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A Minister for Common Sense

Editorial Comment

Having spent a few days this week over in England at a family occasion, I couldn’t help but be bombarded by the endless tv news reports with what we on this side of the Irish Sea know nor care much about, British politics.

But there’s a lot going on just now and much of it in quite a similar vein to Ireland’s political situation.

Prime Minister and Conservative (Tory) Party leader Rishi Sunak, elected in October 2022, is under huge pressure as the Labour Party, for the first time in over a decade, is more than 20 points ahead in the polls and the recent behaviour of some of the PM’s ministers isn’t helping him steady the ship.

The Tory’s very outspoken Home Secretary Suella Braverman finally overstepped the mark when earlier this week she said that homeless people living in tents in the nation’s capital were making a ‘lifestyle choice’ and it should not be allowed.

The public backlash was massive and left the PM with no choice other than to sack her immediately despite the irony being that her comments were probably exactly what many Tory Party members think of such people - - much as in Ireland where the coalition government secretly regard homeless people as the ‘shit under their shoe’ rather than take any responsibility for the fact that the thousands of families now living on the streets are a direct result of mismanagement of the economy, a housing crisis, cutbacks to services for the young, old and disabled, a corrupt tax system that favours the corporate giants, and a total lack of support & investment in essential service sectors such as the police, nursing and teaching.

Anyway, in the midst of the chaos of sacking Braverman, Sunak was forced into a Cabinet reshuffle and in a misguided attempt to win public favour, has ushered back in David Cameron (now Lord Cameron) who, after resigning in the wake of the Brexit referendum in 2016, is now back on board again as Foreign Secretary.

The sight of his smug face once again arriving at Downing Street turned many stomachs of all political persuasions.

The Irish angle

You’re probably wondering how all of this is relevant to Ireland but the main news is that the Prime Minister has also brought in a ‘Minister with no portfolio’ and she has widely been announced (both within and outside of her own Tory Party) as the ‘Minister for Common Sense’ - - and yes, although sounding like something out of a Monty Python sketch, the tough talking Esther McVey, previously known for voting FOR Brexit and AGAINST gay rights will now have this unofficial title haunting her forevermore.

Although the situation is somewhat laughable, it occurred to me that a minister for common sense (or even ‘with some’ common sense) is exactly what the Irish fishing industry so badly needs.

While Charlie McConalogue seems to genuinely believe in his own head that he has made great achievements, the fact remains that during his tenure there is sadly not one single thing that any sector of this industry will be grateful for or not one instance where anyone on the fishing industry will remember him fondly and say “fair play, he went to war for us on that one..”

Instead he formed a seafood task-force group with a minority representation from the industry and then not only ignored any objections they had but ensured these objections where not even recorded in the minutes (decommissioning being one example); he used Brexit BAR compensation money for everything except compensate fishermen; he refused Irish fishermen access to an EU fuel subsidy scheme that all other EU fleets have availed of; he allowed the antiquated marine civil service regime of the ‘tail wagging the dog’ continue until, under some serious pressure from the industry, the Taoiseach eventually intervened, and he has sat back and allowed the SFPA run an anti industry Third Reich style regime and has not had the backbone to challenge them even once - - and all the while coming out with statements to spoof the general public with his misguided self praise and preprepared scripts of manipulated figures to attempt to paper over the cracks of an industry that he himself is playing a major role in destroying.

And now when even he knows that its crystal clear that the fishing, farming and Mica families of Donegal will ensure the man never again gets an electoral seat, he is touting himself as his party’s runner for a job in the European Commission as he believes his “knowledge and experience” in the agriculture and marine sectors will be of benefit - well God help us all.

The people in Ireland’s fishing (and farming) industry have always known not to expect a minister that will be a knight in shining armour or someone who would arrive and be the silver bullet solution to all the problems but it would be nice, even just once in our lifetime, to get a minister who has an ounce of real interest in the industry and the rural communities, a minister with a set of balls to just once stand up to the EU Commission or to non EU countries wanting more access to Irish waters and say “enough, no more of Ireland being the soft touch”, a minister who takes on board the advice of genuine industry stakeholders, a minister of common sense…..

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