The new Cabinet
Well Enda Kenny has just marched in with his new Cabinet. It is: Eamon Gilmore; Ruairi Quinn, Michael Noonan, Brendan Howlin, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Rabbitte, Phil Hogan, Alan Shatter, Simon Coveney, James Reilly, Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald and Paul Kehoe, who I presume is chief whip.
And the first thing that strikes me is that the new Cabinet will be as familiar to those of us who work in political reporting as the outgoing Government.
My own view: Fine Gael and Labour portrayed the election as a democratic revolution. It was no such thing. It was revolving democracy, albeit a dramatic demonstration of it.
It’s good to see Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney there. Labour and Fine Gael voting demographic was young, urban and female. That constituency had to be recognised.
It was clear that the people voted for a radical change of personnel rather than a radical change of politics. Sure, there will be differences between the new Government and the old. But the differences will be nuanced. It’s continuity Government. It’s not a schism.
The main difference will be that a tired and fatigued adminstration has gone and has been replaced by a new team, that has not lost credibility, that has lots of energy, that has some youth, and that has some good new ideas (but again of a subtle rather than dramatic nature).
In a way, it’s a bit like the Irish rugby team used to be selected. You had the Probables play against the Possibles, with the former being the guys who were – yes – the probables for donning the green jersies at Lansdowne.
Well, this time round, the Possibles (almost as familiar, knocking around for years) have prevailed.
A couple of other trends that are obvious today:
If you look at the alignment, there has not been a huge shift to the left, as has been claimed. If you tot up all the left-wing seats (Labour, Sinn Fein, ULA and independents, you come up to 62 or 63). That’s still well over 100 centrist or right of centre TDS in the chamber of 166.
The tectonic shift has been the collapse of Fianna Fail. And I’d warrant that some of those seats are the symptom of people voting against Fianna Fail rather than voting in the first instance for the particular candidate. All parties have, to use Brian Hayes nice little description (first used in this blog by the way), have feasted on the carcass of Fianna Fail.
We have seen similar shifts to the left in the early 1980s and in the early 1980s – essentially at times of great upheaval and uncertainty. But all were conditional shifts – nor permanent.
It was clear from speeches from the independent benches that the left-wing TDs will attack Labour at every hand’s turn. Micheal Martin also spoke about constructive opposition. But his speech also included a couple of barbs. Which suggests that there won’t be too much difference between constructive, and destructive, opposition as far as Martin and Fianna Fail are concerned.
The atmosphere around Leinster House today has been electric. It is a formal day with a lot of due ceremony. There was a genuine sense of celebration among the huge hordes of Fine Gael supporters and the Mayo contingent. The election of a new Taoiseach and the ‘gairm’ of a new Dail is always a hugely important day for democracy.
It was truly historic. The first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be elected on the opening day of a new Dail session in almost three decades. The sense of something new.
Democratic Revolution. Well, not quite? But massive change, yes.