DANIEL MCCONNELL: 100 days in, Government yet to get going

The new Cabinet at Aras an Úachtaráin receiving their seals of office.

AS THE Government this weekend reaches the milestone of its first 100 days in office, the time is right to reflect upon the actions, or in many cases non-actions, by our illustrious political leaders, writes Daniel McConnell

As it is a minority government, the dynamics within Cabinet are somewhat different to what normally exists between Coalition partners. After a turbulent term, dogged by internal bickering and squabbling, the Government is on its summer break, so it is fitting to critically assess the actions and performance of the Cabinet — it is embarrassing how little legislation it has passed.

By the time the Dáil and Seanad went into summer recess on July 21, just eight bills had been passed. While it has been argued that once the Oireachtas got into its stride this meant a bill once every four days, that it took so long for that to happen is an indictment on this administration.

So here is how I see it:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Hugely diminished since the general election and has had to bow down to the Independents several times. Has also made some dodgy decisions such as making James Reilly Fine Gael’s deputy leader, having sacked him three weeks earlier. His leadership is also the major shadow hanging over everything. But having said all that, Kenny has proved he is a survivor. 2/10

Simon Coveney

A rare highlight in an otherwise disappointing field. Cork’s Merchant Prince is one of two front-runners to succeed Kenny as leader. Has been incredibly busy in a difficult department since taking office. Bin charges, water charges, and a major housing plan, which was relatively well received, are among his main achievements. 7/10

Leo Varadkar

Demoted by Kenny from Health into the political backwater of Social Protection, Varadkar used his Glenties address to announce a radical overhaul of the welfare system. Such outspoken views are welcome in politics but only time will if he can convince money minister Paschal Donohoe to allow it become a reality. 5/10.

Frances Fitzgerald

As Tánaiste and justice minister, Fitzgerald should be the most serious contender to take over from Kenny as leader. That she stands behind Varadkar and Coveney says a lot. She has looked unsteady as a wave of crime- related murders hit the streets of Dublin and is nowhere near as adventurous in terms of reform as her predecessor, Alan Shatter. A safe pair of hands. 4/10.

Michael Noonan

Had a bad election, and his tax policies blew up in his face, undermining his wise old owl image. He apparently played a crucial role in the negotiations with the Independents but has looked out of touch on the Siteserv/IBRC controversy and the Nama/Project Eagle scandal. Virtually anonymous in his media outings, questions over his age and health undermine his standing. 3/10.

Richard Bruton

Didn’t want the move to Education, but as the man who went against Kenny in 2010, some say he is lucky to still be in Cabinet. A solid performer who has gone about his business in his usual understated manner. 5/10.

Michael Creed

A shock inclusion in Cabinet as had been on the anti-Kenny side of things in Fine Gael. Well capable yet long overlooked, Creed’s role in getting Deirdre Clune elected MEP helped his cause. Said to have made amends with Kenny, but not a huge amount to report so far. 4/10.

Heather Humphreys

The major surprise in Kenny’s 2014 reshuffle, the likeable Humphreys endured a torrid time in office, most notably around the John McNulty cronyism scandal. Has been more assured this time around and the commemorations season has passed off without incident. 5/10.

Paschal Donohoe

A star turn in this Cabinet, the public expenditure minister is now at a level many say he should have reached earlier. His big test lies ahead in terms of the budget, but he has already set out his stall with his ministerial colleagues. No spending increases will be tolerated without evidence to back them up. His warning that his first budget will not be a giveaway shows he is alert to looming threats like Brexit. 8/10.

Simon Harris

Few, if any, saw him ending up in the Department of Health — the place where ministerial careers go to die or at least get knocked off course. Given his energy and easy manner, Harris took to the task with gusto. Secured €500m extra for hospitals this winter from Donohoe, and has plans to reduce waiting times. This department can catch you out though — abilities will be tested. 7/10.

Charlie Flanagan

Kept on in Foreign Affairs primarily to maintain a sense of continuity in the Peace Process. Flanagan is another who has managed to make amends with Kenny but relations remain frosty. Flanagan was furious at Kenny’s botched attempt to set up an all-Ireland Brexit forum. Steady enough. 5/10.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor

The ‘What the Hell’ appointment of this Cabinet. Seriously, did anyone see this one coming? The decision to put her into the Jobs ministry is equally puzzling. Yet to show what she intends doing in this post. 3/10.

Shane Ross

Poacher-turned-game-keeper who has lambasted governments for 30 years. Questions over his handling of the two Rio scandals dogged him in the last week, but overall has been an effective Cabinet influence. Has overseen Dublin Airport record numbers; record tourism numbers; and has progressed plans to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Needs to manage a looming Dublin Bus strike but has so far been hands-off. 7/10.

Denis Naughten

The political journey for this ultimate pragmatist has been fascinating. Turfed out of Fine Gael in 2011 only to find himself in Cabinet with his bête noire, Enda Kenny. Handed Coveney’s bin charges poison chalice, Naughten is a wily and capable politician who has had a good term progressing issues like broadband and getting an energy bill through the Dail. 7/10

Katherine Zappone

Too early to condemn her fully but needs to up her game if she wants to convince she is up to the task of being a Cabinet minister. Her decision to oppose the Mick Wallace abortion bill put her at odds with her Independent Alliance colleagues. More to do. 3/10.

SUPER JUNIORS

Regina Doherty

Chief whip has had a rocky first term. Failure to ensure a quorum in the Dáil and comments calling on Enda Kenny to clarify his leadership did not go down well. 3/10.

Finian McGrath

Chuffed to be a minister and has taken to the task with energy. Has key issues like disabilities, cystic fibrosis, and mental health, and has progressed them already. 6/10.

Paul Kehoe

Kind of the defence minister and finally free of being the Taoiseach’s poodle, Kehoe is a likeable fellow and comes to Defence at a decent time with a bit of money to help recruit new troops. 4/10.


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