Tuesday 18 December 2018

Andrew Lynch: Drop the Mr Nice Guy act and start knocking some heads together, Enda...

At the launch of a book about his general election victory last night, Enda Kenny declared that no government should ever be given more than two terms in office.

The way his own ministers have been behaving, the electorate may soon start to regret giving them one.

With indiscipline breaking out all over the place, the Taoiseach urgently needs to start knocking heads together -- and act like a proper chief executive instead of just a shallow crowd-pleaser.

The latest outbreak of ministerial foot-in-mouth is the most worrying yet. Earlier in the week, Phil Hogan made it crystal clear that a new flat-rate household charge would be introduced on January 1 next year. Since then there has been utter confusion, with both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste insisting that no decision has been made and the Minister for the Environment continuing to flatly contradict them.

On the night of his election triumph, Kenny famously said: "Paddy likes to know what the story is." Right now, Paddy hasn't got a clue. This government is becoming like a political version of the game Whack-A-Mole, with misbehaving ministers popping up every few seconds and the Taoiseach desperately trying to hit them on the head.

In the last week alone, Kenny has had to explain that Richard Bruton is pursuing "a personal agenda" on cutting wages for low-paid workers and order Leo Varadkar to keep his mouth shut about the possibility of another EU/IMF bailout.

Those incidents could at least be partly explained by the fact that Richard and Leo both tried to get rid of their leader last year. Big Phil, however, is supposed to be Enda's right-hand man -- and if Kenny can't control him, it's hard to see how he can control anybody.

The Taoiseach now needs to take a long, hard look at his style of leadership. In recent weeks he has started to act like a father-of-the-nation figure, intoxicated by the successful visits of Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama.

At a time of economic crisis, however, Ireland Inc needs a very different kind of CEO -- someone who can run a tight ship without having to constantly worry if the crew are on the brink of mutiny.

As the latest WikiLeaks revelations have shown, the FF-Green coalition was destroyed because of its total failure to be straight with the public. The lowest point came when ministers Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey insisted that any talk about the IMF coming in was "fiction", just as Ajai 'Chopper' Chopra were booking their rooms in the Merrion Hotel..

At the time, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore jumped up and down with rage -- which makes it all the more disappointing that their own coalition seems to have an equally lousy communications strategy.

With the symbolic 100-day mark coming up, it's hard to see that this government has very much to celebrate. The list of U-turns is getting longer by the day, with debt renegotiation, water charges, college fees and banning corporate donations all coming under the category of 'broken promises'.


Kenny's chirpy demeanour may be a huge improvement on Brian Cowen's grumpiness, but it won't cut much ice with voters unless he starts translating that 'Is feidir linn' soundbite into real results.

The Taoiseach has very little time to lose. It should be clear by now that a massive storm is brewing over Sunday and overtime pay rates, with employers' groups desperately lobbying for cuts and the trade unions dead set against any change.

Richard Bruton is obviously going to be a central figure in those negotiations, which is why Kenny needs to sit down with his old leadership rival and put an end to these damaging solo runs once and for all.

No more Mr Nice Guy, Enda. The 443,400 people in the dole queues need a tough guy to fight for them instead.

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