For this week, we who labour in the field at Leinster House feel what it must be like in Glenties for the other 51 weeks of the year.
There’s been a dramatic shift of the power base… of about 250 kilometres. Crammed sweaty halls in West Donegal have produced all the political stories this week. And the corridors of Leinster House have felt as deserted and silent as those of Overlook Hotel.
I was down the country yesterday. The first port of call was near Ballinasloe, Co Galway where the Taoiseach opened a new stretch of motorway. The audience was far bigger than anticipated… as about 400 farmers gatecrashed the party to make a loud and boisterous process. It was intriguing to see them all hush while the prayer was being said only for the din and cacophony to start once Cowen and the other speakers started up.
Their grievance relates to reductions and phasing-out of REPS payments. Whatever about the merits of withdrawing payments, the scheme never really had the environmental impact it should have, because the conditons were never strong enough.
A couple of the media who were there got very excited at the anger and militancy of the protest. Sure it was the most hostile crowd that Cowen has encountered since becoming Taoiseach. But the hard dog for the long road temperament came out. Phlegmatic was the word that came to mind as to his expression.
There have been some suggestions that there will be riots and mass demonstrations on a daily basis. That’s not really inbuilt into our political culture, like it is in France. While I am sure there will be protests (some involving hundreds of thousands), the tough medicine doled out this autumn will be accepted, albeit grudgingly.
And people will bide their time and seek vengeance for all this pain they endured. They will deliver it sometime in 2012 (or earlier!), in other words, whenever the next General Election is held.
Back to yesterday, where I then travelled to Galway, where the PeeDees continued their very long goodbye. It was billed as their last meeting but it’s likely that the red tape involved in calling it a day will give the party another last hurrah sometime in September.
What’s novel about what’s coming out of th eparty is that in the short-term at least, their remaining two TDs and Senators (Ciaran Cannon jumped to Fine Gael earlier this year) will remain independent and form a loose alliance that will, presumably, support the Government. They have taken some succour from all the ex-PDs who won council seats as independents. Obviously, they think there is a space there. Obviously, though, not one for a political party of any hue.
My own impression too is that when the Cabinet reshuffle happens in the autumn, Mary Harney will stay put and remain as Minister for Health until the Government’s term of office come to an end, whenever that is.
It hasn’t deathly quiet around here this week. There has been some activitity, particualry at Government level. Next week will be busy. The last Cabinet meeting will sign off on the NAMA legislation, which runs to over 200 pages. Then unlike other years, there will be a brief breather during August before a very turbulent September and October, as ministers grapple with the reality of over €4 billion in fresh cut-backs; a new programme for government is negotiated; and the second Lisbon referendum campaign runs its course.
But from a slightly selfish point of view, I’m a mite happy that all the action is in Glenties this week. Normal service will resume in Kildare Street next week.