AUGUST 19. Put that date in your diaries. Oh hang on, it’s a Friday. Make it the 22nd. That’s the end of the first 100 days. By then the Government should have, according to its own promises, achieved the following: An action plan for housing; established a broadband task force for rural areas; a new winter plan for emergency department overcrowding; an agreement on a reformed budget process; and reduced hospital waiting lists.
One could be cynical and see the programme for government and the 100 days priorities as an example of what happens when you look up in a thesaurus the words ‘commission’, ‘establish’, and ‘plan’. Indeed, there are so many commissions in the works that we may at some stage need to undergo a long and fraught process of decommissioning. Unless it can be shown that commissions by themselves are an important part of the economy and that commissions now employ more people than, say, heavy manufacturing.
The announcement of the Government plans and the Cabinet has produced the predictable furore as we have finally been given something tangible to criticise.
One of the most difficult things about the hiatus between election and Government was the extent to which we had to hypothetically criticise — and that’s no fun.
Now that they’re in, I prefer to leave a bit of time for them to bed in. It’s pointless lambasting so early. Some of the new ministers are old lags, but others are newbies. They’ll need breathing space to get all their stuff set up as any new employee would. There’ll be the HR stuff about pensions — the best hour of their ministerial career — then tech support will give them logons and they’ll be added to the various mailing lists — MINISTERS.ALL and depending who they are, MINISTERS. TRUSTED; MINISTERS.FG, or MINISTERS.INDIES.
It isn’t the worst time of the year to take office, the summer. Given that the first 100 days ends in mid-August, unless you’ve set the reminder on your phone, we may not hold them to account too much. We’ll either be at the harvest, on holidays, walking to work along the then-defunct Luas tracks, or buying school slacks.
It’ll be all “standing-in-fors” on the big radio programmes. So if it slips a little, no one will notice.
Ideally, they should probably promise a 120-day plan which would bring us up to early September, when our focus would be renewed, but 120 days has rather uncomfortable connotations from the book by Marquis De Sade, 120 Days of Sodom. A term which could loosely have been applied to the first three months of the Troika’s tenure.
Another reference to 100 days was in regard to Napoleon, who escaped from Elba, where he had been imprisoned, and ultimately ended in the Battle of Waterloo.
If Enda Kenny’s reign of Taoiseach ends around that time, people will inevitably talk about his Waterloo but instead should focus on what was his ‘disastrous invasion of Russia’ — take your pick.
It was US president Roosevelt who made the 100 days a famous period. Taking power in the depths of the Great Depression, he passed 15 major bills in three months, spoke more than 60 times directly to the American people and created the momentum for recovery.
His predecessor, Herbert Hoover, accused him of deliberately not helping during the couple of months between the election and the inauguration, just to make the crisis worse and make FDR seem like the only option for Congress. This Government doesn’t have that shnakey option, though Micheál Martin does.
The problem for the 100-day target for the Government is that it assumes things will stay roughly as they are over the next while.
But then you have the Brexit referendum on June 23. It might be fine, but coupled with a possible IRExit from France 2016, you could be looking at a cranky time right in the middle of the 100 days.
But that’s for another time. It’s only Day 3. Give them a chance.