Politics - falling standards all around

'When a Fine Gael Taoiseach makes appointments of barely competent people to senior positions, it is a cause for concern'

Enda Kenny secured another term as Taoiseach, but Insider is in no doubt that he should go, and that his Government will only last 18 months.

Enda Kenny secured another term as Taoiseach, but Insider is in no doubt that he should go, and that his Government will only last 18 months.

Insider has had it with the vocal minority who continue to dominate our airwaves in a totally disproportionate way to their actual support among the population.

The numbers voting for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have declined over the last two decades, but this decline is not as marked as that facing established parties in other European countries, particularly since the financial crash of the late noughties. Indeed if taking the total vote for FG and FF, combined with the vote of Independents and smaller parties, their total vote in 2016 did not decrease from their vote in the 2011 election.

That is not to say both parties have not made mistakes over the years, but looking back to the progress of this State since Independence, Insider feels that overall, those who have governed have done a good job.

Fine Gael - weak leadership

A fine party with a proud tradition of serving the people of this State for many decades, particularly in the view of their own supporters. Why does Insider feel the guiding principles of Fine Gael have been abandoned in the rush to get Enda Kenny re-elected as Taoiseach?

Having led a very disappointing campaign, and overseen one of the worst results ever for his party, Insider is in no doubt that Kenny should have resigned as FG leader after February's Election. No dissenters on the front bench, or in the parliamentary party? Is this what Fine Gael has come to?

A Taoiseach in waiting who has jobs to give out, up to 12 Cabinet posts, 15 junior ministries, committee chairs, and Senate appointments, is still in a strong position, but after the performance in the February election, when Kenny and FG put a proposition to the Irish people, which was clearly rejected, the new Government does not have a mandate.

It will have a short life, and those celebrating their appointments in recent weeks will have cause to regret being part of this charade. Having thrown Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan 'under the bus' to save himself two years ago, Kenny is now throwing Fine Gael under the same bus, and the party cannot see it. Forty seats would be a successful outcome in the next election. We will all pay a heavy price for this weak leadership.

Enda and Leo

As for the nonsense about Kenny being the first Fine Gael leader to win successive elections, nothing could be further from the truth. FG have had, comparatively, their second worst General Election result ever, losing almost a third of their vote from the 2011 election.

The only other result to compare with this was in 1987, after four years of particular economic hardship, and the 1985 formation of the PDs which attracted a lot of Fine Gael voters. The party's share of the vote then declined from 39 per cent in 1982 to 27 per cent in 1987. The recent decline was from 36 per cent in 2011 to 25 per cent in 2016.

To put this into perspective, when Fine Gael last served in Government, under John Bruton, the party gained nine seats and 3.5 per cent of the vote in the 1997 election compared to the 1992 election. The 2016 result was history making for Fine Gael all right, but not for the reasons the party would have you believe.

Also, with the (thankfully slow ) progress of Sinn Fein and other minority parties, there are enough people in the Dáil now who do not recognise the Institutions of this State, and would do their best to undermine them. But when a Fine Gael Taoiseach makes appointments of barely competent people to very senior positions in the State, it is a cause for serious concern. This will become more apparent in areas such as gangland killings, and further deterioration in important areas of services provided by the State in the coming months.

In spite of the party's behaviour since the election, Insider was delighted to see the election of Hildegarde Naughton and Sean Kyne. Kyne is the kind of TD Galway West needs - serious about improving the lot of those who live here, and not a grandstander more interested in column inches than in real achievement. Not afraid to take a stance which he believes is in the common good, even if it means short term unpopularity.

His elevation to the junior ministerial ranks is also very welcome; Insider just hopes that the damage the party is inflicting on itself will not damage his medium to long term prospects. Often being associated with an unpopular Government is more damaging for a junior minister than for a backbencher, so Kyne needs to be wary, and not leave his critical faculties behind.

Fianna Fáil - responsible for Kenny's second term

Enda and Martin

For most of its existence, Fianna Fail has served the country well, apart from one or two periods, which Insider will elaborate on in a future column. In examining the political landscape today, Insider feels FF has miscalculated by facilitating the formation of a minority, FG-led, Government.

FF spent all of March and April reminding us they fought the election on the basis of removing the outgoing Government. This was why they were not going into Government with Fine Gael. Yet FG is now back in office, with increased numbers of office holders, and it is all down to Fianna Fail. You could not make it up.

Micheal Martin may feel he has played it smart, but he has not. FF will be caught between two stools, and its progress will disappoint many in the party. Banking on Kenny's unpopularity to drive up FF's ratings is a risky business, and ultimately FF will be held responsible for Kenny's continuation in office.

Also, Kenny's desire to remain as Taoiseach for a full term, but not lead FG into the next election, will not work. His successor would need at least a year as party leader to give him/her a fair chance of putting their mark on the party before the next election, but as the timing of the next election is out of the Taoiseach's hands, Kenny's timetable to retirement will not work out as he plans. FG may well end up with a leadership contest on the eve of the next General Election, and it will not bother Kenny one bit. But it should bother the party, and any potential successors.

Also, the old opportunism, as shown in the Dáil this week on the water charges issue, will have to be abandoned. Let's be clear on this, FF agreed with the Troika on the introduction of water charges at higher rates than those eventually introduced, and Sinn Fein were in favour of paying water charges until Paul Murphy surprised their candidate in the Dublin South West by-election. Pure populism on the parts of both FF and SF and the media have let them away with it.

In Galway West, Fianna Fail will be back fighting for a second seat. Eamon Ó Cuiv will remain the party's leading candidate, but after a very respectable showing in February, the popular John Connolly will be in the running - assuming he gets the nomination.

Labour - progress will be slow

Brendan Howlin

Insider felt strongly that Labour should have skipped a generation, towards Alan Kelly and his contemporaries, when Eamon Gilmore stepped down as leader. Looking back now, Labour's fate in election 2016 was probably decided from a long time ago, and Kelly may have had a lucky escape. Brendan Howlin is a capable and committed TD, and will lead Labour to a recovery of some sort. Things could hardly get any worse.

Progress will be slow, and a lot of work will be required, but if he shows the required appetite, Insider believes that Labour will form part of the next administration. In Galway West, Labour needs to decide if it will stick with Derek Nolan. Insider expects the next General Election to take place in the next 18 months, and Insider hopes Derek stays around.

Sinn Féin - where are they?

Sinn Féin seemed to have all the solutions during the campaign for election 2016. When it came to Government formation, the party disappeared. Is that how much it cares for the people they feign concern for, that they would make no effort to improve their lot as part of all the politicking that went on?

Sen Trevor Ó Clochartaigh is a good local candidate, but the party has serious problems to address. Insider also suspects that Dep Mary Lou McDonald may not be the next leader of SF as has been widely assumed. Insider believes she does not have a track record which would make her a suitable candidate to lead the movement, and suspects too many people she may not yet met will have to give their assent. That fact will dawn on her in the coming years.

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