herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Honeymoon's over

Broken pledges and a whole lot of useless PR...

THE GOOD

1. Enda Kenny looks like a Taoiseach, sounds like a Taoiseach and behaves like a Taoiseach.

2. At Leaders Questions, he managed to respond to the formidable Shane Ross with such cutting good humour that Ross himself had to do a "Touche" laugh.

3. Ministers who didn't get the jobs they wanted, didn't sulk. They just got on with it. Think Joan Burton, for starters.

4. They made the most of Queen Elizabeth's visit. With bells on.

5. They were silent about the Beast impaling itself at the American Embassy. Although you could practically hear the prayer going up from Government Buildings: "Thank you God, that this happened on their bit of land, on their speedbump, to their car."

6. Mary Mitchell O'Connor put everybody in good humour, not just by driving down the plinth, which was a hell of an opening gambit, but by self-deprecatory humour on radio and TV.

7. They realise they're not in showbusiness and therefore occasionally say no to a media invitation.

8. The Minister for Finance is playing to his strengths: clever simple explanations, quotable quotes and side-of-the-mouth witticisms.

9. They're confident and knowledgeable about Europe.

10. Simon Coveney is all expert enthusiasm as Minister for Agriculture.

11. So far as we know, none of them have put mirrors up outside their offices to facilitate personal preening, as (according to rumour) did Ivor Callely.

12. Ruairi Quinn has been resolute in nailing the belief that we have a great education system. We used to have a great education system.

13. Alan Shatter and Frances FitzGerald have proven to be a good team on child protection.

14. Rumour has it that Cabinet meetings are crisply managed and not characterised by inter-party hostility.

15. They snuck through the Moriarty Tribunal fallout without too much association with Lowry.

16. They've been clever in dealing with the opposition -- not making them more interesting than they are.

THE BAD

17. Cronyism is giving jobs to pals. Nepotism is giving a job to the wife. There's been a bit of both. Not good in politics. Particularly when your Taoiseach has said "Don't do it".

18. They haven't sorted the synchronised swimming thing yet. When Phil Hogan announced water plans, colleagues ploughed in unhelpfully. Ditto with Richard Bruton. And Leo Varadkar. More communications co-ordination would be good.

19. They're buying into the PR thinking that "we've got to offer hope." Nope.

Every member of the Cabinet should read Machiavelli's The Prince. (It's a little cheap paperback.)

Machiavelli says every new ruler must hand out all the bad news in a huge punishing cluster at the beginning so their subjects are stunned and disappointed for the first six months -- and then dole out goodies bit by bit over several years. (That assumes there will be goodies at some stage. Now that's the hope bit.)

20. They haven't retrained the expectations of a nation. A key Government communications task is to help people understand happy-clappy is not going to break out the day after tomorrow or even the year after next.

21. They get flustered when accused of breaking promises. If you find a hole in the bucket the size of a dinner plate, it's not easy to deliver on a promise to water the flowers.

22. Labour need to do more to involve their grousing backbenchers.

23. Fine Gael need to get John Perry and James Reilly to kiss and make up. Quietly. Out of sight. None of us could bear to watch.

24. We have a worldwide reputation for getting footless. We suffer alcoholism the way allergic folk suffer hives. But, during the Royal and Presidential visits, they allowed Ireland to be branded by association with drink.

25. They confused their transport situation ridiculously in order to save a tiny bit of money.

What they've done ... what to do now

26 Cut the VAT rate on labour-intensive services such as restaurant meals and hotel accommodation from 13.5pc to 9pc in last month's "jobs budget", stimulating the tourist industry.

27 Failed to secure a reduction in the penal 5.8pc bailout interest rate. Eamon Gilmore's guff during the General Election campaign of "Labour's way or Frankfurt's way" now looks very hollow indeed.

28 Raided private pension funds to fund its jobs budget. The "temporary" 0.6pc levy will make it more difficult to persuade private sector workers to save for retirement.

29 Announced a flat-rate property tax from next year.

30 Signalled it would break the promise not to raise income tax rates or cut tax bands and credits.

31 Cut subsidies for regional airports, many of which have been rendered redundant by the new motorway system.

32 Reversed the €1 an hour cut in the minimum wage.

33 Announced plans for a major overhaul of the Joint Labour Committee system, which sets the wage rates and conditions for over 200,000 workers in the catering, cleaning and hospitality sectors.

34 Failed to deliver on its promise to get the banks to lend more to small businesses.

35 Despite promises by both Fine Gael and Labour, the Universal Social Charge has been retained without any changes.

36 Shot down AIB's proposed redundancy payouts. AIB, which is in the process of laying off up to 2,000 workers, was offering payouts which could have seen some managers walk away with up to €300,000. These proposals have been rejected by the Government.

37 Failed to prevent a €3m payout to Colm Doherty. The former AIB managing director got €3m of our money for presiding over the virtual destruction of the bank.

38 Declined to extend the car scrappage scheme. This means that new car sales are likely to collapse when the scheme expires.

39 Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has put off any decision on Metro North, Dart Underground or the Luas BDX line.

40 The €10 air travel tax was finally abolished last month.

41 Funked clearing out the civil service. Fine Gael was quietly hinting that it favoured a major clear out of senior civil servants, whose shortcomings had been so cruelly exposed by the economic downturn. We're still waiting.

42 Refused to scrap overseas aid. When social welfare payments are being cut and hospital wards closed, our ¤670m overseas aid budget is an unaffordable luxury.

43 Dragged its feet on asset sales. The Government could raise €5bn from the sale of State assets, but they are postponed until 2012.

44 Has yet to deliver on its pledge to transfer water to a new semi-State and introduce water charges.

45 The Government should hold a referendum on the 12.5pc company tax rate. That would call "Nasty Nick" Sarkozy's bluff.

46 Plans to spend up to €480m of our money on roads in the North should be put on hold immediately.

47 The Government should scrap upwards-only rent reviews in existing leases.

48 NAMA should be immediately broken up into a number of competing organisations.

49 Enda Kenny needs to put manners on the legal profession. Irish legal fees are still among the highest in Europe.

50 The Government should tear up the Croke Park agreement.

He can handle the queen, but can he manage Sarkozy?

THE GOOD

51 Enda's positive attitude. Okay, his chirpy demeanour has yet to translate into real results -- but it's a huge improvement on Brian Cowen's 'Incredible Sulk'.

52 Cutting ministers' salaries and making them use public transport instead of State cars. The savings may be small, but the symbolism is huge.

53 Restoring the minimum wage. A rare example of a pre-election promise now fully kept.

54 Disbanding the HSE. James Reilly's decisive action marks the beginning of a new era in Irish healthcare.

55 White-collar crime legislation. The days of bankers getting away with murder are numbered.

56 Facing down the judges. A forthcoming referendum should soon make it possible to cut their astronomical salaries.

57 The queen's visit. Handled brilliantly, it gave the country a badly needed lift.

58 Reforming the taxi industry. Long overdue given the horror stories exposed in a recent Prime Time Investigates.

59 A referendum on children's rights.

THE BAD

60 Enda's flowery language. Crying at Riverdance, for instance. Sooner or later the Taoiseach is going to say something really embarrassing.

61 The neutering of Eamon Gilmore. Six months ago he was the most popular politician in the country, now he's invisible.

62 Pouring another €24bn into our toxic banking system.

63 Four little words: Michael Lowry must resign. His old pal Enda couldn't say them.

64 The jobs initiative. What a damp squib.

65 Richard Bruton's plan to cut wages for low-paid workers. He wants to press ahead, Labour backbenchers are telling him to back off. This could get ugly.

66 Loose Lips Leo Varadkar's casual admission that Ireland may need a second EU/IMF bailout next year.

67 Confusion over water charges. Enda says nothing is decided, Phil Hogan insists that they're on the way. Get a grip, lads.

68 This week's abject failure to secure an interest rate cut on our EU loan. Nicolas Sarkozy clearly hates us now, but wasn't Enda supposed to be best friends with Angela Merkel?

69 Hiring family members as staff, after their promise to end the culture of cronyism.

70 Raiding private pensions. Nobody saw that coming -- could private savings accounts be next?

THE FUTURE

71 Work out a decent EU negotiating strategy. If Greece defaults, then Ireland will be next in the firing line -- and this Government doesn't want to get caught with its pants down.

72 Control the backbenchers.

73 Stop the ministerial solo runs. "Paddy likes to know what the story is," says Enda -- but with such a lousy communications strategy, Paddy is starting to get very confused.

74 Get through the presidential election. As David Norris would tell you, this could be an extremely dirty campaign.

75 The biggest challenge of all: show us that you really are different. Almost 100 days ago, the Irish people voted for change. So far, this Government hasn't delivered enough of it.

Far from perfect start for Kenny

76 Enda rewarding trusted and loyal stalwarts like Phil Hogan, Frances Fitzgerald and Jimmy Deenihan with cabinet posts.

77 Gilmore appointed tough warhorses like Ruairi Quinn and Brendan Howlin to top positions.

78 Taking on the issue of ministerial cars and drivers and ending the procession of state limos.

79 James Reilly saying the buck stops with him for both health policy and healthcare provision.

80 Enda realising that the people crave leadership and direction.

81 Appointing two tough politicians to Finance -- Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin.

82 Jimmy Deenihan's proposal that Bank of Ireland hand over College Green site to the State.

83 Trying to implement the programme for first 100 days -- even if Jobs Initiative fell flat.

84 Nominating Sean Barrett to be Ceann Comhairle.

85 Reversing thinking on special advisers and appointed some trusted people to support Ministers.

86 Taoiseach looked, acted and sounded like a leader for State visits.

87 Got past the Moriarity Tribunal Report with very little damage.

88 Creative use of the Taoiseach's 11 Seanad nominations.

89 Enda allowing trouble to fester on back benches by passing over former front benchers.

90 Gilmore made a major tactical error by not taking responsibility for Labour Affairs.

91 Both Gilmore and Kenny have failed to stop cronyism.

92 Phil Hogan and Richard Bruton announcing proposals not yet cleared by Cabinet, especially with Labour colleagues.

93 Enda is letting rhetorical flourishes get the better of him. If his crying at Riverdance comment was an ad-lib, it was a bad one.

94 Appointing two Ministers to the Department of Finance without fully thinking through the carve up of that Department.

95 Scrapping the position of Junior Minister with Responsibility for Older People.

96 Fine Gael and Labour are part of the two big political power blocs in EU and are leveraging nothing from that.

97 Over egged the pudding at an election Fine Gael and Labour were destined to win. Watch policy reversals mount up.

98 0.6pc Pension Levy and 1pc interest reduction on bailouts. One we are told will raise €450m per year -- the other we were told would save €450m per year. Neither will be achieved.

99 Dragging their feet on some adviser appointments.

100 Appointed capable Senators who may expose the folly of scrapping the Seanad.

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