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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Will Fine Gael’s Leo get the message in time?

I believe that FG and Labour will eventually form a government after the next government. That will happen because the people have grown tired of the present government. I’m sure that no matter how much worse it gets Fianna Fail’s credibility has been shot to bits while the greens are facing oblivion. Someone recently compared the greens agonising on NAMA and government to a man on death row attempting one more 11th hour appeal to postpone the inevitable. There’s a strong element of this to the feeling out there on the ground.
All of which makes Fine Gael’s response to Labour this week in the light of John O’Donoghue’s resignation somewhat difficult to understand. The days when Alan Dukes used to sneer at Labour “when you’re bought you should stay bought” are now a dim and distant memory. Many in Fine Gael have learnt the lessons although no one seems to have passed on the word yet to Leo Varadkar who spent much of his time on Vincent Brown attacking the Labour Party. One person who understood very well that the greater good was served by taking the longer view was John Bruton.

Bruton had spent much of his political career in regular conflict with Labour. There was the collapse of the first Fitzgerald government to the row with Frank Cluskey over Dublin Gas, the collapse of the second Fitzgerald government and the daddy of them all the showdown at the Shelbourne Hotel when Dick Spring and himself fell out over the formation of a government in 1992. Despite it all and even stronger resistance to the then Democratic Left, Bruton overcame all of this to form the Rainbow government in 1994. I think that the Rainbow was the best administration we had. Divorce was legalised, record number of jobs were created, a successful EU presidency, the spadework done for the euro and when the left office they left their successors a current budget surplus. This administration put in place the conditions for the growth in the economy. Under pinning this administration was a strong social democratic ethos that a conservative like Bruton had no problem living with. I admire Bruton for what he did in the interest of the state.

Leo Varadkar should take a spin out the N3 from Blanchardstown the next time that Ambassador Bruton is home and pick his brains. Leo is some one who has strong traditional views despite his relative youth. Leo’s call to pay unemployed emigrants to return home pushed the right buttons with those in Fine Gael who’ve watched helplessly as the Just Society supporters ran the party for a generation. Leo is opposed to benchmarking, increased public services, quango’s and the national pay agreements. But on the plus side he has a good sense of humour as he recently kindly offered his apartment to NAMA.
This may all be good copy for Leo. But other implications will flow from baiting the Labour Party, public service workers and the unions. Tension will build if this continues. It will contribute to distrust. The less likely that it is that we’ll have an election, the more likely it is that the tension will continue. I haven’t personally come across the tension at a local level.
Loe has criticised Eamon Gilmore’s leadership in the light of the Ceann Comhairle’s resignation suggesting that he should tell ICTU to agree cut wages and jobs but surely Enda Kenny is open to criticism too for his indulgence of Varadkar’s love of his opwn voice.
If Enda Kenny is the strong leader that the country needs, he would surely tell Leo to take a long deep breath when he next sees a microphone and remind him that if Leo ever wants to hold ministerial office he should predicate any remarks he makes on the reality that the voters who he needs to realise this ambition may well reward him are not his own but Labours.

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