Typically perceptive piece from Harry Magee on Labour’s troubles in government in Dublin, which thankfully stays well away from the usual Leinster House gossip shop and who’s angry with whom, dry heaves and the like.
He foregrounds the fact that none of the organisations that have set conditions on the repayment of funds are actually equipped to run a country, even a small one like Ireland:
The reality is that the troika of international lenders isn’t a think-tank and the two Government parties don’t have the luxury of dismissing it out of hand without coming up with some feasible alternative.
Taking all else out of the equation he finds the glaring weakness in Labours armoury:
Troika officials have argued consistently in private that their presence in Ireland provides a fig leaf or cover to the authorities to take hard decisions. But it is a struggle to think of any individual policy move that has impacted substantially on Fine Gael alone as compared to the Government as a whole.
With Labour, every single harsh decision by Government takes on the status of betrayal.
The party has had successes: it has softened some of the more austere measures, has kept key utilities in State hands, has managed to keep the public sector onside and has protected core social welfare rates. For those achievements it has received zero recognition. It has also made many mistakes. For those it has received unrelenting criticism.
And here’s the critical insight:
Labour’s problems are compounded by the fact that its own pre-election pledges and promises were made in laboratory conditions and could not be sustained.
Despite broad opinion in the Dublin press that the Troika laid down hard and fast policy rules that straightjacketed successive Irish governments, policy formulation remains firmly a matter for government and the Oireachtas.
So for instance FF has taken advantage of that latitude to unhook itself (like Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregor’s garden) from an unpopular Household Charge saying that no Irish government or opposition is bound by anything other than meeting fiscal targets.
Policy matters in politics. Labour’s prime mistake seems to have been their policy selection appears to have been confected for life in a parallel universe.
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