Constitutional conventions and Cowen’s cock ups

Eoin O’Malley (22 January, 2011)

Brian Cowen’s decision to stand down comes mainly because he showed a lack of political judgement in pursuing a cabinet reshuffle to renew his party just weeks before an election. Cowen claimed he should have been allowed to reshuffle his cabinet as he wanted. He said it was the convention that party leaders in coalitions could put in place whomever he or she wished. However this is not completely the case – Continue reading

Reshuffle shortens odds of an early election

The reshuffle on Monday underwhelmed most observers, partly because Brian Cowen had given indications that there’d be a major overhaul of government. New faces would be introduced, old, tired names dropped and this would reinvigorate the government in the lead into the next election. There was supposed to be a new dawn.

Reshuffles are not common in Ireland and for good reason. They’re not a great idea when you actually don’t have that much choice to get radically different people in. Also, in the UK where reshuffles are common, ministers rarely stay in the same job for a long time. They’ve barely found their way around the place when they’re moved again. But most importantly -as Jim Callaghan the former UK PM observed- the threat of a reshuffle keeps ministers honest for fear of removal and backbenchers loyal in the hope of preferment.  After a reshuffle has taken place there is less incentive to stay loyal.

This is particularly the case in Ireland now, where Fianna Fáil is likely to be in opposition after the next election and will in that case, more than likely choose a new leader. What incentive do the Mattie McGraths or the John McGuinness of this world to be loyal to the party leadership now? Even the hyper-loyal younger TDs such as Michael McGrath and Thomas Byrne will be looking to the next leader of the party. Even they’ll become more susceptible to revolt.

If (especially) older TDs want to save their seats, being critical of the government is probably the best option for them. Why would they want to support a budget that increases taxes and takes more money out of the economy? The reshuffle if anything must have shortened the odds on a 2010 election. I wonder how it might pan out.

Rearranging the deckchairs…reshuffles in Ireland

If commentators are right, it’s likely that Brian Cowen will use Willie O’Dea’s resignation/ dismissal to reshuffle the cabinet. The thinking is that a reshuffle at this time will give the government a new impetus for the latter half of this Dáil. We’re supposed to conclude that with people in new posts and some new people, the government can change its focus and renew its energies. In short it’s an attempt to make people think the Taoiseach and the government is changing course. But reshuffles can’t really change that much in Ireland because there simply isn’t the possibility of bringing radically different types of people into government. Continue reading