Colm Keaveney’s resignation is interesting because it raised for me a question: why should any FG or Labour backbencher feel any loyalty towards a budget that they had no input into? When we consider that both parties ran in 2011 on a platform of transforming the way politics works in the country, yet still maintain a ridiculously secretive and closed budget preparation process? Supposing the draft budget had been revealed a month ago, to allow for govt backbenchers to identify problem issues and suggest alternatives? Would that really have been so awful?
The problem is the institutional inertia that exists in Irish government, whereas ministers accept that because something has always been done one way, it can never change. This cabinet, judging by its feeble enthusiasm for serious political reform, seems particularly prone to the “this is the way it has always been done” argument.
I wonder, is that a byproduct of the fact that so many of the cabinet seem to have been in politics since Moses was a boy? There’s a rumour going around, for example, that the thermostat in the Parliamentary Labour Party room has to be kept higher than most other rooms in Leinster House because Labour ministers feel the cold easier at their time of life. Not that their age should be an issue. We will all live longer and what we regarded as old in our youth is not the same today. I’m not sure, for example, that we would describe people in their 60s as being elderly any more.
But their long periods in public life do tend to make them resistant to change, and to accept that there is nothing wrong with a political system that has brought them to where they are today. Now, they seem put out at the idea that young whippersnappers on the backbenches are not willing to wait 30 years to have a say in decisions, as they had to, and I’m not sure that is a good thing for Irish politics. After all, if there is one thing that has poisoned effective politics in this country, it’s the “wait your turn young fella” mentality.