Wednesday, October 10, 2007


At the end of every term, I do a simple exercise, totting up the topics that have been chosen by opposition leaders for the twice-weekly set piece Leaders' Questions.

Over the last couple of years, the predictable issues have dominated - health, crime, and the Government's secret weapon of dealing with Limerick's gang culture: unleashing Willie O'Dea in the city's drinking establishment on weekend nights.

The dynamic has changed this time. There are now only two leaders entitled to speak during Leaders Questions and one of them, Eamon Gilmore, is new. With the smaller parties and indepedendents having been hoovered up by Government or gobbled up by the electorate, there is no longer a technical group. There is no Joe Higgins. The Greens have forsaken tofu abstinence for meat indulgence. And Sinn Fein - this was meant to be another breakthrough election; it instead became a breakdown election. Down from five to four. No Mary Lou. Pearse Doherty in the Senate rather than in the Dáil.

So where once there were five, now there are two. It's very early days and I don't think that any of the opposition parties have got their heads around what strategies they will adopt to down the Government over the next five years.

With Labour's Gilmore, there has been a difference of style and nuance rather than substance so far - he is less confrontational; appealing more to reason and to common sense than Rabbitte was. For Enda Kenny and Fine Gael, it's been more of the same, leaving off where they left off before the election.

Fine Gael's big strategy last time was that the election would be won or lost on three big issues - health, crime and value for money. The party was wrong on all three issues. The election was won and lost on the economy.

So can we expect more PPARS, more attacks on health, more 'we are tougher than Terminator' on getting the criminal gang scum off the streets.

Well on the crime front, yes. Listening to Enda Kenny and Charlie Flanagan yesterday, it was deja vu all over again. Kenny repeated a phrase three times: "Who's in charge Taoiseach, the Government or the gangs?"

That had tabloid written all over it. But when Charlie Flanagan started talking about bringing the army onto the street as back-up, that really took the pip. Brian Lenihan should have dismissed it out of hand. Instead, foolishly, the Justice Minister actually said he would refer it to the Garda Commissioner. I mean, if you follow that line of argument, the next thing is that we will impose martial law on the street and people will begin to consider the sense of Eoghan Harris's baublings about armed gardai shooting it out with criminals and the return of capital punishment.


Dan Sullivan said...

Harry, there are those who would say that martial law already exists in a good few areas of some cities in Ireland except it ain't the Irish army imposing it, it is gang members too young and too coked up to think clearly about anything they are doing.

Harry McGee said...

Sure, but even where the problem is really bad (most major US cities, most European cities) they don't have to call the army in. Sure, the guards in those cases in armed. But in Limerick there was a checkpoint of armed gardai only a couple of yards away from where the guy was shot this week.

Lenihan was foolish to have not dismissed this out of hand. To me, bringing the army in is preposterous.

Anonymous said...

I do believe there is a constitutional prohibition on the
US military being deployed at home. Good reasons too. Politicians calling for military deployment on the streets is worrying.
have they not learnt anything from the North