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Vincent Browne: Enda's latest move shows a cruelty of the heart and mind

The Taoiseach’s treatment of his once-close colleague James Reilly is telling – and could signal the beginning of the end, writes Vincent Browne for TheJournal.ie.

Vincent Browne

Enda’s latest manoeuvrings against his one-time confidante (but now unpopular former minister) James Reilly show a cruelty in the heart and mind of the Taoiseach – but that might be the little thing that finally catches him out, writes Vincent Browne. 

THERE ARE MORE serious injustices in Ireland than Enda Kenny’s treatment of his former close colleague James Reilly.

There is the disgrace of the conditions in which 5,000+ asylum seekers continue to live in what we call “direct provision” – the hapless Frances Fitzgerald promised at least a year ago to address this issue but, as is now her wont, she has done damn all.

There is the absence of courage and commitment to deal with the housing crisis – the recent “initiative” of Simon Coveney is even more pathetic than previous “initiatives” on that front.

There is the deepening inequality in our society resulting in inequalities in longevity – more than 5,000 people die prematurely every year here because of inequality. Then there is the facilitation of mayhem and slaughter in the Middle East by making Shannon available to the engine of death.

And much more.

But there is an insidiousness about what Enda Kenny has done to James Reilly that gives us an insight into the calibre of the man we have as Taoiseach, an insight into the impulse that drives at least some of the decisions that form public policy.

Yes, Enda Kenny appointed James Reilly to the Seanad as one of his 11 appointees, or is it eight appointees since Micheál Martin was afforded the privilege of appointing three of these “Taoiseach’s nominees” in a deal that Enda Kenny had reason to keep secret from his colleagues?

But he allowed days to go by, leaving James Reilly and many others with the impression that the former Children’s Minister would be appointed Fine Gael leader in the Seanad.

James Reilly had no certain expectation of getting the position but once the rumour mill got going, it was presumed the story originated with Enda Kenny. It was then beholden on him to inform his former close colleague that the rumours were false and that Jerry
Buttimer was to get the job. James Reilly found out he was not to be leader just over an hour before the Seanad reconvened.

And then, to make matters even more, the Taoiseach announced via the collective of the political correspondents that James Reilly was no longer deputy leader of Fine Gael, again inflicting humiliation.

20/11/2014 Taoiseach Enda Kenny(right) and Ministe

In the greater order of things, this matters little but it shows a cruelty in the heart and mind of Enda Kenny and explains why he – aided and abetted by Joan Burton, Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Howlin, Pat Rabbitte and the others who proclaim ‘Labour values’ (what are they?) - chose to inflict such cruelty on the most vulnerable in our society in
fixing the fiscal deficit.

But there is a further significance to this, relevant to Enda Kenny, even if it matters not at all to the rest of society: his goose is cooked (by the way, that phrase was first coined at the burning at the stake at the behest of the Catholic Church of the Christian reformer, John Hus, who preceded Martin Luther – Hus was pronounced as ‘goose’, and
the ‘cooked’ bit had to do with how he died).

While Enda Kenny is unlikely to be burned at the stake or otherwise, the game is probably over for him as many in Fine Gael are infuriated by his treatment of James Reilly and many want rid of him anyway ASAP.

The reason for this haste is simply because Fine Gael has no way of knowing when the next general election will be sprung but if it comes soon and Enda Kenny is still leader of the party, Fine Gael’s goose will be cooked.

Seats lost

They will lose at least 10 more seats – an internal party estimate, I understand, suggests it would win close to just 30 seats (it currently has 50).

Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Frances FitzGerald, Paschal Donohoe and the other would-be leadership contenders know this but, so far, have been afraid to start the fire.

But someone soon will start the fire, maybe James Reilly himself, and Enda will be toast for they have to get rid of him or else they await the conflagration that awaits them
electorally.

Another spectacle of air-guitar-playing as was seen at the Bruce Springsteen concert won’t do it but Davos-like gaffes or another instance of rank ignorance of public policy as was the case recently on abortion may ignite the furnace.

Irish general election Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Not that it would make any difference to the lives of Irish people or the people we help devastate in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Policy-wise nothing would change but Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney or Paschal Donohoe would bring some coherence to governance which would be a marginal gain.

The problem is the politics of Fine Gael, the politics of Fianna Fail, the ‘values’ of the Labour Party (its best contribution would be simply to go away), the mind-set of Sinn Fein (government at any price) and the incoherence of the Left.

Inequality remains

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and, for what it matters, the Labour Party, will not disturb the relations of power, wealth, income and influence in Irish society.

There will be no significant advance towards a more equal society with any of them in office (which, incidentally, most of them think is “power”).

No change can be made without persuading the Irish people that a radical distribution of wealth and income is necessary to achieve a just society, for all of them know that even hinting at such in the present culture will lose them vote and, therefore diminish their chance of gaining “office”.

But it would be a bit better without Enda Kenny.

More from Vincent Browne for TheJournal.ie:

Squalid little deals show it’s still old politics at work

Appointing unqualified ministers is an airhead absurdity we inherited from the British

This is the worst possible outcome of the general election

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Vincent Browne

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