Tag Archive for 'Enda Kenny'

The Speech Kenny Should Have Given

The Speech Kenny Should Have GivenThese past few days have seen the downfall of Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael. Following the sacking of Richard Bruton, his leadership became untenable, following the resignations of nine further members of his front bench, his leadership became impossible. What is most unfortunate about the whole affair is that, after four decades of political life, Kenny’s career should come to an end with him trying so desperately to cling to power, damaging both himself and the party in the process.
Yesterday afternoon he had an opportunity to change that. After witnessing the resignations of most of his front bench, he was due to speak for a vote of no confidence in the Taoiseach, a situation where he, not Brian Cowen, would paradoxically be at the center of the Dáil’s attention. I had hoped that he may have taken that opportunity to make a speech that would be worth capping a political career with, but unfortunately he gave the same speech in the same way he always does, a speech that reminded many why they no longer wished for him to be their leader.
The following is, in a brief form, my humble opinion of what he should have said, of the kind of speech he should have given.
“This is not a time for business as usual, and it is not a time for politics as usual. If we are to recover as a nation, if we are to leave our children the Ireland they deserve, then we cannot keep along the same political path that is so well trodden in this country. We need a class of politicians for whom the notion of putting the interests of the country above their own is not simply rhetoric. We need a class of politicians who can pass that most difficult test of leadership, stepping aside.
This morning you and I were in very similar situations, Taoiseach. We are both leaders, and we both serve those who elect us. Over these past 24 hours I have come to accept that those who elect me, the Fine Gael parliamentary party, no longer have confidence in me, and that the only honorable thing to do is to step down as leader of the party. It has been the most difficult decision of my life as a public servant, but one which has become inescapable to me if I wish to truly place the interests of my political party and the Irish public ahead of my own.
Over the course of weeks, months, and indeed years, you too must have come to the realization that the people of this nation, the people you serve, no longer have confidence in you as their leader. Beneath all the bravado, beneath all the rhetoric, deep within you you have come to the same inescapable conclusion that I have over these past few days. It is not an easy realization to come to, Taoiseach, it is that one fear that shakes a politician to his very core, and it is that one truth that is hardest for us to accept.
Tomorrow I will be stepping aside, accepting my fate and doing what is best for the country. I ask you to do the same, to resign as Taoiseach, call a general election and allow the Irish people their right to choose a new government that truly represents them. It would not be an easy decision, it would require a courage, an honesty and a decency that have been lacking in politics for far too long. It would be a selfless decision that is worthy of a true statesman, a true democrat, and a true public servant. It would be a decision that could help signal a return to those highest of standards in political life that we so often talk about but so rarely act upon. Most importantly, it is a decision which you know in your heart to be right.
Put simply, Brian, it’s time for us to go.”

These past few days have seen the downfall of Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael. Following the sacking of Richard Bruton, his leadership became untenable, following the resignations of nine further members of his front bench, his leadership became impossible. What is most unfortunate about the whole affair is that, after four decades of political life, Kenny’s career should come to an end with him trying so desperately to cling to power, damaging both himself and the party in the process.

Yesterday afternoon he had an opportunity to change that. After witnessing the resignations of most of his front bench, he was due to speak for a vote of no confidence in the Taoiseach, a situation where he, not Brian Cowen, would paradoxically be at the center of the Dáil’s attention. I had hoped that he may have taken that opportunity to make a speech that would be worth capping a political career with, but unfortunately he gave the same speech in the same way he always does, a speech that reminded many why they no longer wished for him to be their leader.

The following is, in a brief form, my humble opinion of what he should have said, of the kind of speech he should have given.

“This is not a time for business as usual, and it is not a time for politics as usual. If we are to recover as a nation, if we are to leave our children the Ireland they deserve, then we cannot keep along the same political path that is so well trodden in this country. We need a class of politicians for whom the notion of putting the interests of the country above their own is not simply rhetoric. We need a class of politicians who can pass that most difficult test of leadership, stepping aside.

This morning you and I were in very similar situations, Taoiseach. We are both leaders, and we both serve those who elect us. Over these past 24 hours I have come to accept that those who elect me, the Fine Gael parliamentary party, no longer have confidence in me, and that the only honorable thing to do is to step down as leader of the party. It has been the most difficult decision of my life as a public servant, but one which has become inescapable to me if I wish to truly place the interests of my political party and the Irish public ahead of my own.

Over the course of weeks, months, and indeed years, you too must have come to the realization that the people of this nation, the people you serve, no longer have confidence in you as their leader. Beneath all the bravado, beneath all the rhetoric, deep within you you have come to the same inescapable conclusion that I have over these past few days. It is not an easy realization to come to, Taoiseach, it is that one fear that shakes a politician to his very core, and it is that one truth that is hardest for us to accept.

Tomorrow I will be stepping aside, accepting my fate and doing what is best for the country. I ask you to do the same, to resign as Taoiseach, call a general election and allow the Irish people their right to choose a new government that truly represents them. It would not be an easy decision, it would require a courage, an honesty and a decency that have been lacking in politics for far too long. It would be a selfless decision that is worthy of a true statesman, a true democrat, and a true public servant. It would be a decision that could help signal a return to those highest of standards in political life that we so often talk about but so rarely act upon. Most importantly, it is a decision which you know in your heart to be right.

Put simply, Brian, it’s time for us to go.”

Want to show the public and the markets that you're taking the economic crisis seriously, Mr Cowen? Then appoint Jim O'Hara to the cabinet.

While bouncing from economic crises to political crises and back again at an astounding rate, Brian Cowen has stumbled upon a brief opportunity to make a move that would reflect well both upon himself politically, and give a piece of potentially good economic news for the markets to ponder over for once. In a few weeks time, elections will be held to fill two vacant seats in the Seanad. The electorate for both of these seats are current TDs and Senators, and as the government has majorities in each chamber, government nominees are effectively guaranteed to win both seats. This gives Cowen the ability to bring pretty much whoever he likes into the Seanad in time for the new year. What’s more important, though, is that Cowen can, by article 28.7.2 of the constitution, appoint up to two members of the Seanad to the cabinet, which means that he can use these open Seanad positions as a platform to bring expertise into the cabinet that simply can’t be found amongst the ranks of the Dáil.

While such a step would be almost completely unprecedented (the provision to appoint Senators to cabinet has only been used, to my knowledge, once in the history of the state), the situation we’re in is similarly unprecedented. We’re currently in the midst of the greatest fiscal, economic and employment crises to afflict any developed country since the great depression, and there are only three qualified economists sitting in the 166-seat Dáil, two of whom are on the opposition benches. The degree of experience within the business sector in the Oireachtas is similarly underwhelming, which means there is very little the government can do to increase its authority on matters of the economy without bringing in outside help.

Bringing in fresh blood to take over as Finance Minister is not possible, as the position constitutionally has to be held by a TD. However, the second biggest economic portfolio, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is a perfect position to bring outside expertise into. The current Minister, Mary Coughlan, is widely considered to be way out of her depth in the portfolio, and her repeated gaffes are doing the government little help in the popularity stakes. As such, bringing in a suitably qualified person in her place would help show both the electorate and the markets just how seriously the government are taking the current economic crises.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of candidates more qualified than Mary Coughlan for the position, but one that immediately springs to mind is Jim O’Hara. Jim O’Hara is currently Vice President of the Technology Manufacturing Group in Intel, and General Manager of Intel’s Irish operations, where he’s in charge of over 4000 employees. He’s very well respected in the business community, and he represents exactly the kind of high-tech, export-led industry that the government so desperately wants Ireland to become focussed on as we rebuild our economy. Furthermore, he showed during his involvement in the Lisbon Treaty campaign that he’s not only knowledgeable on political affairs, but also that he’s more than capable of presenting himself well in front of the political media.

Bringing him into the cabinet could be done quickly and easily. As it would be best for O’Hara to be seen as apolitical in his appointment, running him as a Fianna Fail candidate for one of the two vacancies directly would not be advisable. However, Cowen could simply call on one of Fianna Fail’s 6 Taoiseach’s appointees in the Seanad to resign from their current seat and run for one of the vacant seats (which they’d be guaranteed to win). O’Hara could then be appointed by Cowen as an independent appointee of the Taoiseach into then-vacant slot. Cowen could perform a mini-reshuffle of the cabinet (most likely giving Coughlan back the Agriculture portfolio she previously held, and pushing Brendan Smith back into a Junior Ministry), and appoint O’Hara as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment before the start of the new year.

Brian Cowen needs to start taking radical steps towards both fixing the economy as well as improving the government’s tattered reputation if he wants to stay in office much longer. Most of the choices available to him would involve substantial opposition from vested interests across the country. He now, however, has the opportunity to make an unprecedented move that would be opposed by virtually no-one but Mary Coughlan. By appointing Jim O’Hara as Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment, Cowen could show just how seriously he’s taking the crisis, and that he’s willing to think outside the box in his efforts to do so.

And, as an added bonus for Cowen, the appointment would also be a political jab against Enda Kenny. Kenny decided last month that the Seanad is useless and he’d scrap it if elected Taoiseach, an announcement that was considered rash even by many members of his own party. By using the Seanad as a means to bring extra experience into the cabinet, Cowen could prove to Kenny that it isn’t so useless an institution after all.

Abolishing the Seanad

Fine Gael last night announced that, if elected, they’ll hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad. Right now is probably the perfect time to talk about reform of the way our system of government operates, as our Government and Oireachtas are almost completely incapable of dealing with the country’s fiscal and economic collapse, and public confidence in our elected representatives must be reaching an all-time low. Talking about the role the Seanad plays in the running of our country is a vital part of that, and discussions will inevitably come to either reforming the manner in which the Seanad is elected and operates, or getting rid of the Seanad and adopting a reformed unicameral parliamentary system if it’s deemed to make law-making more effective. These sorts of decisions are not to be taken lightly, as the choice of governmental system can have a profound impact on the country for generations to come.

Unfortunately, when Enda Kenny announced the party’s plan to abolish the Seanad, it wasn’t as part of an overarching review of our system of government, with a refashioning of the legislative branch carefully designed to be more effective at devising, amending and passing laws. It wasn’t advertised as a way to allow the country to cope better with the changed circumstances that we’ll have to deal with in the coming decades. Nope, the big headline reason given for abolishing the Seanad was that (along with reducing the Dáil by 20 members) it would save €150 million over the course of a Dáil term. That’s €30 million a year. To put that in perspective, the country’s current annual budget deficit is now approaching €30,000 million. So, Enda wants to make the biggest changes to the constitution in the history of the state, all for the sake of reducing our deficit by 0.1%.

Of course, Enda did hint to more political reforms as part of a “New Politics”, but it doesn’t inspire confidence that the headline reform is so blatantly populist. It also doesn’t inspire confidence that the whole process of devising a new legislative system for the nation has been fobbed off to the party’s environment spokesman, Phil Hogan, who doesn’t even sit on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, the body who’s job it is to discuss electoral reform.

By all means we should start talking about reforming the Oireachtas, in what it consists of, how it operates and how it’s elected. But that debate should be given the importance it deserves, and not simply used as a populist headline-grabbing stunt as Enda Kenny did last night.