Irish General Election: What if Enda Kenny told the truth?
Irish General Election: "The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties. Never regret," says the Frank Underwood character, played by Kevin Spacey in the American version of 'House of Cards.' On 9 March 2011, Enda Kenny set a high bar for his new government on honesty but high principle soon gave way to what has become conventional in modern times: pervasive spin — a convenient euphemism for manipulation and lies.
All politicians lie but Enda Kenny on his election as taoiseach on 9 March 2011 in his speech to Dáil Éireann made what he termed a "covenant":
That our lives and futures are predicated on one thing is true. That is why today I enter into a covenant with the Irish people. In these times of crisis, full of many unknowns, honesty is not alone our best policy but our only policy. The new Government will tell the people the truth regardless of how unwelcome or difficult that might be. We will tell it constantly and unreservedly. It is the only way because the people always have a right to know. I use the word “covenant” over “pledge” and “promise” because I believe the old ways of politics damaged us not alone financially, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. The word “covenant” restores a sense of heart, soul and spirit to leadership and our shared national life.
Almost five years later Kenny has a credibility gap. Taking all the credit for the bounce-back from the deep recession, could only convince partisans of the leader's mysterious magical powers and that of his ministers. However, in pushing the mantra on keeping the recovery going, he is unable to cite any credible domestic response to possible adverse international developments and the fallback of course is that anyone else would ruin the country.
The commitment to telling the truth "constantly and unreservedly' is laughable.
Last year the World Wide Web Foundation, which was founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the developer of the World Wide Web, in a global ranking, declared the UK government as the most open and transparent in the world, on the basis of public access to official data. Ireland and Greece at a 31 ranking were among the lowest in Europe with Hungary at 33 — the lowest of all European countries including Russia.
Last week we highlighted how Kenny's government has continued with the trend of politicising the civil service and producing official reports where ministers ensure that inconvenient truths are ignored such as last December's so-called innovation strategy report. See here:
The refusal to acknowledge the facilitation of massive corporate tax avoidance until international tax reform became inevitable, was hardly consistent with the truth "covenant” while there is no public acknowledgement of distortions caused by the foreign multinational sector to export data and other national accounts data.
Prof Patrick Honohan, the then governor of the Central Bank, warned Michael Noonan, finance minister, in a letter last August:
The interpretation of both GDP and GNP statistics as measures of economic performance is seriously complicated by the way in which the activities of multinational corporations are measured, and a significant part of the recent growth in these production numbers can be attributed to these distorting features.
The headline growth of 7% may in reality be 3%!
Richard Bruton, as jobs minister, is Kenny's chief propaganda consigliere and jobs announcements are his main function. Bruton commented this week on the 20% jump in headline exports, consistent with Prof Honohan's warning of distortions:
During my time as Minister, we have seen major progress on this, with consistent growth in exports driving a strong employment recovery. Over 135,000 extra jobs have been created since we launched the Action Plan for Jobs in early 2012, with the exporting sectors accounting for almost half of this growth.
The truth according to the CSO is that in the period Q4 2011-Q3 2015, there were 8,000 jobs added in Industry, 6,000 in ICT and 20,000 in Accommodation & food services — 34,000 or 25% not almost 50% as Bruton claimed.
Fine Gael says: "From 2000-2007 — the so called Celtic Tiger period — just 1% of the new jobs created in the economy were in exports, while another 65% were in construction and the public sector. That explains why the jobs crisis hit so hard and so fast when it came in 2008. By contrast, of the 135,000 jobs created since the Action Plan for Jobs was launched over 45% of them are in exporting sectors."
However, just over 20,000 jobs have been added in the tradeable exports sector in 15 years despite a growth in the size of the workforce by a fifth and a big jump in headline data partly due to global tax avoidance.
Even in respect of the housing crisis in Dublin, the promise of 110,000 social housing units by 2020 is greater than the forecast building of about 90,000 units.
Fine Gael will provide over 110,000 social housing units by 2020, through the delivery of 35,000 new units and meeting the housing needs of some 75,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
According to Daft.ie there were only 1,400 housing units on the rental market across Dublin in early February and how will the rental market generate 75,000 units for social housing?
We have previously reported that the Department of the Taoiseach told Finfacts that survey reports which did not contain the CSO's official data on employment were used to produce the bogus full-employment target that was announced by Enda Kenny in January 2015.
The June 2012 claim that there had been a commitment at an EU summit that Ireland's €64bn in bank support-related public debt would be transferred to the Euro Area rescue fund, never happened. The communiqué contained no such explicit commitment and there was never any evidence that Angela Merkel, German chancellor, had endorsed what was claimed by Kenny as a "seismic shift."
Weeks later on he eve of the 2012 Olympic Games, Mario Draghi, ECB president, was in Lancaster House in the heart of London’s royal district, at a time when there were fears that the euro system would collapse.
“Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro,” Draghi said. “And believe me, it will be enough."
It was the most important moment in the history of the single currency which had been launched in 1999 and financial markets did not dare test the resolve of the central bank.
Since then, European bond yields have fallen to historical lows and Ireland along with several other countries hugely benefited from the change in sentiment.
Enda Kenny pictured with Louise Phelan, Paypal Ireland CEO at Paypal Hq, Dundalk, 16 Feb, 2016
In conclusion, Enda Kenny miserably failed to meet his own standard and there are other examples that could be cited.
After 10 days of stonewalling, he has said: "I will not have any dealings with Michael Lowry — or any other independent."
Whatever about Lowry, it's not credible that in seeking to achieve a majority in the Dáil that he would not speak to any independent TD.
"Kenny also committed to publishing any deal between Fine Gael and independent TDs if that eventuality arises," according to the Journal.
In the same interview the taoiseach in effect said that he would and wouldn't deal with independent TDs.
He should wonder then how fast credibility can vapourise?
Keeping the "covenant" would have earned Kenny greater trust but it's too late now.
Pic on top: Enda Kenny, and Leo Varadkar, health minister, at the launch of the Fine Gael Plan for Health, Investing in Our Health Services, 15 Feb, 2016.