Thursday, May 10, 2007


Bertie Ahern's financial woes have disappeared off the radar screen over the past few days and we have returned to what passes for 'normal' business during an election campaign.

There's a huge element of artifice about what happens. Yesterday, we got a classic example of a phoney war; lots of hot air about an issue (corporation tax) where the policies of all parties (even the supposedly radical SF) are ad idem.

Most days during the campaign, all the parties hold briefings. Meanwhile, the Leader's go on manic whirlwind tours of the country where they do silly things firstly on behalf of upholding democracy and secondly on behalf of attracting the attention of the lenses.

RTE yesterday showed a great piece of archive footage from 1969 featuring Longford-Westmeath TD Gerry L'Estrange addressing a crowd outside Mass (in fact RTE has put a lot of fascinating archive material on its website including FF's embrace of American canvassing techniques in 1977; Pat Kenny explaining the use of computers in 1982; and a Liam Cosgrave address from 1973. You can find them all here.)

Nowadays, there are few speeches. It's all to do with the photo op - the most surreal was Pat Rabbitte and Breda Moynihan-Cronin on top of a jarvey in Killarney, bringing the famous Tom Parlon-Mary Harney donkey and cart photo from 2002 to mind.

The party's choose their own particular schtick each day and then try to anticipate what their rivals are going to say. Sometimes you feel like there's a secret coven where they all secretly agree in advance they are going to spar on an issue. At other times, it's more like throwing all the balls in the air and seeing which ones the media pack will catch and then kick.

Today it was health. Fine Gael insisting that the biggest broken promise of all by this Government was its promise to provide 3,000 extra hospital beds (it's part of the health strategy that runs out in 2011). The Government, particularly health minister Mary Harney countered by claiming that the FG proposal to provide an extra 2,300 beds would be impossible to achieve within five years. FG Deputy leader Richard Bruton insisted it would be, said that that FG would prioritise the first €850 million of the €2.6 billon provided for capital health spending in the NDP.

At least there was some meat in this particular sandwich, if you don't mind the distortion of a political metaphor. There are real differences between the two alternative alliances when it comes to health. And at least when you hear the debate there is a little bit more Gerry L'Estrange about it; a little bit less modern political leaders - there is debate and argument and the welcome (figurative) return of the soapbox.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its damn boring when they go back to boring issues. Bring back Bertie Gate quick!