Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

The FFFGGG Coalition Government in Dublin – “Two old hams 🐷 with a slice of lettuce 🥬 in the middle”

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Gene Kerrigan Strikes Again

IN recent days, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have been forced to move fast, in the open. We’ve seen with unusual clarity the underbelly of their type of politics.

A minor speculative comment can be added to Gene Kerrigan’s splendid article below. We do not (yet?) know who shafted Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen, making the Offaly TD an ex-minister after only 17 days in office. We do know that details of a Garda file were shown to journalists from the Irish Independent and the Sunday Times. The leaker (or leakers) are unknown, are probably “jealous, revengeful or whatever” – but the shafter (or shafters) may not have been Fianna Fáilers. Rivals of Cowen from the Laois-Offaly Dáil constituency, not in FF, are delighted about the back-stabbing of the former Minister for Agriculture.

“They couldn’t give a toss if doctors worked a 48-hour shift. But take away one of their goodies, give it to a lefty woman… good God, Fine Gael are as angry…”

And what we’ve seen has been petty, cynical and avaricious.

We’re seldom angered to see politicians filling their pockets. It’s become just part of what they do.

But, after what we saw last week, we have to wonder if “centrist” politics is now about anything other than grabbing cash and stroking each others’ tumescent egos?

The axis of greed has managed to prise politics away from its core value of organising public affairs for the protection and advancement of the mass of the people.

They have trivialised the notion of politics being the clash of society’s varied and opposing interests.

For Fianna Fail and Fine Gael — and for the worst elements of the smaller parties — politics is now a stripped-down game in which the goal is to outmanoeuvre the opposing team in the scramble for position and personal reward.

They do this by stoking supporters’ team spirit and by swiping “goodies” for the constituency.

And — not least — by sneering at anyone who wants politics to stand for something more than personal reward and pampered ego.

Last week it was all hands on deck to boost the takehome pay of Hildegarde, Pippa and Jack — the three lucky winners of the “superjunior” lottery.

It used to be that Fianna Fail won most elections. If they faltered, Fine Gael would tuck the Labour Party into its hip pocket and take office as a coalition. Cabinet positions were sorted out between them.

As FF-FG support dwindled, coalitions became more complicated. More junior ministers, more jobs for the boys and the girls.

But they weren’t enough.

Such were the expectations of riches that the “centrist” parties came to need even more cabinet positions, on higher salaries, to keep each other happy.

Which is where super juniors came from.

Legislation put a limit of two super juniors. After the 2016 election, Fine Gael tried to finesse it into three lucrative positions, but they were caught and they had to give the money back.

Worse, thanks to a blatant act of journalism by Ken Foxe, all the manoeuvring came into the public domain.

They eventually got three super junior positions, but on only two super salaries.

And there’s little pride in being a super junior if it doesn’t come with a solid wedge of cash.

In fact, Fine Gael found that downright embarrassing.

Which brings us to the current FF-Green-FG Government (a sandwich of two old hams with a slice of lettuce in the middle).

After five months of dawdling, while they edged slyly towards the combination that they knew from the beginning was the only way of preserving the old game, it became a matter of urgency to get the third salary for the third super junior.

So, although it was mortifying to be seen grabbing cash so blatantly, so soon, they had to rush through the legislation to make Hildegarde, Pippa and Jack feel like real lottery winners.

Last week, legislation was amended and the trio got jacked up the pay-scale and found they weighed in at €135,000 (which is €96,000 per TD; plus the €39,000 junior minister stipend).

And then the “super junior” €16,000 top-up.

The super bonus, on top of their €135,000, is in itself four grand more than a pensioner is supposed to live on.

This was, of course, not presented as a money-grab. We were told that it wasn’t fair that one super junior got less than the other two. They should be “treated equally”.

See, they weren’t grabbing dosh — they were fighting injustice.

The old sneer thrown at left-wing parties is that the first thing on the agenda is the split. The FF-Green-FG trio have shown us that the first thing on the agenda of the “centrist” parties is the legislation to line their own pockets.

It’s not just the moneygrabbing that has trivialised “centrist” politics.

Look at the issues that get them excited.

The Barry Cowen fiasco. That was a stab-in-theback job. One of his own — jealous or revengeful or whatever — stuck the knife in Barry.

Which one? There are so many factions within FF that the party is in serious need of a team of therapists, to calm them down. I don’t care which of them beat the others to it. They revealed themselves as an irredeemable cabal of chancers on the make.

That was the picture they presented at one tribunal after another, and they continue to prove it.

Fine Gael have in recent days proclaimed themselves to be angry. Really angry, they say, seriously angry. They’re spitting with anger. Why?

Is it the kids going back to portacabin classrooms?

Is it the doctors working 24-hour shifts?

No, none of this is what made Fine Gael TDs angry — it’s because one of their own got shafted.

Fergus O’Dowd was lined up to get the Leas Cheann Comhairle job. With a €39k bonus on top of the €96k basic.

Some TDs, in a secret vote, ignored orders and slid the knife into Fergus and gave the job to Catherine Connolly.

FF did it. Or maybe some Fine Gaelers for some reason had it in for O’Dowd.

They couldn’t give a toss if doctors worked a 48-hour shift. But take away one of their goodies, give it to a lefty woman… good God, Fine Gael are as angry as

Barry, and that’s really, really angry.

There’s a huge array of perks and “allowances” on top of politicians’ pay. I regret to report that last year Ken Foxe committed a further shameless act of journalism and used Freedom of Information to discover that Leo Varadkar, while Taoiseach in 2017, quietly restored a range of goodies that former holders of his office enjoyed until 2012.

Henceforth, the State would pay for “VIP airport facilities” for ex-taoisigh, and “support when travelling abroad”.

Secretarial arrangements were restored for extaoisigh. No longer would Bertie Ahern have to type his own letters.

Ex-taoisigh would henceforth have their own “liaison officer” giving them a “single point of contact” to look for further aid.

Mr Foxe unearthed the information that we’ve spent €421,769 on secretarial assistance for Mr Ahern since he left office.

Of course, when Mr Varadkar eventually quits politics, he, too, will benefit from these facilities that he’s approved.

One last thing.

The secret pension.

Last time I looked,

Bertie’s pension was over €150,000 a year. Such info used to be published. Now, all TD and ministerial pensions are kept secret. We pay for them, but we’re no longer allowed to watch the individual pensions grow.

Some Greens left the party last week. One in particular was sneered at by politicians and journalists who see that as “leaving democratic politics”.

Neither politics nor democracy is confined to Leinster House.

Without activism, gays would still be suppressed, along with women’s rights and so much more. Without activism, there would be no parliamentary democracy.

Parliament is a significant part of democracy. But, without grassroots identification of injustice and shortcomings, without activism to highlight and organise against wrongs, there is no change, democracy is a shell.

And activism is more important than ever when the FF-Green-FG axis of greed seems determined to make of parliament a trough, from which they rarely lift their snouts.

‘They weren’t grabbing dosh — they were fighting injustice’

Written by tomasoflatharta

Jul 26, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Ireland

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