Fantasy Cabinet 2011

Eamon Gilmore
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Over on the Irish Times Blog Deaglán De Bréadún has a fantasy cabinet and is looking for suggestions for the new Fine Gael/Labour Government that will be appointed next Wednesday. Here is my go at it:

  • Taoiseach: Enda Kenny (FG)
  • Tainiste and Foreign Affairs: Eamonn Gilmore (Lab)
  • Finance: Michael Noonan (FG)
  • Enterprise: Joan Burton (Lab)
  • Public Sector Reform: Richard Bruton (FG)
  • Education: Ruairi Quinn (Lab)
  • Social Protection: Rosin Shorthall (Lab)
  • Agriculture: John Perry (FG)
  • Justice: Brendan Howlin (Lab)
  • Communications, Energy and the Marine: Leo Varadkar (FG)
  • Transport: Simon Coveney (FG)
  • Envoronment: Phil Hogan (FG)
  • Health: James O’Reilly (FG)
  • Tourism, Community, etc: Kathleen Lynch (Lab)
  • Defence: David Stanton (FG)
  • Attorney General: Alan Shatter (FG)
  • Chief Whip: Michael Ring (FG)
  • Ceann Comhairle: Dinny McGinley (FG)

What’s your guess?

 

Diary of A Canvasser: Day Out, Day In

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Well with election coming up, canvass teams have swung into full operation down here in Cork. Last week for the first time I both ended and started my day with a canvass!

This would be something that would seem to be a recurring theme for the election. There goes my lie-ins!

Last Monday (24th January) we canvassed an area of Douglas with Jerry Buttimer. We had a very good response and covered great ground. The issues on the doorstep where very detailed which sent us scurrying for policy documents and the candidate when we weren’t sure of exact details.

This is something I have noticed this time around. People are showing huge interest in the actual policies of the parties! FairCare, newERA and Re-inventing Government all came up on the doors. People seem to moving away from personality politics and hopefully, they will vote for the policies that they wish to be implemented.

The next morning saw me up early, at 7am! To be ready to be collected at 8am for canvassing again with Jerry Buttimer at Union Quay Bridge outside my college. This was the first time I had done an early morning canvass during an general election, I did a few during Lisbon, but that was a different kettle of fish.

The people that morning were a mix of students and professionals and it was a mixed response. Well some people just aren’t morning people. It was fun to canvass one of my teachers who was Dan Boyle’s campaign manager during the European Elections!

All in all in was a good morning and evening. Thank god I am off this weekend to cathc up on my beauty sleep!

The Fianna Fail Heave

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So Fianna Fail are as divided as Fine Gael was last summer. The Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting gets under way at 5:30pm and is expected to last until around 9pm. The wording of the motion to be debated is reported to be

“That the Fianna  Fáil parliamentary party has confidence in Brian Cowen TD as leader of Fianna Fáil.”

Its been a tough week for Brian Cowen in his office as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fail and has fast fallen from approval with both the public and his party.

On Sunday Cowen made a big mistake in relation to this heave. He should have accepted Michaél Martin’s resignation. For how can he keep someone in his cabinet that has no confidence in him. This is the approach Enda took with Richard Bruton and it probably helped save him as it showed he could take decisive action. Cowen has proven yet again that he cannot make the hard decision.

Listening to Mr Cowen on Six One news last night it struck me again how useless Cowen is at communicating. He started on about “transformative changes” rather then just saying “changes”, which would have been enough for most people.

I am not sure if Michaél Martin is the best person to lead the Fianna Fail party, but his actions this weekends show that he has balls, and will make a decision, eventually!

Is this what we are going to be left with? A Fianna Fail government afraid to make a decision. We are in a bad financial state as it is. This Government needs to go. This sorry saga shows that Fianna Fail is putting itself first. TD’s are worried about their seats and no they are in jeopardy if Cowen stays on as leader. But do they have the guts to sack him? I don’t think so.

Lucinda’s Argument for a Tallaght Strategy II

Lucinda Creighton TD has blogged about how she thinks the Government and Opposition should work together on the budget. She raises some interesting points.

Need for Patriotic Rather than Political Response to Economic Crisis

Some may say it is naive of Opposition politicians to suggest that now is a time when we must put aside the old fashioned confrontational, adversarial politics of old and replace it, albeit temporarily, with a constructive engagement with the Government and the Minister for Finance. I don’t consider myself to be naive, but I do believe that politicians on both sides of the Dail chamber need to start putting the country first.

We all know that Fianna Fail has made a dog’s dinner of our economy, our society and the lack of faith in politics generally in this country. I contend, however, that it is pointless repeating this mantra of blame. Our people are intelligent and savvy. They don’t need constant reminding. They will serve up a large helping of retribution to the Government when the time comes.

In the meantime, I think that we on the Opposition benches would be well advised to offer a Tallaght Strategy form of constructive engagement in the Dail. What this country needs desperately is a sense of optimism and some degree of certainty. This is not only important for those all important “international markets” to which Minister Lenihan repeatedly refers, but much more importantly, it is critical from the point of view of our people. Irish people are increasingly deflated and despairing. If they see some patriotism and true leadership coming from Opposition Deputies, I have no doubt but that the entire country will rise to the enormous challenges which face us.

In the coming weeks, there must be a meeting of minds between The Opposition and the Government. Garret FitzGerald is correct – there has been no serious effort by the Government to share necessary information with the Opposition. If this changes and the Minister shows a degree of openness and a willingness to work honestly with the Opposition, then we should reciprocate. We should agree the broad parameters of the Budget in the weeks to come. Major public spending cuts will be necessary, and I hold firm to my opinion that the quicker we can make a dent on our deficit the better (as per my previous blog). This can be accelerated by a serious effort at public sector reform as has been advocated and detailed by Richard Bruton over a period of several years. In addition, we must stimulate the small and medium enterprise sector through PRSI and VAT breaks, in order to restore competitiveness and growth to our business community. This is the only way we can eventually secure a return to job creation. A stimulus plan, along the lines of our New ERA proposals, financed by a combination of private investment and the National Pensions Reserve Fund would assist in stimulating shorter term job creation.

These are just some suggestions that should be on the table. They are not prescriptive, and we in Fine Gael would have to enter discussions with the other parties with an open mind. The sooner this happens the better. Ireland cannot afford to wait.

Let’s Work Together to Save the Country

To a certain extent I do find myself agreeing with Lucinda, but will the government be as open as it needs to be? Can they really work for the good of the country or will they as some have pointed out, use this co-operation as a way to implicate the opposition parties in the budget. Blaming them for the hardship and cuts that will follow?

Yes, the Government needs new ideas. But the opposition to help will need complete open access to the figures and to see where the money is going. Will the Government be willing to do that?

I think the Government will be willing to share the information. It will have a hard enough time as it is to pass the budget with its majority being so slim. The question is will the government remain above politics and take the opposition on board and not bash them with the budget. Of course the opposition will have to do the same. While they can fully blame the Government for past mistakes and budgets, they must not bash the Government with a budget they worked on.

This is a catch 22 for politicians. Can they ignore their instincts and work together for the betterment of us all? Here is hoping they can

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Why Fine Gael Needs A New Leader

As I write this the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party are meeting to discuss the motion of Confidence in Party Leader, Enda Kenny.

I have already set out why I think Enda should go, but is Richard Bruton the person that should lead instead?

I don’t think so.

After speaking with a few people, the same reservations about Enda crop up, age (he is only two years younger then Enda). length of time in Dáil (entered the Seanad in 1981 and the Dáil in 1982), and general lack of passion in the media.

It is hard to disagree with all those points.

If the motion of Confidence fails, there needs to be a competitive election.

Fine Gael needs a young leader, one who “gets” modern Ireland. Understands technology and can interact easily.

Fine Gael needs a David Cameron type figure. Will we get one? I hope so.

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Is Enda’s Time Up?

Back in February I wrote this

Enda Kenny has been the leader of Fine Gael since 2002. In that time he has revitalised the party but he has failed to capitalise on the failures of Fianna Fail. Today’s resignation of George Lee is the final nail in the coffin for my support for Enda Kenny.

….

Its time for Enda to put up or move on. He can bring us so close, but he can not take us over the line. Its simple, there is not going to be a Fine Gael government under the leadership of Enda Kenny. I have come to that realisation now.

I call on Enda to resign the leadership for the good of the party.

With news circulating about Richard Bruton’s possible challenge at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party tomorrow it is as relevant as ever.

I still think the same as I did in February. Enda needs to step aside for new leadership. A leadership who dosen’t launch the same policy four times. One that connects with the people. Because Enda dosen’t. This is a media age, and Enda is suitable for it. (Then again I don’t think Cowen is either!)

Enda has done too little to late on the last one. Yes his weekly message is quite interesting (I’m tempted to start a subsite on that but we shall see of he survives first), but he could do s much better. One only needs to look to the UK to see how its done. Events like Cameron Direct and WebCameron can be easily copied and will make any leader more accessible and more understood by the electorate. That is what will win someone an election. The weekly message is only going to party activists so it is wasted.

Yes I know as a party we were spooked by last Thursday’s opinion poll. But the canvass I did today was no different to canvass’s before Thursdays poll. The issues that came up? Local ones and leadership of Fine Gael.

I am fed up to the back teeth of defending him so I have stopped. I now just say, thats up to the Parliamentary Party. Lets see what they think tomorrow.

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YFG Session at Fine Gael Ard Fheis – “Ireland Needs Change”

YFG are holding a session on Saturday at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis enititled “Ireland Needs Change”. The aim of the discussion is to allow spokespersons in the party let the young members know what they are doing.

The session will be addressed by:

  • Barry Walsh, President Young Fine Gael
  • Richard Bruton TD, Deputy Leader and Fine Gael Spokesperson on Finance (Chair)
  • Lucinda Creighton TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on European Affairs
  • Brian Hayes TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Education
  • Leo Varadkar TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment

The session will also feed into and link intiatives to the Youth Manifesto for the Local and European Elections.

At the last Ard Fheis the session was on the “Just Society” and I really enjoyed the discussion. This year looks even more interesting with “Change” being a big theme in a lot of political campaigns since the Obama one. I am loooking forward to what the spokespeople think of our contributions and ideas and I like that they have picked three of the young front benchers and gotten Richard Bruton to chair it. This shows they do think of us as “not just as an army of canvassers” as one candidate said recently!

The Womens Group are also holding a side event entitled “Getting the best out of your Canvass” which I don’t think I will be attending.

The full timetable for Ard Fheis is online here in PDF from

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Government Mistakes. You Pay

Fine Gael has launched its winter campaign against the Government and shows no sign of resting on its poll poistion. The campaign aims to highlight the governments mistakes and Fine Gael’s alternative to the budget. The campiagn consists of a website with online videos, regional meetings and asking people for there say.

Speaking on the launch of the campaign Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny said

We want to hear what the public have to say about the future direction for our country. We have set out an alternative to the current Government’s approach based on tough but fair policies that protect the vulnerable in our society but tackle wasteful and excessive spending. This campaign exposes the Government’s failings in the recent Budget and promotes our better alternative. It also allows for both virtual and actual interaction between our Party and the public. We look forward to meeting thousands of people around the country over the coming weeks as we organise our public meetings, but we also look forward to getting reaction to our campaign online at our campaign website www.FairerBudget.com.

Commenting on the campaign, Deputy Leader and Finance Spokesman Richard Bruton said:

The recent Budget from this Government risks turning a recession in to a depression. It was ill-conceived and made fundamental errors in the way it was framed. Current spending continues to increase at an unsustainable rate while capital spending has been cut. Pay costs continue to rise for existing staff numbers yet front line services are cut for the most vulnerable. The Fine Gael approach would give our small businesses a chance to trade their way out of trouble and would also have better protected the more vulnerable members of our society. This campaign will, I believe, help promote that message to a wide and diverse audience.

Strangely enough there is no meeting for Cork City. Must get on to public reps about that! Do have a look about the website.

"Government has finally woken up to the scale of the crisis facing the economy"

Via The Angry Hedgehog and Breakingnews.ie

So we are going to have an early budget. October 14th to be exact. Is Brian Lenihan going to take a different tack to Darling in the UK (BBC Link) and actually try to talk positive about the economy and by doing three things that Fine Gael have outlined that will help the economy?

– Cutting waste
– Cutting tax
– And promoting substantive reform across the public sector

In ists statement the Government finally admitted our over dependence on the Construction industry which has been long evident to economists and non-expert alike!

Domestically we are also faced with a contracting construction

sector which is suppressing economic growth rates and a rising cost base is

eroding Ireland’s competitiveness. In addition, the slowdown has resulted

in a rapid deterioration in the public finances and falling consumer

confidence.

Fine Gael TD and Party Spokesperson on Finance, Richard Bruton, was quick off the mark to criticise the Governments slow reaction to the budget crisis.

The Government has finally woken up to the scale of the crisis facing the economy. This week’s Exchequer figures and the unprecedented rise in the live register has prompted a belated response from Fianna Fáil. But the Government has squandered valuable time and sabotaged Ireland’s ability to weather the economic downturn.

Even still, we will wait a further six weeks before we see any concrete proposals. The fear remains that this announcement is about filling a publicity cycle and is not based on a clear strategy. It remains to be seen whether this crisis Budget is about tax increases for families and businesses in the short-term and cuts in frontline services early next January.

We can only hope that the Government has a clear plan of action to rescue the economy, and is not hoping for a flash of inspiration between now and the Budget. Without a definite strategy, Fianna Fáil is likely to foist emergency tax measures on the public come October. Many of these will be stealth taxes which will hit the vulnerable members of society the hardest.

Fianna Fáil only has itself to blame for this debacle. Fine Gael has been warning for years that the Government’s over-reliance on a debt-fuelled housing boom was unsustainable. Time and again I highlighted the risks inherent in Brian Cowen’s economic strategy. As far back as 2005, the IMF and OECD issued stern warnings about the dangers that Brian Cowen’s Budgets would overheat the property market and expose the economy to recession. They were comprehensively ignored.

So an early budget is a novel approach and alot better approach then a stamp duty holiday which is the route been taking by the UK which is a tried and failed method highted by Guido.

I wonder what intiatives they will come up with?