Updated: 22/11/16 : 12:53:17
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Perfect storm on pay may hasten polling day

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

DUCKS WOULD drown if they had belonged to Charles Haughey.

That view was his Mayo contemporary and friend, journalist John Healy, who died 25 years ago.

Charlie didn't quite have the skillset for minding our feathered friends from Peking and Bombay.

Asses Roar

But he did have skills, with something to spare, about which his sniffy contemporaries in the Dáil were seldom within an asse's roar.

The history of unions relationships with the State was so much better on Charlie's watch than most Taoisigh.

His old friend the late trades union leader Mickey Mullen up on the 13th floor of Liberty Hall played his part too.

Most observers and visitors will tell you that Liberty Hall had only eleven floors.

But big, big decisions were mulled over in the penthouse two floors further up.

The '13th' was lucky for some -- including Charlie -- and out of all that we got various permutations of social partnership.

These deals let workers in the private sector have (some) guaranteed share in the country's wealth.

Cod Economics

In more recent years we have seen a succession of (State) deals aimed mainly at the public sector.

It started with the cod economics of Benchmarking, One and Two, godfathered by Fianna Fáil and public service unions both at the baptismal font in the 'Tiger' years.

Heading into 2017 the State may be facing a perfect storm -- on public service pay. 

Not so much facing the State as facing, specifically, this minority Government.

Stacking Up

If the chess pieces keep getting moved in their (predicted) patterns the options on outcomes will narrow.

Namely, it is already hard not to see how we are facing a general election in the first six months of the year ahead.

The scale of demands now stacking up is going to see this Government say it doesn't have such a mandate.

It doesn't have a mandate to say 'Yes' to the scale of demands.

But nor does this Government have any mandate to say 'No'.....and therein lies the nub of the crux coming up.

Even worse, Fine Gael's gung-ho February 2016 election slogan about a ''recovery'' stoked some of the storm on Horizon 2017.

Then came the weekend guff in one newspaper which mumbled about the motives of union leaders behind renewed the pay strife. 

Lottery Numbers

Give us all a break. That is Ireland's faintest echo of the 'Commie' chant in American politics.

It won't carry either Enda or his would-bes or wannabes too far through election 2017.

What does seem clear already is that is that upcoming pay deals in the public sector are unlikely to kick in before mid 2018.

The exception to that rule will be Gardai.....if they vote to accept the recent offer. No, I don't have next weekend's lottery numbers.

The irony is that the Gardai deal is 'new' money, while some public service unions seek the 'restoration' of money it was already awarded.

In other words, 'old' money -- taken away, they say, during the austerity years.

First Cousins

Then, in the brave new dawn of election 2016, we were told by the Government about the 'recovery.'

Those moments recalled Margaret Thatcher's whispered call on her country to ''rejoice'' as it emerged intact from war.

In 2017, this country and its Government may find that 'rejoice' and 'repent' are full first cousins.

Down River

Many of the trade unions for their part, sold their pensioned ex-members down the river during austerity years.

Some of these unions may find that 'repent' is a two-edged sword; it doesn't cut just politicians.