I have just been watching Labour’s Dominic Hannigan on The Week in Politics and was amazed to hear him claim that Labour didn’t know the magnitude of problems facing Ireland during the General Election campaign last year. He offered this as the reason why they have abandoned so many of the promises made in that campaign.
It is the same attitude you hear when Ministers trot out the glib little phrase “we inherited this from the last government”.
I am long enough around in politics to know that the Government will be using variations on this theme for a long time to come. When there is a change of government, particularly on the scale we saw last year, the incoming Government is naturally going to dump on the previous one.
It happens everywhere. In the UK, although he is well now two year ins office, David Cameron starts off almost every reply to Prime Minister’s questions saying how he is trying to tackle the problems left by Gordon Brown.
Doubtless he will continue to trot out the line for a while more, though polls there are suggesting the British electorate are starting to tire of it,
I understand that the Taoiseach and his assortment of Ministers are going to spend the next year or more prefacing every utterance with the “it wasn’t me, it was like this when I got here” line of attack.
I just wish they would drop the “inheriting” hook and find a line that does not make them sound as if they are some unwilling group plucked from obscurity and press-ganged into taking on the Ministerial offices, salaries and cars against their will.
Most people “inheriting” a situation have found themselves in that space despite their wishes, not because of them. As far as I know you cannot legally inherit from someone you have helped to do in, even when that someone was already doing a good job of doing themselves in.
This government came into office knowing the situation they faced full well. They set it out clearly in their election campaigns and went to the people asking them for their mandate to tackle the enormous problems we face. Labour’s Finance spokeperson said the economy was banjaxed:
The two parties now holding the levers of power have every right to talk about the size of the problems, the need for difficult decisions and to throw a few belts into the outgoing government for good measure.
They should not, however, be talking as if this all something that has taken them somehow by surprise. They also forfeit the right to lash their predecessors on every single issue by effectively taking the same policy approaches.
The health issue and the fate of local A&Es is a good case in point. There is no credibility in the Health Minister outbidding the outgoing Government by writing open letters to the voters in February saying “Fine Gael undertakes to retain the emergency surgical, medical and other health services at Roscommon Hospital”, only to reverse that commitment a few weeks later.
The Taoiseach only adds salt to the wound by offering the defence that when Dr Reilly “…was contesting the general election he was not in possession of the informati
on about the difficulties surrounding the recruitment of non-consultant hospital doctors.”