Don’t you just love the first year of a new relationship?
Ah, the intense excitement and romance of it all; not to mention the chemistry of bonding which floods the brain. The desire to learn more about one another other; the budding relationship is fresh, fun and adventurous. It has also been revealed that the simplistic act of being in the presence of your other half on a daily basis can stimulate love... So was that the case for Fine Gael and Labour?
One year on, having spent a year cooped up in the Dáil together, we ask, has the union of Fine Gael and Labour been the perfect partnership? Can this coalition stand the test of time? And has the honeymoon period ended for Enda and Eamon?
Sure they had a rocky start to their relationship, with the Tánaiste himself admitting they had been “knocking lumps” out of each during the general election campaign, but the publishing by the Government of its first annual progress reports details that they have made a ‘solid start’ at tackling the problems faced by the State.
The 45 page publication claimed that from 167 policy commitments listed in the implementation plan for the coalition government in their first year together, more than 150 of them had either been delivered or substantial progress had been made. The report also served as a reminder of their ‘achievement’s including the extra mortgage-interest relief for the negative-equity generation, the €10 billion reduction in the interest bill on our bailout loans, the reversal of the cut to the minimum wage by €1, and lastly, and possibly my favourite..... The €4m saved on ministerial car costs!! (Such expenditure was not warranted in the first place!)
(But remember this is their own self assessment of their progress... and as the infamous saying goes, ‘self praise is no praise’)
They did however accept that they had failed to delivered approximately a dozen commitments (how very noble of them!) but emphasised what they claimed were successes on debt reduction, banking and restoring stability (Again debatable!).
Acknowledgement by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, that as a government they had failed to provide enough support to struggling mortgage holders was welcomed and he alluded to the fact that a temporary cabinet sub-committee had been formed to address the issue of distressed mortgages. (Let’s hope some action on this issue follows...as personal insolvency legislation is apparently still awaited.)
Mr Kenny also cited that the burden of the bank bailout was still “too onerous” on taxpayers (You think Enda?).
Also, despite his promise in May 2011, to publish “report cards” evaluating the performance of individual ministers, they were not included in this report. However it was confirmed in recent days that this would not be a public exercise. Instead Mr Kenny met with ministers, senior and junior alike, and had an “honest appraisal” with them prior to the publication of the Government’s performance in this report.
Furthermore, it seems like Mr Kenny is adamant that this coalition will be a match made in heaven; expressing his feelings that “The people will be the judge of the ‘A Class’ in due course at the end of five years”. (You’re sounding overtly confident Enda! Relationships are tricky... Who says it won’t all crumble before then? Who says you won’t be deemed the ‘NG’ class?! Tread carefully Enda, tread carefully!!)
An Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore appeared to be somewhat more in tune with reality reminding us that whilst as a government they had taken over the reins in “horrific circumstances” that they had made progress, but he was not going to exaggerate it. Stating “We know full well the extent of what we have to do and we know full well the difficulties people are having”.
Of course the opposition parties were on hand to suggest that the report was a mere propaganda exercise, but both Taoiseach and Tánaiste denied any such PR exercise was at the heart of this report or that it was a mere ploy to paint a rosy assessment of their progress.
The bleak realism pointed out by opposition parties captured a myriad of ongoing issues they failed to address; the hoards of crowds queuing up at jobs fairs this week in search of employment opportunities abroad (undoubtedly a case of forced emigration!), unemployment rates and the health budget cutbacks of €750m (a vital service which should not be ignored!).
Fine Gael had previously planned to celebrate their first anniversary in fashion (without inviting the Labour Party along!) by means of a photocall with TD’s and Senators holding up stars in an effort to illustrate their achievements over the past year. Thankfully, for both us and their better half, this ‘supposed’ celebration was cancelled as it was deemed by some clever sod as ‘inappropriate’ (Whoever you are – we are grateful!!). The sheer notion of celebrating alone raised the obvious questions surrounding the cohesiveness of the coalition government. They may have been all smiles at the publication of the annual progress report, but they cannot fool the nation! This is no perfect partnership – this coalition has got to work, for the sake of the nation and our hope of an economic recovery! (This is one relationship that cannot break up!)
Given the sheer scale of the economic crisis, and the major issues which the coalition government has yet to address, it is without a doubt not the time to be celebrating when so many people in the country are struggling – FG and Labour... Enda and Eamon, having reflected on your first year together, it is quite clear that the honeymoon period is most definitely over!!! Now, get back to work guys... you have one hell of a job YET to do!!
The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 9th March 2012