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.