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Cablegate: Ireland: Resignation Further Weakens Government

VZCZCXRO4235
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHDL #0419 2801210
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 071210Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0238
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHBL/AMCONSUL BELFAST IMMEDIATE 1085

C O N F I D E N T I A L DUBLIN 000419

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/07/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR EI
SUBJECT: IRELAND: RESIGNATION FURTHER WEAKENS GOVERNMENT

REF: DUBLIN 416

Classified By: Political-Economic Chief Dwight Nystrom. Reasons 1.4(b/
d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Speaker of the Irish Parliament's sudden
resignation on October 6 has highlighted voters' growing
dissatisfaction with an often unaccountable political class
and the perks it allows itself. Having clearly underscored
malfeasance by the principal governing party Fianna Fail (FF)
in calling for O'Donoghue's resignation, the opposition might
be positioning itself to force early elections sometime
between now and next spring. All of this comes just days
before an already uncertain October 10 vote of the Greens
(septel), the junior coalition partner, on whether to approve
a new Program for Government. END SUMMARY.

--------------------
A SUDDEN RESIGNATION
--------------------

2. (SBU) An unexpected confrontation in the Irish parliament
(Dail) led on October 6 to the resignation of the Speaker of
the Dail John O'Donoghue. O'Donoghue had been under
increasing fire for several weeks after reports surfaced of
his lavish foreign travel and other expenses he racked up as
Minister for Art, Sport and Tourism from 2002-07. Observers
believed O'Donoghue would weather that storm, but his
situation quickly deteriorated after the disclosure, over the
weekend of October 3-4, that his expenses as Speaker were
similarly lavish. In a surprise statement during the October
6 session of the Dail, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore confronted
O'Donoghue, who was presiding over the session, calling for
his resignation. This was quickly followed by a similar
statement by Enda Kenny, the leader of Fine Gael, the
principal opposition party. Reportedly the Greens, the
junior partner in the governing coalition, refused a request
from Fianna Fail (FF), the principal governing party of which
O'Donoghue is a member, to support slower, more discreet
deliberations on O'Donoghue's fate. Late on the night of
October 6, O'Donoghue announced his resignation, effective at
an as yet unspecified time next week.

----------------------------------------
SPEAKER RESIGNATION NOT THE ONLY DUST-UP
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The resignation comes on top of an ongoing dust-up
surrounding a severance package of over one million euros for
FF member Rody Molloy, the Director General of the National
Training and Employment Authority (Fas). When he resigned in
disgrace after an investigation revealed numerous financial
irregularities, Mary Coughlan, Vice Prime Minister and
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, granted him
the generous severance package. Coughlan and Prime Minister
Brian Cowen claim such a package is justified and is standard
practice, but media and opposition are attacking the Fas
affair -- as well as the O'Donoghue scandal -- as typical of
a systemically corrupt government irresponsibly wasting
taxpayer money.

---------------------------------
COMMENT: EARLY ELECTIONS POSSIBLE
---------------------------------

4. (C) O'Donoghue's resignation -- especially coupled with
the Fas affair -- is a sign of the continuing vulnerability
of an unpopular government, despite the recent landslide vote
in favor of the EU Lisbon Treaty (reftel). It could add to
the misgivings of many Green party members about remaining
junior partners in the governing coalition, just days ahead
of the October 10 Greens convention at which the new Program
for Government will require two-thirds approval. With the
leader of Labour, the third strongest party in the Dail,
having precipitated O'Donoghue's fall, and Fine Gael having
quickly driven the final nail in the coffin, a strengthened
opposition might be positioning itself to force early
elections sometime between now and next spring. By calling
for O'Donoghue's resignation, Labour especially has captured
the public mood (and outflanked its much stronger opposition
colleague Fine Gael). END COMMENT.

ROONEY

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