Touch screens a metaphor for a government on the blink

SO, it’s come to this: ministers handed out tablets to keep the media awake at the latest smugtastic Government announcement about very little.

Touch screens a metaphor for a government on the blink

Luckily, the tablets were not uppers, but 20 rather swanky HP Elitepads, which retail for up to €640 each.

Rather ironic, given that the press conference was to show how ministers were ruthlessly cutting costs in the public service, as the pads, though swish, did not add much that was not available in the paper documents handed out with them.

Though, at least, they did provide a momentary escape from the orgy of self-satisfaction that was unfolding on stage as Public Sector Reform Minister Brendan Howlin modestly told us of the “remarkable transformation” he had carried out in the public sector, before bashfully noting his achievements were “unprecedented in the EU.”

Unfortunately, the minister was flanked by Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes, and one could not help but think how his waspish put-down, to Independent Senator John Crown, would also be an apt description of Howlin’s performance.

For those who missed one of the most delicious jibes of the current Oireachtas term, Hayes said to Crown, on the floor of the Seanad: “You lick yourself every night before you go to bed.”

The tablet’s highly objective “progress report”, telling us how “remarkable” Mr Howlin’s effort had been, contained such inspiring North Koreanesque chapter headings as: “Leading. Organising And Working In New Ways.”

But, sadly, there was no electronic escape from the Government back-slapping fest, as journalists seeking solace in the tablet’s more interesting features found they were blocked off.

It a fitting metaphor for the Coalition’s litany of broken promises and blind alleys that we were offered X-Box games and movies, but, as with election fables like “burning the bondholders” and “Ireland’s way, not Frankfurt’s way,” access to such promised outcomes failed when attempted.

So, when we pressed the expensive Government tablet’s logo for “Disney Fairies’ Hidden Treasure: Tinker Bell Is The Newest Resident Of Pixie Hollow”, users were met with the message: “Your App Needs An Update”, and it was a similar outcome in the movie section, where attempts to tap into Mr Bean and Chucky’s Revenge came to nothing.

Which is pretty close to where Mr Bean Counter, Minister Howlin, has come to with his much-vaunted “cull of the quangos”.

Not too much mention of that in the Pyongyang-style pamphlet of achievements, as, despite promises that 1,000 quangos would face a fate similar to Chucky’s victims, only 46 have been abolished or merged — conveniently toning down outside criticism of the Government.

But, then, do we really need anyone to point out the Coalition’s failings, when the Irish Water shenanigans highlight them so well?

In chaotic scenes that threaten to expose the Cabinet as Fianna Fiasco 2.0, senior ministers, like Joan Burton, railed against the in-built €2.1m bonus culture available to all Irish Water workers, and the Taoiseach’s spokesperson said it was not policy to pay bonuses to semi-State organisations.

But, then — oooops! — it turns out Mr Howlin’s department had signed-off on the lucrative little deal, a bombshell revelation that just added to the air of incompetence.

No-one took responsibility for the fact that nearly half of the €180m start-up costs for the water-metering monopoly were being splurged on outside consultants, when Bord Gáis expertise was supposed to be used to soften the blow to the taxpayer.

But if this shower are washed-up, what of the next generation of leaders?

We’ve all been there, fretting nervously as the clock ticks down to the party kick-off: will anybody show? Is it the right theme? What about the mood music?

So spare a thought for Lucinda Creighton, who hosts her very own monster rally, or monster-truck rally, or whatever it is supposed to be, next Saturday.

One thing, of course, it is not is the launch-pad for a new centre-right party (as if Ireland doesn’t have enough of those already).

Well, that’s what Ms Creighton keeps telling us, anyway, because, of course, technical Dáil groupings of convenience, like the Reform Alliance of ex-FG rebels, always hold 500-seater, one-day conferences at the RDS, don’t they?

One-woman, political-publicity missile Ms Creighton must be feeling a tad nervous, though, as invites for her big, new party (which is, of course, not intended to be the beginning of a big, new party) have not gone down too well.

Michael McDowell has politely declined the invite to the Lucinda-fest, as have many of the Independents, whom the unfortunately named RA hoped might give them a wider political scope.

So, it looks like it will just be Ms Creighton, the Southside Evita, and the odd collection of Fine Gael backwoodsmen, who got thrown out of the FG parliamentary party with her for voting against X-Case legislation.

This leaves the events ever so slightly unbalanced, as Ms Creighton will be the centre of all the attention.

And there is no doubt Ms Creighton has star political quality, is a gifted communicator, and, as with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy legislation, is prepared to go against the general consensus if she believes to do otherwise would compromise her principles.

But the RA needs ballast if it is not to be dismissed as the Lucindanistas.

Ms Creighton’s expected dominance of the event makes the proto-party look like one-person politics.

It’s a bit like David Beckham playing with the also-rans in LA Galaxy (he only briefly joined forces with Robbie Keane).

Or, perhaps more fittingly, Lady GaGa being backed on stage by Daniel O’Donnell and Brendan Shine.

But at least you wouldn’t need tablets to stay awake for that performance.

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