Gilmore and Rabbitte built their careers on cynicism
Not so with Labour. Eamon Gilmore said absolutely explicitly Fine Gael’s insistence on cutting child benefit would have to change, thereby acknowledging the necessity of other compromises in a coalition arrangement but promising that on child benefit it would be Fine Gael that would have to yield. He broke that promise and Pat Rabbitte wriggled to justify it. The breach and the wriggle, certainly along with the bluster about “either it’s Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way”, did more than the media has done cumulatively to denigrate politics.
Pat Rabbitte, in his ministerial office, has been such a disappointment. Nothing at all done about the accumulation of vast media power by a person against whom very serious findings have been made by a tribunal, Denis O’Brien. The mess made by Pat Rabbitte about the inquiry into RTÉ’s libel of the missionary priest Kevin Reynolds. The swaggering initial talk about confronting the RTÉ board and then the abject back-off. And the relentless pirouetting.
But much more than that. There is hardly anything for which Labour stands, or rather stood, that it has not dishonoured in government in the last 22 months. And, in concert with Fine Gael, it has divested parliamentary democracy of whatever vestiges of substance that had survived previous cynical administrations.
We were promised a “new politics” with more accountability that would make parliament more relevant. But the very agents that supposedly are to enforce accountability on government, Oireachtas committees, have been made entirely subservient to government, thereby subverting that accountability.
For instance, it is the heads of the Government who decide who serves on Oireachtas committees, who the chairpersons are, what the terms of reference of inquiries are and what inquiries are permissible.
Government TDs who propose to vote in support of the policies that got them elected but which the Government now wants to dishonour are threatened with career immolation should they fail to have the “courage” to do as they are told.
The old cliche about all political careers ending in failure hardly captures what Pat Rabbitte and Eamon Gilmore have achieved. A lot of cynicism engendered, a lot more to do.