LABOUR’S response to Simon Coveney’s proposal for a coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was one more example of the wretchedness of Irish politics
The party nearly bit off the man’s head for having the brazenness to float such an idea, even though Coveney declared he had no ‘ideological’ objections to sharing government with the F&Fers.
Labour is a so-called socialist party that possesses no ‘ideology’ whatsoever, like Fine Gael. Yet, one of its gurus, Kathleen Lynch, who recently exhibited amazing skill dodging responsibility for the Áras Attracta nursing home scandal, tore the proverbial strips off Coveney, her long time cabinet colleague. Coveney, she snarled, was ‘disloyal’ and her party was sick and tired of ‘cleaning up Fine Gael’s messes’.
There was a reason for her discomfort. Coveney’s contemptuous dismissal of Labour as a partner in any future government struck terror into the ranks of the Cloth Cap Brigade. So its members queued up to denounce him with sneering comments such as ‘dirtying his bib internally’ and that he should have his head examined. For cattiness, it bate Banagher, raising the question as to why we, the electorate, should have to endure venomous squabbling in a government that puts self-preservation above everything else?
FG colleague, Jerry Buttimer, also got all hot and sweaty, insisting he personally wouldn’t let Fianna Fáil back in government ‘in any shape or form’ – which of course was taken with a grain of salt, considering that Buttimer shares Coveney’s constituency, and that the likelihood of his re-election is similar to a snowball’s chance in hell. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, a predatory aspirant to Taoiseach Kenny’s job, took a cautious and unconvincing one-liner approach, namely that it was ‘not in the party’s interest to rehabilitate Fianna Fáil’.
But the point is that Coveney was correct: coalition makes sense. There is no difference worth talking about between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, even if late night bores in Dinty’s might fondly recall how the F&Fer ‘ideology’ once included ideals such as ending partition, economic sovereignty, reviving the Irish language and … er … that’s it.
‘Ideology’ generally means having a set of political beliefs on which to base a party’s actions for improving society. But because neither FG, FF or Labour can boast of any such body of ideas, other than having a woolly enthusiasm for the EU, liberal private enterprise, and of dutifully complying with the commands, orders and instructions of their masters in Brussels, it seems a bit rich of Coveney to suggest ‘ideologies’ shape their activities.
Nevertheless, he’s right when he says it’s impossible to distinguish between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (he might also have included Labour). What unites them is obedience to their European masters and the fact that both sing from the same EU handbook. For instance, the EU ordered water taxes and property taxes to be introduced and our Establishment politicos jumped. They support water charges (as they did the property tax), despite the pleas of thousands of ordinary citizens who came onto the streets to protest at the blatant rip-offs.
Threat to Labour
And as for loyalty to fundamental values that were engendered in the Civil War, forget it. All that stuff is long gone! Indeed, the flak that hit Coveney in the wake of his comments was nothing more than an exercise in rubbishing the possibility that he might be on the ball.
In the meantime Kenny, who is staying remarkably mum on the coalition topic, has declared his strategic objective to be a second term of office with Labour. Or so he says. How he’ll achieve the goal is a bit of a mystery, as Labour faces extinction in the next general election, so reviled is it in the public mind.
Not that Fianna Fáil has warmed to the coalition idea. Mickey ruled out any pact with the Blueshirts while his official spokesperson warned that Fine Gael was ‘too right wing’ for Fianna Fáil! Cripes! Too right wing – from a party that in its heydey would have embarrassed Imelda Marcos for its deplorable profligacy, depravity and jobbery!
Interestingly, a whiff of political honesty came from Michael McGrath, Mickey’s constituency rival. He believes the F&Fers will not be fit for government until 2020, and he argues that it will take at least that length of time for the electorate to forgive his party.
Presumably McGrath thinks that Mickey Martin, who was part and parcel of the disreputable old regime, by then will have shuffled off the stage and the party’s notoriety for gombeenism, doublespeak and trickery will have been forgotten.
Should we take seriously Coveney’s coalition idea? Of course! The howls of sham criticism from elements within Labour and Fine Gael were nothing but a smokescreen for something that is seriously on the cards. The facts are as follows: Fine Gael will never win a clear majority.
It will never go into coalition with Sinn Féin (indeed SF strategists told this scribe that Republicans would be pleased to see a real left-right division emerge, as it would define Sinn Fein as a serious opposition party, ultimately deserving of government.)
With poll ratings for Fianna Fáil showing no improvement, the most the party can expect is a subservient position in a Fine Gael dominated coalition government. Could Mickey stomach that? Perhaps not, but his successor (McGrath?) could and so could many other ambitious FF geezers.
Indeed, by raising the issue, Coveney has done his party (and, ironically, Fianna Fáil) some service!
Guzzling huge amounts
The Irish nation was pleased that our public representatives didn’t let us down during the forty hours debate on the Water Services Bill, despite the fact that the eminent legislators broke all records for guzzling huge amounts of the demon dhrink!
On this occasion they swallowed 301 pints of Guinness and 139 pints of Heineken. They coughed up €7,462 for their cut-price booze and, on the following night, just before the Christmas break, they forked out another €7,055 on more gargle.
But with their faces lit up like a Christmas tree and drinking like a suction hose, there was no repeat of last year’s hilarious lapgate incident when a jolly Fine Gael deputy dragged a female party colleague onto his lap. On this occasion, the lads kept their decorum and adhered to the conventions of polite behaviour. Well done!
Oh, and no one will find any mention in the Dáil record that someone actually said: ‘I’m not as think as you drunk I am’!
Lap dancing VAT
Here’s a good one: Lap dancing clubs benefit from the reduced 9% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector. Nobody knows how the sex clubs managed to secure the favourable rate but, it seems, it’s all due to a Fine Gael interpretation of what constitutes ‘hospitality’ – no codding!