It was a most memorable put down. Denis Healy’s verdict on a joust with Thatcher’ Chancellor of the Exchequer came back into my mind when I heard that Fianna Fail backbenchers were reportedly revolting against any deal between the government and the unions to resolve the public service pay dispute.
If you believe the media the usually anonymous backbenchers who’re lucky enough to be household names in their own households have suddenly evolved a spine and are opposed to any suggestion other than pay cuts for reducing the public service pay. It just so happens that I’m reading Charlie Bird’s autobiography at the moment. He has written a chapter on the plinth at Leinster House and those particularly those who inhabit it for the purpose of sending a message to their constituency. It would be wrong to think of these backbenchers in the true style of a political maverick. It’s quite the opposite. The backbenchers were sent out by the Fianna Fail press office to deliberately undermine ICTU. They’re more Sepp Blather than same bladder. Their lines were written for them and the media notified of the “dissent”. In short the backbenchers were willing tools in the deliberate collapse of partnership engineered by Brian Cowen.
A clue to the reality was the attack on the process by John Gormley. It was time to be tough and reach the €4B target for 2010. It’s just a year since Ciaran Cuffe threw himself at the mercy of Ireland’s pensioners to hoots of derision. It seems that the greens have moved on from connecting with real fears that exist in the community and are now lining up alongside the bankers, developers, Fianna Fail and IBEC. Their fears are more pressing.
I don’t go with the media line that Cowen is weak and not in control. Many of the backbenchers who’re concerned at the crisis happily hid from their constituents when banks were bailed out through NAMA, Christmas bonus axed or public servants went on strike. Its easy to dismiss the backbenchers as lumpen gombeen men who hold the family seat but in fact if you look particularly at the 2007 intake you’ll see that their background is significantly different to the traditional view of a FF backbencher who’s got a GAA background, a farm and is middle aged. Many of the new FF backbenchers are from middle class professions; solicitors, accountants, company directors etc. It reminds me of the 1977 intake of FF that gave us Charlie McCreevy, Mary Harney, Bertie etc.
There is an ideological agenda at play taking advantage of the economic slump trying to recast Ireland amidst this crisis. No other EU country is going through what is happening in Ireland now and many ordinary people are fearful. Fear is thriving in Ireland, fear of unemployment, illness, aging, eviction, and emigration. FF & the Greens will lead us to a place where there is a price on everything and if you have the money you can have a service and if you don’t then tough luck. Reykjavik on the Liffey was the snide cut at our economy in 2008. In the future it may be California in the Atlantic and mark my words, there’ll be an enormous social price to be paid and very little sunshine to show for it.