Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I didn't realise last night that Enda Kenny's was showing off his superb waltzing steps in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

And that was interesting. Because five years ago, I spend a day on the infamous Baldy Bus that hurtled Michael Noonan around the country to his political armageddon. And on that particular day, we visited Ballinasloe.

In the town, a tiny smattering of true blue FG supporters awaited him. One of them was Dr John Barton, the local hospital consultant who is now a candidate for the party. Barton made a good speech about health services. It was the highlight of a grim day for the then Fine Gael leader. In the few towns we visited between Galway and Athlone the sight of the FG bus was like a repellent - you could see the people visibly move away as if being confronted by a rabid dog. In Ballinasloe, I can't recall him managing to meet one human being who wasn't a signed-up member of Fine Gael.

For all his other qualities, Noonan had no charisma as leader. Enda Kenny does. And the contrast of what happened in Ballinasloe yesterday and what happened five years ago couldn't be more telling.

Miriam Lord's piece in the Irish Times this morning was the real deal (read it here, subscription after tomorrow). There are a couple of finger-on-the-pulse observations setting out the contrast between Kenny and Bruton.

Watching Enda Kenny as he tore through country towns yesterday like a man possessed, it was hard not to conclude he is overcompensating for the abject failure of his predecessor to make any connection with the electorate the last time out.

BertieGate has proved to be a huge diversion. Attention has been diverted from what politicans called the 'real issues'. And we'll come back to them in a sec. But it also means that Enda has not really been cross-examined on his views and won't be really until the TV debate next week. Here's Miriam Lord again:

" The faster he runs, the more distance he puts between his party and the embarrassment of the last election. The faster he runs, the quicker people will forget. The faster he runs, the less chance there will be for awkward questions.
And if he runs fast enough, he might even outpace Bertie."

And speaking of real issues. BertieGate has lulled over the past two days and given way to the so-called real issues. Today we had one of those false rows with a lot of air being generated about SFA. FF went into attack mode at their briefing this morning, claiming that Proinsias de Rossa voted in favour of a common European tax. That, the party claimed, would mean an increase in corporation tax in Ireland from 12.5% and a loss of our sovereignty when it comes to devising our own tax laws.

We saw the first good example of 'prebuttal' from the Labour Party. Their briefing was held half an hour before the FF one but they essentially came out with a defence against an accusation that would not be made against them for at least another 30 minutes.

Bizarre, but that's what they do. Labour obviously sussed that this was going to form the basis of FF's attack this morning and anticipated cleverly. Its defence was that de Rossa voted merely for a study looking at the feasibility of a common tax policy and that Fianna Fail MEPs had voted for the same thing.

There are two things about this. It's an empty debate. Every single one of the main six political parties have now bought into the 12.5% corporation tax. So, ahem, there's nothing to debate really.

However, though he was debating about shag all this morning, Brian Cowen was again really impressive. In the crisis that his leader has faced, he has really come to the fore and looks more and more like the leader-in-waiting. Vincent Browne got excited last week that Bertie will not contest the next election as FF leader. But that is old news - he said it, and it was reported, months ago.

And the question was then, and is now - if he does manage to lead FF home for a third time how long into that third term will he last? Like Blair, he knows that he will have to give his successor a lead-in time to bed himself or herself in. Unlike Blair, Bertie is never goign to name a date.


Anonymous said...

"Unlike Blair, Bertie is never going to name a date."

Actually, it's the precise opposite. Blair has consistently prevaricated over the precise date, which has caused him all sorts of problems over the last couple of years. Bertie has named his 60th birthday as the date by which he wants to be out of politics. Whether he makes it that far, of course, is open to question.

Harry McGee said...

Yes, he has named a date. His 60th birthday. But that date is unrealistic as it will fall only a few months before the election is called. The point you made about Blair is quite true.