistent cold wind throughout the month of May and interminable rain showers, we've one of the best weekends of the year upon us. Concerts at Slane and Royal Kilmainham; Bloom in the Phoenix Park; Listowel Writers Festival; Irish Open golf at Royal County Down and Sky Cat Laughs shindig in Kilkenny - not forgetting the Moby Dick festival in Youghal.

Irish Independent

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