WATCHING Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald fighting a rearguard action over the past week in the vain hope of preserving her political life made for harrowing viewing and one could not help but feel sorry for her on a personal level because she seems like a capable person. However, having chosen to enter the lions’ den of politics, where no mercy is shown to anyone, she knew that she would never be immune from its cut and thrust, and the possibility that even one’s own political allies cannot always be depended upon to protect one.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s body language in the Dáil when the Tánaiste was initially trying to justify why she had not acted on an email she received while Minister for Justice, which revealed an alleged Garda strategy to try to discredit whistle-blower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Tribunal, signified that he was not happy with her, but he defended her robustly until the inevitable happened, calling into question his political judgement.
He should be very concerned about the failures of the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána when it comes to openness and transparency. And, more importantly, do something about it now.
Once Fianna Fáil had finally come off the fence and said straight out that they had lost confidence in Frances Fitzgerald, there was only going to be one outcome that could avoid a general election that nobody wanted and that was her resignation from ministerial office. Losing a vote of no confidence, if it had come to that, would have meant the end of this fragile minority government, but because neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil want a general election this soon, the Tánaiste became the sacrificial lamb.
While it buys some time for the government, the affair has severely dented its credibility and made it even more vulnerable. At this stage, the only questions remaining are: who will pull the plug and how early next year will it be?