Sunday, April 6, 2008



BY Terry Bankert 4/06/08
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Opinion poll shows a five-point increase in support for Fianna Fáil since the Taoiseach announced he is to resign.[r]

The Taoiseach (pronounced /0'ti+?•?c?x/ in English[1] and IPA: [tI??i+?•??c?x] (plural Taoisigh ([tI??i+?•??w?j] or [tI??i+?•??w?j?]) in Irish), also referred to as An Taoiseach ([c?n tI??i+?•??c?x]),[2] is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland.
The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann (the lower house of Oireachtas), and must, while they remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil. [W]

The words Taoiseach and Tánaiste (the title of the deputy prime minister) are both from the Irish language and of ancient origin. Though the Taoiseach is described in the Constitution of Ireland as "the head of the Government or Prime Minister",[7] its literal translation is "leader" or "chief". Some historians suggest that in ancient Ireland (where these terms originate), a taoiseach was a minor king, while a tánaiste was a governor placed in a kingdom whose king had been deposed or, more usually, his heir-apparent. In Scottish Gaelic, tbiseach translates as clan chief and both words originally had similar meaning in the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland. The related Welsh language word tywysog (current meaning "prince" - from "tywys", to lead) appears to have had a similar meaning.[W]

The modern position of Taoiseach was established by the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, to replace the position of President of the Executive Council of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State. The positions of Taoiseach and President of the Executive Council differed in certain fundamental respects. Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State the latter was vested with considerably less power and was largely just the cabinet's presiding officer. For example, the President of the Executive Council could not dismiss a fellow minister. The Free State's cabinet, the Executive Council had to be disbanded and reformed entirely, in order to remove one of its number. The President of the Executive Council could also not personally seek a dissolution of Dáil Éireann from the head of state, that power belonging collectively to the Executive Council. In contrast, the Taoiseach created in 1937 possesses a much more powerful role. He can both instruct the President to dismiss ministers, and request a parliamentary dissolution on his own initiative.[8][W]

Historically, where there have been multi-party or coalition Governments, the Taoiseach has come from the leader of the largest party in the coalition. One exception to this was John A. Costello, who was not leader of his party, but an agreed choice to head the government, because the other parties refused to accept then Fine Gael leader Richard Mulcahy as Taoiseach.[W]


He respected the conclusions to which Mr Ahern had come. Mr Cowen also said he expected to be selected unopposed by the party's 77 TDs on Wednesday and become leader-designate until May 7th, when he will also assume the role of Taoiseach. He said everybody was in uncharted territory because this was the first time a leader-designate would be selected in advance of the Taoiseach stepping down. However once the leadership process ended on Wednesday, he would continue in his current office until May 7th.[IT]


The Red C poll in today's Sunday Business Post also shows that just 22% of voters think Mr Ahern should not have announced his resignation.[r]


Mr Ahern announced last Wednesday he was stepping down, amid on-going inquiries about his finances at a tribunal into planning corruption. [BBC]

BERTIE AHERN dramatically announced on Wednesday that he is to resign as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader on 6 May. The announcement follows damaging publicity about Ahern’s financial affairs at the Mahon Tribunal.[a]sisting that he has never taken a corrupt payment, Ahern said he was resigning in the best interests of the country, and was tired of headlines about "my life, my lifestyle, my finances". Ahern will leave office within days of addressing the US Houses of Congress and a visit to Ireland by the Japanese prime minister.[a]


But the leader of Ireland's main opposition party, Fine Gael chief Enda Kenny, said Mr. Ahern had suffered unprecedented public criticism as "a liar and perjurer," and had "bowed to the inevitable" because of his implausible testimony to an anti-corruption tribunal.[tb]


Kenny, whose rival coalition narrowly lost an election last year to Fianna Fail, called on his successor to mount an immediate general election. Analysts agreed this was unlikely.[tb]. Ahern's terms in office have been marked by unprecedented economic success at home and peace in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland.[tb]


The snap poll was carried out on Thursday, just a week since the last Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post.[r]

500 voters were questioned, just half the normal sample, so the margin of error is higher, but the shift in opinion is still striking.[r]

This poll, carried out a day after Bertie Ahern's shock announcement that he will resign on the 6th of May, shows an increase in support for Fianna F€il of five percent to 40.[b]


The poll comes as Tanaiste Brian Cowen prepares to take over the reigns from Bertie Ahern who will leave office in a matter of weeks.[b]


Fianna Fáil support, at 40%, is up five points since last week, while Fine Gael drop two to 28%, Labour is unchanged at 11%, the Greens gain one to 9%, Sinn Féin drops three to 6%, the PDs are stuck at 1%, and Independents and Others drop two to 5% support.[r]


Asked who would make the better Taoiseach, 63% opt for Brian Cowen compared to 24% per cent who prefer Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. 13% either do not know or do not like either option.[r]


It is entirely fitting at this time that we should opt for a more homely, culchie Taoiseach, rather than the glitzy, celebrity Taoiseach we have enjoyed up to now. Bertie, the VIP Taoiseach, with his boyband son-in-law, celebrity authoress daughter, glamourpuss girlfriends, or glamourpuss girlfriend anyway, was a fitting top man for the boom. [I]


Fianna Fáil, as a republican party, doesn't believe bending the knee to aristocrats but in purely party terms they don't come much more blue-blooded than Brian Cowen. [BBC]

Mr Cowen was 24 when he was elected to the Dáil in 1984 in a by-election in the Laois-Offaly constituency. It was caused by the death of his father, Ber, at the age of 52. [BBC]


A solicitor and a GAA enthusiast, Mr Cowen has served in six cabinet posts including the important portfolios as minister for finance and minister for foreign affairs. [BBC]

Rather like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, Brian Cowen had been Bertie Ahern's expected successor for some time. But that is where all similarities end. [BBC]


The Fianna Fáil leader designate, who is loved by the grassroots, puts a premium on party loyalty and did nothing to undermine Bertie Ahern or hasten his exit. [BBC]


Meanwhile, Mayo TD Beverley Flynn, who has been readmitted to the party, said she considered herself to be quite close to Mr Cowen, despite the fact that he was the politician who originally proposed her expulsion from the party.[IT]

She said she felt their relationship was "100 per cent" although as she has been out of the party in recent years, she had not had much opportunity to meet him. Ms Flynn added that she was delighted to be returning to Fianna Fáil, which she described as her natural home. [IT]

TÁNAISTE AND Minister for Finance Brian Cowen has formally declared himself a candidate for the leadership of Fianna Fáil. He is on course to become the seventh leader of the party since 1926 when nominations close at 2pm today. Stephen Collins and Harry McGee report.[I]


22% of voters though Mr Ahern should not have resigned, while 31% say they did not want him to go but he had no option after recent revelations. 20% thought it was about time he resigned, and 24% thought he should have gone as soon as the Mahon Tribunal began investigating his affairs.[r]


Mr Cowen gave no clues about the likely composition of his cabinet after he is formally elected taoiseach by the Dáil on May 7th. However, he gave a hint that he was not contemplating a major Cabinet reshuffle saying that in a Cabinet of qualified people he regarded himself as "primus inter pares" - first among equals.[I]


The newly affluent middle class in Ireland is almost entirely reliant on the value of their properties. A third of all the houses in Ireland were built in the last 10 years and their value has shot up by 270% in that decade. So people will not be that rich if the credit crunch gale brings the housing market crashing down. Wages themselves are not that high in Ireland and relative wealth has exposed the tiger's underbelly.[S]


A society only a few generations' memory from communal rural living is now divided by huge inequalities of wealth. The countryside and much of its urban architecture have been ruined by unsightly development. Reluctance to invest in the public sector has left the health service, never a patch on what the NHS provides in the UK, struggling. State education is deemed unreliable unless, like 75% of Dublin parents did last year, you pay for extra tuition for your children.[S]

For a decade, the Irish political establishment saw its job as setting a low-tax environment, attracting foreign investment and keeping labour costs down. Ireland had been poor for so long that any development was welcome and there was no mood for criticism.[S]

Now, in the shadow of pork-barrel politics and shady back-scratching in business and political culture, it seems that too much might have been forgiven.[S]

'Dour image' [BBC]

Mr Cowen has a rather dour and grumpy public image. [BBC]

But even his opponents agree he is very intelligent while his supporters acknowledge he can be a rough diamond. [BBC]

Married with two daughters, Mr Cowen has a reputation for being a great wit and a wicked mimic in the company of fellow TDs in the Dáil bar late at night but the public rarely gets to see his funny side. [BBC]

While minister for health, he is reputed to have called the notoriously difficult to manage department "Angola" because of all the political landmines lying around waiting to explode. [BBC]

When Albert Reynolds succeeded Charles Haughey as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach in 1992, he promoted Brian Cowen from the backbenches to the full cabinet. [BBC]

Both Mr Cowen and Mr Reynolds were seen as being on Fianna Fail's "country and western wing" that opposed Mr Haughey. [BBC]

When Albert Reynolds was having trouble with his then coalition partners, the Progressive Democrats, Brian Cowen, the political bruiser, once told a party Ard Fhéis to rapturous applause: "What about the PDs? When in doubt, leave them out." [BBC]

When Mr Reynolds, his mentor, was forced to resign as Taoiseach, Brian Cowen took it badly; some TDs say he sulked for over a year before bouncing back. [BBC]

His critics say that, despite his undoubted intelligence, he has rarely left a mark in any of the ministeries he has held; that he has been too cautious and maybe even overly dependent on civil service advice. [BBC]

They contrast his period as finance minister with that of his predecessor Charlie McCreevy. [BBC]

But his supporters say it was easy for Mr McCreevy to be innovative when he presided over the boom years of the Celtic Tiger economy. [BBC]

Mr Cowen's period dealing with Northern Ireland is probably best remembered for unflattering remarks Ian Paisley made about his lips, something that greatly annoyed callers to radio phone-in shows in Dublin. [BBC]

Posted here by Terry Bankert 4/6/08...

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