Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fionnan Sheahan: Yet again, FF hogs the credit and tries to share the blame

Ghost of Budgets past: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mr Lenihan have left us to pick up the pieces
Ghost of Budgets past: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mr Lenihan have left us to pick up the pieces

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

A LOT undone, more to undo from the Bertie Ahern era. After just happening to be in government while the economic crisis just happened around them, Fianna Fail now wants the country to believe it has the solutions.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan harked back over the glory years yesterday. Just 11 minutes into his speech he referred three times in the space of 30 seconds to the increases in social welfare payments since 1997.

And the master plan in this zombie Government in this zombie Budget still seems to be trying to get the property market back up and running.

The first aim of the "fundamental reform" of stamp duty was "to stimulate the property market". If only a few houses would start selling again, it would all be fine. The lack of imagination is quite tragic and another sign of an administration on its last legs.

A Budget that drastically needed to deliver a comprehensive job creation strategy and hope was sadly lacking. Internship, work placement and community employment schemes for 15,000 people was the sum total of the assistance for those on the dole.

Peppered through his speech, Mr Lenihan inadvertently identified the massive mistakes made by his party since 1997.

  • Overheating the property market.
  • Failing to regulate the banks.
  • Economic reliance on the construction sector.

Of course, Mr Lenihan didn't quite describe them as mistakes. His party was simply there in office, in charge of running the country when these policies were formulated. According to Mr Lenihan, the same imbalances in the economy would exist anyway under any other party in office. "I am not convinced if any alternative government would have done better," he said.

Fianna Fail always hogs the credit when things go right and seeks to share the blame when it goes wrong. The efforts to continually drag the opposition parties down with it are quite pathetic.

The reality is neither Fine Gael nor the Labour Party or Sinn Fein was in command for the past 13 years. Fianna Fail was, so it must take the lion's share of the blame.

But Mr Lenihan then proceeded to show his true colours by failing to accept that the last time the opposition parties were in government the economy was managed competently.

"We know we can have sustained, balanced, export-led growth in this economy. We had it in the past and we have what it takes to win it back if we pursue the correct policies."

The original script said "in the 1990s", rather than "in the past", but saying this would be to attest to the efforts of the Rainbow Government, which handed over a growing economy on the brink of a boom.

Repaying the compliment from 1987, Fianna Fail is now handing back an economy in rag order. There is still absolutely no sign of an apology for those mistakes by Fianna Fail in office from Brian Cowen.

The masterplan within the party appears to be to replace Mr Cowen with a brighter, shinier model as Fianna Fail heads into a general election.

Micheal Martin is emerging from the pack as the white knight to save Fianna Fail backbenchers from the chopping block at the general election.

Mr Cowen's tenure in office is now reduced to speculation about precisely when he will be gone; this week, this side of Christmas or in the New Year.

Despite the public utterances, most in the party are not even contemplating him leading Fianna Fail into a general election.

Although implementing a whopping €6bn in taxes and spending cutbacks, Budget 2011 fails to tackle the underlying problems with the country, such as the public sector and a coherent plan to create jobs.

A lot to do for the new government next year.

Irish Independent

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