Let’s face it , Fintan O’Toole could have been tougher on the incoming government. Maybe he thought they deserved a brief honeymoon. Does the sexual imagery give him away? His first verdict on the Programme for Government is as he puts it, a contrast between “a love potion and a chastity belt.” Fintan gives grudging welcome to the coalition’s political reform proposals, only to find them impotent in the face of the financial reforms he deems necessary, which the coalition will find “impossible.” If true, this will come as a severe letdown during the course of the Dail about to begin.
Throughout Europe centre left analyses are in retreat. Yet, in Ireland, the centre right/ centre left coalition seems to groping towards a third way, to coin a phrase. Colin Scott in Irish Economy identifies the Programme’s public sector proposals for regulatory reform.
- to reinforce freedom of information legislation
- to extend the ambit of the public sector ombudsman
- to introduce whistleblowers legislation
- to more tightly regulate political party finances
- to revise legislation governing the relationship between ministers and their civil servants
- to establish an Investigations, Oversight and Petitions Committee in the Oireachtas linked to a proposed referendum to permit Oireachstas committees to undertake full inquiries (reversing the Abbeylara decision)
- to require the publication of Regulatory Impact Analyses prior to the taking of government decisions
- to introduce greater ‘choice and voice’ for users of public services such as schools and hospitals
- to put the Inspector of Prisons on a statutory basis
In the same edition Dan Donovan, a former IMF official suggests burning the bondholders is the wrong way to get Europe to share the burden. Immolation might even be a bad thing for Ireland by perpetuating the State’s uncreditworthiness, raising mortgage interest rates and credit default insurance. The whole problem is like a Matryoshka doll – there is always another layer. And in the complexities of high finance, another layer means more charges and higher risks. So are the Irish authorities right to prolong emergency financing of the State by suspending plans to force the Irish banks to sell of their huge portfolio of debt? Perhaps Michael Noonan will explain over the next few days.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London