Ministerial mishandling creates another bout of protest politics
Back in 1980 (Jesus wept - 37 years ago), I was a raw 20-year-old callow Enniscorthy urban councillor trying to build a local political base.
Back in 1980 (Jesus wept - 37 years ago), I was a raw 20-year-old callow Enniscorthy urban councillor trying to build a local political base.
The new minority Fine Gael Government faces multiple challenges: a Garda confidence crisis; the fallout from Brexit; public sector pay; perennial health atrocities; terrorism threats and Budget...
My favourite pastime is a day's horse racing. The equine splendour, colour, passion, financial uncertainty and friendly chat with regular...
The election of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach is a pivotal turning point in the lifetime of this Dáil. It marks a seismic switch in focus from the last election's legacy towards gearing up for the...
Fine Gael’s leadership race was completely overshadowed by the terror attack in Manchester and the collapse of the trial of Seán FitzPatrick.
On February 18 - 13 weeks ago - I wrote in the Irish Independent: "I believe its Leo's to lose… I would be shocked if Leo does not win". I was accused of supporting and spinning on behalf of Leo. Not true. I simply listened to the class of 2011 - the surge of newly elected Fine Gael TDs who would determine the future direction of the party. I now believe the race is virtually done and dusted. My best guess is Leo will win by 63pc to 37pc.
Any review of Enda Kenny's political career, achievements, persona, failings or character, must start and finish with his best ever decision - to marry Ms Fionnuala O'Kelly in 1992. As Fine Gael leader since 2002, she has been Kenny's chief confidante, mentor and political adviser.
Monday night, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield - after several shots in the concluding frame, both Mark Selby and John Higgins looked at each other, nodded; the balls had configured so as to yield interminable stalemate; they agreed a re-rack.
The political commentariat drew contrasting conclusions from Enda Kenny's announcement of an announcement at this week's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.
This weekend, Enda Kenny faces a conflict of interest between himself and his party. He finds himself in a political cul-de-sac of his own making.
The problem with sleepwalking is that you don't realise you're doing it until you crash into something solid. Fine Gael is sleepwalking. What is the party's strategy for the next general election? It has none. When Fianna Fáil pulls the plug on propping up the current feckless, fragile administration, Fine Gael will have so luxuriated in the moment of continued government that it will blind itself...
Universal outrage abounds about Donald Trump. He's a clown, misogynist, buffoon, nutter, dangerous disaster, racist, not fit for office.
This weekend I complete my media broadcast commitments with 'Newstalk Breakfast' and TV3's 'Sunday AM'. This is also my final column for the Irish Independent for the foreseeable future.
I don't do shock, and yet the news from our nearest neighbour across the water was deeply unsettling. As late as 11 o'clock on Thursday you could get odds of 9/1 on that vexed issue that has hung over all our heads since David Cameron went for the biggest gamble of his political life.
Up and down Britain, angry grey men may mutter into their glasses of pale ale about the inequities of Brussels, and there'll be talk of how the EU will fare with Blighty gone. But in the end, economics will triumph over emotion and the 'Remain' side will prevail.
Not unlike Fine Gael in 2002, or Fianna Fáil in 2011, the Labour Party's final demise was predicted after February's disastrous rout, losing 30 seats. Combined with the loss of 100 councillors in local elections in May 2014, its national network was decimated. Ministers remained in denial, blaming pundits of unfair bias. Having predicted they'd end up with seven TDs, I took no glee seeing polls of 4-6pc proving uncannily accurate.
What does the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael written 'confidence and supply' agreement have in common with last week's UN Human Rights Committee report on Ireland's abortion law that found we are in breach of human rights conventions?
I've known Richard Bruton since we were both elected for the first time to the Dáil in 1981. As long as I can remember, over the past 30 years, he's wanted to be Minister for Education. He felt changes in that department could have a lasting societal and economic impact.
The mass exodus begins in earnest today. The first advance parties of the Green Army will assemble at Dublin Airport, the buzz will start with 'sensible' beer-fuelled craic on the plane. The Boys in Green have been in a state of anticipation since November, when flights were booked as soon as the draw was announced.
In just a few weeks our nearest neighbours will decide their destiny - committing to either the EU or the UK.
The crises are lining up for the minority Government now, with the crisis in crime and the need to be constantly looking over its shoulders at its Fianna Fáil puppet masters.
We feared it could go this way. I was in Cabinet back in 1996 when Veronica Guerin was murdered.
It was a disastrous week if you were one of those expecting that radical change would occur in the wake of the events of 2014, when we saw a Justice Minister, a Garda Commissioner, and secretary general all depart prematurely.
The appointment of Simon Harris to the searingly hot seat of Health Minister has all the appearances of a serious political mistake.
For the Labour Party, the fightback begins now with the executive council preparing to select Joan Burton's successor.
Now that we finally have a Government - even if the ground is a little shaky under its feet - the business of running the country can finally begin.
I suppose the thinking was that after waiting for 70 days we were supposed to go down on bended knee in gratitude at finally seeing white smoke over Leinster House.
It came to pass after 10 tiresome weeks, Moses (Micheál Martin) came down from the Hill (St Patrick's, Cork city) and decreed to the little people that there shall be 10 new Commandments of Irish politics:
This Wednesday, we'll have a new government at the fourth attempt, and Enda Kenny's new cabinet will comprise Fine Gael and Independent TDs. First flavour will be pink, as Kenny has promised gender equality for ministers, so we can expect at least one third to be women.
Behind the optics of endless showboating over government formation, sub-plots of more lasting significance are playing out beyond the plinth of Leinster House or hallowed halls of Trinity.
Harsh lessons are finally being learned. In truth, only the Revenue Commissioners can collect tax in this country. When local property tax (LPT) compliance was in the hands of the Department of the Environment, it failed. TV licence payments through An Post have also run into problems, with widespread evasion.
In the minor matter of the drifting of our ship of State, it's not seven weeks, but more like seven months, since we have had any meaningful command from the bridge.
The so-called 'sport' of mixed martial arts (MMA) was finally exposed for what it truly is this week, with the tragic loss of a young man's life.
The best-case scenario for the life expectancy of the 32nd Dáil is probably a matter of months - it is very unlikely to reach a second birthday.
You really couldn't make it up, could you? The Soldiers of Destiny get a chance to go into government and turn back the clock of history by forming a historic partnership with the old enemy; instead, the whole proposition is dismissed in 15 minutes.
And so the cycle of futility goes on: Another Dáil sitting; another abortive attempt at government formation; another adjournment - all with no end game in sight.
One of the perks for the privilege of being a former TD is that you receive formal embossed invitations to national civic events like tomorrow's 1916 Easter Rising centenary commemoration.
While our politicians play childish games, normal service is resumed when it comes to fleecing consumers. Householders could have reasonably expected reductions in their electricity and gas bills of late.
Dear Micheál, Happy St Paddy's Day to you and Mary. Congratulations on the election performance and result. In an unguarded moment over a year ago, you told me for Fianna Fáil to win 40 seats would be a "phenomenal" result; 44 TDs surpassed insiders' optimistic estimates. Victories in both Kildares, Cavan/Monaghan, Sligo/Leitrim, Mayo, Cork North-West, Dublin Bay South and Donegal were exceptional achievements.
It's been a really bad 2016 so far for Fine Gael. Its seats have vaporised and now there is no clear sense of direction in the new Dáil. It urgently needs to devise a strategy that allows it to participate in a sustainable government, while simultaneously patching up the battered ship to weather the next election. It faces the grim prospect of being in office but not in power, forming a lame-duck minority administration that'll be kicked about by most TDs on the opposition benches. The party also needs a new leader's face on election posters.
It was jarring to hear the boss of one polling firm claiming pundits and bookies were blindsided by the demolition of Fine Gael as the campaign closed.
The election is over and, surprise surprise, we face another fine mess. Evidence, as if it were needed, that democracy is over-rated - the problem is, they haven't invented anything better. Only 59 TDs elected to our shiny new Dáil support the retention of water charges of €160/€260 annually. This includes members of the Green Party, who want free water allowances and tax relief. Labour and Fine Gael were scalded on the issue of Irish Water on the doorsteps of the nation.
As with earthquakes registering 10 on the Richter scale, it takes days to search through rubble to find remaining survivors. For Labour and Fine Gael, the political body count amounts to an epic disaster, ending the careers of household names like James Reilly, Jimmy Deenihan, Alan Shatter, Alex White and Emmet Stagg.
We have seen a shift in the tectonic plates in the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael rivalry. Another election will be required for Fianna Fáil to become the largest party, but it is now poised to do so. The situation is very similar to 1981-82, when it took three elections to establish Garret FitzGerald as a national leader.
It was a short, sharp, three-week blitzkrieg campaign. I have looked at it constituency by constituency, as you will see below. From my analysis, the gamechanger will be the decimation of Labour Party - denoting a shift to the hard left from a moderate social democracy. The outcome will probably also result in a new Labour leader, more than likely Ged Nash.
Election 2016 has made a few things abundantly clear:
The one thing that Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin are absolutely in agreement about is their common refusal to contemplate a grand coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil before polling day.
Irrespective of ideology, in every constituency across the political spectrum, there's an underlying opportunity to give the job to the best person, a person whom you'd hire as a professional advocate. One would like to presume that they might be literate, numerate and articulate.
Politicians have been inexplicably blindsided by the enormity and the emotion of the public reaction to the Regency Rampage and the reprisal assassination in Dublin.
So, finally, it's time to ask the audience; the election is on and judgment day is looming for the candidates.
It's Labour's turn to have its annual bash as Joan Burton's weary charges descend on Willie Penrose home turf - Westmeath.
Just before jumping headlong into the imminent General Election campaign, we must think deeply about Britain's EU referendum. A blind 'OMG' panic by Official Ireland at the prospect of the UK opting out of Europe seems to have taken root. Why has there been no time-out called to consider the benefits of Euro-scepticism?
The Blueshirt faithful gather today for Fine Gael's annual jamboree. Many will no doubt be muttering dark incantations under their breath about Enda's deferring of polling day from November to February.
Jim Gavin, Dublin's football supremo, has a simple but powerful message for his players before big showdowns: "Be the best that you can be." It's enough to win.
It's happened by stealth, beginning with each minister having a coterie of appointees. Then there was the State funding of political parties. This paved the way for the arrival of the dozens of apparatchiks to occupy Government Buildings, and Leinster House to manage their bosses' public relations. Spin doctors cost taxpayers many millions. They must justify their existence.
Who are the true inheritors of the legacy of the 1916 Easter Rebellion today? How should we commemorate 16 executed volunteers who espoused physical force? Further, how relevant is the Proclamation to the Ireland of 2016? Is it historical revisionism to equally acknowledge the innocent victims of the insurrection? What defines modern-day patriotism relative to 1916 republicanism?...
IT may be a new year, but it is still the same old story. Inaction on flooding, a slew of broken promises to the homeless, and then there's the perennial trolley crisis.
My leap year crystal ball is predicting 12 months of unrelenting drama. However, psephology is a hazardous game. Human intuition has in-built mechanisms compelling us to trust that history will repeat itself.
With the door slammed firmly on 2015, we might acknowledge the outstanding contributions of our betters in the rarefied worlds of politics, media, business and sport. My awards are random and indiscriminate and seek to cut through the contrived self-regarding clap-trap while recognising worthy work.
So much for the notion that Con Lucey's report on remuneration would provide closure to the IFA crisis of self-aggrandisement.
It's time to end the pretence. As the Coalition parties tick the final boxes in their election preparations, the real, untold story of the campaign will be apparent. Behind the forced facade of a joint mandate to continue in office, Fine Gael and Labour are in cut-throat competition in 28 of 40 constituencies.
The 'Changing Policing in Ireland' report excoriates senior Garda management. Yet again, Bob Olson and the Garda Inspectorate who compiled it expose how outdated, inefficient and lacking in technology our police force is.
To put it bluntly, the nation is in peril. It's no exaggeration to conclude that the ground under election platforms appears shakier with each passing week. Our economic history is punctuated by binges of electioneering, plunging the country into a subsequent decade of debt and recession.
Despite years of public sector pay retrenchment, no strikes ensued, but could the early New Year election campaign spark off a series of bushfires in the form of industrial disputes?
The words "I'm pregnant" feature amongst the happiest, most intimate moments within a life partnership - affirming parenthood as the ultimate expression of a couple's mutual love.
The IFA is engulfed in the worst public confidence crisis in its 60-year history - it has been rocked to its foundations. Every step of the way, since Co Carlow chairman Derek Deane read out a six-page letter at the Executive Council meeting on November 4 proposing a resolution seeking transparency of accounts and remuneration, the IFA leadership has been behind the curve. It has been left...
I've told you so - ad nauseum, on umpteen occasions over the past six years. Universal Health Insurance (UHI) was a utopian pipe dream that could never work in Ireland.
The Cabinet's capitulation to the Law Society and Bar Council is confirmed. A total of 235 amendments were conceded since Alan Shatter first published the Legal Services Regulation Bill four years ago.
A homeless summit has revealed that 700 families will be in emergency accommodation this Christmas.
The benefit of having a long-serving parliamentarian as Taoiseach (Enda Kenny celebrated 40 years as a TD last week) is to draw on experience when identical problems of past administrations, such as spiralling insurance premiums, recur.
Life is rapidly draining from the 31st Dáil. The final legislative programme includes a litany of mundane matters on implementing budgetary decisions through finance and social welfare bills. But, there is also legislation to curb bail terms, protect part-time employee rights and ban the slapping of children. As we approach a dissolution, the true extent of unfinished business is now visible.
Road fatalities were centre stage this week. Gillian Treacy's victim impact statement at Portlaoise Circuit Court revealed the full horror of the car crash that killed her son Ciaran. The raw emotions of pain and grief expressed by the family at the loss of their beautiful son Ciaran were truly heart-rending. Drink-driving simply isn't under control.
I have just been inspired. If Panti Bliss and Conor Horgan can make a feature film 'Queen of Ireland' from docu-drama material of real-life political events, I can surely pen my film script. 'House of Horrors' will set out to capture the likely shenanigans in the next Leinster House with the formation of a Cabinet. Obviously, the onset of Hallowe'en has informed my thinking. Unfortunately, the...
Money makes the world go round, the song tells us, a fact which makes the Central Bank (CB) Ireland's most important institution. Responsibility for the sustained stability of our financial institutions rests here. We know how failures in 2008 upended the entire economy, so the appointment of Governor is no minor matter.
The housing crisis is getting worse, yet last week's Budget contained no new initiatives. There is political paralysis on the issue due to a disagreement within the Coalition.
Budget 2016 was the last hand of cards to be played by our Economic Management Council. No government has ever devolved such power of decision-making to a small cabinet sub group. Five budgets combined together add up to quite a legacy. Their own narrative gives them credit for saving the country and creating the fastest-growing economy in the OECD. And it would be...
'Don't leave anything behind you on the pitch, before you return to this dressing room. No regrets." These are usually the last words of a top motivational coach. Similarly, only a fool would expect Coalition ministers to leave spare cash in the Exchequer coffers as they maximise their prospects in the great electoral quest. Budget 2016 is an election giveaway, pure and simple; overshadowed by something cooked up a little earlier.
It's now when, not if, the 2015 General Election will be called, and previewing the next Dáil is the blood sport of choice for anoraks like me.
Enda Kenny's closest counsel have reached a conclusion in favour of a November election. This involves Mark Mortell, who was reinstalled as the chief FG election planner; Andrew McDowell, economic advisor and close confidante; along with Michael Noonan.
On this week in 1996, Tony Blair was on the cusp of changing British politics after 18 years of Tory rule. At the Labour Party's conference in Blackpool, he asserted the three main priorities for a New Labour government would be "Education, Education and Education." He dreamed of breaking inter-generational cycles of disadvantage through education.
Don't be deceived by the glib handshakes and backslapping from political leaders on their annual gladhanding rural jamboree at Ratheniska. Behind fluttering flags, cooking demos, pink wellies, goodie bags, vintage horse ploughs and celebrity appearances, dark storm clouds gather over Irish agriculture.
When should an apology not be accepted? Joan and John Mulcair only received "sincere apologies" from the HSE and the chief executive of Limerick University hospitals group more than six years after their baby Caoimhe died, living just 39 minutes on February 11, 2009. The City Court coroner's verdict of 'medical misadventure' compelled the State to offer it act of contrition. Tragically, the baby was starved of oxygen during the latter hours of labour; critical traces of her heartbeat weren't properly assessed.
It's time to brace yourself for the politics of the cattle mart. Farmers are paying too much for store cattle and weanlings in order to secure their livestock. When these animals eventually reach meat factories, they'll return losses because they were overbought, relative to beef market prices.
An unintended consequence of the refugee crisis may be a new wave of Euro-scepticism. Leave aside the emotional and humanitarian necessities of desperate people fleeing civil wars in Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - as well as the actual response of the Irish government and people in accepting thousands of migrants. The rights of EU member states to determine their own policies must still be asserted.
Labour is in enormous trouble on both sides of the Irish Sea. They're compounding some very difficult situations by very bad decisions.
The fog surrounding the publication of the Fennelly Report has cleared and we're left with 'inconvenient truths' about the sequence of events leading to the 'retirement' of Martin Callinan. Despite the support of his colleagues, there remain serious credibility issues around Taoiseach Enda Kenny's position.
The chickens are coming home to roost at the Department of Health. As reported in this paper earlier this week, the HSE requires €1.867bn to run the health service in 2016. This completely confirms how we've blown the economic crisis when it comes to reforming and modernising delivery of healthcare. We're back to square one. The slightest prospect of national budgetary flexibility is sufficient for a bloated HSE bureaucracy to revert to their singular clamour "give us more money". Because mandarins in Hawkins House don't know what they want, how to achieve it or where...
It's quietly anticipated that 40,000 people will attend today's fifth protest over Irish Water in Dublin. Aspects of Right2Water's campaign are probably disingenuous. The 1EU water directive means revenue charges must be obtained in every member state for public water supplies and sanitary services - whether done through a public utility or local council. Eventually, householders will have to pay. There's clearly a party political campaign element to this organised dissent, especially as trade unions widen agendas to target the Labour Party.
What do Micheál Martin and Jeremy Corbyn have in common? They both look set fair to establish internal party membership popularity at the expense of the real needs of voters.
The sole contender and outright winner of this week's brickbat is Jeremy Masding for his contrived contrition. A see-through glass lectern revealed his handwritten notes to remind himself to be "Serious. Controlled. No smile." He was trying to explain the mortgage overcharging scandal which has led to a fine of €20m by the Central Bank and a redress scheme for mortgage victims of €35m by Permanent TSB management.
My mother gravely cautioned me: "It's arrived. Your father hasn't seen it yet." The end of school year report was much feared in the post. Maybe because I was in boarding school, away from daily parental contact, or perhaps due to the enormous education costs involved, commentary on the report card was deeply significant - either way. It involved an assessment of my commitment,...
The debate surrounding Children’s Minister James Reilly’s Inter-Departmental Group Report into future childcare services is uniformly one dimensional. The singular narrative for parents of children under four years is childcare is unaffordable, with costs of up to €1,200 per month per child; one free preschool year must be doubled; taxpayers should pick up all consequent costs.
'All political careers end in tears' was the famous remark of Enoch Powell at the departure of Margaret Thatcher. It’s not true, if you end yours on your own terms and at a time of your own choosing.
The most significant political story of the week was the fact that only 46pc of liable households paid their water bills.
Today marks the informal end to this Dáil. When the 31st Dáil resumes in September, it'll be a lame-duck forum, as decks are cleared for an elongated election campaign, with the Budget being the final pre-electioneering act.
The Eagle has landed and it's not a pretty sight.
On this day next week the great and good of Irish officialdom will assemble in Dublin Castle. This latest incarnation of worthies proclaiming its self-importance with a suitably impressive title is called the National Economic Dialogue.
The banking inquiry is fast becoming an omni-shambles. This week's depressing displays did nothing to lift expectations. In any court forum or tribunal at least there's an opening gambit of accusation by lead prosecution counsel, setting out the book of evidence and charges. But in an inquiry we get an uncontested opening statement by former public servants and politicians, allowing them to self-proclaim their own absolution. We then endure a lamentable litany seeking to escape personal culpability.
The Taoiseach felt obliged to "give the benefit" to Europe's leaders of his experience of how to handle a bailout. He unburdened himself of yet another homily on his economic miracle.
We hear of 'crony capitalism' and Golden Circles of business elites seeming to have the inside track - an inner sanctum of the most influential who aren't answerable to anybody.
Greece will default on its €324bn sovereign debt for a third time. What's at stake this week in Brussels is whether this is done by agreement or disagreement. Greece's first bailout - when only private investors got burned - left its debt/GDP ratio at 120pc. After five years of austerity displacing one-fifth of its economy, it hovers unsustainably at 180pc. You can't solve debt distress by piling on more indebtedness. Rolling over loans without write-offs only postpones the inevitable ultimate settlement, while putting Greece deeper in the mire.
As the father of a J1 student currently in San Diego, my gut reaction to the Berkeley tragedy was it could have been any one of us that lost a child, as circumstances of 21st birthday parties are so common. The nation has been shocked, numbed, devastated, bereaved and remains grieving as the full horror emerges. Could it have been avoided?
In a former life, as a bookmaker, my job was to compile the original general election odds. For the forthcoming election and, in order to predict possible outcomes, my first instinct is to check the assessments of those whose money is on the line if they get it wrong. Who'll be next Taoiseach? How many seats for each party? Which parties will form the next administration? The most likely to be correct are the bookies, before political players (who are too biased and favour their own) and media hacks (who are too close to the Leinster House bubble).
If I ever wrote a dissertation, it would be called 'BSE: Ireland 1996', the most impactful nightmare I've experienced, as agriculture minister at the epicentre of the crisis.
THE buzzwords in Parliament this week are "corporate governance". The Oireachtas committee on sport wants John Delaney to account for his clandestine FIFA/FAI actions, and in the Dáil chamber they're clamouring for IBRC inquiries into debt deals.
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Benjamin Franklin's quote aptly describes current Irish health policy. There's an identity crisis in our national health services. At every level of clinical care, intrinsic confusion exists as to the ultimate model of delivering treatment. Contradictions also abound as to the fundamentals of health policy. Fine Gael and Labour's Programme for Government promised Universal Health Insurance (UHI) by 2019 to end 'two-tier' health care, whereby public patients received a lesser, slower service and private patients could queue-jump into fast-track...
As constitutional crises go, this was a damp squib. There was never much doubt in my mind about the primacy of parliamentary privilege. The unique opportunity for public-spirited whistleblowers to ventilate hidden scandals through their chosen TD is a sacrosanct feature of our democracy - as it is equally in Westminster.
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.
Social revolution should not be confused with a political putsch. Last September, 1.6 million Scottish voters voted Yes for independence. While being a minority of 44pc and suffering defeat, they still propelled Scottish politics towards fundamental change. It was a redefining moment of a people's identity, directly resulting in the Scottish National Party gaining 56 out of 59 MP seats.
Tales of disaster from house construction during the Celtic Tiger-era are not at an end. The residents of Priory Hall endured horrors of valueless homes, worthless mortgages and relocation before the Government and Dublin City Council had to bail them out in a multimillion euro disaster.
The marriage referendum debate obscures confirmation of this Government's greatest failure. Last week's personal indebtedness non-announcements will haunt Fine Gael and Labour in the 2016 election. The expectations of tens of thousands in debt distress were low; the belated package announced failed to even match Government leaks. Protection of powerful vested interests (bankers and lawyers) takes precedence over struggling families. I trawled the weekend newspapers for analysis of Government's announcements, to find none - there was nothing to analyse. It's the...
Throughout past social and libertarian debates, I'd be among the most strident in heading queues of advocacy for change.
Here we go again. The Government has started talks to restore public sector pay to pre-recession levels. Critically, this process excludes 1.7 million non-State sector workers. Taxpayers and those dependent on welfare also have no say in critical decisions affecting their standards of living beyond 2017. Those representing employers will be personal beneficiaries for their future salaries and...