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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 10, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

    The Outlook is Blue

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Nothing is certain except death and taxes but the polls do suggest that a Fine Gael-led government is a strong possibility if, as many currently expect, a general election is held in the next six or nine months. 


    Enda Kenny – not everyone’s cup of tea? (Photograph by David Sleator)

     We know from the last two general elections that the public mood is fickle and can shift or modify fairly dramatically in the lead-up to polling day but, as things stand at the moment, the odds definitely favour FG. So maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the main opposition party and its attributes.

    Issues that might be considered include the leadership of Enda Kenny – chairman or chief, in Brian Farrell’s famous phrase; the Fine Gael alternative to Nama – hands up everyone who understands it (I do, because it’s my job, he said smugly); the richness or paucity of talent on the party front bench; the likely divvy-up between FG and its presumed inevitable bedfellow, the Labour Party; etc. The following thinkpiece written by yours truly for the print edition of The Irish Times after the FG ”think-in” at Cavan this week may be of interest in this context:- 

    The mood at the Fine Gael think-in was a mixture of joy and apprehension,

       IS FINE Gael finally about to come in from the cold? The party has spent
    years in the wilderness and even its brief stint in office from 1994 to 1997 was
    the result of parliamentary manoeuvring rather than a decision of the

       The party has not come directly to power via a general election since 1982.
    But such are the vagaries of Irish politics that the next battle looks like
    being a one-sided affair, with Enda Kenny s party firmly in the ascendant.

       The mental state of parliamentary party members as they assembled in Cavan
    this week for their annual  think-in  could best be described as  delighted
    uncertainty  or  joyous apprehension .

       The opinion polls and the local elections last June have told them they are
    virtually certain to be the biggest party the next time, if the people get a
    chance to decide on the matter in the near future.

       However, the economy is in a mess and Ireland (or  Dire Land  as the
    Financial Times calls it) is suffering more than most from the effects of the
    international crisis.

       A similar gathering of TDs, Senators and MEPs took place this time last year
    in Co Clare. The mood on that occasion was one of expectancy as compared with
    the current nervous jubilation.

       Although Kenny is not securing the kind of poll figures that his party
    colleagues would like to see, insiders say there is no threat to his leadership.

       There is an acknowledgment of his skills in the area of party management and
    the fact that he has brought Fine Gael from the doldrums to the cusp of power.

       The fact that the obvious alternative, finance spokesman Richard Bruton, has
    shown no immediate interest in taking over the job is a help. And as Kenny
    pointed out on yesterday s Morning Ireland, Mary Harney was scoring high poll
    results at a time when the Progressive Democrats were attracting minimal

       The one name you didn t want to mention in Cavan this week was Alan Dukes.
    The former party leader had criticised Fine Gael policy on the banks as
    cumbersome  and lacking in clarity. It is an understatement to say this was not
    appreciated by his former colleagues and the type of venom normally reserved for
    Fianna Fáil was redirected towards the author of the  Tallaght Strategy .

       The big question on everyone s mind was, of course, the likely date of the
    next general election. There was no unanimity on this, with some suggesting it
    would come before the end of the year while others felt sometime in the first
    half of 2010 was more likely.

       Only a very few believed the Government could last any longer than that.
    Having had to put up with secure Government majorities for a 10-year period, the
    main opposition party is taking a keen interest in the waverings of the Green
    Party and FF backbenchers.

       Thinking aloud, most will say that the Greens are unlikely to vote themselves
    out of office. When would they get another chance to be in government and to
    implement even a modest element of Green Party policy? But there is an awareness
    at the same time that events can take an unexpected turn.

       The pronouncements of Fianna Fáil backbenchers excite more interest and
    expectation. These TDs are being closely watched for any sign that they will
    jump ship on the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) legislation or,  more
    likely, the forthcoming budget.

       Looking to the longer term, there is the possibility that, having got Nama on
    the statute book and approved the budget, the Soldiers of Destiny might move
    against their leader if the polls keep telling them there is no way Brian Cowen
    can lead them to victory in the next general election.

       As regards Nama, the Fine Gael parliamentary party seems content to leave it
    to Bruton to make the running. He is not for turning and the watchword of Fine
    Gael in general at the moment is,  steady as she goes . If the polls are right,
    power will fall into the party s lap before too long.

       And then their problems will really begin.

    • robespierre says:

      I truly hope Labour do not get into power and that Fine Gael has enough numbers to plough reform through the bloated public sector.

      The greatest threat to the financial security of the state is Labour. They only want to tax the rich but not the poor. They do not want cuts in social welfare or for it to be taxed to encourage people to try and be more entrepreneurial (see Jeff Sachs & Leslek Balcerowicz plan, Poland 1989).

      They also want to nationalise banks guaranteeing we keep the zombies as liabilities and preventing our being able to offset attractive takeover targets against the losses we incur from the zombies. Labour is the political wing of the public sector and incredibly does not think the public sector to be either overpaid or overstaffed. They would also retrain rather than re-recruit underperforming and non-performing resources. In some public sector agencies this is over 20% of the workforce.

      My chief concern with FG in power is Kenny. He is a poor communicater and his grasp of detail is also poor. He would make a great party general secretary as he has super organisational skills. No amount of hard work can make up for what he lacks intellectually. It is true that he clearly has some good instincts on calls and is clearly a tough operator. If he can listen to good advice that would also be encouraging.

      Overall however I cannot see how a FG government under Kenny acting in the noble traditions of WT and Liam Cosgrave can take over at a time of crisis without Labour’s vested interests ruining the country like they did in the 1980′s. We had a chairman then too, rather than a chief, and he lacked the gumption to stand up to Dick Spring.

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