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Monday 23 October 2017

Conor Lenihan: TDs can't get heads around mood for 'vengeance bejazus'

CROKE PARK: Signal agreement end

A week is a long time in politics. It is the oldest cliche in the book, but once again true.

In the past week the Dail has returned from its prolonged summer recess, and the true cost of Anglo is finally known.

In addition to this, the drawn- out controversy over the Taoiseach Brian Cowen's interview with Morning Ireland has ended.

The €29bn cost of Anglo Irish Bank still rankles with the public. People are still furious that no banker, anywhere, has gone to jail.

The popular mood for "vengeance bejazus" is still not fully understood at Leinster House.

Anglo, and pretty much everyone associated with it, have become the public's whipping stick after the disappearance of the boom.

At the start of the downturn, teachers, pensioners and public servants took to the streets.

Thankfully, from the perspective of the international reputation of the country, these protests have never degenerated into full-scale riots, as happened in Greece, Iceland and Spain.

The incident involving a truck being driven at the gates of Leinster House seems to be as bad as it gets for the moment.

Excesses

The fact that the media chose to make a "hero" of the perpetrator is slightly immature, but indicative of how unpopular the political class actually is.

Politicians, as well as public service workers, are seen by the wider public to have escaped the worst excesses of the dowturn.

This may be unfair to those who work in the public service, but is definitely a perception.

Private-sector workers see their earnings slashed by executive decision, and with great speed.

They contrast their own experience with what they see as unresponsive and inefficient public services.

In the public eye, the politicians have still not got down to brass tacks on reforming public services.

If progress is not made soon, it will probably signal the end of the Croke Park agreement and the partnership process as we know it.

Despite the fact that this process has prevented widespread industrial unrest over the past two years, it is not popular with the public.

Protests

Huge and difficult decisions still remain to be taken about downsizing the State itself.

The poor turnout for the ICTU/SIPTU-inspired protest is indicative. Less than 1,500 people showed up for what was signalled to be a Europe-wide series of one-day protests in national capitals.

The certainty of an election is drawing closer.

The political system itself is unsteady, as Vincent Browne points out, precisely because both Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny are trailing badly in the polls.

The Eamon Gilmore popularity balloon will have to subside at some point.

The only issue left to be determined is how and when this will happen.

The Labour leader's climb in the opinion polls has fed a media frenzy and an element of fear and loathing in the two big parties. It is a huge source of wonder to both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael that Eamon Gilmore has done so well.

He is no Barack Obama but does communicate well and come across as a nice guy.

Conor Lenihan TD is Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation and a Dail deputy for Dublin South West

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