Fionnuala must take some of the credit for Enda’s rise
RATINGS AGENCIES provided continual commentary of downgrades on our economic status. A credit upgrade has been earned by Enda Kenny. Since January 2001, when he unsuccessfully challenged for Fine Gael leadership, he has incrementally improved. Having shared a Dáil office with him, as government backbenchers, in the early 1980s, his pleasant demeanour characterised an almost carefree attitude, lacking ambition. His transformation is complete as Taoiseach.
This late maturing development must be attributed to influences of his wife Fionnuala. Her background as a press officer for Charlie Haughey and Fianna Fáil is well known. I can admit to being in Donoghue’s pub the first night they went together. Her political instincts, intuition and judgement have guided Enda’s ascent to the summit of government. He has visibly attained self assurance and inner confidence over recent months. Nothing succeeds like success. FG’s tally of 76 seats shatters Garret Fitzgerald’s previous record of 70. Along with former colleagues of Kenny, I have had to revise upwards my assessment of his abilities.
The country is in crisis. The cabinet will inevitably become besieged and beset with accusations of U-turns. Kenny’s temperament will be crucial to maintaining a steady course towards recovery. His style of chairmanship? Meetings do not run on endlessly. Decisions are reached and recorded. He should be under no illusion about what lies ahead. Brian Cowen’s final caveat as Taoiseach, described the ebb and flow of media and public opinion. Sunny Clara celebrations on his victorious constituency return in 2008 are a distant memory. Today a hero, tomorrow humiliation.
Eamon Gilmore is in the crosshairs of media focus, having had a difficult campaign. “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way” was a gaffe, not repeatable as Minister for Foreign Affairs. The proposition ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ bombed, ending up imploring voters to be Tánaiste. Rumours reverberate about his handling of Labour cabinet appointments. Unverifiable speculation includes strops by Ruairi Quinn (at being excluded), Joan Burton (for failing to get Finance) and Willie Penrose (for only being offered a Super Junior Ministry). Any of these undermine the Tánaiste’s authority. His decision to opt for external safety in Iveagh House indicates dubious courage.
An innovative approach has been taken to the restructuring of departments. Adding Trade to our diplomatic corps should give a commercial focus to consular services. Combining Ministries of Justice and Defence makes sense – bringing all security forces together and making the army more relevant. Tourism and Transport should always have co-existed.
As an island nation, access by air or sea transport is a basic prerequisite to attaining visitor targets. A separate Department of Public Service Reform was heralded in opposition. However, splitting of Finance functions between tax and expenditure could paralyse. There is only one CFO in a corporate entity. Brendan Howlin’s and Labour’s appetite for cost reduction will be the single most defining feature of success or otherwise of this administration.
Lack of gender or geographical balance was partially rectified in the appointment of 15 Junior Ministers, despite promises of only 12 appointees at lower rank. Meanwhile spare a thought for FG and Labour backbenchers who are TDs for more than twenty years. After 14 barren years in Opposition, many brought in a running mate on polling day. All harboured private hopes of preferment. Their disappointment is profound and bitter. This is the Government’s Achilles heel. Two previous governments with landslide majorities, Jack Lynch in 1977 and Albert Reynolds’ FF/Lab 1992, imploded. Both leaders were vanquished in less than three years. Hell hath no fury like a jilted backbencher. Kenny and Gilmore must watch their backs.
IRISH IDENTITY CRISIS
St. Patrick’s Day requires reflection on the modern definition of Irishness in 2011. Former pillars of society, Catholic Church and Fianna and streets are full of different languages. Half of new jobs created in software corporate giants are held by foreigners. These families aspire to be and are Irish.
The general election and politics are rightly consumed with economics. The remaining electoral battle later this year is the Presidency. This post is a non-executive leadership role – personality rather than power. The person and strategy that succeeds needs to write a narrative that encapsulates the best of our past and defines our future – an all encompassing and embracing inclusive credo. Enda Kenny’s script writers have tried to sieze a sense of Irishness. Paddywhackery and shamrockery is quaint but redundant. Creative leadership will fill that void.
Kenny’s temperament will be crucial to maintaining a steady course to recovery
Fáil have been pushed to the margins. Irish culture of language, Gaelic games and literature don’t represent resonances of a new generation. Justin Bieber, Manchester United and Coronation Street have a greater affinity with people than Céili dancing, Shamrock Rovers and Ros na Rún (where they can’t kill off characters because of lack of fluent gaelgóir actors).
Patrick Street, Cork and Dundrum shopping centre are mirror images of the high street in Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast or Glasgow. Retail globalisation and branding feed modern consumerism. We need a national conversation about our Irish identity crisis. Pace of social attitudinal changes is driven by technology. Facebook, Twitter and text language are replacing weekly chats outside church gates or in the pub. Old certainties, based on post colonial prejudices, are fading. We believed materialism could supplant these traditions.
A bigger conservatory, larger car, more exotic holidays and beauty treatments were driving forces of desire. Death of the Celtic Tiger has evaporated these mercenary dreams. The election marks the end of the anger phase. A sense of bereavement and loss will ensue. What will follow? BBC/RTE’s ‘Story of Ireland’, with Fergal Keane, chronicles our history of being invaded. Early missionaries, Normans, Vikings, feudal chieftains and the British have all left indelible marks on Irish DNA. Our current population comprises waves of recent settled immigrants. Gymnasiums, restaurants
Here at last, four days of the most awesome horseracing festival. A betting bonanza of £500ml. Racing legends writing new chapters of equine history. Key ingredient to tipping winners? Past form in the Cotswolds. The track with undulations, constant left turns and steep uphill finish is unique. Not all horses produce their best here, rely on proven course winners.
My ‘Magnificent Seven’: Tuesday: Cue Card @ 9/4, Supreme Novices Hurdle – winner of Champion Bumper, top rated. Quevega @ 1/1, David Nicholson Mares Hurdle – easy winner of this race past two years.
Wednesday: Time For Rupert @ 9/4, RSA Novices’ Chase – high class staying hurdler, proving more effective over larger obstacles. Titan de Sarti @ 8/1, Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle – dark horse to draw for Nicky Henderson.
Thursday: Big Bucks @ 11/8, World Hurdle – unbeaten in ten hurdle races, in line for hattrick, bombproof banker of the week.
Friday: Imperial Commander @ 7/2, Gold Cup – locally trained, great value to repeat last year’s triumph. Baby Run @ 3/1, Foxhunter’s Chase – retains all his old ability, can complete encore.
Cheltenham’s thrills, spills, passion and excitement must be savoured – even if you have to pull a sickie. As Dustin says, ‘Get in there you good thing’
St. Patrick’s Day requires reflection on the modern definition of Irishness in 2011.
Lack of gender or geographical balance was partially rectified in the appointment of 15 Junior Ministers, despite promises of only 12 appointees at lower rank.