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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 22, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

    The list

    Harry McGee

    Seven gone, two promoted:

    Gone: Noel Ahern (Dublin North
    West); Sean Power (Kildare South); Maire Hoctor (Tipperary North);
    Mary Wallace (Meath East); Micheál Kitt (Galway East); Jimmy Devins
    (Sligo-North Leitrim) and John McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny).

    Aine Brady (Kildare North) and Dara Calleary (Mayo) have both been
    promoted, according to sources.

    My predictions are usually gank but I wasn’t too far off the mark this morning. The only major surprise was John McGuinness getting the heave. He went off-message from time to time and could be OTT but he wasn’t the worst junior by a long shot.

    Aine Brady will cover the loss of Sean Power in Kildare and also the demotion of her brother Micheál Kitt.

    Dara Calleary fills the gap left in the west by the standing-down of the same Micheál Kitt and also of Jimmy Devins in Sligo.

    As I was walking in to Leinster House a Government handler said tath’s why Dermot Ahern had introduced the new emergency legislation that allows surveillance for 72 hourse. It will be used to follow all the new enemies of the State that have emerged within FF.

    Cowen’s leadership will come under increasing pressure. Fianna Fail will take a hiding this summer. The numbers of the disaffected within the ranks are growing. The difficulty for FFers is that so many of them backed him unequivocally that it makes it harder to go into reverse gear. And is there an obvious candidate emerging as a leader.

    Micheál Martin? The future former future Taoiseach?

    Dermot Ahern, bringing a bit of the corner boy attitude to the position?

    Or Brian Lenihan. Last Summer, the Minister for Finance who knew nothing . This Summer,  the Minister for Finance who knows everything.

    • Peter B says:

      Harry, worst junior, best junior – it makes no difference whatsoever – but as usual the media will attempt to make a story of it! If there is a need for junior ministers, 3 might be relevant – children, adult education and perhaps environment – the remainder are totally irrelevant and exist as a form of political ‘favouritism’ and a means of keeping the back bench in line. And, if junior ministers are pointless, then the remaining 136 TD’s must surely be completely irrelevant. At least there are only 15 juniors, but 136 TD’s is a large number of pointless positions. They’re powerless to do anything or to effect any change, so what are they being paid for? Cowen has made it clear that he will govern as he sees fit. It’s almost like an autocracy masquerading as a democracy! I think there is an illusion of democracy – just as there is an illusion that junior ministers are relevant and there were illusions created by the media about many other things – air filled bubbles and castles in the sky!

    • dealga says:

      It says a lot about the electorate of our tiny country that the Taoiseach openly promotes and demote people pretty much on the basis of where they’re from and next to no ‘ordinary, decent, hardworking citizen’ is going to be the least bit offended by that.

    • An Fear Bolg says:

      The time is ripe for a full-scale reform of the Houses of the Oireachtas:

      (i) reduce TDs to around 100;
      (ii) eliminate PR-STV;
      (iii) increase the number of constituencies but with only one TD per constient, first past-the-post (this should reduce parish pump, letters to MinJustice etc which TDs say is done on the basis that a constituency colleague will do it if they don’t);
      (iv) rationalise Government Departments – by my reckoning you could do a lot here to consolidate and reduce the number to 10;
      (v) reduce junior ministers to around 3/4 max (and call them parliamentary secretaries again).

      Then you will be left with a government of 10, supported by around 4 junior ministers and in the context of a small chamber of TDs but each with a higher profile. It would also end Brady-type coasting in to a seat with a pathetic number of votes but benefitting from someone else’s popularity.

      Reduce numbers in the Seanad also and add to its function – why not give it a special role in EU affairs, examining proposed EU legislation and engaging in the post-Lisbon relationship between national legislatures and the EP? This could mean that proposed EU legislation is debated before passed and Ireland’s position made clear, rather than waiting until it’s too late (ie. when EU directives are being implemented in Ireland and people then wake up and cause a fuss about the impact – e.g. nitrates anyone?).

      I appreciate the above is a total daydream but why not fantasise about the Second Republic?

      Much as we can hate on FF these days, as far as I know Dev tried to change the Irish electoral system on three occasions and failed each time. He attempted first-past-the-post instead of PR-STV in the 50s. The man was on to something – didn’t he once say something that he knew the heart/soul of Ireland?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Why should it matter that Cowen is seen to be easing the hurt of the Kitt family with the appointment of Aine Brady? Either she is up to the job or she isn’t.

    • @Peter B

      In fairness, the post wasn’t on who was a better junior it was on the fact junior were shuffled, how his predictions stood up and the possible political thinking behind the new appointments.

      There was two sentences about John McGuiness getting the heave and him not being the worst, but that’s all.

      On topic…

      As yourself, Harry, and Deaglan have said on this blog a number of times, Cowen is a one-termer. FF realise that the public aren’t going to forgive them for getting the country into this mess anytime soon. That, combined with the majority of grassroots FFers seemingly holding the belief that two lost elections warrants a new leadership means the next leader of FF is unlikely to be Taoiseach.

      So Martin and Ahern are left in a situation were they may want to be leader of the party, just not the next leader.

      Lenihan will never be leader because he’s been too visible during this period, he’s tied to the anchor that is Mr. B. Cowen. Coughlan, not quite as visible – a potential sacrificial lamb? Someone like her would just be put in place to get the two election period done with before Ahern and Martin fight it out for the chance to run an election campaign with the possibility of victory, but she has been perceived to be out of her depth lately…

      Either way, the next leader of FF will be forgotten. Ahern and Martin are far too “clever” (although other less positive adjectives do come to mind) in my opinion to *want* to be the next leader though it may be thrust upon one.

      What about a sacrificial Dempsey? The party faithful love him…

      … Lastly, just talking with Adam Maguire there, he’s wondering if Mary Wallace will have another hissy fit after getting dropped. Can’t see it happening this time ’round, but it would be entertaining!

    • Harry says:

      Mary Wallace was very diplomatic when questioned by reporters today. Maire Hoctor and Micheal Kitt were far more put out about it.
      Wholesale reform is needed. We should have no more than 100 TDs and I believe that the democratic system would not suffer that much (not at all, if I’m being frank) if we were to get rid of the Upper House.
      It ain’t going to happen. As Alice Glenn once famously said: It’s like asking a turkey to vote for Christmas.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Harry there are good reasons for having a house of somewhat more than 100. In simple terms it has to do wit the likely size of the pool of people that can make up the government.

      Say we had a Dail of 100 TDs then the government would have 51 TDs to draw on to make up the cabinet and to make up the ranks of the juniors, even if they were cut to 10. That would be a need for almost half the entire parliamentary party to be in a job or one kind of another.

      Given that one in five or one in four might be relatively new TDs (with less than or just the one term in the Dail) that limits again the pool you can choose from government members to under 40 perhaps closer to 35. And when you consider than another 10% or more of TDs might be about to retire or burned out in each Dail term, and you’d end up with there being no choice at all about who ends up with a half car as a minimum and it would simply be a choice about who gets which job rather than who is qualified.

    • JD says:

      Harry, you mentioned in your online article that McGuinness was “effective” at his job. I will take your word for it. Yet, the fact that it was meant as praise is actually so damning in terms of the calibre of these people.

      In the private sector, you need to convincingly demonstrate competency just to get as far as the first round of a job interview…

      On the whole, I despair for this country ever breaking free of this political morass. Vincent Browne’s column today felt so depressingly accurate in its bleak depiction of our so-called democracy.

    • Harry says:

      Dan, If you look at parliaments (even bicameral ones) with similar populations, none come near Ireland in terms of numbers.
      Holland, with a populaton of 17 million, has a total of 220 MPs. That’s six less than the combined total of the Dáil and Seanad.
      One of the recommendations of Mary O’Rourke’s report for reform of the Seanad was an increase in numbers.
      And when are they going to take their fingers from their ears and extend the franchise to beyond TCD and the NUI? I know this is a major topic for you Dan. It’s got to be ridiculous.

    • Harry says:

      McGuinness was effective. He wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. He’s no Obama. As a Minister of State, he was fine. Looking at the senior Cabinet today, how tired the all look.
      It’s beginning to assume the shape of an ageing Soviet Politburo or the Chinese central committees made up of septuagenarians.
      No consolation when scanning the opposition benches. Okay Fine Gael have a few fresh faces but those in FG or Labour who would make the decisions if there was a change of Government are predominantly the same old faces.

    • Gerry Mac Donagh says:

      Looking at the performances most responsible for the present debacle and taking into the equation the analysis of most objective observers, the Taoiseach should have no option, Brian Cowen should in all honesty resign! Wasn’t he the Minister for Finance as the property bubble expanded and wasn’t it he who approved of the wonderful non-regulated banking system while paying Quangos and charlatan agencies more money than the US State Department receives?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Harry, the word from Gormley is that he intends to have legislation before the Oireachtas on the university Seanad seats by the end of the year. He said this in speaking to the Seanad on a motion on the topic on March 11th. I’m going do what I can to hold him to it (which may not be much I’ll admit).

      As for the size of the Oireachtas I’ve no problem reducing the size, just that there is a certain minimum size you need it to be to draw on to form a government.

      I posted this idea 18 months ago about shifting the super cllrs from the legislature.


      Personally, I’d love to see a much reduced national parliament and a separate administrative layer at the provincial level made up of PR-STV representatives elected to do 3 days in the province and 2 days in Dublin.

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