Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Hurlers and Shortall equally prove there’s only one winner when you hit a brick wallOctober 3, 2012 - 11:02am
The two narratives that have unfolded over the past week are very different. First up, somewhere between the 43rd and 47th minute in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon we realised that the dream was over and that Kilkenny, the team at the top of the pile for a decade or more, would once again prevail.
It didn’t seem fair, it didn’t seem right, but that’s how it all washed out in the end and that was the way it was.
Roisin Shortall’s downfall couldn’t be pinpointed to such a precise time frame but the outcome and consequences were the same.
She was beyond determined to make good on the Labour Party promise to provide free GP care to everybody, to reorient the health services towards prime care. But she encountered an unmovable object in the person of Fine Gael senior Minister James Reilly who had his own ideas about primary care.
They clashed on number of issues but the one that was telling was his decision to add a number of additional primary care centres to her list, using criteria that he has so far failed to explain fully.
Shortall is not one prepared to roll with the punches. She confronted Reilly and it led to a bitter impasse. So bad did it become that in July Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore brought the two in for meetings and then set up special committees within their respective offices with one instruction only – sort out the fallout between the two. But the amateur counsellors were patently unable to smooth over the cracks. And the relationship between Shortall and Reilly, already awful, spilled out into the public domain.
In the end, Shortall walked away. I’d say the feeling she had in the pit of her stomach was the same as that the Galway hurlers and their supporters felt on Sunday, bristling with hurt and indignation.
The symptoms for Galway were the injustice of Cyril Donnellan’s goal being denied; the borderline tactics of Kilkenny’s tackling; the referee’s handling of the game; the goalpost denying Joe Canning; those unforced errors by the Galway players; and the continuing mystery of why Canning spends 80% of the game in positions where he can’t inflict real damage.
For Shortall, it was her suspicions that Reilly was on a privatisation agenda; the lack of transparency in the way he increased the number of centres; the total lack of support she received from Gilmore and her senior Labour colleagues; and her (relatively well-grounded) sense that none of her senior colleagues would go out on a limb for her.
The grounds for this were her lack of preferment by Gilmore, firstly by denying her the senior Ministry she felt was her due and then overlooking her for the ‘super junior’ job when Willie Penrose decided to step down over the closure of Mullingar Barracks.
So where does it leave Shortall? In the political wilderness, unfortunately for her. It was interesting to hear senior Minister Pat Rabbitte talk about her being a conviction politician, as if that was an impediment when you get into Government.
Like the Galway hurlers, she will take little consolation from having dignity in defeat. The net result is that her power has been reduced to that of a hurler on a ditch. The mistake Labour made when it went into Government was that it didn’t insist on her having delegated powers. In the absence of it, everything she did was subject to the approval of her senior Minister. There were questions marks too about her modus operandi; was she perhaps too inflexible and unwavering and too confrontational? You could say that about Reilly too but then he’s the senior Minister and the senior Minister will always win out.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.