Monday 26 September 2016

John Drennan: FG's less than 'Fab' Four are in the Dail for the long haul

Sacking all the poll duds would be a nice exercise in pure democracy for Enda. Of course, it won't happen

Published 02/03/2014 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking at the Fine Gael ard fheis at the RDS in Dublin on Friday
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking at the Fine Gael ard fheis at the RDS in Dublin on Friday

In a political system that prioritises process over policy, nothing enchants the heart more than the musical chairs of a cabinet reshuffle. This reality means that despite the current furores over minor issues such as the dismal failure of the Coalition to disassemble the political kleptocracy Fianna Fail built, elections and that cabinet shuffle were the talk of the Ard Fheis.

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In theory, when it comes to Enda's cabinet house of cards, today's Sunday Independent / Millward Brown poll of the worst ministers should have been welcomed by the Taoiseach.

It is unfortunate 'Dear Leader' Enda is in second place on the list of those whom the electorate have designated to be the cabinet dud.

But as he faces into a critical pre-election reshuffle, given that all politicians want to be popular and will do almost anything to reach that happy status, Mr Kenny at least knows who the electorate want him to give the boot to.

In this regard 'Bottler' Reilly's unprecedented run as the top cabinet bete noire appears to be unstoppable, whilst in the wake of their first sustained look at our loveable Justice Minister, the voters have automatically catapulted Mr Shatter into the bronze medal position in the polling equivalent of the walk of shame.

The after-shocks of the Irish Water controversy will also have been influential in ensuring that another old regular, Cute Old Phil, figures highly on the list of those whom the voters want to go.

Mr Kenny, however, is unlikely to be too happy by a set of results that indicate, not for the first time that those whom the electorate holds in lowest regard are the Taoiseach's closest political allies.

Big Jim Reilly, Al the Shatter and Cute Old Phil were the ones who stood with our Davy Crockett of a 'Dear Leader' as they fought off the barbarian Fine Gael rebel hordes at the Alamo of 2010.

However, they, with Enda also fill the first four places in our Millward Brown poll before Joan and Eamon trail in a distant fifth and sixth place. It all poses Enda with a difficult political conundrum.

All the smart lads may be saying it's time to be rid of our politically encumbered Minister for Health and the less-than-loved Mr Shatter.

However, when it comes to Health why would the Taoiseach want to devalue the currency of two ministers, for it is very likely any White Knight, who will be arriving very late to the battlefield, will end up in a similar blackened condition to James Reilly, once the great big hairy dragon of the HSE finishes with him.

Mr Kenny must also consider that were someone such as Leo Varadkar to transform Health in the manner of a new Donagh O'Malley, he might be creating a Frankenstein's monster.

The polls may not be smiling on Phil or Al and they're definitely saying 'home James' to Mr Reilly, but a far more likely influencer for Mr Kenny, when it comes to the reshuffle, is Tip O'Neill's view that 'all politics is local'.

And, as he knows all too well from 2010, there is nothing more local than the fellows who are sitting around you at the cabinet table. All may be well for now but should trouble come knocking on the door, Mr Kenny's internal Fine Gael flank would be terribly exposed were Reilly and Shatter to go. The febrile nature of the balance of power within Fine Gael means the position of Cute Old Phil may also be more equivocal than convention dictates.

Many noted that during the Irish Water crisis, Mr Hogan looked as demob happy as a man who has already selected the curtains for a new apartment in Brussels.

That, however, might be a deceptive guide to form for the impression one gets is that Mr Hogan is the sort of politician who gets bored if there isn't trouble.

However, whilst the voters and Phil himself might want Phil to go, the question occupying 'King Enda's' mind is can the Taoiseach lose his most powerful political baron?

Their relationship has on occasion been turbulent in government, for in terms of the big picture game Cute Old Phil has been supplanted by Michael Noonan and the ECB.

However, outside of the Cabinet, there is nothing more local in 'Dear Leader' Enda's mind than how Phil is getting along with the political 'herd of cats' known as the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.

Intriguingly, whatever about the public, Phil's rough brand of pragmatism means he is an important conduit into the Labour Party who often respect Hogan's talents more than FG. Of course Phil could initially be the commissioner for looking after Enda's back-yard, but, distance inevitably damages one's perspective.

When it comes to the fate of Cute Old Phil; Enda may also have to give passing consideration to the concerns of the Labour sub office and its deputy headmaster, Mr Gilmore, who is pre-occupied over what to do with two thorns within the Labour rose who also happen to be past leaders.

Happily, should Cute Old Phil not go to Europe, then suddenly a glorious vista opens out where Ruairi Quinn could be moved to Europe.

This would then allow Mr Gilmore to gazump Richard Bruton in Jobs – where Enda will work hard to ensure Eamon will have as high a profile as Richard – whilst Richard can be switched to Education and Pat Rabbitte to Foreign Affairs. Of course, Enda may well decide to follow the views of the citizens in today's Millward Brown poll and sack the lot of them as an exercise in pure democracy.

Sadly the disfavour this has fallen into means our money is on most of FG's less than fabulous four, in the eyes of the voters, still Being There in every sense after the summer or autumn axe has been drawn.


The survey results presented here are derived from The Independent Newspaper Group/Millward Brown Poll. The poll was conducted among a sample of 976 adults representative of the approximate 3.43 million adults aged 18 and over – interviewed on a face-to-face basis in the home at 66 sampling points throughout the Republic of Ireland. The margin of error for this opinion poll is +/- 3.1%. Interviewing on the poll was carried out between 19th-28th February 2014. The poll was conducted in accordance with the guidelines set by ESOMAR and AIMRO (European and Irish Market and Opinion Research governing bodies). Extracts from the report may be quoted or published on condition that due acknowledgement is given to Millward Brown and The Sunday Independent.

© Millward Brown & The Sunday Independent 2014.

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