New government faces old problems
New government faces old problems


Scepticism remains high over the future stability of the new Dublin government as the new Cabinet held its first meeting at Áras an Uachtaráin, the President’s official residence.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was returned by the Dail on Friday by 59 votes to 49, just one more than the 58 vote minimum required by their pact with the second largest party, Fianna Fáil.

One member of the Independent Alliance on whom the coalition also depends failed to support Kenny in Friday’s vote following a reported dispute over turf-cutting rights. But all five members have been promised ministerial office at some stage in the life of the government, with Shane Ross initially Minister for Transport and Finian McGrath Minister with responsibility for disabilities.

As other rewards, Denis Naughten of the Rural Alliance has been appointed to cabinet as Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources while another independent, Katherine Zappone, becomes Minister for Children.

There were some changes among the Fine Gael members of the Cabinet, most notably Leo Varadkar’s move from Health to Social Protection and the promotion from the backbenches of Dún Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor.

The big winners were Paschal Donohoe, who was promoted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and Simon Harris who has been elevated to Cabinet as Minister for Health.

Frances Fitzgerald was promoted to Tánaiste but remains Minister for Justice while Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan retained their posts.

Simon Coveney has been given the important new post of Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government with responsibility for dealing with the housing crisis.

The new government has already come in for criticism, with the deputy Labour leader Alan Kelly describing it as “built on sand”.

“What we saw this morning on the vote for taoiseach was bizarre and embarrassing for this House. To be frank it was cringe territory. It was simply incredible,” he said of the last minute efforts to bring Independent TDs on board before the vote for Taoiseach.

Speaking after Enda Kenny named his new Cabinet, Mr Kelly claimed the Independents were trying to “stroke out one last pay bill”, outside the Dáil chamber. This was “not new politics. It is old politics at worst,” he added.

Mr Kelly said the government was “not viable” and the figures did not match up to implement all the promises pledged in the ‘Programme for Government’. “Where is all the funding for these going to come from,” he asked.

Sinn Féin Sligo-Leitrim TD Martin Kenny said Fianna Fail feel they have “pulled the ultimately stroke here in which they have have designed a programme for government, handed it to Fine Gael and opted to sit on the opposition benches and take no responsibility for its implementation. This is the biggest scam in the history of Irish politics.

“But I don’t believe they will get away with it. I believe that this Dáil will, once and for all, expose Fianna Fáil’s populist, unprincipled and self serving approach to politics.”

“Sinn Féin will lead the opposition in this Dáil”, he vowed.


The key issue of water charges remains a live one as it emerged further protests are being planned to seek the permanent abolition of Irish Water and the charges, which have only been suspended under the terms of the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail agreement.

What happens after the nine-month suspension could result in a political time-bomb for the two two big parties, particularly Fianna Fáil. Labour leader and former Tánaiste Joan Burton has said people who paid water charges should be refunded, as have a number of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael backbenchers.

Meanwhile, a hardline approach to the water protests seems set to continue. A 16-year-old boy was this week given a six-month sentence and became the first person to be jailed for taking part in the Jobstown anti-water-charges protest.

The boy, now aged 16, but who was 15 at the time of the incident, was in court with his mother and a grandparent. He had pleaded guilty to criminal damage to the rear window of an unmarked garda car.

Socialist Paul Murphy TD and 18 other people from Dublin are awaiting Circuit Court trial over the same protest, in which Tanaiste Joan Burton was held up for about two hours. They face a variety of charges which include false imprisonment, violent disorder and criminal damage.

And there were chaotic scenes at Limerick Circuit Civil Court this week as anti-eviction protesters took over the court and forced it to abandon hearing 170 home repossession orders.

Protesters reject the repossession courts as not legitimate and behind the mass evictions of people around the country. The evictions, which have echoes in Ireland’s colonial past, have been linked to purchases by international “vulture funds” of distressed property assets.

A report this week said the Dublin government had “wholeheartedly embraced vulture funds” despite knowing that their involvement with the state’s ‘bad banks’, NAMA and IBRC, would lead to repossessions.

The funds have been buying loans from State-owned institutions and now want to see “big yields” on their investments, which in practice means “squeezing debtors hard”, according to the report by the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI).

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has admitted that the country is at a “tipping point” for the housing crisis.

The new Cabinet is:

Department of Social Protection: Leo Varadkar
Finance: Michael Noonan
Public Expenditure and Reform: Paschal Donohoe
Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation: Mary Mitchell O’Connor
Agriculture, Food and the Marine: Michael Creed
Justice and Equality: Frances Fitzgerald (Tánaiste)
Children and Youth Affairs: Katherine Zappone
Health: Simon Harris
Foreign Affairs and Trade: Charlie Flanagan
Education and Skills: Richard Bruton
Housing, Planning and Local Government: Simon Coveney
Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources: Denis Naughten
Transport, Tourism and Sport: Shane Ross
Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts & Gaeltacht: Heather Humphreys
Defence: Enda Kenny
Minister of State at Departments of the Taoiseach and Defence with Special Responsibility for Defence: Paul Kehoe

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