Thursday 17 January 2019

Coalition will find it hard to escape from 'Cowen country'

The electorate expected Enda to implement a democratic revolution, and may make him pay the price for not doing so

Brian Cowen
Brian Cowen

John Drennan

Nothing is ever perfect, particularly in Irish politics, but no matter what debacles would happen, we never thought we would be welcoming our bright new Coalition to 'Cowen country'.

Somehow, though, a Coalition that has managed to replicate every mistake of its predecessors has ended up just there. And the bad news here is that - rather like Hotel California - once you check in, you can never leave this crazy place. Just ask Fianna Fail, which is still stuck in the lobby waiting to escape from the nightmare of 2011.

The Coalition can and (incessantly) do say the consigning of our modest group of geniuses to this tar pit is unfair and, technically, they are right.

In terms of facts and figures, the Grumpy Old Men and the Newbie Ministers have pulled off a miracle. The problem, though, is that the great crisis of Cowen country was spiritual. During that time, bad and careless governance finally exasperated a conservative electorate beyond the point of repair.

Indeed, they went so mad some actually believed Enda would implement a democratic revolution.

Instead, the defining themes of this administration evolved into a mix of playing the supplicant to powerful vested interests, secrecy, arrogance towards the voters, condescension and cronyism.

And behaving like Cowen has brought them to the same crazy place Cowen ended up.

Ironically, one of the scariest features of life in Cowen country is that while this political twilight zone is a surreal place, it is also in its own strange way utterly logical.

So, for the benefit of the Coalition, let us make a couple of things clear. For Fine Gael, if you are at 22pc then you are going to lose 40 of your seats. And on a bad day, you might even lose 50 of them.

For Labour, if you are at five per cent, then you will lose all of your seats. If your leader is at 21pc then you are not going to get the sort of bounce that will save your seats.

The bad news is that when it comes to leaders' ratings, if you are in the Cowen zone, you have to change your leader to survive, but are generally too frightened to do the deed.

And then, by the time you do it, it's too late anyway.

FG and Labour might not think things look good now. But, once you are in the zone, when it comes to the amount of seats you can lose, there is no threshold.

Our conventional politicians can take consolation from one other small fact. In the final nuclear winter of Cowen country, all is frozen and there is no chance of redemption.

Our political landscape bears a closer resemblance to a 5,000-metre race where someone has tripped the entire field up at the 4,000-metre mark.

Such a state brings to mind the famous tale of the 100/1 Irish outsider Foinavon, who won the 1967 Grand National when almost every other horse in the field fell at the 23rd fence. Foinavon wasn't much cop, but he kept his feet and that was enough to do the job.

It is an example our fallen political horses would do well to examine.

Sunday Independent

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