Can’t name my sources, but they would see themselves as well-placed and authoritative.
They tell me this Government’s honeymoon will end soon.
Very soon. Possibly the week after next.
Or shortly thereafter. Or sooner.
Nobody has set a precise date or time.
Doomsday will establish itself, and on that fateful day, at least two newspaper groups are going to turn on the Government. Deffo.
The Government parties think they’re tickety-poo right now?
Wait till they see what’s coming down the tracks at them.
They needn’t think media is going to continue to play nice, the way it has up to now.
All of this prophecy about the outbreak of media hostilities tends to be offered with the insightful certitude of someone who wants the rest of the world to know that — whether we like it or not, and despite our best intentions in pursuit of another option — tomorrow will be Tuesday and the month after April will be May. Duh.
Being surprised at the impending conclusion of the Government’s media honeymoon is a bit like being surprised by Martin Mansergh’s laugh.
Even if Media thought the Taoiseach performed with confidence and charm in the White House on St Patrick’s Day, or subsequently at Number 10, even if they were collectively happy to see the other lot disappear (almost literally) and even if they’re aware that what’s around Government wrists are shiny handcuffs, courtesy of the IMF/EU, media has to set out to catch the Government out, because that’s media’s job.
In the coming months, this will be somewhat subverted by the fact that Government, by its nature, is scoop-rich, and so hacks will be licking one of its hands in order to get first run at some story, while biting the other hand as a way of maintaining personal integrity.
While Government owns the scoops, across the floor of the House, because of their small numbers, each member of the Opposition will have more media outings than any Opposition TD ever had up to this point. Every time a Minister or Minister of State says anything, an Opposition spokesperson will get the chance to present the contrary view.
Given the 24 hour news cycle, with the concomitant need to feed radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, facebook and Twitter, they could blog, blow and bluster themselves into total exhaustion.
None of them will ever have an unexpressed thought. Richard Boyd Barrett, the Brother Grim, will become angrier and angrier. Pink Boy will serve as a cheery counterpart, as will Slogan Boy who will depress Micheál Martin dreadfully, since the latter wants to do away with the soundbite, and Joe Higgins stays up late polishing soundbites until they gleam with the distinctive patina of an inevitable headline.
High (Financial) Moral Ground Boy, Shane Ross, will add to the Fianna Fáil leader’s distress, because he’s a soundbite polisher, too.
All of them will ignore Amnesia Boy. That, in case you hadn’t noticed, is Gerry Adams, who doesn’t seem to understand that prating piously about terrorism or bank robbery doesn’t quite put him in the Charlie Sheen barking mad category, but runs it close. Gerry seems to have bought into the Big Lie theory that if you repeatedly disregard reality and tell your spurious story with enough vigour, the dumb public will buy it. He may be right.
By virtue of his ever-present amnesic utterances, he has almost made Caoimhhin Ó Caoláin, also of Sinn Féin well-nigh redundant, which is not a good situation in which to find oneself at the outset of a Dáil term.
Ó Caoláin, despite the high-minded pomposity of his Dáil personality, is in fact a pleasant, hardworking, clever man who, having flown the flag for the sometime sniper party these many years, has been painted back into anonymity by the party leader, who may not be particularly good on the floor of the House, but who gets all the speaking time, while Mary Lou gets the bulk of the media time.
The fair-minded sharing happening on the Opposition benches gives almost everybody other than Caoimhin and the Leinster House ushers a chance to put queries to Enda Kenny during Leaders Questions. Not that Slogan Boy, High (Financial) Moral Ground Boy or Amnesia Boy waste their time researching questions. They may stick a question mark at the end of it, but their offerings are somewhere between an advertisement and a mini-speech, directed over the head of the Taoiseach to media. Which suits Enda Kenny perfectly. No surprises.
The Royal Wedding, the Senate Elections, the Queen’s visit and the arrival of President Barack Obama will make the cessation of the honeymoon irrelevant in the short term, anyway. Who needs a honeymoon when we can go on a staycation of televised distractions?
All four will divert attention away from the fact that the current administration is really the national Government commentators were looking for before the election. More than two thirds of the Leinster House TDs occupy the Government benches, and by inference represent more than two thirds of the people of this country.
Fianna Fáil are not so much in support of the economic measures the Government has to take as convinced that they’re just continuing what Fianna Fáil had been (according to Brian Lenihan) forced to do before they went out of office.
Since economic measures will amount to about 80% of what will happen in the next couple of years, that means real Opposition from the largest party on that side of the House will take some time to get to a rolling boil.
None of which is to suggest that the Government will not become unpopular.
It will. That, in turn, will generate stories about its unpopularity through polls.
Unpopularity goes with the territory now owned by Fine Gael and Labour, and the more experienced Cabinet Ministers are braced for it.
The problem, of course, is not for the folk around the Cabinet table.
The problem is for the huge number of Fine Gael and Labour Party backbenchers, many of them brand new, all of them still on a slowly diminishing high because of being elected. Those backbenchers face the toughest of tough times.
Each one of them will become impotent champions of infinitely deserving groups of the newly impoverished, fighting for money that no longer exists.
It will be up to the leadership of each of the Government parties to find ways to make meaningful the new position occupied by their own deputies.
This is of paramount importance. In the early days, it may be fun to taunt Fianna Fáil or mock the motley crew on the Opposition benches. Longer term, however, being in Government but not in power won’t be a barrel of laughs for any of the Labour or Fine Gael backbenchers.