13 March 2009

Fianna Fáil faces meltdown

The Church of Ireland Gazette, in its current edition (13 March 2009) carries the following editorial comment:

Fianna Fáil faces meltdown

Brian Cowen has tried to rally the party troops at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis. But, while the Taoiseach may have enthused some of the conference delegates, he failed to silence his critics within a party that was once known for closing ranks behind the leadership at times of crisis, and he has failed to convince the nation that he is in charge of the present, let alone the future.

This was Mr Cowen’s first ard fheis as head of government, but many of the delegates refused to allow him the customary honeymoon period. Instead, they told him clearly that his government had lost its way; that it has been in office for too long; that it is out of touch with the ordinary people; and that it does not appear to know what to do.

The crisis seems to have immobilised and paralysed this government. Foreign lending has dried up; the property bubble has burst. After a massive public borrowing and spending spree that was unbridled while Mr Cowen was the Minister for Finance, we now know that the hole in the economy is getting deeper day by day; the exchequer figures are worse than expected; the overall tax take is down beyond all calculations; and a government that is constantly surprised by how bad the figures are is unable to play catch-up.

While government ministers refuse to acknowledge that they contributed in any way to this abysmal state, the ordinary taxpayers are being asked unfairly to pay for the mistakes and the sins of inept ministers and miscreant bankers through increasing taxation and swingeing cuts in public spending, which means cuts in public services. Meanwhile, the government desperately clings on to office, while the offending bankers refuse to answer for their mismanagement and failures.

Fianna Fáil is now at its lowest standing ever in the opinion polls. If these trends continue the government party could face meltdown within weeks at two crucial by-elections in Dublin and at the nationwide local and European elections. Only a week before the ard fheis, 100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin in the largest mass protest seen since the 1980s. If the Cowen government is not careful to mend fences and to get to grips with the current catastrophe, it could be facing social unrest on a scale that no-one can predict or imagine.

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