You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Pigs fly over Paschal’s office yet a half-time team talk by Micheál and Leo is ruled out logo 25/07/2022 Fionnán Sheahan

What an awful shame nobody who knew anything about AIB downgrading a rake of branches around the country does their shopping in Tesco in Phibsborough of a Sunday night. Paschal Donohoe’s discussions in the frozen-foods section have become the stuff of economic legend.

“This evening, a constituent approached me in the refrigerated goods aisle of Tesco Phibsborough. Asked me when will we have a European Deposit Insurance Scheme!! The sophistication of Dublin Central constituents is a thing of great wonder,” he declared last Sunday night.

If only an AIB executive, one of the minister’s public-interest board members or even a random official from the Department of Finance was passing by, picking up a Goodfellas pizza, a bag of chips or a tub of HB vanilla ice-cream.

The spin from Upper Merrion Street is the poor minister wasn’t told by his faceless civil servants about a massively politically sensitive move by a bank in which the Government has a majority stake of just over 63pc. Pigs were spotted flying from the barstool in O’Donoghue’s on Merrion Row. And Seán Fleming of Fianna Fáil was dragged into the fray by backing up his senior minister, saying Donohoe heard no evil, saw no evil, spoke no evil.

Much to the chagrin of the Fine Gael backbenchers, Taoiseach Micheál Martin got any bit of credit going for calling a halt to the AIB gallop. But the Coalition as a whole was again embroiled in a controversy where the lack of judgment about what matters to people was striking. ‘Shambles of their own making’ has been a recurring pattern for this Coalition. Approaching the half-way mark of the lifetime of this Dáil, the administration has also been decidedly unlucky. Circumstances have changed dramatically. Taking up power in the midst of a global pandemic, there was no way to foresee that it would overshadow life for a further two years at least.

Following on from Covid-19 has been the worldwide disruption to supply lines and inflation, leading to an unexpected cost-of-living crisis with continual pleas for assistance. Brexit has bubbled away and continually threatens to ultimately spill over with dire consequences.

The war in Ukraine and consequent refugee crisis, squeezing an already overheated need for accommodation, certainly couldn’t have been foretold. At the same time, the economy is flying, with a record 2.5 million people at work and a budget surplus anticipated, despite all the challenges. As Leo Varadkar says, the bulging coffers didn’t happen by accident. But the Government is getting precious little thanks for it.

The rebel Fianna Fáil backbenchers are finally on to something. A review of the Programme for Government at this point is a fair enough proposition. It’s certainly worthy of debate, not the outright dismissal it has received from the Taoiseach and Tánaiste. A review would set out what the priorities are for the second half.

Much like Jack O’Connor and Pádraic Joyce gave their Kerry and Galway teams instructions at half-time in Croke Park yesterday. The second half is what wins the game. Instead, the Government is sticking to a plan that was predicated on conditions that have changed entirely.

The personnel will change in December with the rotation of the Taoiseach and Cabinet reshuffle. But an opportunity is being missed to set out the stall, explain what’s happening and what the goals are in the run-up to the next general election.

A restatement of realistic targets in the health and housing spheres would mean far more to voters than overarching outlook. The long-term vision is absolutely important but incremental passing of milestones also keeps the public on board. Instead, the voting public are being treated to a feast of random budget promises.

It’s a pity the last big review of a Coalition agreement didn’t go further. Away back in the middle of the period when the country was collapsing around our ears, the Green Party decided it wanted to review the Programme for Government with Fianna Fáil. By the way, it was around then that the taxpayer put €20.7bn into AIB to keep the bank afloat. AIB seem to have forgotten this intervention.

Anyway, the junior coalition partner had just lost most of its councillors in the summer of 2009. All of its TDs would follow soon enough. A review was negotiated and ended up with commitments on college fees, an end to corporate donations and a clampdown on tax exiles, but ignored the elephant in the room of the collapsing economy, which would result in the loss of our sovereignty under the EU-IMF bailout in just over a year.

An obsession with a ban on stag hunting as the roof was falling in summed up that deal. Unfortunately, Green Party dissidents didn’t manage to block the creation of the bad bank, Nama – or put any manners on it. No harm at all to have someone ringing alarm bells about one of the single most disastrous policies ever implemented by a government. Here we are, over a dozen years later scrambling around looking for land to build housing on for our citizens and prime real estate was sold off at bargain prices at the time. There was even an attempt to ensure a specific vote on Nama via a little-known party rule that constituency organisations could force a ballot on specific policy.

The Greens used to be the innovators in government. They made the concept of members voting to endorse entering a Coalition a mainstream concept.

Nowadays, however, the Greens are running scared from the notion of a review of the Programme for Government. The fear is it will centre on attempts to water down Green policy areas. So what? If the Greens believe Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would actually seek to row back that heavily on climate actions then there clearly is no trust within this Government.

The docility of the backbenches and grassroots of the Greens is a blessing to the Coalition. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers might not like it but the price of staving off a general election is to ensure the Greens can see enough of their agenda.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.


More from
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon