Tuesday 19 June 2018

FF has reared up - but this isn't deal-breaker

Leinster House (Stock picture)
Leinster House (Stock picture)
John Downing

John Downing

Some time after noon today, the minority hybrid Coalition will suffer "another embarrassing defeat".

It can put this one, which relates to harsh treatment of mainly women pensioners, alongside the other similar defeats it has suffered since taking office on May 6, 2016.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty will have had better days at Leinster House. But the Coalition can simply carry on in the strange world of so-called "new politics", without any obligation to change things.

This will not be a deal-breaker for Fianna Fáil, at least not for the moment.

The three-cornered row - complete with bad-tempered exchanges involving Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin - is genuine in its way. Nobody in politics wants to be cast as the one being unfair to pensioners, and especially women pensioners.

For the minister, it is about being seen as responsible with taxpayers' money and driving on to a bigger pensions plan for people who start work after 2020. Evidence that she was unhappy with the place she found herself came across in an ill-judged attack on Fianna Fáil's overall good faith underpinning the Coalition. Unsure of her ground, she hit the ball far too hard.

Unsurprisingly, Willie O'Dea hit back and insisted his party had raised the issue during Budget negotiations. He also hit back at Sinn Féin, who argued Fianna Fáil had come late to the issue.

"If you look at Sinn Féin's record on social welfare in Northern Ireland, it's abysmal," the Fianna Fáil TD said.

Last night in the Dáil the row erupted again, this time between Mr O'Dea and Sinn Féin's Wicklow TD, John Brady, who accused Fianna Fáil of hijacking his party's efforts to reverse the pension rules. It soon degenerated into a loud shouting match.

"You bully young women - but you won't bully me," Mr O'Dea declared.

He noted that his party colleague, Michael McGrath, had already castigated Sinn Féin for shunning any involvement in government last year. Mr McGrath had described Sinn Féin as "hurlers on the ditch".

"But I say ye're the snipers behind the ditch," Mr O'Dea added.

Mr Brady demanded that Mr O'Dea retract those comments but eventually Dáil chairman Pat The Cope Gallagher restored order.

Irish Independent

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