A Look at North/South

Posted By: October 07, 2013

Tom Kelly looks at the political record, North and South. NOT EVEN LUCKY ROCKETSHIP UNDERPANTS WOULD HELP

Tom Kelly.Irish News ( Belfast). Monday, October 7, 2013 AS AN Taoiseach enda Kenny licks his wounds over the failure of his ‘Big idea’ to abolish Seanad eireann, i pondered if he was a fan of the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes? if he was, he may have remembered Calvin’s immortal line: “You know hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.”
The Teflon Taoiseach came unstuck when a suspicious Irish electorate rejected the ludicrous arguments for abolishing the Seanad and saw it for what it was – a clumsy, ill thought out, off-the-cuff comment-turned-policy and, in parts, a nasty little play for a power grab worthy of CJ Haughey in another age. Even though the irish make a habit of serialising referenda, this one will not be touched again for at least a generation. Ireland is far from being an open society but it is getting there and the electorate rightly saw this unnecessary referendum as removing a tier of democracy which would have made our political system more elite, not less elite. The taoiseach himself comes from the dynastic tradition of sons or daughters of political blue bloods succeeding to their parent’s old seat.
A Kenny has been representing Mayo since 1955.
There comes a time for all politicians when they over play their hand and this time the effusive taoiseach over played his sense of popularity.
The taoiseach appears to be a politician who has made a virtue and success out of doing little that offends. Therefore it’s bizarre that he should risk so much for such a personal crusade. It’s proof, if proof is needed , that he is best kept at bay from ideology and policy. However, it was not only the taoiseach whom had a bad week – Eamon Gilmore, the Tanaiste, wasn’t faring much better. The polls suggest that labour is languishing at a meagre six per cent, lower than the perilous state they were in when they exited their last Fine Gael-led coalition.
At what point will Labour recognise that Blue/Red coalitions are toxic for them? Their saving grace is that Labour’s alternative to jovial old boy Eamon is the almost permanently sour looking and monotone deputy leader Joan Burton who comes across so joyless that she could guest star at an undertakers’ convention. Even the most fervent of SDlP labourites must be feeling chilly at the prospects of their sister party’s electoral meltdown. Yet, the coalition leaders were not the only politicians having a bad week as Sinn Fein also felt the cold shoulder. Sinn Fein thought it could capitalise on the anti-politician theme in the Seanad referendum. To a degree they may get the long-term benefits from that campaign but in the short term they lost the argument. President Adams again had to make way for true southern Sinn Feiner Mary Lou[ Mc Donamd] and indeed it was her rather than Mr Adams who featured heavily in the media. Could it be that Mr Adams still does not have a vote in his own Louth constituency? Whatever about the referendum and his lack of electoral traction in the Republic, Mr Adams, who is now 65, could do his own organisation a massive favour by going and finding some trees to hug. He clings to office Castro-like despite many genuine concerns and questions about his judgment in recent years, both personal and political. Mr Adams seems to find it difficult to relinquish either political control or the media spotlight in Northern ireland, perhaps not that surprising given the general popularity and bonhomie of Mr McGuinness. Mr Adams is brazen and it seems he will need more than a little encouragement to vacate the throne at Connolly house.
Mr McGuinness did not have a great week either though when as deputy first minister he rightly welcomed a major jobs announcement for east Belfast from a company which previously pulled out of Derry, albeit under different ownership.
One politician who did have a better week – although it was a long time coming – was Alasdair McDonnell.
The SDlP leader finally apologised for the hurt and political embarrassment caused by some SDlP councillors voting to name a play-park in Newry after IRA man Raymond McCreesh. Anyone with a modicum of sense would have known the extent of the political fallout on the nationalist side if unionists tried to name Ormeau Park after a Shankill Butcher or loyalist terrorist.
To the relief of many SDLP supporters the apology was better late than never and, as the Taoiseach said, sometimes in politics you get a wallop.