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Taoiseach get his priorities right? BIC wins out over Sarkozy

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Is the Labour Party beginning to buckle under the strains of being in government? Willie Penrose has today resigned from his post as the Super–Junior Minister and from the parliamentary LabourParty over the closure of Mullingar Army Barracks. Leinster MEP, Nessa Childers, told national radio this afternoon how she was threatened with expulsion from the Labour Party by a senior party politician for criticising the government’s nomination of Kevin Cardiff, Secretary General of the Department of Finance, to the European Court of Auditors . Meanwhile, the Sunday Business Post reported that a number of backbench Labour TDs met informally last week to discuss their concerns about the direction of education policy, specifically any possibility of the reintroduction of student fees, on which thousands of students are expected to take to the streets later in the week.

In light of the threatened implosion of the eurozone, and the economic and social catastrophe that would immediately follow, such issues seem more like surreal distractions than anything much to get excited about. The defection of Willie Penrose, a much respected member of the Labour Party, is a matter of regret. But it makes no difference to the government’s overwhelming Dail majority, most recently strengthened by the addition of Patrick Nulty as the second Labour Deputy for Dublin West. Besides, Labour’s backbenches are crowded with hopefuls ready and willing to replace Penrose in the High Chair at the top table.

Just who took it upon themselves to attempt to bully and browbeat Nessa Childers into silence is a matter more of curiosity than genuine interest, though the  controversy surrounding the proposed appointment of Mr. Cardiff to the ECA will rumble on. Given his unfortunate description of the European job as a ‘dawdle’ before the PAC last week, and other background issues relating to Ireland’s banking crisis and the mistakenly counted  3.6bn euro affair, there may well be  potential for further embarassment to the government when Mr. Cardiff appears before the EP Budgets Committee for examination of his credentials for the job.

As for the students, Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn, shows no embarrassment about reneging his very public pre-election pledge-signing promise of no increase in student fees and the Taoiseach will escape the students’ wrath, anyway, since he’s off to Europe for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Or so he told the Dail. It was what he said in the next breath that supplied the jaw dropping moment. President Sarkozy, the Taoiseach informed Michael Martin, had also offered him a meeting but he couldn’t take him up on it because he’s already scheduled to attend a meeting of the BIC on the day appointed.

The BIC? The British Irish Council?  A political gabfest of about as much political import in these troubled times as a meeting of Castlebar Town Council?

Perhaps Enda Kenny hasn’t noticed that the new Prime Minister of Italy is a Mr. Monti and the new Prime Minister of Greece is a Mr. Papademos and that the French President had no small hand in deposing their democratically elected predecessors? There’s no sympathy due to either Mr. Papandreou or Mr. Berlusconi. However, the point is that a Rubicon of sorts was crossed last week in European democracy . The heads of the two most powerful European states behaved in a way that negates all the principles of democracy on which the European Union is supposed to be based.

In an Irish context, it’s like waking up some fine morning to find that the new Taoiseach will be Mr. Colm Mc Carthy or Mr. Pat Cox – no disrespect intended to either of these fine gentlemen – or some other economist/technocrat who fits the bill better than our elected Taoiseach should, in France and Germany’s view, circumstances in Ireland warrant regime change. In which case, it might be more in Ireland’s interests, in the depths of the biggest crisis that has ever beset the EU and which it may not even survive, to meet with Mr. Sarkozy, and at least look into the whites of his eyes, rather than turning down his invitation because of a prior commitment to attend the BIC. No doubt, of course, the French President is aware of the BIC and all its splendid works, as we all are.

But there’s priorities for you! Maybe it’s not just the Labour party who are finding the going a bit rough. God help us all.

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16 Responses to “Taoiseach get his priorities right? BIC wins out over Sarkozy”

  1. # Comment by A Humble Chestnut Roaster Nov 15th, 2011 20:11

    Glad you got Deputy Penrose’s title right early on. Much of the MSM spin today, presumably fed by the man himself, had him resigning from Cabinet or from Government. As we know, he was not a mamber of the Government. However, he did seem to breach confidentiality today by revealing details of Government discussions.

  2. # Comment by Queenie Nov 15th, 2011 22:11

    Or perhaps his priorities are exactly right.
    If the eurozone is imploding we could need the Brits.
    Cast your mind back to the bailout and who was the only one arguing that Ireland was bearing too high a cost? George Osborne.

    Bye bye euro hello punt hitched to sterling once more.

    Seems to me Kenny is minding the shop (and our biggest trading partner).

    He could also believe that meeting Sarkozy is a waste of time. If his relationship is better with Merkel, he maybe relying on her for any help we can hope for..

  3. # Comment by Veronica Nov 16th, 2011 06:11

    @Quennie,

    Yes indeed! Clearly our Taoiseach has got his priorities right:

    “October 20, 2011
    A Ministerial meeting of the British-Irish Council will take place in Gaoth Dobhair next month.

    The meeting, which will consider minority languages and their place in the community, has been organised along with an international language conference which is also taking place in West Donegal.

    Gaeltacht Minister Dinny McGinley confirmed the second Ministerial meeting of the Native, Minority and Lesser-Used Languages Group will take place in Gweedore on November 11th.

    The meeting will concentrate on the subjects of youth, and the promotion of minority and native languages in the community, and the Council’s work agenda for the next few years will also be discussed.

    For two days before the Ministerial Council meeting, a language conference on young people’s issues will also be held that week on the 9th and 10th November.

    This is the first time that both the British Irish Council institutes, BIC and the conference organisers Network for the Promotion of Linguistic Diversity have organised such an event together”

  4. # Comment by Queenie Nov 16th, 2011 09:11

    we all know the real meetings take place in the corridors.

  5. # Comment by Veronica Nov 16th, 2011 11:11

    Depends on who’s there. But frankly, I don’t think so when it comes to the BIC, which is normally attended by Scottish, Welsh, Isle of Man, NI regional assembly members and officials and which, despite great hopes for its development into some sort of ‘Council of the Isles’ at its inception under the peace process, is a really ‘small potatoes’ outfit that nobody notices or pays any attention to.

  6. # Comment by John Handelaar Nov 16th, 2011 14:11

    Alternative explanation: Enda makes sure Sarkozy knows exactly how important a BIC meeting is, and then refuses the meeting.

    Sarko pissed us off, is in the doghouse for it, and is (says polling) getting his arse handed to him at the next election in April.

    Who cares what he thinks?

  7. # Comment by Veronica Nov 16th, 2011 15:11

    Would like to think you’re right, John, and that there’s a good strategic reason for giving old Sarko the elbow at this time. Indeed, one can appreciate, given the nature of his quest with Mrs Merkel, why, in all the circumstances, the Taoiseach might snub a French overture. But the fact is that Enda Kenny’s performance at EU level has been underwhelming, to say the least of it; and secondly, surely to goodness his advisors could have come up with a better excuse for not taking up the French offer than this nonsense about it clashing with the BIC?

  8. # Comment by A Humble Chestnut Roaster Nov 16th, 2011 19:11

    Are we in danger here of jumping the gun in ceding to Franco-German hegemony? The EU is a union of equals, notwithstanding the webs of contacts in the background. We need to retain our self-esteem and not suddenly start feeling we are beholden or supplicant to any one other State’s leader. I find it a pleasant surprise that Enda is not responding to the sound clicked fingers from another mainland.

  9. # Comment by Veronica Nov 17th, 2011 04:11

    HCR,

    Too much coffee today…serous insomnia, so I’ve been skiting around internet posts trying to find some clue as to what the government ‘strategy’ is. Speculation is that the Taoiseach’s political objective was either to (1) achieve some agreement in principle with Mrs Merkel to a deal on Ireland’s primissory notes, about 30bn euros worth, through extension of the loan periods/reduction in interest rates/write off or some such combination, or (2) advise the German Chancellor that a successful referendum on further fiscal integration of the EU would be politically impossible in Ireland or (3)trade one off against the other i.e. new debt deal and we’ll pass your Treaty revisions.

    Still no wiser as to why a meeting with the French President was passed on. However, I doubt that ‘self-esteem’ or retaliation for past personal slights, real or imagined, had anything to do with it since the government’s priority is to secure the best outcome for Ireland. Quite rightly, they’d talk to the devil himself, if needs be, in pursuit of that aim.

    From press reports of the visit to Germany, there may be a long way to go yet in securing any positive outcome, or one more to our liking than the present overburdening with bank debts. Presumably, there will be more clarity about the government’s objectives and strategy in the coming days. As for a ‘union of equals’, after the events of the past ten days, I don’t think the evidence for that one stacks up any more.

  10. # Comment by A Humble Chestnut Roaster Nov 17th, 2011 09:11

    “As for a ‘union of equals’, after the events of the past ten days, I don’t think the evidence for that one stacks up any more.”

    However, it remains the constitutional position, and we are going to play on that.

    Also, France and Germany want very different things. The Realpolitik of it is that Angela/Germany are the moral compass of the EU, France is in the crosshairs of the bond markets, and Sarkozy is on the way out. Why would Enda change his schedule to let Sarkkozy queer his pitch to Angela?

  11. # Comment by Veronica Nov 17th, 2011 10:11

    HCR,

    A ‘constitutional position’ isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if it crumbles the first time it’s confronted with a crisis. Sadly, the history of Europe is littered with examples. What was a eurozone debt crisis is now a major political crisis threatening the very existence of the EU, all of whose institutions have been found out as severely lacking in any substance or robustness.

    Honestly, I never thought I’d find myself in agreement with Michael Martin, but I think his call for the Taoiseach to set out Ireland’s position in this crisis to the Irish people is probably the right one. Of course Martin is in opposition and so doesn’t have to worry too much about the finer nuances of getting the diplomacy right with the EU, and France and Germany in particular, but I think he has a point and we, the citizens, deserve more from the government than having to take it on trust that Enda Kenny knows what he’s doing and it will all be alright on the night.

  12. # Comment by A Humble Chestnut Roaster Nov 17th, 2011 20:11

    Hang on , Veronica. Micheál Martin was supposed to be adopting a new and constructive style of opposition politics. It’s mischievous to cal on anyone to disclose their negotiating position.

    As for constitutionality, I haven’t read anywhere that the Greek or Italian consitutions have been departed from. And the impetus for the changes was that those two countries were unable to continue funding themselves from the markets. The ECB, if anyone, has been obliged by circumstances to operate outside its treaty mandate.

  13. # Comment by Veronica Nov 17th, 2011 21:11

    HCR,

    It’s not about the letter of any law, its about a massive political failure within the EU. I’m astonished that anyone believes there’s nothing wrong with the way in which two governments were deposed last week at the behest of France and Germany, and to protect the economic and political interests of the leaders of those countries, NOT the interests of the Greek or Italian people. It stands European democracy, and everything the EU was ever supposed to be about, on its head. Hiding behind the lace curtains of so-called constitutional legitimacy doesn’t make what has happened any less appalling or unacceptable. That Mr Papandreou was the original weak-chinned wonder of the world or teh eog-maniacal Mr. Berlusconi a buffoonish, bunga-bunga, figure of ridicule, and that neither would merit a lick of sympathy even from the family dog, should not distract us from the enormity of what has taken place.

    Meanwhile the news wires are alive with the story of an Irish budgetary document being pored over by a Finance Committee in the Bundestag. On the TV3 5.30pm news bulletin it was apparent that the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore didn’t have a bulls’ clue about what document it was. On RTE Six News, his colleague, Brendan Howlin tried a bit of the old bluster of the ‘no decisions been taken’ variety before finally being forced to admit that he was “appalled”. On Channel 4 news, the item was brief, but the meaning was clear. So now we have it: nobody on the floor of the Irish Parliament can be told anything about what may be under consideration by the government in respect of possible tax changes in the Budget in a couple of weeks time, but it’s OK to have German parliamentarians make their independent assessment!

    HCR, I don’t like being tetchy because it risks getting in the way of reasoned discussion, but hell, you really couldn’t make this stuff up!

  14. # Comment by A Humble Chestnut Roaster Nov 17th, 2011 21:11

    It’s not about the letter of any law? We can all beconstitutional when the money is flowing – the test of our buy-in to constitutional and treaty principles is when things get tetchy.

    I’ve looked at the Italian and Greek constitutions meantime, and both countries’ Presidents seem to have behaved as their roles prescribe.

  15. # Comment by EddieL Nov 19th, 2011 19:11

    It seems Enda does some strange things – like paying €750,000,000 of tax-payers money to people he has no idea who they are and furthermore shows no interest in finding out who the are (if I remember his statement in the Dail to that effect rightly).
    I gather also that the new dictatotors in Greece and Italy have strongs links to America. Anyway when Merkel tells Sarcozy to bailout his own banks the truth will come out. What does that say for EU independence?

  16. # Comment by A Humble Chestnut Roaster Nov 20th, 2011 12:11

    Begin to get over it

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