Hogan’s plans often had merit, but lacked focus or definition

Former minister, Phil Hogan, often had the germ of a good idea, but never thought them through.
Former minister, Phil Hogan, often had the germ of a good idea, but never thought them through.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Phil Hogan had a reputation as a political bruiser when he was involved in domestic politics. That was aided and abetted by his sheer size. He must stand over six and a half feet tall, and he’s a big unit too when it comes to being broad.  A lot of his reputation was gained during the 2010 leadership heave against Enda Kenny. It was Hogan who stood loyal to him. When nine front bench spokespeople came out against Kenny’s leadership, it was Hogan who cajoled Kenny to fire them all before they could come in and confront him in the party rooms.

In doing so, he managed to “wheel the scrum” and handed the initiative back to his leader. Kenny never looked back and went on to become Taoiseach.

For his reward, Hogan was given the plum job of Minister for the Environment.

What a lot of people had not fully realised was that Hogan also saw himself as a political strategist and as a person with big ideas about political reform.

Certainly in the 2011 elections, it was Hogan who led the charge, and his steering of the election campaign was a signal success with Fine Gael coming closer to an overall majority than anybody had imagined beforehand.

And he had a lot off ideas. All of them had merit. The difficulty was that he never really fully thought out how they would be executed, and what impact they would have.

When I say impact, I’m thinking of a two-fold phenomenon. Firstly, the impact on ordinary people. Secondly, the impact on Fine Gael.

There’s an old political saying that reform is like taking a bone off a dog.

People resist it and don’t like it, especially when it means giving up something or paying new taxes.

The perfect cover for that was when the Troika was in town between 2011 and 2014. The Government could have pushed through a raft of much-needed reform and essentially transferred the blame on to the officials from the three institutions who were essentially running the country at the time saying: “Don’t blame us, those guys gave us no choice but to do it”.

So, let’s look at the kind of reforms that Hogan sponsored, even though he was not responsible for each and every one of them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.