I’ve pulled together a collection of some highs and lows from 2009. There may be a few which are neither highs or lows but have aspects of both or worthy of commentary for some other reason.
- Budget 2010. Whilst I accept this was difficult to swallow for many and my own household (being 50% public sector) was not spared, I rank this as a high as it was an example of the government displaying leadership, decisiveness and a conviction that this would and could be solved and not put indefinitely on the long finger for any politically expedient reasons. Standing up to the unions was also a plus for me as was the fact that the FF backbenchers found voice on something other than drink driving. It also confirmed the upwards trajectory of our Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan TD as the ace in the pack and a bulwark against further government descent. A good day for party and for the country.
- Going North. A little trumpeted but steadily progressing initiative of 2009. Buoyed in no inconsiderable part by the efforts and encouragement of the Ógra movement (who allowed northern voting delegates at youth conference in 09) , the senior Fianna Fáil party organised, held recruitment events and public fori in three Northern counties in the latter half of 2009. Progress was not rapid but steady rather than slow. It is happening and for many of us it is a most welcome development. I always believed in a thirty two county republican party and am delighted to be reassured many others in the movement think likewise. Lets push on for the assembly elections next year and take the opportunity to get a foothold both sides of the border. Towards 2016 indeed.
- Yes to Lisbon. Perhaps not very sexy, but yet very important for the advancement of the greater European project. A raft of organisational and procedural changes and some important common ground enablers to compete with the big blocs internationally and Continentally on climate change, security, defence etc. A long slog, longer than anyone expected when it started in 2004 but welcome closure nonetheless…
- Oireachtas Expenses Scandal The whole thing was an ignominious stain on the body politic. Whilst our former Ceann Comhairle friend, JOD seems to have been the worst, or at least the most prolific, the exorbitance seems to have been shared by many, including opposition parties when on their various junkets. And of course all expenses were signed off by cross party committee. Which helps explain the reticence by any the Leinster house club members on any side the house to really tackle this until things came to a head via the media and public reaction. Also whilst only the excesses were highlighted, the many legitimate expenses claimed are subsumed into the mix with the result that even legitimate expenses become regarded as carpet bagging. The Minister has twice asked for a review of the system and it is needed for all purposes, to expose abuses but also to safeguard the legitimate uses of the system.
- Banking Crisis The whole problem here is that wrong doing or at least a highly cavalier attitudes appear to have incurred no subsequent penalty, be it financial, legal or career wise. Sure some the big guns shuffled off the deck but not without some nice linings to their pockets as a result. The ‘moral hazard’ argument appeared to go out the window particularly with regard to the banks when it became clear some were ‘too big to fail’ but not in fact ‘too big to bail’. This is the ultimate quandary for a mixed economy, do the rules of extreme capitalism apply (where darwinism prevades and the bigger they come the harder they fall) or does the state pick up the tab to avoid massive job losses and potentially crippling wider economic and social affects. Obama had to do it with the automotive industry and we had to do it with the banks. While the government may have had no other choice, it does leave a sour taste and we must still see heads roll in 2010 if this sector is to restore confidence.
- Local Elections This was a real black spot. For me personally it was a very gruelling outcome, having campaigned officially for almost a year, and been involved in local activism for a lot longer it was and is frustrating to accept that, for the next few years at least, I can play no formal role in local affairs. The many things I wanted to do must all take a back seat as I have no formal platform with which to address them. Whilst I accept the feedback from many people that it was a political not a personal issue, it doesn’t change the result. Also had it been locally political, I think the case stacked up very well, unfortunately we were condemned by the economic tsunami and the wider political malaise. A party colleague in another district, who has contested both general and local elections, recalled ruefully afterwards, how when he ran in the generals (when things were good nationally) he was cursed on local issues, and when he ran locally (when as a sitting Cllr he had a solid record on local issues) he was cursed on the basis of national politics! Looking at the wider political situation, one of the difficulties for the Fianna Fáil party is that so few of the ‘next generation’ young bloods were elected in this election, as where survivors did emerge it was generally the old dog for the long road, based usually on decades of graft and local relationship building. Full credit to them, but the imbalance will make it harder for the party to renew or regenerate internally, or to introduce any new blood/ideas, which ironically is what the electorate said was what was most needed. Well unfortunately it is on hold now for another five years at least.
I will likely add a few more items here over the next day or so but am publishing this now to get started.