Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's getting bitchy out there!

Bertie Ahern yesterday derided Enda Kenny’s suggestion that an independent arbitrator be appointed to try to resolve the nurse’s strike. In a wonderful put-down, Bertie gave Enda a fool’s pardon: “I accept he has no experience in industrial relations and never had.”

Having given Enda’s idea the boot, he then trotted out his own proposal which sounds suspiciously similar the one he had just dismissed with contempt: "I'm prepared to appoint an independent eminent person to oversee the process and give him or her the brief to ensure that every possible option [is examined] to facilitate the achievement of a 35-hour week for nurses within the framework of social partnership."

What is curious about the current industrial relations problems in the health system is the absence of intervention by the Taoiseach. He had achieved an enviable reputation as a fixer in such high profile disputes in the past. I suspect that if the Health portfolio was held by a Fianna Fail minister we’d have seen a Bertie intervention long ago. However, as the relevant minister is a member of the hyper-sensitive PD coalition partners, he’s probably felt obliged to operate at arms length.

Unless of course Pat Rabbitte’s assessment is correct. Reacting yesterday to the Taoiseach’s comments and defending Enda Kenny’s proposed approach, Rabbitte reminded the media of Ahern’s reputation as a fixer, “especially when advised in advance that the outcome was likely to be successful”.

Ouch! It’s getting bitchy out there.

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