Chop-and-change ministeries - Taoiseach could learn from Adams

The Dáil’s summer recess lasts for another fortnight but party leaders have called reveille; they are preparing to lead eve-of-game captain’s runs. One or two autumn get-togethers may be of substance.

Chop-and-change ministeries - Taoiseach could learn from Adams

Others may be photo opportunities that give each party’s officer class a chance to reassert its authority.

They also allow party prefectures to get those who may have kicked the traces in the warm summer sun back on message. Playtime is over, we’re back in class boys and girls.

The agendas are predictable. Government will work to find sellable solutions to pressing issues — and there are many.

The others slice and dice government performance and proposals to see if they can find a vulnerability that gives them — not the country mind — an advantage.

There may be an exception of moderate significance this year. Gerry Adams will outline his plans around his party’s leadership in November.

Should he set a stand-down date it will be, at long last, time to evaluate his long career, to consider whether his achievements are real and valuable or just a kind of Sunningdale for slow learners in perpetuity.

It will be time to consider if whether his ambitions were noble or just base tribalism. Mr Adams remains such a divisive figure that consensus will be impossible; there are too many unanswered questions, too many implausible denials.

Mr Adams became Sinn Féin’s undisputed leader on November 13, 1983, almost 34 years ago. The previous day Liam Brady and Gary Waddock scored for Ireland against the Netherlands at Dalymount Park. Garret FitzGerald was the leader of Fine Gael, Charles Haughey led Fianna Fáil.

It is indeed that long ago. The duration of his leadership offers an opportunity to consider what seems to be one of the great self-inflicted weaknesses of our political system. It offers a time-frame that allows reasonable conclusions to be reached.

When Mr Adams was made the leader of Sinn Féin, Labour’s Barry Desmond was the minister for health. Since then 15 others have been given the huge responsibility of administering our health services. With one or two exceptions ministers served less than two years.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s tenure was typical. He became health minister in July 2014 and left that office last May.

The same chop-and-change prevails in housing ministries. Labour’s Liam Kavanagh was in office in 1983.

The incumbent, Eoghan Murphy, is the 15th minister since then. His predecessor Simon Coveney held office for just 13 months and his blueprint to resolve the housing crisis is being revised already.

It can hardly be coincidental that the two areas of our public life that are utterly dysfunctional are health and housing.

These terms in office are so short that no meaningful progress can be made, no programme of reform formulated much less delivered.

Those sectional interests opposed to change, or just indifferent to delivery, need do no more than wait for a few months until a new broom sweeps clean.

This seems a recipe for institutionalised failure.

Mr Varadkar should take a leaf from the Adams’ playbook and commit resources for the long haul, especially as the usual short-termism has been shown to be so ineffective.

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