Appointments of Ministers: (front seated) Pat Moylan, Séamus Kirk, Mr John Murray, Brian Cowen, Mary Coughlan; (Back row) Éamon Ó Cuív, Mary Hanafin, Batt O’Keeffe, Pat Carey, Tony Killeen and John Curran. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.
I have been trying to make sense of the latest cabinet reshuffle and the response to it. To begin with, the response. From Stephen Collins’ excellent report:
According to Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny – “The Taoiseach has retreated from the challenge of leadership that fell upon his shoulders. He could have been courageous, taken a different approach and from among those on his own backbenches he could have reshuffled his Cabinet so that it would bring some semblance of life to an exhausted group who are fatigued and flattened. They are without ideas, energy, ideals or commitment.”
Translation, I don’t like the people Brian Cowen picked?
Labour Party leader, Eamon Gilmore – “Why is the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, still in office? By any standards, she should be removed from office. While I acknowledge she has been a good Minister in other departments and has made a major contribution to public life, her record as Minister for Health and Children has been hopeless.”
In other words, I really don’t like one of the people Cowen picked?
Last but not least, Green Party leader, John Gormley – the appointment of two of his party’s TDs as junior ministers represented a “very successful day for the Greens in Government”.
That is, I’m delighted that two of my people got picked?
And then there’s the reshuffle itself. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the guiding principle was ensuring stability, and that by rewarding allies, pacifying wavering partners, and only moving things around so long as doing so did not get in the way of the rewarding and pacifying.
Is it just me, or do the political leaders all seem to be far more interested in who gets political power than with what gets done with that power? Even the Greens, who probably have the clearest political agenda of the lot, seem more concerned with staying in power than with realising their vision, as if that vision could not possibly be realised without their presence in government. It is easy to pick on the Greens, but I can’t help but feel that everyone else is the same. Had the Taoiseach sacked half of his cabinet, or the whole lot, and replaced them with the most promising and articulate deputies from every party, I’m sure he would have been hailed as a genius. But would that really have been any different from the action he took? Sure, it would have meant spreading the political power around like a good democrat, but what good does it do the country in the long run if the distribution of power is effected for the sake of popularity, legacy or just good naturedness rather than for personal political survival? Isn’t the real issue the socio-economic transformation of the state?
What I found really sad about the reshuffle and then the terms in which it has been subsequently analysed is that apart from the fuzzy, non-specific talk of innovation and economic recovery, there hadn’t been much in the way of articulating a comprehensive vision for the future. Not by government, nor the opposition. The discussion has been something like discussing the merits of a new football signing without any reference to team he has joined, long term goals, their style of play, their likely position at the end of the season, the competitions in which they will be involved, and so forth.
I think it’s really sad that whether a politician is a good media performer, is articulate in the Dáil, is liked or otherwise, comes from such and such a part of the country, and so forth, that these things set the parameters of the discussion on political appointments as opposed to questions around where the country is going.