Monday, April 4, 2011

Kenny hits his stride

 By Edel Williams,

For a long time, Fianna Fail remained in office because voters believed there was no ‘credible alternative’ to a Fianna Fail led government. Well, it appears we (the people who voted to keep the status quo) now have to eat humble pie because those sentiments appear to have been erroneous. Kenny has impressed me mightily in his first three weeks in office. His demeanour, his carriage and his refined affect makes a welcome change to the cringe factor some preceding politicians caused in me. 

I watched him on the news being greeted in America before St Patricks day, and he seemed comfortable and relaxed in his surroundings. It appears that looks can be deceiving because Kenny appears to be a man of much more substance than most of us gave him credit for. I also applaud his immediate attempts to curb the overspend in his own government by removing expensive ministerial cars and drivers from all ministers including all former Taoisigh and giving all new ministers until May day to come up with a car pool plan. This is what happens in the ‘real’ world of you and I, when our finances are tight. We have to really cut back - not just look like we are cutting back. The past government obviously believed that they were somehow exempt from the necessity of ‘really tightening their belts’ like the rest of us. Giving up a percentage of a huge salary does not in my book represent a real saving to the Irish people or a real and sustained effort to curb the gross overspending that has lead this country into the hot water where it currently resides. I also loudly applaud the ending of the apparent ‘jobs for the boys’ culture that rightly or wrongly ‘appeared’ to be rampant in past governments when new ministers were appointed. Gone it seems are the days, when a politician can hire expensive outside consultants into their departments thereby securing jobs for those who helped them get to power. 

The Kenny/Gilmore government has also with immediate effect reduced the amount of civil servants a Minister can have in his private and constituency offices. I am sure this represents only a small saving in the overall scheme of our indebtedness, but it certainly gives me great hope that our fortunes will change. Rhetoric is easy and don’t we all know we have heard all the hyperbole before. But this time ‘seems’ different. Fresh ideas and fresh enthusiasm often reinvigorate and perhaps now, this new government can get down to the serious business of really resuscitating this country’s fortunes. Kenny is a man obviously settling with ease into his very important role and I wish him the very best of luck over the coming years. For with his success may come our reversal of fortunes! 

We’re entitled! 
The more things change, the more some things seem to remain the same! I am astounded at the news that civil servants of this country, at a time of unprecedented crisis, continue to cling to the very outdated notion of ‘entitlement’ to privilege days, lumping them now into what they view as their ‘annual leave allowance’. Perhaps in the past special consideration was paid to civil servants in the guise of these privilege days, but times have to change and change cannot only come from the grass roots; from the private sector. 

It must also come from the top echelons of this society and that includes the Civil Service, top to bottom. I keep asking myself why civil servants feel they can continue to cling to these now redundant notions that these days are somehow enshrined as their ‘right’. The days of feeling ‘entitled’ to what one sees as their ‘right’ has to be relegated to the past, if we are to move forward with any sort of real progress. Do not get me wrong, I have respect for the work of civil servants, some of whom operate within very difficult work conditions, but over the past decade work conditions, remunerations, ‘entitlements’ etc received by the civil service far surpassed that of the private sector and I don’t understand the mentality of clinging to now obsolete terms or conditions. This is a time we all need to pull together and take the pain with the gain. We all took the gain, but are we all taking the pain? Of that I am not sure?

A refreshing Change!
Listening to Morning Ireland recently I heard an American commentator talk about the difference between the handling of the Iraq crisis and the handling of the crisis in Libya by President Obama. How refreshing it is to hear that this commentator believes they now have a chief who will not be ruled by emotion, but rather by caution and sensibility. The American media, especially some of the more conservative networks revel in ‘Obama bashing’ on a daily basis. To some of these commentators the man can do nothing right! Their preference for presenting the ‘news’ in such a biased way is quite distasteful, so it is indeed refreshing at last, to hear that he is being heralded as a voice of wisdom by his own country. It certainly seems that way to the rest of us here anyway!

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