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Sunday Business Post

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  • Dr. Muireann Ni Bhrolchain
    Sunday Business Post http://www.sbpost.ie/post/pages/p/story.aspx-qqqt=IRELAND-qqqm=news-qqqid=39202-qqqx=1.asp Battered Fianna Fáil retains core support
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 1 4:10 AM
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    • Dr. Muireann Ni Bhrolchain
      Sunday Business post, Thanks to FF, we are the sick man of the world Sunday, April 26, 2009 By Vincent Browne There are straws in the wind which signal that
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 26, 2009
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        Sunday Business post,
        Thanks to FF, we are the sick man of the world
        Sunday, April 26, 2009 By Vincent Browne
        There are straws in the wind which signal that all is not well in Fianna
        Fail. The backing down over the ministerial pensions for sitting TDs and
        the long-service allowance suggests there is a concern about the loyalty
        of backbenchers.

        That loyalty has been secured - or at least encouraged at the expense of
        the public - by the backing-down.

        The dismissal of John McGuinness is also a signal that troublemakers
        will not be tolerated. McGuinness caused trouble not just by
        characterising the October budget as a shambles and by his remarks over
        the public service, but by being obstreperous in the Department of
        Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in the view of Tánaiste Mary Coughlan.

        A further signal was the number and duration of cabinet meetings leading
        up to the April mini-budget.

        It seems that cabinet ministers insisted on being fully involved this
        time - unlike in the lead-up to the October budget and, more
        spectacularly, on the night of September 29 last, when Taoiseach Brian
        Cowen and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, between them, handed over
        the deeds of the country to guarantee the banks’ depositors and lenders.

        That night, the cabinet was entirely excluded in obvious breach of the
        constitutional imperative for the cabinet to act as a collective.

        Then there was the jibe at Cowen’s predecessor, Bertie Ahern, in
        dismissing his brother from a junior ministry. Noel Ahern was a
        competent minister and did well in housing, social exclusion and drugs.
        The only ostensible reason for dropping him was to distance this
        government from the previous government - a ludicrous exercise, since
        almost all of the current ministers were members of that previous
        government.

        Isn’t there something odd about Fianna Fail in that each of the last
        four leaders - Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern and Brian
        Cowen - wanted to spurn the legacy of their predecessor?

        But then, that is also true of the last three Fine Gael leaders, John
        Bruton, Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny.

        But to return to the party of government, there is dismay within the
        Fianna Fail parliamentary party over Cowen’s performance. The affection
        that was there for him in abundance a year ago has ebbed.

        There was tolerance for his early mistakes, attributable to his early
        days as Taoiseach and the appalling crisis that broke on him and the
        government.

        But that tolerance, too, has ebbed. How could he - indeed, they - have
        devised a budget that, in important symbolic features, has come apart?

        And when the scale of the ‘adjustments’ begins to take effect in pay
        packets, and in worsening health and educational services, there will be
        further unease within the parliamentary party, an unease likely to
        become a frenzy with the deeper ‘adjustments’, in terms of more tax
        increases and services cuts next December.

        The reality is that the continuance of this government in office is an
        obstacle to achieving the social solidarity that is needed to rescue us
        from the crisis. And that’s not just because of the incompetence of this
        government, but also because of its culpability in causing the crisis.

        Every time Fianna Fáil ministers respond to questions about the party’s
        responsibility for this crisis by a diversionary and protracted exegesis
        on the ‘‘global context’’, they forfeit more credibility and public
        patience.

        There is no reason to believe that those who were in part responsible
        for causing this crisis are the ones to rescue us from this crisis.

        The report of the International Monetary Fund last week was a
        devastating commentary on Ireland. It projected that the Irish economy
        would contract by 8 per cent this year and by 3 per cent next year - and
        that might be on the optimistic side.

        Nowhere else in the world is the situation as bleak. The US is projected
        to contract by 3.8 per cent this year, and have zero growth next year.
        The eurozone is -4.2 per cent for this year and -0.4 per cent next year;
        Germany is -5.6 per cent this year and -0.4 per cent next; France -3.0
        per cent and -0.4 per cent; Italy -4.4 per cent and -0.4 per cent;
        Britain -4.1 per cent and -0.4 per cent; Russia -2.9 per cent and +0.5
        per cent; Brazil -1.3 per cent and +2.2 per cent.

        Even sub-Saharan Africa is projected to do far better than us: +1.7 per
        cent this year, and +3.8 per cent next year.

        Britain used to be the ‘sick man of Europe’ a few decades ago. Now
        Ireland is not just the sick man of Europe, but the sick man of the
        world. We are likely to be a good deal sicker once the banks debacle
        hits us, via Nama and the guarantee given on that fateful night of
        September 29, 2008.That date will surely become a national day of
        mourning, commemorated annually.

        Before the December ‘adjustments’, there is likely to be a cabinet
        reshuffle, the purpose of which, ostensibly, will be to ‘freshen up’ the
        government.

        In reality, it will be to shore up Cowen’s position as leader and Taoiseach.

        At present, this seems unlikely to work. The cumulative effect of the
        disappointed expectations of Cowen, the coming disaster of the local and
        European elections, and the renewed public outrage over the December
        ‘adjustments’ are likely to do in either him or the government (or both)
        unless he or the government (or both) are done in before then.

        But the political fate of Cowen, and the fate of the government, count
        for nothing compared with the devastation that the recklessness of
        Fianna Fáil and the PDs is causing, and will cause, to the lives of
        millions in this country.

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