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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 10, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    Cowen Under Pressure – Again

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    It never ends, does it? Brian Cowen’s back is to the wall one more time. A motion of no confidence from Fine Gael is being met with a countermotion from the Government side. There seems to be little doubt that the Government will win but the real damage will be in the debate.

    • Liam says:

      You have to admire any politician that can operate outside of the sphere of logic, facts and personal accountability. I know I couldn’t do it, for that alone he deserves to stay in power until the bitter end and until we get the opportunity to elect the next group of chancers.

    • robespierre says:

      Cowen has been limping along á la John Major in the 1990′s or Edouard Balladur for some time. He knows it happened on his watch. He knows he had little interest in the finance brief. Anyone who saw him perform in the portfolio knows that. He failed to push back on the civil service and question the advice of forecasters that got every estimate on the way up wrong and have since got every estimate on the way down wrong as well. None of these people would be allowed near a real finance function.

      The government may win this battle but the question is whether or not they can win the war and what is an acceptable outcome – 40 seats, 50 seats? I would love to see Fianna Fáil eviscerated for its incompetence, its vulgarity and its long tradition of stroke pulling. The PRI in Mexico, the party it most resembled, never recovered from their stonking a few years ago. I would really like to see FF thoroughly crushed – like the Christian Democrats in Italy or Solidarity in Poland. Sadly, they will probably get a quarter of the popular vote and perhaps 45 seats for reasons beyond economic logic. FF voters seem to be the political Uncle Toms of Ireland, tolerating as much punishment as they can get as long as it sticks it to the Deefore meeja.

      The best single thing that Fianna Fáil have going for them is Enda Kenny. Many fiscal conservatives won’t vote FG because it means they get Labour. Until the opposition has a serious, credible alternative leader, capable of taking on the vested interests in the trade unions and civil service then they have a chance at recovery if not power. Should Lenihan recover sufficiently in advance of the next election then a FF party led by him could do very well indeed thereafter.

    • Hugh says:

      I doubt what is said in the debate will even be remembered come election time. The people won’t need reminding..

    • barbera says:

      What a pain for Mr Cowen and a waste of time generally — I suppose Enda & Co have to be seen to be doing something

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      There are two different but connected issues – firstly Fine Gael is abjectly failing to seal the deal, even with an abundance of opportunities, and it is debatable if that is because of Kenny. On one hand there seems to be evidence that people won’t vote FG because of him, yet on the other hand, in every election he has actually faced he has led FG to ‘victory’, so that contradicts the soft evidence that he is a more of a liability than an asset.

      Then there are the policy failures and the front bench failures – the more Varadkar is put into the public the more people get turned off – he is the FG version of George Osborne, who was kept invisible during the UK campaign – the Tories of course are now in government, but by accident not design.

      Is a FG/L coalition with a far bigger Labour Party than in past government a good thing or not? Either way the next election will require a massive leap of faith from the electorate and FG is simply not giving anyone a reason to take that jump. Maybe FG is holding back until an election is more likely – I doubt it, there’s no evidence of anyone tackling the negative mentalty that has kept FG in opposition so often and for so long and so often grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.

      As for Fianna Fáil – first thing that people need to understand is the only goal of those in FF is to keep FF in power. FF is not an ideology driven party – it is all about power and personalities. Great entertainment but as we now see bad politics. The meetings going on behind the scenes in FF will involve those in the golden circle pulling the strings of those at the top of FF to get them to do whatever they need to do so that the system of patronage, which they pay FF handsomely to have access to, remains open as they need to make sure they can ringfence their wealth.

      I know Deaglán is squeamish about this and prefers to stay in denial but it is a fact that Brian Cowen, and all those he surrounds himself with, all come from an environment were clientilism/gombeenism was/is the norm. They are simply intellectually incapable of knowing right from wrong politically – it’s not their fault as they were never given a better example.

      What exactly is it politicians think will happen if they admit they got it wrong – oh yes … and we find ourselves back at the starting point where FF needs to retain power (at all costs) to keep access to state resources for the benefit of the golden circle – it’s a cycle that can’t be broken without its existence being admitted and the golden circle won’t admit they paid for influence and Fianna Fáil won’t ever explain how it funds its organisation and election campaigns. If Cowen were to take responsibility and resign it would open a Pandora’s box …

      The other issue in the shadows is the change in Irish society over the past few years – the end of deference – and how that pans out will be interesting. Previoulsy, even when the evidence of phone bugging and all sorts was laid before our very eyes there was about 40% of the public who either didn’t care or didn’t want to admit they’d be fooled and FF support never fell.

      But now, levels of support have fallen to a level never seen before and even if FF gains a point or two, it is not going to regain that lost support and that has massive implication for how the last seat or two falls in every single constituency because if FG and L get the first few seats in, their transfers are going to elect people who in other times would never have stood a chance.

      A new FG/L government with a secure majority means FF has a mountain to climb that will take two terms and it has never been out of office longer than two terms so why would the golden circle continue to bankroll a party that won’t give them access to state resources for about 10 years?

      We live in interesting times and it will be a major sign of our maturity if, at the next election, our vote provides evidence the gombeen/sleeveen mé féiner days are coming to an end and that we might actually have grown up in time for the anniversary of the 1916, 1920 or 1922 depending on what anniversary you identify with.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      and then as if my magic a poll comes out with Labour above FG and FF and some comment that FF TDs are getting jumpy – could the impossible happen and FF TDs actually cause a general election by getting rid of the annointed leader. In more ways than one this election – whenever it happens – will be a game changer.

    • Kynos says:

      The only real horror scenario (asides from WWIII, which is quite possible indeed probable at this point) is that Fianna Fail might somehow survive in some shape or form post-2012.

    • Kynos says:

      When they could nod and wink at Ireland’s betrayal to illegal aggressive wars of murder theft and torture they could nod and wink at anything. Been saying that on here since I damn near can’t remember. Sometime round 2003. Dog on this street could see it coming and told ye. Wasn’t listened to then won’t be listened to now. Somehow it doesn’t really matter anymore.

    • sorry this is just a test. Kynos. says:

      I’m just going to try a different browser. Keep losing posts using firefox.

    • Kynos. says:

      Well they deserve to be decimated FF for what they’ve done to this country and the gentleman from FF on Vinnie Brown tonight pardon didn’t catch his name with all his certainties and criticisms of Labour for vacillating over this Croke Park business belongs to a party whose certainties inter alia have delivered us unto the present Evil may have delivered a debt to GNP ratio of 25% in 2007 but he rather tellingly did not mention the fact that thanks to his party and the successive governments it has formed with various useful idiots who sold their souls for the usual 30pcs AG has delivered us to a position where we’re looking at debt to GNP of 140% by 2012. Which is why he and I are in agreement that FF should stay right where they are til then. And not slither out beforehand and let in a Labour government that’ll do the heavy heavy taxing and cutting that’ll be otherwise FF’s lot to impart. So that they can waltz back in in 7 or 5 years. Showtime again while they rob us blind of whatever there’s left and party on down with the Cronies and Controllers. Interested to hear you tipping Cameroon rather saying you’d like them to win whatever I know nothing about football but I know that to Brazil’s players the honour of playing for their country outstrips by a long mile their home club concerns.Unlike England and with all respect unlike Ireland perhaps to a degree also given how many of us Englishmen ye have playing on yer team.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      I know this is probably a bit self-serving (but that is not going to stop me!) but I think the poll shows the people much ahead of the media, in questioning the political approach that led to our economic situation. There may be that realignment- left versus right – democratic socialism/social democracy versus free marketeerism (of that unique FF/PD and of late FF/Green/Independent PD variety of free marketeerism).

      How many articles in the Irish Times’ ‘Renewing the Republic’ series actually questioned the political ideology of the parties in Government and its role in our downturn? That series of articles went on different tangents entirely, blaming constituents attending clinics , the existence of the Seanad, and all sorts of other red herrings. Meanwhile many voters see as the means to change simply the manner in which they cast their vote at the next election.

    • Desmond: Interesting comment, as always. As for my being “squeamish”, I do not approve of unsubstantiated allegations being made against named or specified individuals who are deceased and unable to speak for themselves. De mortuis nil nisi bonum is a motto you seem to be totally unaware of, old boy.

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      I have to agree with Joanna Tuffy about the media. I would add that we have political commentators but no political philosophers in the media. By that I mean our journalists comment on what is happening as though laying before us a soap opera.

      I don’t see discussion on whether the people of 21st century Ireland sitting in the EU would be better off led by a fiscally conservative government but socially liberal or vice versa. I don’t see an analysis of how politics in post-Catholic ireland should differ from that in catholic Ireland. I don’t read about how political ideology in Ireland is being impacted by the views of immigrants or other “new” groups. I don’t read how political ideology in Ireland should change in view of the demise of agriculture.

      Could any readers point to me sources where I could read this kind of stuff ?. Or is it simply not out there and if so what does that say about all of us?

      Patrick Hennessy


    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @12 – well Deaglán as I’m not, emmm as experienced in life as you, Latin isn’t my first language. My father learnt Latin at his expensive elitist fee paying Jesuit school – perhaps you went to the same school!

      However, I don’t believe that someone passing away absolves them of their failures on this earth – especially when the consequences are still with us. I don’t know where you got your moral compass from, but I got mine from my parents and it’s pretty good – not rigid or perfect – I can’t imagine many people in my father’s position who at one point happened to have income that was £1 over the limit pushing him into the top tax rate, would do nothing to get that £1 removed to fall back, but instead he paid the top rate and was thankful to be able to earn enough to have that level of income compared to so many others. The tax loss was the difference between what type of car or holiday he had whereas it was used to pay for the social welfare for others to put food on their table.

      But to a person who supports Fianna Fáil he was a fool no doubt.

      So I put it to you again Deaglán, on what basis do you think we can absolve the parents of people of their responsibility in moulding their children into the adults they subsequently become.

      Brian Lenihan Jnr is held up as some sort of white knight because he is ill. Well, why doesn’t the media compare and contrast his smooth treatment through the private health system (which his close friend Harney is so keen to convert into a US model) thanks to the special VHI package Oireachtas members have paid for by the taxpayer, his state car to drive him to appointments, where consultants arrange their diary around his needs rather than he around theirs, his complete and total lack of any financial or job security worries against someone trying to juggle hanging onto a job, paying a mortgage and attending the public health system.

      Then also compare the claims this Lenihan is the hope for the future with his stroke to ensure senior civil servants did not incur a pay cut and his efforts to abort any real and meaningful reform of Oireachtas expenses. He never once, not once, raised a word against the policies his party implemented, with his vote, over the last 10 years. He now acts as if he had no part in creating the mess the country is in because he wasn’t in the cabinet. As hypocritical as those who resign the Fianna Fáil whip are, at least they raised their voice, even if they couldn’t quite manage to remove their vote. Lenihan can’t even claim he did that little.

      Joanna Tuffy is right that the media never want to address the thought process that goes into creating the bad policies that led to this present mess and how unless those thought processes change the same mistakes will be repeated. Those flawed thought processes took place because those who came up with the bad policies did not have a moral compass within them to know what they were doing was wrong or to make them care about the consequences.

    • Ray D says:

      I wouild venture to suggest that each of the 3 main parties would have destroyed the country in exactly the way FF did. The country has been ruled by either Tweedledum or Tweedledee for over 50 years now and they are all the same.

      The people have no option but to vote for the old parties and the old politics. Labour’s front line are virtually all in their 60s. Fine Gael likewise. We are stuck with these 3 Mickey Mouse parties because that is all that the great majority here vote for. If 90% of the populace are right-wing, then the three main right-wing parties get all those votes. That will not change as there is no radicalism in the populace. We will not have a Clann na Poblachta party breakthrough ever again. Look at how the only radical party in the Dail – SF – is buried. And the other radicals – the Socilaist party – have no representative there at all.

    • rubyrubyrubyruby says:

      @10 ‘Given how many of us Englishmen are playing on your team’ have I read that right…?
      ‘Englishmen?? Since when have the natives of the PRC been referring to themselves as ‘Englishmen’…?
      Are you xpecting to re-visit the Rebel County any time soon…? You might want to correct that so…! Explain yourself you young pup…and while you’re at it excuse yourself !

    • Desmond: I went to the Christian Brothers, I hope you don’t have a problem with that. You are being disingenuous in pretending not to know what De Mortuis is in English. Are you too lazy to Google?
      I won’t have the character of dead individuals being taken without appropriate back-up evidence. You claim to know a lot about Minister Lenihan’s treatment but I am at a loss as to where you get your information over there in London.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Of course I know what it means. I’m just not sure why you felt the need to use Latin instead of English – perhaps some intellectual snobbery or something. I don’t know.

      Am I wrong Deaglán that the Oireachtas have a special VHI/medical care package that is not available to the public? I also have a level of cover from my job that I could not get if I were to apply as a member of the public – it’s pretty standard for corporate medical policies. I’m not sure why you think mentioning it is such a big deal.

      Am I wrong that he will be driven to and from his appointments in a state car – when has any Irish minister of any party ever not used a state car as a personal taxi? I don’t see how what I said could be a surprise to you or unreasonable?

      I really don’t get where you are coming from about this dead people issue. Are you defending the legacy of the people I mentioned and if so, on what basis? On what do you base a defence of their legacy? You might as well agree with Bertie Ahern’s defence of the Celtic Tiger myth on the basis that getting some new roads and repaved streets was worth beggaring the country for the next 20 years. Where is your evidence of what good they did that you consider they left no poor legacy to their children in terms of a poor moral example? I’m genuinely not understanding what the issue you have is?

      The Oireachtas Commission will confirm about the medical cover.

      It’s pretty easy to get information on a range of things if you are patient and ask the right people. One of the benefits of being a qualified genealogist in my spare time is that I have learnt the art of patience and perseverance.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      I’ve had an epiphany – it’s a generational thing and a deference thing. You are from the generation (anyone over 50) who are to blame for the various scandals we face now – by never questioning anything, never supporting those who did and never putting in place systems to prevent the abuses/corruption/cronyism etc, while I am from the generation left to clean up the mess and who wants to question everything and everyone because we now know what went on before and don’t see any evidence that anything has changed.

      Also due to genealogy, I can track exactly how the actions of a previous generation impacted and changed the following generation – I don’t think politicians are immune. I’d be interested to know why you don’t think the people I mentioned weren’t influenced by their parents or do you just think their parent’s were good role models – is that based on fact, your opinion or just because they have died?

      And I think that is also reflected in how the Irish political media never express opinions on issues of the day or tackle those in positions of power/responsibility in anything like the way political media in other countries do – Ireland is a small country so you can’t afford to put anyone’s nose out.

      I get it. Fair enough.

    • Things have come to a sorry pass when the use of a wellworn Latin phrase brings an accusation of intellectual snobbery. Should I now accuse you of being a neocolonial shoneen lickspittle for the dreadful crime of writing in English?

      The problem is that these people are dead and have no means of defending themselves. I think politicians in power are broadly speaking fair game but if you are going to attack their parents at the moral level you should at the very least provide chapter and verse on it. I am talking about sourcing your material because I don’t trust your “facts” given your overall approach.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:


      Have to take you to task on your generational picture.

      If anything Fianna Fail got a boost from some of the younger voters in the 2007 election, many of whom thought the opposition would stop the good times rolling. And in the Irish Times polls, the voters that are sticking with the Government most, are those in the 18 to 24 age bracket. And there was much questioning and radical campaigning by your parent’s generation, to be fair. The reason we have much of the information that is coming out right now is thanks to the steps to bring about more openness and transparency by a previous generation of politicians including your own namesake, who I guess, you may be related to?

    • rubyrubyrubyruby says:

      @21 Well now the cat’s out of the bag! No questions about the amount of available time Desmond has to spend on the blog…plenty of toadying in fact quite a little menage a trois!

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Joanna, In 2007 we didn’t know what we know now. I’d be pretty sure those young people who voted FF in 2007 are not keen to do it again – FG obviously haven’t convinced them but that’s a different issue and I’m sure when Labour are put under the spotlight they’ll be found wanting too.

      I wish I’d paid more attention when I was younger so I could recall if there was ‘campaigning’ going on around me! Although I’m pretty sure one person in particular was more concerned about poetry than politics!

    • Kynos says:

      Not native to PRC Ruby. I was born in a place that nowadays makes PRC look like the most private place since confessional boxes went out of fashion.

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