It doesn’t matter whether Bertie Ahern or Enda Kenny is the next Taoiseach, Justice Minister Michael McDowell claimed today.
The Progressive Democrat party president said the junior partner in a future coalition government would define its direction.
Mr McDowell said voters in the next General Election, which is expected to be called in 2007, should focus on which party holds the balance of power.
“It won’t matter that much whether Bertie Ahern or Enda Kenny leads the government after the next election. What will matter is which party is the defining partner in that government,” he said.
“The real choice which the Irish people must consider at the next election is not the choice between Bertie and Enda.
“The real choice they must consider is between the doctrinaire leftists of Labour, Sinn Féin and the Greens on the one hand and the economically liberal Progressive Democrats on the other.”
Mr McDowell told a PD event in Waterford that the coalition governments of the past 35 years had shown that the defining partner, in terms of policy, is the junior partner.
“It’s not the more bulky bread which gives a sandwich its taste. Rather, it’s the meat which gives a sandwich its flavour,” he said.
“Now that we are in the run-in to the next general election, attention is being focussed on parties’ relative standing in the opinion polls.
“People are wondering whether Bertie or Enda will be Taoiseach in the next Dáil. The media is looking forward to a neck and neck race between two competing government combinations.
“I have to say that I find the focus on who will be the next Taoiseach to be significantly overblown.
“If the history of the last 35 years has taught us anything, it is that the most important party in a government is not the senior party but the junior party. The larger party may provide the Taoiseach. But the junior party provides the essential direction of the government.”
Mr McDowell claimed Labour, Sinn Féin and the Green Party would all increase or introduce new taxes.
“The real choice at the next election is not between FF and FG. The real choice at the next election concerns the junior partner in the next government,” he said.
“The real choice is between the interventionist Leftists of Labour, Sinn Féin, the Greens, Joe Higgins TD, Seamus Healy TD and Uncle Tom Cobley TD on the one hand and the economically liberal Progressive Democrats on the other.
“The real choice is between those who raise taxes and those who lower them.
“The real choice is between a less productive economy and a more productive economy.
“The real choice is between the heavy hand of instinctive meddlers and the lighter hand of freedom,” he added.