Can a politician — particularly a member of a governing party — truly have a personal opinion?
Earlier this summer, Dick Roche announced that Ireland should hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty — in his personal opinion.
There’s no date for the re-vote yet, but that particular personal opinion seems to be almost the conventional wisdom, at least in the government parties.
Today, Willie O’Dea dismissed a recent proposal by Brian Lenihan for public sector job cuts as ‘his own personal opinion’.
One wonder’s if Lenihan’s personal opinion was influenced by the personal opinon of junior minister John McGuinness, who last week described the public sector as ‘so protected by its unions that it has become a reactionary, inert mass at the centre of our economy.’
Minister’s should form their own views, but is it too much to ask that they keep their counsel until they’ve spoken to their colleagues?
Government leads best with one voice.
Cabinet Ministers are bound by collective responsibility, so the argument is stronger (but not irresistible) in their case. It’s much weaker – in my personal opinion – for junior ministers and weaker again for backbench government TDs. Dick Roche might be an exception here, on this particular subject, because he is really a super-junior.
The superjunior title never impressed me that much. However, Roche wasn’t just any TD opining about Lisbon, he’s the minister given specific responsibility for European affairs by the cabinet. ‘Personal opinion’ is all too often code for flying a kite or a way to beat a retreat from an unpopular idea. FF need to grow a pair and say where they stand.
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