News Editorial

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Editorial: Coalition's moral failure

Published 13/07/2014 | 02:30

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It's now time for Taoisech Enda Kenny and his cabinet to get back to work. Photo: Peter Cavanagh.
It's now time for Taoisech Enda Kenny and his cabinet to get back to work. Photo: Peter Cavanagh.

Talleyrand famously noted of the uniquely stupid Bourbon dynasty that, even after the French Revolution, it had still learned and forgotten nothing. It is unfortunate that our current Coalition appears to suffer from a similar defect.

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Mr Kenny has certainly forgotten none of the iniquities committed by Fianna Fail. But his own performance appears to suggest he has learned nothing of value from the errors of his predecessors, either.

The Taoiseach's failure in this regard has been a central factor in the accelerating political bankruptcy of an administration, elected with the largest majority in the history of the State. If a private company lost a quarter of the total market share, in a scenario where they essentially held a monopoly, either the product or the board would be liquidated. Though it was driven by necessity rather than desire, our reshuffle at least displayed some dim awareness that the examiners are on their way.

It will take more, however, than a few humane political killings and flowery promises to butter any electoral parsnips. Instead the Government needs to recognise its great failure is moral rather than fiscal. We know that when it comes to austerity or the reversal of the reparations imposed on us by Germany and the ECB, the Coalition is a small ship sailing against a heavy tide. However, Fine Gael and Labour did have it in their power to reform the running of the country had they fulfilled the implicit social contract promised by the democratic revolution.

Instead, almost from the start, this administration has been infected by a dark spirit of authoritarian arrogance. Fair comment or dissent of any sort, be it within Labour and Fine Gael or from outside, have been met with a heavy hand. The need to curb this tendency makes the listless nature of the Labour reshuffle all the more troubling.

It also means that how Alex White - whose performance in Health was an audition for demotion rather than elevation - handles the troublesome Communications portfolio will be watched carefully. The former RTE producer will have to step particularly carefully in his dealings with RTE. If we have learnt anything, it is that monopolies of any sort, even in a democracy, are pernicious affairs. The new minister would do well to adopt his predecessor, Pat Rabbitte's belief that a diverse media is the facilitator of a healthy, as distinct from a Berlusconi-style, democracy. The government would do even better to adopt a new humility of style rather than that displayed by some departed ministers who were far too keen to 'put manners' on the media.

Ireland is now entering a period of consequences for political failure. To date, the alienation of the citizens has facilitated a flight to the old-style political comfort food of Haughey-style populism, courtesy of the rise of Sinn Fein. Those who remember the old folk song about the fox in the hen house which begins with a lament about how ''the grey goose is gone'' will note the Coalition is facing a somewhat similar scenario. Our new Cabinet will have to swiftly change how it does its business or its goose will be cooked too.

Sunday Independent

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