I wrote recently of the urgent need for competence in Government. Commercial competence gained through experience at the coalface is essential to successfully negotiate the current economic challenges. In any major public organisation the people at the helm are appointed on ability gained through experience of working at a high level in business.
So what business experience does this current cabinet possess? One would assume that they were appointed because of their achievements in industry or other significant accomplishments that distinguished them in their earlier careers. In other words one would assume that the people holding the most important and influential offices in the land would have a track record of achievement in related portfolios in their previous professional lives.
This does not appear to be the case. Most only exhibit some experience in the world of politics. The Cabinet members are expected to be economically and commercially competent in spite of the fact that in the main they are not sufficiently experienced or qualified to fulfil their roles. This is why they are accused of being out of touch with reality and with the needs of the business community. So maybe we are not being fair. Perhaps we should not place the blame at the doors of the individuals and hold the person that appointed them culpable. That person is Brian Cowen
So what did the Cabinet actually do before they were promoted to positions. Positions which are obviously far above their levels of competence?
Brian Cowen is a law graduate from UCD and was 24 years old when he took his father’s seat in the Dáil. Given that he spent a minimum of five years studying he can have no business experience to speak of.
Dermot Ahern, Brian Lenihan and former minister Willie O'Dea are barristers. No business or economic expertise of note there either.
Noel Dempsey, Michael Martin, and Mary Hanafin are national school-teachers. Perhaps they are excellent teachers, but this experience in itself does not equip them to govern. Similarly Batt O'Keeffe was a college lecturer. Mary Harney also qualified as a teacher and was a student in TCD when appointed to the Senate in 1977.
Mary Coughlan left UCD at the age of 21 and immediately took her late fathers seat. The Minister for job creation has never had a job and it certainly shows. A classic case of an appointment on the basis of political expedience instead of operational competence.
Brendan Smith was a professional Fianna Fáil political advisor. John Gormally was an administrator in the Academy of European Languages.
Martin Cullen worked as a sales-rep for a wine company. Eamonn O’Cuiv was manager of a Gaeltacht Co-op and Eamonn Ryan was a tour operator organising cycling safaris. These three have all of the commercial experience in cabinet. These people will not save the economy because they are simply not able.
Let us not forget former taoiseach Bertie Ahern who claimed to be a graduate of both UCD and the London School of Economics. Both claims were subsequently proven to be false and both universities have no record of him studying there. Apparently he was an accounts clerk in the Mater Hospital and not an accountant as claimed. More phoney propaganda from the man who wins money on horses! However such overt insincerity only highlights the fact that Ahern at least realised that qualifications and experience are needed to manage an economy and disingenuously tried to hide his obvious political limitation.
The bottom line is that this Government is not equipped to manage an economy or to implement policies that will enable the country to function effectively. Its members cannot do this because they are simply not able. They have not the experience, energy nor qualifications. They should never have been appointed. That they were indicates that Brian Cowen evidently places party political issues above the greater needs of the country. This is not their fault, but the fact that they insist on maintaining the charade is. At a minimum we need a radical reshuffle, however this will not change the fact that this Government has lost the moral authority to govern. If they have any integrity and I suspect that many of them do then it is time to do the decent thing and go to the country.