The subterranean fissures within the Irish Coalition, presented as a Government of national unity, have yet again broken into the open.
The extraordinary intervention of the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, that it was misguided for the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Enda Kenny, to acquiesce to a photo opportunity with Dennis O’Brien on the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month, cannot be easily dismissed or downplayed.
In effect, she accused the Taoiseach of monumental misjudgement.
The impact has been exacerbated by the damage limitation exercise operation emanating from the Taoiseach’s office. According to this narrative, Enda Kenny is to be excused for sharing the platform at the NYSE because a third party organised the guest list. It is far from compelling.
The Taoiseach was already aware of the ripple of discontent associated with O’Brien’s participation in the Global Irish Economic Summit last year. The extension of an invitation prompted a boycott by Barry Maloney, a former ESAT colleague. He found it unpalatable to share a stage with a businessman who, according to a major report into political corruption, had ‘secured the winning’ of a lucrative contract through an inappropriate relationship with the relevant minister, in this case Michael Lowry.
The publication of the separate Mahon Tribunal Report into corruption within the planning process adds to understandable public unease about whether the political establishment has internalised just how serious the situation has become. The electoral landslide last year that brought about the defenestration of the ruling Fianna Fail party derives from disgust and disdain; the failure to recognise this makes the punt towards transparency appear an exercise in symbolism.
A longer version of this post appears on the CLMR portal - www.clmr.unsw.edu.au