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Wednesday 27 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Paul Hosford/
Vincent Browne This is the worst possible outcome of the general election
‘There will be sops, promises and a flurry of initiatives but there will be no significant change.’

The now likely make-up of the 32nd Dáil is the worst possible outcome of the February 2016 election, writes Vincent Browne for 

THE NEW CABAL government, due to come into office in a few days, is likely to be almost as bad as the two previous governments.

We have got the worst possible outcome to the general election, short of the re-election of the outgoing government or an overall-Fianna Fáil majority.

The first casualty is “new politics”.

Already Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil came together to fix the Dáil agenda by initially preventing a debate on water charges.

Wasn’t the point of “new politics” to stop such parliamentary delinquency?

Yes there will be a few gestures towards making the Oireachtas relevant, a bit more latitude for Oireachtas committees and the like but even here the committees will be marshalled by Siamese Gauleiters of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

There will be no significant curtailment of the strong arm tactics of chief whips so Fine Gael and Fianna Fail backbenchers will do what they are told and go on radio and television mouthing support for policies and decisions they privately oppose.

There will be no independent initiatives available to the real opposition – Sinn Féin and the Left – such as the “decisive minority” provisions applicable in a number of European Parliaments, including Germany and Denmark, where 20% of members can demand and get inquiries into any public issues.

But worse than that.

There will be no significant change of policy. Markets will remain the dominant determinant of government action.

29/04/2016. General Election 2016 - Government For

Inequality abounds

There will be sops on housing but no urgent and concerted State initiative to provide social housing itself, as there was in the 1930s.

There will be promises on health but no move towards a single national health service, free to all that need it, financed by general taxation.

There will be a flurry of initiatives on several other fronts – special needs, carers’ allowances, some supports for the elderly and some others – but not even a hint of an initiative towards the creation of a genuinely equal society.

29/04/2016. General Election 2016 - Government For

The Irish tax haven will remain intact for international corporations, threatened only by the European Union and Donald Trump.

Foreign corporations will remain absolved from the headline 12% corporation tax rate. Their shareholders will rest easily, at least as far as this new government is concerned.

Justice matters

There will be no significant additional funding for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will remain immune from accountability and from parliamentary scrutiny.

There will be a little huffing and puffing about NAMA but no comprehensive examination into how it has managed the billions of public wealth. Ditto re IBRC.

And Enda Kenny will be Taoiseach again, despite the verdict of the electorate. His own campaign performances were shambolic and even more shambolic was the Fine Gael  campaign strategy from beginning to end. I question whether he is fit for the office of Taoiseach.

The Fennelly report exposed his indifference to what threatened – at least in the mind of the Attorney General, Marie Whelan – to be a major crisis for the State, arising from the recording of telephone conversations in and out of garda stations.

Enda Kenny’s response to this (admittedly mistaken) alarming revelation was merely to pull a political stunt in getting rid of Martin Callinan, the then Garda Commissioner.

So much for the welfare of the Irish State.

And again, in relation to Alan Shatter, another stunt in getting rid of him in the run up to the 2014 local and European elections.

The performances

But to be fair to Enda Kenny, he was not alone to blame for the electoral debacle.

Michael Noonan brought the same skill, charisma and expertise to the 2011 election campaign that he brought to the 2002 election campaign, when as leader of Fine Gael at the time he capsized the party.

It was he who got the Fine Gael campaign off to a disastrous start with the fiscal space mumbo-jumbo. It was he who kept repeating the self-congratulatory mantra “Keep the Recovery Going”.

It was he who was dismissive of the public uproar over the water charges.

It was he who was one of the prime authors, aided and abetted by Brendan Howlin and Joan Burton, of the strategy to ravage further the lives of people whose lives were already ravaged by the market system of which he is such a fervent proponent.

And this fellow seems likely to be Minister for Finance again, with his surfeit of smugness.

But it is happy days again for Sinn Féin. They will have a clear run from now until the next election at both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as well as the sad cluster of Independents who will be inveigled into government.

And when it is their turn to attain office (they all confuse “office” for “power”), nothing will change then either.

Watch: Obama drops the mic and roasts Trump at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Read: ‘I won’t make promises we can’t keep’: Independents ready to bargain with Fine Gael

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