LAST year, as Taoiseach, Indakinny flamboyantly turned the sod at Cork’s historic Beamish and Crawford site for an events centre costing €53m, the heir presumptive to the leadership of Fine Gael, Minister Simon Coveney, smiled indulgently.
As well he might, for his presence at the sod-turning ceremony announced loud and clear that he was ‘the man’ who got things done for Cork: such as persuading a major international company, BAM, to build a 6,000-seat sports and entertainment facility and convincing the City Council and Government to back the project to the tune of €20m.
The flagship development was to be the key element of the wider €150m Brewery Quarter regeneration and superior to anything in Dublin. Indeed the happy sod-turning occasion was interpreted by many as a sign that Coveney was the predetermined man for the job of party cheerleader, head honcho and future Taoiseach.
But, as Shakespeare might have put it, the sod that Coveney helped turn quickly became ‘a kneaded clod,’ a menacing reminder of political mortality and an agonising symbol of despair and failure. Because, since then, not a brick has been laid, nor a wall raised. Nothing.
The Fates – those shadowy incarnations of destiny who manipulate Coveney’s metaphorical thread of political life – appear to have dealt him a very dud hand.
Cork FG worried
And, Cork Fine Gael is worried. It doesn’t want the project to go down the Swanee, considering the political capital their boy, Simon, put into the development.
Alf Smiddy, former chairman and managing director of Beamish and Crawford, admirably caught the anxiety currently gripping Cork when he pointedly remarked: ‘The great philanthropist brewers, Messrs William Beamish and William Crawford, who invested so much private resources in supporting Cork and our citizens over the centuries, are probably looking down on us totally mystified and appalled with everything.’
Have no doubt that Coveney’s close pals and acolytes who counsel him on his leadership strategy are similarly concerned – people such as Fine Gael TDs Kate O’Connell and Maria Bailey, Junior Minister Damien English, Senator Tim Lombard, former party adviser Ciaran Conlon, Corpo councillor Laura McGonigle, special adviser Catriona Fitzpatrick, and his brother Patrick.
To make matters worse, the developers (BAM) have asked for an extra €18m in public funds, prompting an outcry from non-FG politicos who claim the costs associated with the project are spiralling out of control. ‘Everyone knew the funding model when we signed off on the original tender. But BAM seem to be coming back for seconds, thirds and fourths. It wouldn’t be allowed in any other tendering process,’ complained Fianna Fail councillor Terry Shannon to ‘De Paper.’
But, with costs now at €65m, no timeline for completion, and public confidence in the development squandered, Leesiders are suggesting the project should be retendered and alternative sites considered.
Cllr Shannon and others are demanding an explanation from the developers, as plans also include student apartments. They fear the focus will be redirected to student accommodation and away from the events centre.
One way or another, because of the debacle the city’s reputation is at risk and its citizens, famous for shrewdness and political savvy, are in danger of becoming an international laughing stock. Not to mention the mortification the wannabe Taoiseach will suffer!
Not good for Mr Coveney’s leadership ambitions. Not good at all!
On the basis that, in politics, a sneer is irrefutable, Kenny may well be sniggering up his sleeve at the Dynamic Duo’s (Coveney and Varadkar) ham-fisted effort to steal his job. Their lack of brain-based skill for ‘doing him in’ has most of the country chortling too.
But while the mutineers remain unsure of the level of approval that they’ll get for plunging the knife into the back of the dear leader, headman, premier, tsar, gaffer, guvnor and numero uno big cheese, Kenny can ignore them.
So, instead of worrying, he’s basking in his new role as itinerant statesman. Last March we saw him cracking jokes with Donald Trump. Recently he’s been winning plaudits for his organ-grinding talent as promoter of the public good and the only man in the world who knows how to deal with Brexit.
In Canada he impressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his wise old owl persona and, in Rome, Pope Francis was much taken with his pious-politico image – a far cry from Kenny’s anti-clerical mode some years ago when he was caught fiddling with his iPhone during a papal audience.
Why should he pack it in, now that the efforts of those wanting to unseat him increasingly are seen as imprudent, ill-considered, absurd and dopey? What’s more, the F&Fers don’t want an election, which also suits Kenny.
Having Dev’s crowd as Fine Gael’s political mudguard is a pleasure to be relished to the full. In fact, if Kenny wants to, he can easily hang on for another six months –maybe until the Pope’s visit to this country next year!
Consequently, Dame Inda has reason to chuckle as he strings along the disgruntled gang, safe in the knowledge that the longer he hangs on to power, the more Varadkar’s and Coveney’s phony war is perceived as mousey and ineffectual. Beautiful!
In other words, the weaker the insurgents the stronger he becomes, which is a very ordinary principle of warfare, as is this one: political action and decision making should be based on principles and ethical standards rather than the headline grabbing prejudices of media reptiles in organs such as the Indo/Sindo!
Job from daddy
Nepotism, said someone, is appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party and it’s not unknown for a moribund politico in his last will and testament to leave his Dail seat to a member of the family.
Foreigners might think that the presence of nepotism and cronyism in the body politic leads to the corruption of standards and safeguards but nothing could be further from the truth. Employing spouse, children and close relatives as ‘special advisers’ or secretaries is par for the course in this country, a procedure defended by a TD to this scribe on the basis that nepotism should never go beyond the family!
Another commented that Jesus’s success in founding a world religion was because of who his father was. So, after Kenny stated he would not contest the next election as Fine Gael leader, it was inevitable that his Mayo constituency should establish a committee to plan for his departure and select a replacement.
And, whose name topped the list? Why, that of daughter Aoibhinn, of course. Nothing wrong with that, considering that Enda inherited his father’s seat when his time came in 1975.
Indeed it all seems perfectly normal and rather fitting that the ‘best’ people always should get the job – especially if they’re related! The Irish political system is built on such practices.