After Fianna Fail, the new government must stretch time horizons…

A few years back, my old mucker from River Path days, David Steven warned an audience in Tokyo of the dangers of the unrest that would come in the wake of the world credit crisis:

…be ready for the backlash – people are angry and rightfully so, but that may well lead us down some populist blind alleys.

You can’t help thinking that the Arab world may be in part or in whole wandering down some particularly nasty populist blind alleys even as we ‘speak’.

Today’s Guardian wonders, on a similar theme, whether Fine Gael is simply benefiting from a ‘it’s our turn’ benefit on the merry-go-round of Irish politics and that the Irish people are running blind into the arms of the next guy, without reflecting on whether they have the wherewithal to actually make the necessary changes.

There was certainly a theme on RTE’s excellent new Eleventh Hour programme last night, with all manner of experts pulling their hair out at the unreality of the Leaders Debate, in which they felt none of the current political party leaders were squaring up to the dread reality of the Republic’s financial situation.

Eddie Hobbs likened the new Taoiseach as taking up the role of the present day bank manager. He has the name of taking important decisions, but in reality they will be taken far from Government Buildings.

That’s true to an extent. Ireland’s never been good at conceiving how its sovereignty might extend into what used to be known as ‘external affairs’.

Enda Kenny mentioned ‘stress tests’ of the banks might change everything. And indeed they might. If their losses are even greater than reported heretofore that could be when default on the current arrangements becomes a national imperative.

But to return to David’s Tokyo presentation, what the new government needs to do more than anything else is ‘to stretch time horizons’ for the time in which the Irish economic tanker can be turned round.

Fianna Fail’s disarray comes in part because Brian Cowen was visibly forced to turn on a sixpence over less than a twenty four hour period. The Taoiseach (and his deputy) will need to plot a careful longer term course out of the current mess.

Kenny’s mention of stress testing is the first time we’ve heard what we’re going to hear a lot of after this weekend, ie that sharp drawing of breath between the teeth followed by an ominous warning, “We never thought it was quite as bad as this…”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty