2 July 2010
Winds of change or same old (Fine) Gael? Labour poll hype and Fine Gael ‘heave’ gloss over policy problems
BY MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA
AS the Dáil approaches its summer recess there has been much talk about seismic change in Irish politics. But what has really changed?
A dire Fianna Fáil Government clings to office, propped up by a small party of opportunists (PDs/Greens, ‘Independents’ - tick as appropriate). Fine Gael has one of its periodic fits of the jitters and shoots itself in both feet, leaving Fianna Fáil laughing. And the Labour Party, darlings of the media and with inflated egos from the latest opinion poll, presents Eamon Gilmore as the next Taoiseach.
We have been here before.
Fianna Fáil governments have been replaced by Fine Gael/Labour coalitions. Labour has experienced occasional surges in support, mainly because its leader has scored more hits against Fianna Fáil than the Fine Gael leader. Granted, the dramatic fall in support for Fianna Fáil is unprecedented, as are the poll ratings for Labour. Both these trends are likely to be strongly reflected in the next general election but to what extent is anyone’s guess. Certainly, predictions of a Labour landslide, leading to Gilmore as Taoiseach, are extremely premature.
One newspaper referred to a forthcoming ‘Gilmore Gale’ blowing Labour TDs into the Dáil – in imitation of the ‘Spring Tide’ of 1992 when Labour won 33 seats. Of course, what it should be called is Gilmore/Fine Gael because that’s the now almost inevitable destination for the Labour Party. Gilmore confirmed this in media interviews on the weekend of June 19th/20th, describing Fine Gael and Labour as “competing but compatible”.
The hype about Labour’s poll support was echoed in the media’s cheering on of Richard Bruton. He and his cohorts in the ‘heave’ against Enda Kenny were swept along on a media wave, believing that reports of their intellectual superiority over the mainly rural Fine Gael backbenchers would give Bruton the leadership, resume Fine Gael’s stalled rise in the polls and win them the general election. Choice Cabinet positions for ‘boy wonders’ Brian Hayes and Leo Varadkar would be sure to follow. It all went pear-shaped (or in this case the shape of a Mayo spud) and the whole debacle served only to expose Bruton’s lack of political skill.
In both the Labour poll hype and the Fine Gael ‘heave’ one little detail was ignored – policy.
“Fine Gael policy, such as it is, would result in cuts in much the same way as the present Fianna Fáil/Green government, including the axing of thousands of public service workers’ jobs. The people deserve to know what the policy platform of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition would be,” commented Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, responding to Gilmore’s confirmation of his engagement to Enda Kenny.
“We need a decisive move away from the politics of both conservative parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. With the Labour Party clearly set on a path of rescuing Fine Gael yet again, Sinn Féin remains focused on working for real change in Irish politics,” said Ó Caoláin.
The Fine Gael faction fight had distracted attention from the Dáil debate on the motion of confidence in the Fianna Fáil/Green Government. In that debate, only Sinn Féin pointed to the fundamentally flawed policies of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, as well as the policy gaps behind the Labour hype.
While the Labour hype and Fine Gael heave was going on, the jobs crisis worsened. Latest figures saw the rate of unemployment in the 26 Counties leap to 12.9%.
Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD commented:
“The increase of 7,600 people in unemployment since the fourth quarter of 2009 is a harrowing account of how Government preoccupation with the banking sector and recapitalising zombie banks is stunting Ireland’s economic growth.”
Labour, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael all share an unquestioning loyalty to the EU. The result of such an attitude was brought home to 112 workers in printing firm Futureprint in Baldoyle which closed down on June 16th.
This news came as students were sitting their Leaving and Junior Cert exams. The State Examination Commission awarded the contract for the printing of the over 30 million Leaving and Junior Cert exam papers to two firms in Britain. The Government claims the contract had to go out to tender under EU rules. But it could have been broken up into smaller contracts to keep the business in Ireland.
Yet again the Government failed to protect Irish jobs with its cap-in-hand attitude to Brussels, an attitude fully shared by the so-called alternative government of Fine Gael and Labour.
How many of the students sitting their Leaving Cert this year will have to emigrate?
We have definitely been here before.