First of all, to declare my hand here. I’m not a Fianna Fail party supporter, but nor am I tied to any other party. In the last local elections I voted ABFF, and will vote that way again.
This post, however, is inspired by what I see as being a huge opportunity for whomever may become the future leader of Fianna Fail.
I’m not all that bothered whether he or she may do this, but I’m intrigued by the possibilities available to some senior Fianna Fail TD right now to secure something of a future for the party – even in the short term (since we know, long term, Fianna Fail are likely to be as easily destroyed as a cockroach by a nuclear holocaust).
Bear with me! My assumptions here are the things will go as we’ve been most recently told by Fianna Fail (and we know how much we can believe in that). They’ll try to pass the budget, they’ll put the 4 year plan in motion, they’ll dump Brian Cowen early in the New Year just before they call a General Election.
As far as I see right now, the opportunity is there for a Fianna Fail TD with true integrity (another assumption, I know) to stand up and say, ENOUGH!
While some of this might just be semantics, picture the scene if Michael Martin (for example, could be anyone – Mary Hanafin to throw a real spanner in the works) was to take over from Brian Cowen right now. Whomever takes over from Brian Cowen now has 2-3 months of an almost free hand that they won’t get for maybe another 4-5 years.
Lets say that person takes over now, seizes the opportunity to actually cause some real change – change that’s been avoided by Fianna Fail for the last decade. Not only could they do the party some potential good in the shorter term, it could also make that new FF leader a viable and almost credible leader of the opposition for the next couple of years.
What to do?
Lets say their first action is as leader of FF and Taoiseach was to issue a full and honest mea culpa.
“Yes, we fucked up. Yes, we looked after our own interests first. Yes, we also got carried away on a wave of money, distracted with a sense of our own importance and our own personal needs and desires, and the needs of our friends in the Fianna Fail tent. But it all ends here.”
Damn it, they don’t even have to mean it, they just have to say it and duck the shitstorm for a while. It’s done. There’ll be a lot of people out there who’ll hear it, and be happy. Never mind that it’s just optics – as a party political ploy, it’d work. They’re not going to win an election anyway, so saying it won’t damage them any more.
But it would give the new leader a very strong start.
There are, in my opinion anyway, a number of things that a new Fianna Fail leader could do in the next 2-3 months before an election that would put them in excellent standing, personally, during their period as leader of the opposition.
There is probably some clarity and honest needed on the forthcoming budget and the 4 year plan, but there are those more qualified than me to comment there. However, there are four very simple things that could be done:
- Immediately cut pay, pensions and expense entitlements of government ministers, TD’s, and senators. For some, cuts of up to 50% of salaries should be instated. Make the Taoiseach be paid the same as some other IMF bailed out countries.
- Scrap the “Croke Park” agreement and start cutting salaries and staff in the civil & public service, and in the semi-state organisations and quangos. Given our situation now, there’s scope for pay cuts of up to 50% possible here across many senior people.
- Reinstate the Freedom of Information Act to the format that it was before it was savaged by Fianna Fail previously. Not only that, but expand it to the critical areas that it currently excludes – such as the Gardai, NAMA, and a personal bugbear, the National Consumer Agency. In fact, anywhere that depends on the State for it’s continued operation should be included – “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”.
- Finally, open up all cabinet documentation right up to 31st December, 2010. Don’t wait for the 30 or 20 year rules to make the documentation available. Make the information available now to allow anyone who wants to dig into what really happened.
Then pass a budget. And call an election.
The Fianna Fail leader that does even these four simple things wouldn’t negate everything from the past 10 years, but they’d definitely distinguish themselves as being different to those that went before.
It’d also, more importantly for all of us, actually give us a leader of the opposition of some substantial standing for the next few years.