sUNDAY 25TH mAY 2014
Damaging Election results place huge pressure on Irish coalition Government relations
Efforts to remould the programme for government and reshape the Cabinet are likely to take place next week.
The Coalition is well and truly shaken after a stinging result for Labour and a bad day for Fine Gael. Whatever about the fate of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, efforts to remould the programme for government and reshape the Cabinet are now likely to be hastened. But will it work?
Both Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny find themselves at something of a crossroads. While setbacks are inevitable in any mid-term election, the force of the rebuke from voters greatly increases the stakes for both parties. Whether they can retrieve their composure and common sense of mission is in question. This will have implications for their capacity to settle another budget this autumn and work together into the final year of their mandate.
Meetings on Wednesday of Fine Gael and Labour TDs will be official forums for internal debate, but the postmortem is already under way. Within a dejected Labour, the sense remains that the result is worse than expected. Within Fine Gael, TDs say assertive action is required to regain the political initiative and arrest the drift seen since the start of the year.
If an immediate move into talks between the parties might smack too much of panic, developments can be expected shortly. Labour’s election wounds are deeper than Fine Gael’s, but a balance will still have to be struck between the needs of both parties when it comes to the reshuffle.
Political revamp The challenge is to freshen the public face of the Coalition and bolster its authority. While that would necessitate radical change, Kenny’s instinct would be conservative. The Taoiseach might have to go further than he would wish. That too is risky, for reshuffles always leave disappointment in their wake.
Whether Gilmore faces an immediate challenge to his leadership remains unclear. It is a given by now, however, that he wants out of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Labour has designs on the jobs and enterprise brief held byRichard Bruton, but Fine Gael has no intention of yielding. Indeed, its guiding principle is that there should be no new division of portfolios with Labour.
While the likely departure for Brussels of Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan frees up one portfolio, there are other strains. Fine Gael has long been unhappy with Joan Burton’s performance in the Department of Social Protection. Similarly, Labour and many in Fine Gael are displeased with Minister for Health James Reilly.
Ditching Reilly poses a challenge, for he is deputy leader of Fine Gael. That said, Kenny was ruthless in disposing ofAlan Shatter and Frank Flannery. Some of his own Ministers believe he should replace Reilly with Leo Varadkar.
Then there is the matter of the programme for government. There is no mystery to the themes for discussion: an increase in disposable income by widening the higher income tax band, a reworking of the medical card review and measures to boost house-building. With Fine Gael in pursuit of tax cuts, the quid pro quo for Labour might be a hike in the minimum wage.
Financial strictures All
fine in principle, but the Coalition’s problems centre on the financial strictures within which it must operate. Any promise of help for the hard- pressed in the Government programme would face an early test in budget 2015, to be agreed by mid-October.
The obvious difficulty remains that the Government is legally bound to achieve a budget deficit below 3 per cent next year. Opinions vary as to whether that requires a €2 billion retrenchment – which now seems like a political impossibility – or €500 million from the water tax. Either way, it will be a huge challenge to deliver an appreciable uplift in take-home income while attaining the deficit cut.
Resolving these tensions is essential if the Government is to turn the narrative in its favour. Voters appeared unmoved by ritualistic complaints about the mess the Coalition inherited from Fianna Fáil in 2011.
These elections serve to alter the relationship between Fine Gael and Labour: the parties could not form a government if the results were repeated in a general election. Thus their inherent codependence is not as it was, even if the argument is made that voters behave differently in second-order elections. There’s no comfort in that for former councillors and MEPs.
Burton indicates possible heave against Gilmore after Labour electorate hammering
‘I’m not not going to call anything like that until we have all of the Election results in’
Joan Burton has strongly hinted that she is considering launching a heave against party leader Eamon Gilmore.
The Social Protection Minister has hinted that there needs to be changes at the top of the party, which she says has been given a “shellacking by the electorate”.
“I think in some ways Barack Obama, talking about the mid term elections in the United States, probably put it well when he said: You know, ‘the electorate have given the Labour Party a hammering.'”
Asked specifically if she would consider launching a heave against Mr Gilmore, Ms Burton replied:
“I’m not going to call anything like that until we have all of the results in.”
While she said she has “confidence” in Mr Gilmore, Ms Burton gave a far from ringing endorsement of his leader.
On two occasions during an interview with reporters at the City West count centre, Ms Burton called for an examination of “the way business is done” within the party.
“I think the issues are far wider than simply the issue of one person or personalities, I think the issues go much wider and I think they affect policy and the way business is done,” she added.
Ms Burton was pressed on several occasions on her support for Mr Gilmore with a number of reporters pointing out that she was stopping short of given a full endorsement.
“It’s not about individual personalities within the Labour Party. It’s actually about the purpose, about the content of the policies and the way government works, I think we need to look at all of that,” she said.
She branded Labour’s election result as a “shellacking” as she gave a of party leader Eamon Gilmore.
Ms Burton was flanked by Loraine Mulligan, the party’s by-election candidate who faces being eliminated in seventh place.
Minister Kathleen Lynch said on the Labour result: ‘‘..maybe we haven’t been very good at the message and rebutting the clear lies and distortion that others have levelled at us and maybe we need to get better at that,’’ she told George Hook on Newstalk.
‘‘It wasn’t as if we went into this government blind, we knew the crisis of the country then – it had four months money remaining – …..and we brought the country back from that brink.’’
‘‘The central question for me is this. Is this a protest vote or is it a vote for alternative government?’’
Girl of 6, draws up bucket list of things to see before she goes blind
Kinsay, 31, with her brave daughter Jessica, 6.
A six-year-old girl has drawn up a ‘must see’ list before an incurable disease robs her of her sight.
Jessica Smith wants to swim with dolphins, visit a monkey sanctuary and become a Disney princess for a day before she goes blind.
The primary school pupil was diagnosed with rare genetic condition Leber’s Congential Amaurosis, which results in vision loss from little to no light perception.
Her mum Kinsay, 31, said she noticed Jessica’s eyes were ‘extremely wobbly’ when she was just three months old. She was forced to wear glasses from seven months.
Last year she began complaining of headaches and sore legs, and her skin was covered in pink bruises. Further tests revealed the full extent of her condition.
With the help of her family, the youngster from Wallasey, Merseyside, is preparing for life without vision.
She began to learn braille in September and uses a walking cane to play with her four sisters.
Her bucket list also includes a trip to Legoland, a professional photo shoot and a visit to the zoo, and her parents have now launched a website asking for donations in a bid to turn Jessica’s dreams into reality.
Meteor shower can be seen peaking tonight, as long as bad weather keeps away
A brand-new meteor shower will peak tonight in skies across the U.S.
A brand-new meteor shower with a name that sounds like a magician’s incantation—Camelopardilids—is predicted to peak late night on May 23 and in early morning hours of May 24. Skywatchers in the United States should be treated to a spectacular display—weather permitting, that is.
The predicted meteor shower consists of bits of dust cast off from the comet 209P/LINEAR, a periodic comet discovered in 2004. Because the meteor shower is new, astronomers are not sure what to expect. Some say it will be a real light show, with hundreds of shooting stars per hour.
Weather watchers say that stargazers in the north-central part of the nation will have the best viewing weather. A large dome of high pressure north of Chicago likely means clear skies over the Great Lakes region and the greater Ohio Valley to the mid-Atlantic coast, according to report in the Christian Science Monitor.
Other regions, however, may not be so lucky. The Deep South, the Central Great Plains, Texas and Oklahoma will see a stationary front that is likely to spawn heavy cloud cover, showers, and scattered thunderstorms, the Monitor reports. People on the North Carolina coast, too, may see cloudiness and scattered showers due to a small wave of low pressure in the region. The northeastern part of the country will probably experience widespread cloud cover along with light rain and drizzle, mostly across central and southern New England.
In Arizona and other parts of the Southwest, a powerful upper level low-pressure system is likely to bring thunderstorms and heavy downpours, the Monitor says.
For the lucky ones able to see the Camelopardilids, however, the burst of meteors is expected to be brief but brilliant. Although the meteor shower appears to originate from the dim constellation Cameloparidalis, the shooting stars will appear all over the sky, according to Sky and Telescope. The name comes from the Latin for ‘camel will spots like a leopard,’ or, as we know it today, a ‘giraffe.’
If bad weather makes it impossible for you to view tonight’s celestial event, several media outlets will be hosting live coverage of the Camelopardilids shower. You can watch webcasts at Slooh.com, the Slooh meteor shower feed on Space.com, and the Virtual Telescope Project.