A cleanout of Government
* Update: A lot of noise that Batt O’Keeffe is about to resign but no official confirmation quite yet. If it’s true, it”s six in 24 hours. Half of the Cabinet smote in one night!
It’s a reshuffle all right…. of deckchairs on the Titanic.
When politicians put themselves out on a limb with an idea, there is often a very thin dividing line between it being an eye-cathching and imaginative initiative and a cycnical or ill-conceived bellyflop.
Two examples of what a Minister hoped was the former but turned out to be a bellyflop: decentralisation; and e-voting.
If Brian Cowen goes ahead and appoints people to the vacancies left by Micheal Martin, and the four ministers who resigned last night, there’s a strong chance that it will have the reverse of the desired effect.
Already, and it’s only 9am, the reaction has been deeeply negative – and most of that has come from within the coalition.
Ned O’Keeffe, the Fianna Fail backbencher, has described it as ‘cynical’.
Paul Gogarty, in an interesting blog at www.paulgogarty.com, sums up his view and the Green Party unhappiness. Few will disagree with his summation that it is orchestrated.
Indeed, it is orchestrated. These were hardly random and coincidental acts.
We quoted a Fianna Fail TD in this morning’s paper who talked of huge reluctance in taking a job if were offered. His view was that it would play very very badly in the constituency.
My own view on the reason behind it is this: There has been a high level of concern among several young Fianna Fail TDs in recent months that the party was not in in a position to drive new policy ideas in almost half of the Government departments.
Three of the 15 ministries were held by non Fianna Fail TDs. And a further three Ministers were on the cusp of retirement.
Michael McGrath of Cork South Central articulated this in an interview a few weeks ago. He said there was nobody in Fianna Fail speaking for the party on energy or on wider health policies, for example. He said Fianna Fail needed to get young energetic spokespeople in place to argue the party’s position, to come up with new policy ideas, to bring a bit of energy to it.
Semi-detached Fianna Fail Ministers not contesting the elections were hardly going to be cranking it up either.
I’m sure those concerns were expressed to Brian Cowen during the consultation period last week.
And last night’s move was the way of dealing with it.
Like many other things in this administration, it has happened far too late.
New Ministers will have enough time to just about read themselves into their brief. Their impact on their respective departments will be zero.
The hoped-for jolt of energy when the likes of Dara Calleary and Barry Andrews become senior ministers will be more than countered by the negatives – primarily another example of jobs for the boys and cronyism.
Fianna Fail should know that this would not play particularly well and are hoping that the enthusiasm and energy of the new appointees will negate the thrashing they will take today in the media, on the airwaves and from the opposition.
I’m just not so sure of that…