An unprecedented level of abuse has flown between Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats members of the Government in the past week. The sight of Fianna Fáil backbenchers on the plinth is nothing new, as they have publicly wrestled with their consciences in recent months in respect of a range of issues, such as cutbacks in community employment schemes, the smoking ban, social welfare cutbacks and stealth taxes. They have provided meek lobby fodder in the House, however, when the Government has voted its business through the Chamber. One occasionally encounters the rare sight of a PD backbencher sighing publicly about issues such as freedom of information, electronic voting or something else that is about to upset the national psyche.
The business of slagging has reached unprecedented levels in the past week, involving Ministers from the same Cabinet. The Constitution sets out clearly that members of the Government are "collectively responsible" for the Departments they administer. Such collective responsibility now appears to be in shreds. The human punchbag for the Government is in the House today to soak up and absorb all the treatment being meted out to it.