Juno McEnroe: The honeymoon period for Micheál Martin is already over

Juno McEnroe: The honeymoon period for Micheál Martin is already over
It could be argued newly crowned Taoiseach Micheál Martin's honeymoon lasted a few hours. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Political honeymoons can be brief, especially for incoming leaders. 

Expectations are huge particularly with promises of change. The euphoria of political victory can end almost overnight. 

Such might be the plight of newly crowned Taoiseach Micheál Martin as his coalition ministers settle their feet under desks and read into their briefs.

Indeed, it could be argued Martin's honeymoon lasted a few hours, given the furore over his appointment of his deputy leader only as government chief whip.

While Dara Calleary will still be a prominent figure at Cabinet, it is quite simply not a senior position. 

The role, whipping TDs and ministers into shape over government agenda and votes, comes with a plethora of administrative work and a lot less of the ceremony that surrounds a senior minister's responsibilities.

The appointment was a huge let down for Calleary, one of the few Fianna Fáil TDs to have previous ministerial experience and who started as deputy leader in early 2018.

The failure to hand the Mayo man a big role plays into the second controversy to overshadow this new administration, the fact there is no senior minister in the West.

Senior Fianna Fáil figures settling into more spacious surrounds in Merrion Street's government buildings today claimed they were taken aback by this complaint, noting that a minister works for the whole country and not just their local constituency.

“The West had a Taoiseach for seven years,” quipped one figure referring to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Political rows aside, Martin and the new Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green coalition will be preoccupied with more pressing issues for Joe Public in the days ahead.

First on the agenda is a stimulus package to protect, save and bolster Covid-19-hit businesses and sectors. 

This multi-billion euro package, out next month, was the subject of the first real Cabinet meeting today.

Micheál Martin has just two and half years to leave his mark in history, before the role of Taoiseach is rotated, as agreed under the coalition pact.

More importantly the country is only starting to breathe again after the pandemic of the last four months and some 900,000 people are still reliant on emergency payments.

The first 100 days of the new administration will be a test. What can be agreed on climate change?

This key policy for the Greens will be its litmus test in power.

On housing, some real change will have to be built into government policy, as this crisis was one of the biggest deciding factors in the February general election.

The health services, already pinned to the wall, need reform and funds, especially given Covid-19 and the threat of a second wave.

Ministers must lay the foundations for delivery by October's budget, or skeptical coalition figures (there in all three parties) will make their voices known.

October's budget, always a key indicator of a new government's agenda and ability, will be closely watched to see if election promises are kept while Sinn Féin and others will scan it for any austerity measures, new taxes or ways to fund the colossal pandemic supports keeping the country afloat.

Time is of the essence. Make no mistake, this fragile new coalition will be in a full sprint come its first 100 days in office.

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