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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 21, 2011 @ 10:02 am

    So What Happens Now?

    Harry McGee

    The last time Leinster House was in such turmoil was in 1994 when Fianna Fail and Labour had their spectacular fallout that stemeed from the appointment of then attorney general Harry Whelehan to the post of President of the High Court.

    There was a sense of escalation: Cowen’s rash act of appointing six new Ministers resulting in a juggernaut… a series of events that could culminate in the immediate fall of Government.

    The atmosphere of uncertainty and bewilderment in the morning gave to rancour and recrimination in the afternoon. Some of it was directed by Fianna Failers at the Greens. But a lot of it was internal within Fianna Fail. If there was a name to all the blame, it was Brian Cowen.

    His rush of blood to the head will be recalled in future years as one of the most singularly self-destructive decisions in Irish political history – up there with Reynold’s insistence on appointing Whelhan to the High Court; or John Bruton’s myopic political vision in imposing new taxes on children’s shoes.

    The nub is what both sides took out of the famous meeting on Wednesday morning.

    Cowen took from it that he had a right to go ahead to do whatever he wanted.

    He didn’t. He mentioned four Ministers resinging (Martin, Ahern, Dempsey and Killeen) but not Batt O’Keeffe or Mary Harney.

    Sure it was his prerogative. But there was realpolitik. By failing to communicate with the junior partner about the extent of the rout of his Cabinet, he showed a terrible short-sightedness and lack of political awarness that is shocking for a man of his experience.

    And the lack of judgement extended to the decision itself.  When rumours started circling about a reshuffle on Wednesday we political hacks (and our judgement is often REALLY REALLY FOUND WANTING) all thought it was a stupid idea. And most Fianna TDs we contacted them also thought that being offered a senior Ministry was like being given an advance copy of your P45.

    The Greens were not entirely blamelessly.

    I think there has been an element of retrospection to their objections.

    The way they had it yesterday Eamon Ryan roared like a lion that it would not wash well with Joe Public and Dan Boyle gravely laid down the warning that the Green s would not vote to it.

    But my opinion is that the objections – if not feeble – were more sotte voce than that. Tony Killeen left the meeting and wrote his resignation letter. The Greens that day let people know that four resignations were on the cards but did not seem to be laying down ‘over my dead body’ warnings about them. Their main concern seemed to revolve around the argument that it should not extend the lifetime of government.

    It is true,  however, that Gormley said on RTE that the party would reserve its posiition. He also alluded to concerns. And specifically he intimated his view was that the shuffle should be limited.

    Cowen did not have to contact him. There was no formal requirement. But in the real world he should have contacted Gormley – especially as he was performing open heart surgery on the Fianna Fail patient.

    It was interesting this morning  to hear John Curran refute Dan Boyle who said the Greens would vote against the measure.

    That could be an area of major contention. One side is right and the other is wrong on that specific point.

    What now for Cowen?

    It’s hard to know. Most TDs are back in their constituencies. It will be Tuesday before anything can happen.

    Is there now a shift against him? Of course, there is. But I don’t believe anybody knows how this is going to unwind…

    • Caitriona McClean says:

      Listening to John Curran on radio this morning, I got the impression that the Greens have broken a code of conduct by not signaling clearly at the meeting on Wednesday morning that they would not vote in support of the changes. Furthermore, I wonder if this decision was made later but not communicated. It seems the Greens don’t know the rules or don’t believe in a reasonable code of conduct. Once again they have shown themselves to be a loose canon. Remember, the question of the Gen El arose due to their pulling a similar stunt which arguably has done more than anything the opposition parties did between them to send negative messages to the international community.

    • John Dublin says:

      Its time for big changes in this country

    • RayD says:

      It’s painful to see and hear all the crocodile tears being shed over the past two days for the lack of respect for the constitution when we have the non-constitutional Ministers of State swanning around for many years doing Ministerial constitutional duties in flagrant breach of the priovisions of the constitution itself. The constitution provides for an absolute maximum of 15 Ministers amd all parties have ignored this restriction for years. When there’s jobs for the boys and girls at stake to hell with the constitution..

    • boris yadek says:

      lets hope Cowan does not fall on his sword; he would probably stab himself in the foot.
      what a plonker.
      my father used to say that Ireland would be a great little country if we could get the irish out of it.


    • John says:

      Fianna Fail 1926-2011 founded by Eamon DeValera disbanded by Brian Cowen. Every other Fianna Fail leader knew when to go, Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds, Charles Haughey, Jack Lynch. Brian Cowen is the most selfish and stubborn leader Ireland has ever had. He has taken Ireland to the brink of ruin and now he is bringing Fianna Fail to actual ruin. He is not acting in the national interest, Fianna Fail’s interest so whose interest is he acting in? For those of us who do want to see Fianna Fail survive and recover Cowen is now a cause of despair. For the love of God get over your pride Brian Cowen and go.

    • Paul says:

      Failure of men is not stemming national debt. Failure of the media in losing sight of the issues for the sake of gluttonous coverage of personality clashes and power brokering is irresponsible.

    • Gerry says:

      I Say Good Riddance to this Government who robbed the Disabled in 2 Budgets, I am a Power Chair User after a series of Strokes+ Heart Attacks Living on Disability Pension with my Wife , And i had Cuts in 2 Budgets Last year No Increase No Xmas Bonus and Cut my Pensions by approx €30.00 Per Week, And this Budget No Increase No Xmas Bonus and a further €25.00 Cut to our Pensions, and as i cannot walk i was Turned down for Mobility Allowance even though i have a Primary Medical Certificate from the National Rehabilitation Hospital after spending 3 Month’s in Hospital,

      Shame on the Government Robbing the Poor to Pay the Rich “ROBIN HOOD ” did the Reverse.
      The People who owed Millions were Scot free No Payback No Jail Sentence 2 Previous Leaders of our so called Government fiddled to fill there Pockets No Jail, No Sentence WHY???,

      I cannot get to a Hospital No Drive on Drive off on the Coaches as they await the Co Council to Sort out the Bus Stops to Specification for Wheelchair Users, Our Health Service going Down the Tubes , I cannot attend Outpatient’s Dept,
      Simply as i live in Shannon Town ,I cannot get a Bus to my Airport only 5KM away from my Home, But if i lived in the City i would be OK for Wheelchair Accessible Buses, Every City Operates this System for the Disabled Wheelchair bound Passengers Except the Coaches travelling out of the City’s.

    • steve white says:

      was cowen trying to hang on till September, he slip and said 8 months at end of rte interview that night

    • Ms Moneypenny says:

      Brian Cowen’s shield of honour will protect him from the slings and arrows of outrageous opposition taunting and the sniping of media analysts and others with various vested interests. I am sure he will weather this latest little squall-in-the-Dáil and in my opinion it is about time the media started to rectify the imbalance in political analysis and focus now (especially in the time before March 11) on what exactly it is that FG/Labour, in particular, have to offer the electorate that could improve on Fianna Fail’s plan for recovery. The answer in my opinion, to put it bluntly, is sweet fanny adams when all’s said and done and the fancy empty rhetoric melts, thaws and resolves itself into a foggy dew.

    • John says:

      Reaction to Brian Cowens resignation . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBXJprXxAOw

    • I found this prayer in the current issue of The Furrow and it needs to be said each day for Ireland in the current turmoil . The Prayer is by John Carroll, Barntown, Co Wexford

      Father, continue to make your presence felt among us at this moment in our history.
      Be with those who are charged with discerning the way forward for our nation and our people.
      Remind us of the many talents that continue to be found in the citizens and resources of our country.
      Make every person mindful for the need of solidarity with each other but especially for the needy.
      Steady our nerves in these days that the shortcomings of our leaders may not allow us to panic or live in fear.
      May every citizen realise afresh their responsibility to make a difference in family, parish, school and state.
      Reawaken in us once more a belief in ourselves mixed with patriotism to become again the people you have called us to be.

      Fr. Tom Grufferty
      St. Joseph’s
      023 92484520

    • Jonanthon says:

      More interesting developments since your blog over this weekend, but ones that are hardly surprising. One concern I have is the speculation over election day being brought forward. And it should be a concern for the electorate as FF and Greens are now in complete meltdown in such a way that can only lead to other parties to be scrambling for marbles themselves (not to mention FF and Greens). I personally would think that now a date had been set it should be stuck to, because worse is yet to come with FF and Greens and all the rest and nobody is taking having a general election seriously. Personally I would welcome the time between now and March to actually learn about the policies that each has to offer, to tune into the [undoubtedly biased] debates on many platforms and take time to make the decision. I would not wish to be sent to vote without a clear idea of who to vote for or what I am voting for or to stupidly make a mistake of electing incompetent idiots that use the recent events of this week (and no doubt, the next few weeks) to their advantage.


      don’t rush an election without the electorate being properly informed due to panic caused by a few scrambled marbles to end up with no clue who to vote for and electing useless tools via a frenzy of panic driven hysteria during a political meltdown.

    • Pope Eport says:

      If FG and Labour support the abusive and deflationary measures in the Finance Bill they should vote for it after the election and take the responsibility for its effects.

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