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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 6, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

    Who’s next?

    Harry McGee

    I have always liked the term ‘cross-bencher’ that applies to the non-affiliates in the House of Lord. They are kind of independent but not independent in the true sense.

    It’s a term that could apply to the semi-detached members of Fianna Fail, the northwestern triumvirate of Jim McDaid, Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon.

    None will be admitted back into the fold for a long while though all know that a fatted calf awaits them sometime between now and 2011.

    It’s true that the Government has now thrown away a majority of 13 and it’s technically even-steven, 82 assured Government votes and 82 others. But it’s really 85 votes to 79 because the three rebels will support the Government in all the major votes.

    The only difficulty will be when the oppositoin parties start making mischief and lob in private members motions on cancer services in the North West or on the closure of hospitals etc. McDaid has already abstained on cervical cancer and it’s likely that the other two will have no choice but to follow suit if such a motion is voted upon. The Government will then have the embarrassment of coming perilously close to losing a vote, or in the worst case scenario, relying on the casting vote of Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue.

    The real difficulty for the Government in terms of survivability won’t come from Devins or Scanlon but from others. There are a couple of flakey and volatile deputies within the Fianna Fail ranks. There is also a growing band of the disaffected, those thwarted in their ambition or who have been sacked by Cowen.

    And it’s axiomatic that horrendous cuts will have to be imposed during the autumn that will shock people in behind the marrow. The big danger for Government isn’t the Greens or the two independents or even the former PDs. It’s the enemy within – Fianna Fail’s own backbenchers who will be pressurised by lobby groups in their constituencies or want to even the score with Cowen and his cabal.

    And they may precipitate the early downfall of a Government that looked impregnable for a five-year-term in 2007.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I believe that these resignations of the whip (remember we’re supposedly three years out from an election) are all about a view doing the rounds on the FF back benches that ultimately the budget just can’t pass. It can’t pass because there would have to be too many localised riders attached to it to keep potential Joe Behan 2.0s on board. And those riders would unpick the government’s overall strategy of reducing the deficit. So that balance between the local and the national can’t be struck, and even if it could be struck I personally doubt the Troika have the political touch to do so. Just look at the over-70s medical cards mess to see how good their political antennae are.

      Yet the budget doesn’t really matter anyway because between now and then it is quite likely that the Greens will not be able to get the revised programme for government passed at their conference hence collapsing the government post-Lisbon. And the FF backbenchers know that.

      I said it here after the locals, the Green needed to spend the summer sounding contrite and listening to the views of the electorate and then find some means to look all doe-eyed, admit that doing a deal with FF was wrong but that they had done it with the best of intentions, and then simply pull out. There is not so much anger at the Greens out there as there is disappointment. Much like the PDs in Autumn 2006 they can act now and perhaps save some of their TDs and most important of all the party, or lose the lot in 2/3 years’ time. Will they repeat McDowell’s error?

    • BetterWorld Now says:

      Learning to dance for Fianna Fáil …

      Am I alone in regarding this pretence is just some sort of “Lanigan’s Ball” of political choreography designed to give the impression to the gullible that any FF backbencher has any intention of rocking the FF boat?

      (Lanigan’s Ball for the benefit of younger readers is a 1980′s song by The Bards
      which contains the refrain (repeated over and over again)
      “I stepped out /
      and I stepped in again /
      Learning to dance for Fianna Fáil, er, sorry, Lanigan’s Ball”

      Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3s3F1VXFQ4 )

    • dealga says:

      “Am I alone…’

      You’re clearly not – it’s pretty much what everyone has said since it happened.

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