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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 31, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    A Christian among the Lions: Cannon Under Heavy Fire

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Hardly know Ciarán Cannon. He is a junior minister – I looked it up: “Training and Skills”. He was briefly leader of the Progressive Democrats (remember them?) before they wound up and now he’s in Fine Gael.

    Anyway, Minister of State Cannon was on RTE’s “Frontline” last night. He was on his own (where was the Cabinet?)  There was nobody else who shared his perspective. The audience was mainly composed of public sector workers, most of whom lambasted him and his government over the effects of the early retirement scheme.

    No doubt these effects are serious enough. No one would wish to underplay them. There is a counter-argument that, to coin a phrase, “we are where we are” and the public finances urgently need to be put in order.

    Cannon got it hot and heavy from the most of those who spoke in the audience. It was like watching a kid in the schoolyard with a crowd ganging-up on him.

    Then Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald had a go from the panel. Mary Lou has come on a lot and is now one of the more effective opposion speakers in the Dail. Sinn Fein are having a ball with the cuts and the austerity. Now and then, someone in government timidly and in a quavering voice points to similar exercises being carried out in the North where SF are in government, but by and large the ”Shinners” have free rein and they are making the most of  it. Shades of the current government parties when they were in opposition!

    At any rate, it eventually came to Cannon’s time to speak on the programme. Where others would have been seriously rattled, he kept his cool. He answered in clinical, logical terms. Then there was another round of lambasting. As individuals, the speakers were rational and composed, for the most part: it was the cumulative effect that was disturbing. But the junior minister still didn’t get rattled under all the Cannonfire.

    Can’t say I share Cannon’s perspective or outlook and I don’t really see the need for so many junior ministers, but you have to hand it to the guy. He was a Christian among the lions (maybe that should be the other way around) and he kept his version of the  faith.

    • arbera says:

      Deaglán…..he was rightly caught out a number of times. It is becoming just so obvious there is no coherent planning by this coalition….it seems they make decisions and reverse them just as quickly as public opinion demands — no substance, it’s all about optics and hanging on to those fat salaries as long as possible.
      But what a great programme last night on TV3 (Tonight with VinB)…………..That Karen Devine is BRILLIANT………so knowledgeable……..so erudite……..so savvy……strong character………make a great Taoiseach…..That is the kind of leadership this country needs………..and the German girl, Ursula Tipp was also very impressive. Great back-and-forth between Vincent & Dan O’B……….yeah, great tv when Vincent is at his best………..

    • RPE McCarthy says:


      I agree that he was in a hostile environment and managed it quite well however his stock answer was patently lacking in nuance. There are clear exceptions where a number of people are stepping down early because they can, well before their time.

      A sledgehammer rather than scalpel was used. No business would take this approach.

      Padraig McLochlainn was on hammering out the SF line on Newstalk and despite being asked 3 times where he would source the money to pay our obligations if we defaulted on payments now he ignored the question completely.

      SF won’t get away with this for long. They will flatline because when push comes to shove, people will reject pure populism.

      They are the snake in the garden of Eden. The apple is eaten, we cannot undo the eating and they are pretending that there is a parallel universe we can move to where you can have rights without responsibilities.

      We all find the consequences of the bailout and Lenihan’s gamble on the guarantee deeply unpalatable but that is only one side of the equation.
      SF’s tactics ignore the structural deficit between income and expenditure on public sector services, pensions and salaries. SF is implementing policies in government in NI to address their structural deficit as their block grant was cut. The government in Ireland is doing the same.

      Ultimately, when somebody tells me why I should be paying a Clerical Officer 48k for work that in the private section commands 24-28k, maybe, maybe I will be able to have a reasonable, balanced conversation with them. Experience is an important component of pay but somebody entering as a clerical officer should not be able to stay in the same job and move up a scale to 40 or 45k for essentially the same amount of responsibility.

      That is lunacy.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Of course he was at ease – he’s a PD and now he’s on the right of Fine Gael and is perfectly comfortable depending the transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to private financial services corporate interests.

      But the fact that Sinn Fein have nothing to offer doesn’t lessen the failings of this government to even have the intellectual curiosity or honesty to admit the position we are in now is totally unsustainable.

      I’m pretty sure Enda Kenny and others in Fine Gael are under no illusions that they didn’t ‘win’ the election so much as Fianna Fáil had run the country so badly it was simply unconscionable that they would be voted in again and the default option was Fine Gael so people took a leap of faith and beleived Kenny when he said he would be different but he isn’t any different.

      The cronyism is as bad as it ever was – it’s embarrassing.

      But even worse is the dishonesty of the debate that somehow all we need to do is balance the budget and we’ll be fine when we clearly won’t because if we do balance the budget that’s only the start of the pain as then we have to start actually paying back the debts that were transferred to the taxpayer and even at the height of the boom the sums involved would have been unaffordable.

      Where’s the vision?
      Where’s the big idea?
      Where’s the new ways of thinking?
      Where oh where is the reform with crony appointments on an obscene salary.

      Ciaran Cannon had nothing to say, he had no opinion. he had no solutons; he offered nothing and of course in true Irish style the fact he didn’t rock the boat will be enough to make sure he goes far under the grey guard now in charge but the glimmer of hope is that there seems to be a profound difference in mentality between the old timers who are there to fill time before they are put out to graze and the ‘younger’ generation who’ve never held office before and want to change things. Kenny & Noonan and O’Reilly etc don’t want to change anything but they do want to enjoy a few years luxuriating in office.

      The skills Kenny used to get FG where it is now are not the skills needed for someone actually in office.

      Hundreds of billions of debt liabilities were transferred from the private sector onto taxpayers in Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain and no one has been able to explain why and in particularly so in light of the fact we know advice not to transfer such debts was given.

    • RPE McCarthy says:

      The banking disaster is one that we are not entirely to blame for (though many among us do bear a responsibility for it along with those people that provided wholesale finance loans to Ireland). We are being screwed – somewhat unfairly – on this count.

      The structural deficit is one that Fianna Fáil and the PDs / Indies are to blame for. This was a wholly Irish created issue. The reason France and Germany can afford to screw us for bridging finance is primarily because of our national insolvency which is due to a combination of the banking debt we guaranteed and the structural deficit.

      I understand what you are saying about cronyism and setting out a vision for the country. The first one (cronyism) could and should be addressed as a matter of policy with the stroke of a pen.

      The second one is in large part linked to the revenue and liability situation the government inherited. We, as a nation, are caught in a debt trap.

      While we received a bailout, we are in a golden straight jacket and need to be able to free some liquidity to be able to start prioritising programmes that can help to generate employment and options for people.

      I personally, would be interested in something drastic on the cottage industry side of things, like a two year tax amnesty on rates and corporate profits to get going (a little like Balcerowicz in Poland in 1989).

      When you are in hock to your lenders, it is a little hard to convince people that the “vision thing” is worth talking about. As John Major once put it, “fine words butter no parsnips”.

      The banking debt is a disgrace but it needs to be thought of and considered completely separately from the ruinous structural deficit that arose from public sector benchmarking (upward only), expansion of public sector numbers and massive increases in welfare and pension entitlements.

      That is why we are going through what we are going through. The banking disaster exacerbates greatly an issue we would have to face nonetheless and which would on its own cause us to be in breach of the growth and stability act.

      If anything, this makes SF’s position even more discreditable.

    • part time punk says:

      @ RPE, you make some valid points but can we have a little accuracy in your reporting on salary please.
      Max salary for a clerical officer is just over €38 k at the top of the higher scale for post 95 recruits paying full PRSI. Some way off the figures you were quoting. I do think Patrick Honohan’s comments about reducing pay as opposed to numbers might be a better way to approach things in general .Although it’s easy for him to say that when his salary is over €275 k, equialent to more than 7 of our highest paid Clerical Officers.

    • barb.ie says:

      re the topic………I think all the FGers have gone through a recent vigorous training/hypnosis by select PR communications experts to remain stoically calm under pressure especially on tv current affairs programmes……….Lucinda Creighton is already an expert………not even VinB could get her to lose her cool……wonder if Keith Barry is on the job..……boring, at any rate..

      Off topic………just wondering was their ever a day in the history of the Irish Times where there wasn’t a correction/clarification……….

    • arb.ie says:

      @ 6……..meself…………a correction…………there there there there there there there……………..

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