Thursday 20 June 2019

Alliance job-sharing could dig up a heap of trouble

Independent Alliance members Sean Canney, Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, John Halligan and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran at Government Buildings. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Independent Alliance members Sean Canney, Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, John Halligan and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran at Government Buildings. Photo: Steve Humphreys
John Downing

John Downing

In fairness to the Independent Alliance it has not had a major crisis in government for half a year.

All right, we are discounting Transport Minister Shane Ross's travails over his odd crusade to change the strange way we now appoint judges to another strange way of appointing judges.

And we are parking his "do-as-I-say" attitude on condemning parish pump politics - but exempting his own very public efforts to open Stepaside garda station in his own constituency.

But there's a lot of political noise out there and these Ross issues are ongoing.

No, let's recall the last big Independent Alliance crisis was the "Korean caper". Then the heroic triumvirate - Ross, Finian McGrath and John Halligan - were ready to talk that Kim Jong-un down from the nuclear ledge and save the world.

Again, in fairness, the other pair in the quintet, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran of Longford-Westmeath, and Seán Canney of Galway East, more usually avoided the others' various capers and went about the day job. And Finian McGrath, a dedicated fighter for disabled people's rights, has long ago determined to dig in and deliver the maximum in his role as a super-junior minister in that realm.

So it is surprising to find the Independent Alliance back under the spotlight due to a conflict between the two quiet stalwarts, Moran and Canney. At the heart of it all is what we could call the "OPW Switcheroonie".

In May 2016, when the current hybrid Coalition was formed, the pair had agreed to toss a coin on who would be Minister of State for the Office of Public Works.

Now that is a rather sought-after position and used to be known by some as the "Minister for Diggers".

It has become the lead agency in tackling flooding - something of keen interest to both men given the constituencies they represent. After winning the toss, Mr Canney took the job for year one and was replaced by Mr Moran 12 months later.

They would not have been alone in thinking there would not be years three and four. But now the Government is set to enter its third year and Mr Canney believed the job should rotate back to him.

'Boxer' Moran did not quite see things like that. And when hardy came to hardy the other trio appeared to back 'Boxer' - or at least they were not keen to fight to the death for Seán Canney.

The Galway East TD is extremely disappointed and - depending on who you ask - he might even be prepared to leave the Independent Alliance.

Others will tell you no such thing will happen, not least because Canney is currently designated "an assistant government whip" which is worth an extra €15,000 per year.

Students of politics have grounds for sometimes thinking that Albert Reynolds did not really know the scale of his valedictory statement in November 1994, just after he was forced to quit as Taoiseach.

"You cross the big hurdles, and when you get to the small ones, you get tripped up," the late Mr Reynolds said.

Let's hope the "OPW Switcheroonie" is not one of those lethal little hurdles.

Irish Independent

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