Quit the messing lads and start managing your government’s politics….

Great (and passionate) analysis from Fergus Finlay on what’s eating at the coalition government’s popularity in Dublin… To paraphrase him in his Examiner column somewhat, it’s not a communication problem, it’s a fecking political management problem… I’ll let him explain what he means (I suspect you would never have to say this so explicitly to anyone in Fianna Fail):

So what do I mean by political management? It’s actually pretty simple, and maybe it’s best illustrated by a current example.

The Government gets involved in an entirely self-made controversy. It’s not about a household charge, because the majority of people either support that or are resigned to it. It’s about how the charge should be collected. And with the best intentions in the world, the Government, and especially the relevant minister, makes a complete dog’s dinner out of the whole thing.

But the controversy dies down a bit, after the minister has taken all sorts of heat. And the Government heaves a sigh of relief, because they have to conduct a controversial referendum campaign. It’s about Europe. It’s both vital and urgent, a real test of the government’s mettle. It needs total concentration for the next six weeks.

And then, last weekend, a story appears in the Sunday Times about the imminence of water metering, and the likelihood that everyone in Ireland could end up paying €300 for one of life’s most basic requirements. The first politician who’s asked about it is Eamon Gilmore. He says, simply, truthfully, and effectively, “we’ve made no decisions about that”. End of controversy. Back to concentrating on the referendum.

Until a succession of ministers, starting with the Taoiseach, start falling over themselves to contradict the Tánaiste. Within hours we’re told that we won’t have to pay for the installation of the meters, but we will have to buy them. Then we’re told that these meters, which cost about forty quid cash, will be paid for by way of a standing charge of 40 quid a year — for 20 years! By the end of the week they’ve created a new company — and a new controversy about whether appropriate tendering was done — and they’ve given some regulator or other a wider mandate. But they still can’t tell us how much our water is going to cost. Oh, and by the way, all of this messing is about something that will not happen for another two years.


  • “By the end of the week they’ve created a new company — and a new controversy about whether appropriate tendering was done — and they’ve given some regulator or other a wider mandate.”

    Irish Water and Northern Ireland Water. Perhaps the ‘political management’ is directed at an Island of Ireland Water Service 😉

  • Nordie Northsider

    For all its strong language, the article is really just more Labour Party fodder. Gilmore is deemed to be free of the incompetence of other Ministers and the named offenders are all from Fine Gael. Finlay has chosen to ignore the off-message pronouncements of Labour TDs like Patrick McNulty, the European spat between Neasa Childers & Proinsias de Rossa etc.

    Fergus suggests that if the coalition doesn’t get its act together it will revive the chances of a Fianna Fáil government. It’s curious how Labour people talk up Fianna Fáil. It’s obvious to everyone that Sinn Féin are just as likely to make electroral gain from the public’s anger – but Sinn Féin must not be named and SF arguments must be studiously ignored. On TV and radio Labour spokespeople pick up on Fianna Fáil positions and ignore the Shinners as much as they can. I’m beginning to think Labour and Fianna Fáil need each other.

  • Mick Fealty


    None of the above mentioned are in the Cabinet or even the government…

  • Nordie Northsider

    True, but the behaviour of backbenchers reflects on the public perception of Government and Labour are failing miserably to prevent defections, resignations and public disagreement. But let’s stick to Cabinet level: Fergus wants to give the impression that Labour are a more choreographed unit than Fine Gael. He chooses to ignore Minister Joan Burton’s unveiled criticism of cabinet colleagues. That doesn’t do much for cohesion.
    I like the style of Fergus Finlay’s pieces in the Examiner, but I never forget that he is a party man. I have not once seen him make a serious criticism of the Labour Party.

  • Mick Fealty

    I take the ‘party man’ point, but I don’t think that that faults Fergus’ analysis in quite the way you originally suggested… It’s a useful cut the communications excuses and don’t forget this is still politics is timely…

    There are some similarities between FG’s MO under Enda and Call me Dave’s in London, one of the things that drives Dave’s closest supporters nuts is that he sometimes forgets he’s supposed to be a Tory Prime Minister…

  • Nothing wrong with forgetting you’re a Tory Prime Minister. At least he’s not becoming a UKIP one as some in the party would want.

    In my opinion, the coalition in London have done a decent job of rolling out the bad news. It’s just that the recovery strategy is going nowhere and the good news quickly turns to bad news. Racking up scandals here and there isn’t helping either.

    Although perhaps it’s less of a good strategy in rolling out the bad news and more that it’s all put off until Autumn 2013.

    Point is, maybe there’s something for FG to take from that.