Friday 28 October 2016

Kenny brings an end to a Dáil term that promised much but delivered few changes

Published 04/02/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Enda Kenny Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Enda Kenny's paraphrase of the magical Gaelic poet Antoine Ó Raifteirí was one of the very few poetic touches in this most prosaic Dáil term, which ran from March 9, 2011, until February 2, 2016.

  • Go To

Ironically, one of the few other touches of poetry came in the Coalition's agreed programme - the 'Statement of Common Purpose' published at the very start. It spoke of a "democratic revolution" in the recent general election and rightly attributed at least some of the economic meltdown to our old ways of doing things, with cronyism, and a serious lack of accountability, openness and proper governance.

It cited the words of Albert Einstein as a guiding light for government: "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." It also spoke of the need for urgency. "There isn't a moment to be lost," the document's lofty preamble concluded.

Few, if any, of these attributes were on display in this, the 31st Dáil. Yes, in fairness, much went right economically on this Government's watch. Though, how much of the credit is directly attributable to this Labour-Fine Gael Coalition is for another day.

The sad part is that this very different-looking Dáil came in promising a different political world. The scenario went like this: Fianna Fáil, for nine decades the big beasts of Irish politics, were relegated into a poor third place.

Labour, the most vocal advocates of openness, accountability and governance were at their highest ever strength. And they were in collaboration with the Fine Gael party, who always pledged reliable government as an alternative to a sometimes dodgy-looking Fianna Fáil.

There were some interesting-looking, strong-character Independents and a fledgling hard-left grouping, the ULA, had a handful of TDs. It not only looked different. It appeared to have the potential to work differently and be better at upholding voters' interests.

There were some good moments which carried on the feeling of promise. Let's acknowledge the work of overhauling the committee system to give greater scrutiny of law-making. It was seen to best effect in preparing the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act of 2013, which addressed a 30-year gap in law and practice over abortion.

The Dáil also sat more frequently, with more Friday sessions. But it quickly became clear that this was a cosmetic device, with very few Friday votes making it poorly-attended.

Soon it became clear that Government was continuing the tradition of using parliament - where its thumping great majority made it invincible - as a rubber stamp. Incidents like the appointment of John McNulty to the board of Imma, just to enhance his credentials as a Fine Gael Seanad candidate, showed Government arrogance.

The more recent version of that same practice, with Labour's appointment of David Begg to head up the Pensions Authority, was another example of the same thing. It also suggested that Labour thinks others appointing their favoured people, by using perfectly legal devices to by-pass appointment procedures, "smacks of cronyism". But when they do it, this is about getting the best person for the job.

This Coalition proved the old adage about governing in prose. The promised "new politics" was just a tarted-up version of the old politics.

This is not political theory. Our old politics helped to beggar us.

Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Don't Miss

Editor's Choice