Monday 18 December 2017

Straight-talker has history of making U-turns

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

Noel Dempsey risks being best remembered for his gaffes, U-turns and back- pedalling.

The image of him nodding in agreement with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern as they denied the impending arrival of the IMF will endure and resonate for years ahead.

For others, the fact that the minister was abroad in sunny Malta while we endured an unprecedented snow crisis last January, will trigger deeper feelings of anger.

It amounted to a PR disaster for a minister who had already endured many controversies.

The minister was always ambitious in action, policy and rhetoric. Often, however, the articulation of those plans was perceived by colleagues and rivals as "solo runs".

Inevitably, some of his ambitious plans had to be tweaked, changed or just simply reversed.

Hence the phrase 'U-turn' has often screamed out from the front pages with Mr Dempsey's name in the same sentence.

U-turns have followed on the dual mandate, third-level fees, sanctions on provisional drivers and the tale of who knew what on the Aer Lingus Shannon-Heathrow fiasco.

But to his credit, he has been one of the busiest ministers to ever take hold of the Department of Transport and has effectively ended rampant drink-driving.

Just as former Health Minister Micheal Martin is credited with the ban on smoking, Mr Dempsey can lay claim to having reduced road deaths and implemented a stricter safety regime.

Only last year, he faced intense opposition from rural Fianna Fail backbenchers over his plans to reduce the blood-alcohol limit.

Despite the attacks, the minister stubbornly ploughed on with his master plan and managed to get the limit reduced from 80mg to 50mg.

And one of the longest lingering controversies for Mr Dempsey remains the question of the €51m waste of taxpayers' money on the defunct e-voting machines which were first mooted by Mr Dempsey when he was Communications Minister.

Despite the years of controversy, Mr Dempsey has earned a reputation as a determined, hard-working and forthright individual.

The phrase most commonly used by his colleagues to describe him is "straight-talking".

Irish Independent

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