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John Drennan: Lining them out for the rainbow dream team

Were a modern Wilde to write a play about the current state of Sinn Fein, he would probably call it The Unwanted Suitor. That was certainly the case last week, as a bored media attempted to conjure up the possibility of a Labour/ SF coalition.

Unsurprisingly, the cautious Mr Gilmore picked up his petticoats and fled, because the Labour leader, his unwanted SF friends, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail all know that nothing is more likely to depress the Labour vote more than the prospect of a grand SF, Labour, Independent FF, Independent FG, People before Profit, Green Party coalition.

Indeed, Mr Gilmore was so anxious to ditch the SF albatross that he suggested Gerry should consider ringing Biffo and FF. Sadly, while Mr Adams might be prepared to go into coalition with Ian Paisley, he has some standards.

In truth, despite all the fantasy swapping of putative coalition partners, the kerfuffle was pointless, because one of the few certainties in Irish public life is that the next administration will be a Labour-FG coalition.

FF may be already pandering the desiccated old line of trust the party who squandered the boom and ran away from the recession to guide us to recovery. But even the Irish electorate knows that re-electing FF would be the equivalent of sending an alcoholic a ticket to a drink your own weight for free in the local brewery.

And there simply aren't the numbers for a God save us from the horns and hooves of the left alliance.

This means the real question we should be asking is whether the Labour-FG rainbow has the politicians who can grasp our sickly country by the scruff of the neck.

In looking at how a rainbow dream cabinet might be constituted, we are going to take the dangerously optimistic view that there will be a revolution in the functions of the Cabinet.

Outside of ensuring we have no more ministries for 'fun', the first critical aspect of any new government will be to organise the relationship between the party leaders. If there is a close-run race, the two parties should consider developing a Chairman/CEO-style partnership.

CHAIRMAN: Enda Kenny. Some might see such a post as representing an attempt to minimise Kenny's role. But seeing as the disappeared FG leader is already doing this before the election, he can hardly complain if the process continues afterwards.

It might even play to his self-proclaimed strengths as a team builder; even those curious souls who love Enda will admit he isn't a details man.

The ambassadorial nature of the role might also play to Enda's apparent strengths in the arena of international diplomacy.

CEO: Eamon Gilmore. The role of CEO will suit Gilmore's forensic, cautious mind. He should be given a key inquisitorial role in dealing with the major reform of ministries and in ensuring that the secretary generals of our various departments actually implement government policies.

FINANCE: Joan Burton. Pat Rabbitte may be weaving a rhetorical spell on our more gullible political stenographers, but not even the sainted Richard Bruton, let alone Rabbitte or Noonan, has displayed the expertise of Burton.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Michael Noonan. Micheal Martin might disagree, but Foreign Affairs is seen as being a 'fur coat and no knickers' post given to egotistical politicians to disguise their declining status.

However, it is now as important as the halcyon era of the peace process. Ireland needs to rebuild its reputation in Europe while Noonan is the perfect man for such critical tasks as building a pan-Mediterranean alliance to curb the bullies of Berlin.

PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM: Roisin Shortall. The best gamekeeper is always a reformed poacher. Shortall's evisceration of public service panjandrums at the Public Accounts Committee hearings suggests that when it comes to re-inventing the nefarious Croke Park Agreement she could be an inspired choice.

ENTERPRISE AND BANKING REFORM: Ruairi Quinn. Has the experience and enthusiasm for the Enterprise post. His previous role in Finance and the synergy between Ireland's banking and economic crisis means Quinn could take some of the weight off the shoulders of Burton when it comes to sorting out our dysfunctional banks.

SOCIAL WELFARE AND EMPLOYMENT: Leo Varadkar. Social Welfare might once not have been one of those coveted economic ministries. But, when you have 400,000 people on the dole and a graduate exodus, welfare needs a fearless, innovative minister to tackle a sector which has as many bad habits and vested interests as the law library.

EDUCATION: Richard Bruton. Another critical sector that requires one of FG's brightest thinkers. Will have to show steel as well as idealism but, like all academic FG aristocrats, Richard does have a closet spine.

ENVIRONMENT: Phil Hogan. The defeated young FG aristocrats now know 'Cute Oul' Phil is brighter than he sometimes appears to be. Deserves a challenge like the reform of our councils.

HEALTH: James Reilly. Oddly enough, by Leinster House standards he appears to actually be a man with a plan. Reilly is the sort of bruising infighter who is needed to bust up the enemies of the people that lurk within the HSE.

JUSTICE: Alan Shatter. After the last three duds, this is a ministry that needs a real reformer with a ruthless side.

AGRICULTURE: Willie Penrose. After another series of non-achieving duds, Agriculture needs a tough-minded enterprising innovator with a capacity for blue-skies thinking.

TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE: Pat Rabbitte. We need a revolution in how infrastructure is provided in this State. When it comes to the none-too-easy task of reforming semi-States such as An Post, the ESB and CIE, Rabbitte could yet be the next Cabinet's Seamus Brennan.

POLITICAL REFORM AND SOCIAL INNOVATION: Brian Hayes. Government needs to be positive, too. Though political reform would be the most high-profile element of his job, the most critical task he'd have is to replace the rotten architecture of social partnership with a better way of governing the State.

INVESTIGATOR GENERAL: Fergus O'Dowd. We urgently need a variant of the Public Accounts Committee which actually tackles public-sector incompetence before the rogue public servants are over the hills and far away. O'Dowd has the perfect qualities to lead the political equivalent of a public-sector internal-affairs unit.

Sadly, when it comes to the 85 other aspirant ministers, tough times mean there are limited opportunities as the current discredited junior ministries should be replaced by nine special ministries whose occupants could be fast-tracked to Cabinet.

The personnel and ministries would be as follows:





CHILDREN: Pascal Donohue.





VERDICT: It would be a matter of some concern if any new government looked more jaded than its predecessors. However, the blend of experience and youth offered by a new rainbow coalition suggests there is the possibility of real transformation in the way we're governed.

Significantly, when it comes to other possible coalition partners within FF, outside of Brian Lenihan and Mary Hanafin, none of the current Cabinet offers any sort of better alternative.

Oh, all right, Micheal Martin would have justifiable claims for one of the special ministries, while, when it comes to SF, pious but voluble Pearse Doherty will be an excellent opposition leader.

Sunday Independent