Anxiety grows as Gilmore puts off his decision


WHAT is it about this Government and appointments? Last week it had to endure the indignity of seeing its efforts to have Kevin Cardiff appointed to the European Court of Auditors stumble at the first hurdle. If the Government succeeds in getting the process back on track, it will be due, in no small part, to the efforts of the many Labour ministers, MEPs, and TDs who dutifully lined out on TV and radio to express confidence in and support for Mr Cardiff.

The great rush by the Labour Party to show support for an appointment to be made by others stands in contrast with the incredible tardiness its own leader is showing to appoint a successor to fill the super junior slot made vacant by the sudden resignation of Willie Penrose.

It is now almost two weeks since Penrose quit his portfolio as Minister of State for Housing and Planning. While there has been some speculation as to who might replace him, the political vacuum has been allowed to continue as the Tanaiste procrastinates and prevaricates.

It is not as if this was some unimportant or irrelevant position. The Housing and Planning brief is a vitally important one, not least because it is the one dealing with regeneration, a major issue for the people of Limerick.

They have been waiting since the summer for decisions from the Government on Limerick’s regeneration schemes, and this further two-week delay is not helping. While Gilmore waits, anxiety in Limerick grows.

So, what is keeping the Tanaiste from making the appointment? It is not as if there is a shortage of people looking to him for a job. As we saw last week with the hiccup on the Court of Auditors appointment, there are a number of very willing and obliging Labour backbench TDs willing to serve loyally and faithfully as either a Super Junior or just as an ordinary Junior Minister. All they are waiting for is the call.

But, as we also saw over the past week, there may be an even greater number of Labour backbenchers ready to break ranks with the Government and the party if they are forced to walk through the lobbies on Budget Day and back cuts in child benefit or changes to the medical card scheme.

Could this be partly why it is taking so long to make what should be a straightforward appointment?

Could the Labour leader be using the post as a carrot to try to persuade potential dissidents from straying from the fold? Would he be so cynical as to keep the post vacant until after the Budget just to keep his people in line? Are they so cynical that such a tactic might work?

To be fair to the Labour backbenchers, it is easy to understand their predicament. They were elected on a manifesto that opposed any cuts in welfare and services. Only nine months in office and they have already seen their ministers make U-turns on a range of issues, from “it’s Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way” to student fees.

Certain Fine Gael backbenchers may feel the Labour tail is wagging the coalition dog, but neither group feels that the things they promised are likely be be implemented anytime soon. While the Labour leadership may feel that a few more U-turns on the likes of child benefit are not too much to expect, the ones without the trappings of ministerial office may think otherwise.

We will see the answer to this question in the coming days. If the appointment is not announced after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, then we can take it that the wishes of the Labour leadership take precedence over the needs of ordinary people.

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