IT MIGHT have been high-octane drama (if that’s an appropriate phrase for the Greens) for the past fortnight but its conclusion last night with the naming of the Cabinet was one that might have been ordered by Hollywood executives — make it uplifting, feelgood, non-offensive and 100% bland.
Yes, Bertie Ahern made history yesterday when he became the first taoiseach in more than 60 years to be elected for three successive terms. The opposition acknowledged that yesterday in under-the-breath compliments.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said it was a remarkable achievement and, at his most magnanimous, said he did so without cavils or caveats. But then he spoiled it a bit by adding a couple of cavils and caveats such as Ahern being a lucky general like Napoleon.
But in his first act as taoiseach, he displayed all the attributes that have kept him at the top for so long.
When you removed the two Green TDs from the equation, it was minimalist, not so much a reshuffle as the removal of a single card. And that was the unfortunate knave otherwise known as Dick Roche, who parlayed himself out of FF’s election campaign and out of a job. It was a hard blow for the bright, loquacious, but ultimately limited Roche, who less than three years in Cabinet finds himself back as junior minister for European Affairs.
In a parting shot, Roche gave the go-ahead for the M3 motorway, 24 hours before John Gormley would succeed him as environment minister.
The Taoiseach has railed against those who say that he doesn’t have the nerve to go in for Cabinet culls.
But with surgical incisions, he does tend to be superficial rather than invasive. With a soft-toe shuffle, he moved Charlie McCreevy to Europe in 2004, and finally dispensed with the services of Joe Walsh and Michael Smith.
This time round, the only new Fianna Fáil face at the Cabinet table is Brian Lenihan, who after a long apprenticeship is elevated to the office of Minister for Justice. To accommodate him and the two Green ministers, Roche was shunted out, and John O’Donoghue appointed as ceann comhairle.
Others wouldn’t or couldn’t be shifted. If Martin Cullen was demoted it would be capitulation to the opposition — it would also have meant there was no minister in the south-east.
This time round, Séamus Brennan’s starring role in the campaign and negotiations ensured his survival. Ditto Noel Dempsey, who takes over the Department of Transport and the Marine. But nine of the 15 hold onto their positions.
For the Greens, it was a great day. They gained two plum roles in Cabinet, John Gormley in Environment and Eamon Ryan in Community, Energy and Natural Resources.
The Greens argued this week that the ministries they control will give them the greatest chance of being influencers.
However, it was inevitable that the Greens would come in for an early attack from their former allies. Enda Kenny quoted back all the insults the Greens and the PDs hurled at each other over the past six months.
They say the first 100 days of government sets the standard for the full term. On day one, a departing FF minister gave the go-ahead for the M3. The two Green ministers will have their work cut out to make the difference they have so boldly promised.