But Cowen knew Dermot Ahern was retiring
Brian Cowen implied yesterday in conversation with Bryan Dobson on Six One that it was a matter of principle that those serving as Ministers should be accountable before the people in a general election. This is a novel element of constitutional theory and the truer explanation was his statement in the same interview that this attempted reshuffle came at the request of Fianna Fáil members and backbenchers. The executive and the legislature have tied but distinct mandates, and in any job, even those coming to the end of their tenure and not subject to further review are expected to serve that time. That the Constitution allows the Taoiseach to appoint two Senators to cabinet is a clear indication of these distinct mandates.
But aside from any of that, the stories we’ve been told just don’t match up. When Dermot Ahern announced his retirement, he explained that this would not be a surprise to Brian Cowen, as he had explained to him on his appointment as Minister for Justice that he would not contest the next election. The idea that it was then wrong for Ahern to continue to serve in cabinet apparently did not occur to Cowen then. Add to that it was a common assumption that Mary Harney would retire from electoral politics once she no longer had a party banner.
So even if Cowen was right that party leaders in a coalition have free reign on the allocation of positions among their own members, it was a farce on false pretences, that doesn’t even stand up to what these people have been saying in recent statements. They’ve stopped even pretending to have any respect for the electorate.