Despite Taoiseach’s demand for good behaviour and conformity to orderly conduct among the ranks of FF politicos, things got worse
TO misquote the great Oscar Wilde, to lose one minister may be regarded as a misfortune; but to lose two looks like carelessness. And in relation to the controversies currently threatening to smother the Fianna Fáil leader, there’s no doubt that Martin’s miseries can be attributed fairly and squarely to political carelessness!
For instance, he sacked Barry Cowen after Ireland’s concerned citizens (sometimes described as a Taliban-style mob) were horrified at a drink-driving scandal involving Cowen.
Then, last week, Mickey ‘encouraged’ Dara Calleary to resign on the grounds that he had attended an Oireachtas Golf Society ‘knees-up’ in Clifden, along with 80 other people. Calleary’s behaviour incensed the ‘mob’ particularly since most the country was abiding by strict regulations regarding dining out.
But it was the banishment of Barry Cowen – brother of the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen – that suggested we were watching a Shakespearean-style tragedy (or should that be a tragi-comedy?). The unfolding drama was up there with the blood-curdling ‘Macbeth’ and all that stuff about ‘vaulting ambition’!
You see, Mickey discovered the hitherto concealed facts behind a relatively trivial traffic incident that happened to Cowen while driving home after the 2016 All-Ireland football final. He was stopped by the Boys in Blue who asserted he had taken a pint above the limit.
Once the news got out (somewhat tardily), Mickey was acutely aware that the ‘mob’ couldn’t wait to cast the first stone, so he stripped the misfortunate Mr Cowen of his responsibilities as Minister for Agriculture and flung him out on his earhole. A sacrificial victim had been demanded and Mickey duly obliged.
But, despite his demand for good behaviour and conformity to orderly conduct among the ranks of FF politicos, things got worse.
Dara Calleary became the new Minister for Agriculture (he got Cowen’s job) and, having signed-off on new rules for social gatherings and orgies, he trotted off to that now infamous golf dinner (attended by more than 80 people) in Clifden where he spoke movingly of a deceased friend and Fianna Fáil MEP, Mark Kililea.
But, horror of horrors, the golf dinner turned out to be a full scale blow-out of eatin’ and drinkin’ that took place in a cluster of conviviality. It consisted of 80 golfers, senior legal eagles, EU hot-shots and, needless to say, multiple boozers and hangers-on.
Within 24 hours, the incongruity of politicos stuffing themselves in a time of cholera (as the novelist Gabriel García Márquez might have said) outraged ‘the mob’ – those conscientious promoters of spartan living.
Cue to the hysterical media warnings that gluttony preceded a national disaster, that the sky would fall-in and that Fianna Fáil politicos were responsible entirely for all our calamities!
Bust-up with Martin
In the eyes of some F&Fers, the unfortunate Mr Calleary, a joint-venture leader who supports coalition with rag-bag outfits and whose loyalty to Martin is integral to the survival of the current administration, did not deserve the opprobrium that fell on his noble head.
After all, he had been Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil, chief negotiator for the party, and responsible for the deal that enabled Mickey enter government as part of a coalition with Fine Gael and the Greenies.
And, lest we forget, he had just assumed the position of Minister for Agriculture (on July 15th, 2020) after his predecessor, Barry Cowen, had been dumped by Mickey Martin and callously thrown to the wolves.
Which was nothing compared to the bust-up caused by the Oireachtas Golf Society party and uncorroborated reports of its impromptu singing and drinking! According to The Sun newspaper, the subsequent meeting between Calleary and his boss, Mickey Martin, was marked by ‘uncharacteristic expletives’ emanating from Mr Martin.
Allegedly, the maledictions, imprecations and cusses, as Martin blasted Calleary, were heard as far away as Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
But Calleary is no eegit, nor is he short of the grey matter, the stuff that makes up the outer layer of the brain and which is the material vital for long-distant memory and self-control – qualities that are indispensable for survival in the current poisonous atmosphere that envelops Fianna Fáil.
Fit for Cromwell
To the outside world, it was clear that Calleary and crew had been hard done by Mickey even though for some time Fianna Fáil in the West had been declaring in sotto voce (of course) its displeasure at Mickey’s leadership.
But now, horror of horrors, parallels were being made between the Corkman and Cromwell regarding life beyond the Shannon. Invoking Cromwell was not nice, not nice at all, especially since Mickey, a former history teacher, knew all about genocidal monsters.
The Cromwell comment has been attributed to the Mayo-based Western People which declared last June that the absence in government of any representative from the west of Ireland made the cabinet ‘fit for Cromwell.’
Mickey Martin, in fairness, would be more inclined towards Niccoló Machiavelli, the father of modern political theory and best known for writing a handbook for unscrupulous politicians.
Machiavelli (if memory serves us right) asked the rhetorical question as to why people respect a great leader, even one with a nasty reputation. It is because such a leader has more power, said Machiavelli – an answer that might explain Mickey’s magnanimous offer to Calleary of a departmental portfolio, Agriculture; which (by the hokey) had become available after Barry Cowen was dumped.
And, Calleary got the message. One of his first actions was to introduce tighter rules regarding social gatherings (six people max indoor; 15 max outdoor) but, sadly, he then went and drove a horse and carriage through his very own regulations by his attendance at the knees-up in Clifden.
Yet, one has to acknowledge that Calleary’s appointment as Agricultural Minister was a case in point on how the absurd operates in political life. Within hours of his landing the new job, he was censuring irresponsible young people whose house parties were to blame for the spread of the virus. He even coined a catchy phrase: ‘Covid loves to party.’
His message was simple: everyone must abide by the lockdown, even if the draconian regulations get up people’s noses.
Except, of course, politicos like himself, as he set off to enjoy a golf banquet with dozens of Ireland’s movers and shakers. And he saw nothing incongruous or hypocritical in that!
Clearly, the man possesses political qualities that are superior to and beyond those of your common gardener parish-pump politico who believes everyone should comply with Covid regulations, despite the difficult and personal sacrifices that have to be made.
But, as the world now knows, Calleary was unable to save his job as Minister for Agriculture. Question is: when will he be back!