SENIOR figures in Fine Gael seem to have developed rapid-onset amnesia about the events of last week and the losing battle they were thrown into by their inexperienced leader, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, to publicly defend – no matter what – since resigned Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who had become embroiled in controversy over not acting on emails she received about the unbecoming strategy An Garda Síochána was instructing its legal team to adopt against whistle-blower Sgt Maurice McCabe during the O’Higgins Commission hearings of three years ago.
It had become obvious from an early stage that the only way to avoid an immediate general election was for Frances Fitzgerald to resign her ministerial office, as it was well flagged that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin could not afford to march his troops up the hill again and come back down empty-handed as had happened on a number of other issues. However, Taoiseach Varadkar stubbornly kept digging the hole he was in deeper and – despite having a retinue of spin-doctors – emerged suitably chastened from the experience that could have been handled a lot better by anyone with more political nous.
Even still, the government line is that Frances Fitzgerald did nothing wrong – and maybe Mr Justice Peter Charleton’s Disclosures Tribunal will ultimately exonerate her in that regard – but what emerged from all the political guff last week was that she simply did nothing. That was what really annoyed people and the Taoiseach was very slow to pick up on it.
A big factor in the political deal that was struck between party leaders Varadkar and Martin to stave off a general election for now was proximity to Christmas and the lack of a public appetite for one during the festive season. But, one has to wonder, if the same issue had come to a head at a different time of year, would they have gone to the country on the back of it?
The more the public sees of their political posturing, when the country is faced with housing and health service crises of monumental proportions, the less likely people will want to even bother voting for any of them. The public wants to see their elected representatives getting on with tackling the country’s very real problems with action rather than words.
To do this, they need to work together in the true spirit of the so-called new politics we were promised, but we fear that this will be a bridge too far for them.