WHERE does our Taoiseach, Vlad the Impaler, find ’em – those remarkable intellectual giants like Mr Patrick O’Donovan, current mini-minister to Paschal Donohue, the Minister for Finance?
A repository of political wisdom, Mr Patrick O’Donovan is the man responsible for transparency, responsiveness, equity and accountability in the Finance Department. What’s more, he’s the lad who ensures that flair and brilliance define the making and implementation of the Minister’s decisions.
Indeed, without the cerebral assistance of a hot-shot like Mr Patrick O’Donovan, our esteemed Minister for Finance probably would find it impossible to continue as the second most important member of the Cabinet.
Here’s an example of what we mean. One day in late August, not only did Mr O’Donovan heroically assist in the preparation of the forthcoming Budget but he found time to alert the plain people of Ireland to matters of huge significance: the awful threat that Sinn Féin posed to civilisation and the likelihood of an existential pandemic if the salaries of RTÉ ‘stars’ did not become public.
All this in no way implied that Mr O’Donovan was trying to focus media attention towards a person with a finger on the nation’s pulse and purse; someone really important, like himself.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr O’Donovan is a politician deeply motivated by the highest moral principles to serve his party and leader.
Man of destiny
And it was entirely in the public interest that the Indo trumpeted Mini-minister Patrick O’Donovan’s concern that RTÉ top earners were having their cake and eating it. Indeed, a calamity lay in store for us all should the broadcaster fail to reveal the spondulicks the high-profile lads and lassies were trousering.
Somewhat over the top, we mused, before the penny dropped and we twigged to the clever game Mr O’Donovan was playing. The licence fee was going to be the negotiating weapon to knock dem fellas into line, a prospect reinforced by his comment about details of his own salary being published every year. Open information on all salaries would have to prevail in future, he said.
At that moment, we realised Mr Patrick O’Donovan was a man of destiny who one day would shape the course of events (particularly in RTÉ!). Like the heroes of old, he would be remembered for his high quality cleverness, courage and nobility of purpose. (RTÉ news editors please note descriptive words suggesting veneration are available for reuse.).
But, amazingly, RTÉ execs chose to ignore our hero’s warnings and, according to the grapevine, their laughter and scoffing could be heard way beyond Montrose. Contributing to the derision was the retelling of a practical joke inflicted on Independent TD Mattie McGrath by a bunch of scallywag TDs, which included the said Mr Patrick O’Donovan, mini-minister.
What a lark!
At the time McGrath was involved in a 10-hour sit-in protest at the offices of Friends First and the parliamentary comedians in Leinster House made a hoax call purporting to come from an Italian at Pizza Hut. ‘You no like bank. And we no like bank, so we send you pizza. Solidarity!’ declared one of the merry jesters to the hungry and tired Mattie McGrath.
Oh, how the lads in the Dáil bar chortled at McGrath’s response but not too happy was the organisation on whose behalf he was protesting. A member angrily complained: ‘That lot in the Dáil should be ashamed of themselves. While they were warming their arses in the boozer, Mattie was out defending a farmer who wasn’t even in his constituency.’
Of course there is another side to Mr Patrick O’Donovan: specifically, the across-the-board benevolence that he shows to Fianna Fáil and the deep concern he has for the wellbeing of that party’s supporters.
Such altruistic qualities manifested themselves when, like a Dominican preacher from the old days, he warned of the perils that lay in wait for ‘decent FF people, farmers and fishermen,’ should they flirt with the idea of a coalition between the Soldiers of Destiny and Mr Adams’ lowlife republicans.
As befitting a mini-minister of capernosity and function (Brendan Behan’s description of political good judgement), he reminded them of Sinn Féin’s ‘fag box economics’ and of the IRA’s history of ‘blowing children to smithereens,’ Jerry McCabe and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
The Dublin-Monaghan bombings? The IRA? Really? Yep and, needless to say, on the following day, August 29th, in response to his reference to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, a barrage of proverbial doo-dahs and complaints lambasted Mr O’Donovan. Survivors and families of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings victims were outraged.
They angrily demanded that he apologise for the ‘incredible’ comments and they deplored his lack of information as to where responsibility for the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Northern conflict lies (the UVF claimed responsibility).
Sinn Féin senator Paul Gavan described his remarks as ‘clueless … he needs to apologise and to educate himself. How does it look when a government minister comes out with a statement as wrong-headed and just plain stupid as this? It’s inexcusable and it frightens me.’
The mini-minister’s reply was a classic. He didn’t differentiate between atrocities, he said. It was a point of view that sounded ominously close to a defence of fake information.
Place in the sun
But, did Mr O’Donovan commit a monstrous gaffe? From a FG public relations perspective, no. Even if his place in the sun was temporarily disfigured by a repulsive ignorance of recent history, the faux pas marked him out as a politico who spoke his mind on the dangers of Sinn Féin. Fine Gael and the Indo think that’s good.
Besides, his message is quite simple: the mass murder of Irish citizens relates to a bygone age. The future, you see, belongs to Vlad’s livewire disciples, like the up-to-the-minute Mr Patrick O’Donovan, mini-minister; and that’s good too.
Leo’s ‘breakfast box’
The Sindo recently had an exclusive on Vlad’s taste buds, revealing breathlessly what our Taoiseach chomps for brekkie while travelling on the government’s private jet. He eats muesli, porridge, sangers and Taytos – all contained in what was described as his ‘breakfast box’. We weren’t told what he eats for lunch.
Considering that each flight has a price tag of €14,600 and that, so far, Blueshirts are having a ball flying top tier (at a cost of almost half a million euros), a discreet veil was drawn over his midday eating habits aboard the State’s Bombardier Learjet.
Presumably this was because the headline ‘Leo’s Lunch Box’ would not be the most appropriate description of his repast. It might bring to mind the linguistic difficulties experienced by sprinter Linford Christie in a famous court case where he had to explain to the judge that one’s lunch box did not always mean something to keep sandwiches in!