OH dear! What a whacking that poor craythur, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, is getting from his so-called chums in Fine Gael. They’re pillorying him for his failure to fix the homeless crisis, and particularly for the damage he’s doing to their re-election chances!
Problem is that the entire Fine Gael government and its rag-tag collection of Independents (plus, of course, the Mickey Martin Mudguard aka Fianna Fáil) have been rendered speechless at the sight of 10,000 homeless people, sky-rocketing rents, and house prices shooting out of reach. They don’t know what to do. In the meantime, the long-suffering Minister Murphy seems to have been politically deactivated as the prospect of the housing disaster turning into a national emergency becomes increasingly likely.
Worse still, he has had to endure a backlash from FG comrades eager to prove to the public that they personally are not responsible for the horrific mess.
They’re blaming him for the debacle and slyly letting it be known that Murphy’s well-heeled background and private schooling did not equip him for the job. They’re calling him the ‘posh boy’ politician.
For instance, in an astonishing article in a national newspaper, unnamed government ministers stated that he reinforced a perception Fine Gael only cared about the middle classes and, in a personal attack, they said his ‘posh boy’ image was ‘killing’ the prospect of winning another general election.
POT SHOTS FLYING
To hammer home their dissatisfaction, they referred to a newspaper picture of Murphy’s jaunty demeanour while dressed in a pair of swimming togs during a break at a Cabinet meeting in Co Kerry. They said the picture damaged the party’s standing in the minds of ordinary people and, even worse, when he wasn’t swimming he was out jogging – and that at a time when ‘a family of small children were forced to sleep on uncomfortable chairs in a Garda station’.
Another exasperated FG stalker of the corridors of power bellyached that ‘Murphy was on his holidays in Spain while thousands of students across the country were struggling to secure affordable accommodation’.
Apparently his critics prefer him to look gloomy in public and engaged in the “ochone-ochone” routine of regaling the plain people of Ireland with ‘sorrowful tales of misery and despair’. Oh, and he shouldn’t go on holidays, jog, laugh, or wear swimming trunks!
For bitchiness and nastiness, the derogatory remarks smashed all records and led to Murphy’s spokesman saying that a person’s background had no impact on their ability to do the job. Quite right, too.
The pot-shots continued in a subsequent article, with MEP Mairead McGuinness declaring that her party had an obligation to take seriously public disquiet regarding Murphy’s ‘posh boy’ image. In the same breath she declared that his failure to contain the housing crisis was making the party ‘vulnerable electorally’.
The newspaper also reported that other nameless Cabinet colleagues blamed Minister Murphy for turning the housing crisis into the greatest threat to Fine Gael’s chances of retaining power.
But he has his supporters. According to Dublin TD Noel Rock, Murphy’s ‘posh boy’ background shouldn’t be held against him. He commented: ‘Some people say he is doing well against a difficult backdrop, others will say he is not doing well against a difficult backdrop. It shouldn’t be his background but the key performance metrics and the results held against him.’ (Sadly, no one had a clue as to what Mr Rock was spouting!)
Focussing on a politico’s class background is not a new development in Irish politics – the rural origins of the Healy-Raes – flat caps and the auld favour – is an example, but for Fine Gael to disparage one of their own by means of an indirect suggestion that he was more upper crust than the Beano’s Lord Snooty, or the British Conservative Party’s Jacob Rees-Mogg, well, that really broke new ground.
Nor does the expression ‘posh boy’, fit well in the canon of Irish political linguistics, being a very British term with more than a hint of the idle rich, public schools, the Tory party, Jeeves and Wooster and upper class English twits. Indeed, it’s par for the course that Fine Gael want to introduce it here.
Up to this, our politicos preferred abusive words that were basic and earthy, such as ’thicko’, ‘bogman’, ‘langer’, and ‘eegit’ . ‘Posh boy’, however, conjures up someone who’s a respectable Blueshirt with whom afternoon tea and a hang sandwich in the Shelbourne Hotel would be a delight!
Curiously, it’s not the only time that TDs have had recourse to the term. Mickey Martin’s Fianna Fáil can be credited with first using it in the Dáil when they described Varadkar as a ‘posh boy’, after he suggested getting money from parents as a way to secure a first home mortgage.
Vlad’s happy situation, the F&Fers complained, was in sharp contrast to the circumstances endured by the toiling masses, and that the Taoiseach didn’t live in the real world.
However, in fairness to Varadkar’s accusers, perhaps they had just come from the Dáil bar and in alcoholic befuddlement were confusing Leinster House with the Hogwarts institution, Harry Potter’s alma mater which contained many ‘posh’ boys and girls. What’s more, Hogwarts put special emphasis on witchcraft and wizardry, skills that are especially prized in Dáil Éireann.
There’s also the rumour that TDs had been surreptitiously glued to their phones when the term was first used. Some say the Blueshirts were egging-on a horse named ‘Posh Boy’ that was running in the 3.40 at Punchestown. (Sadly the nag failed to make a small fortune for anyone).
All that aside, it’s a bizarre state of affairs that Murphy’s FG colleagues are ferociously targeting him for everything that is wrong with the government’s housing policy. But whereas criticism can be positive, using a class-based argument to ‘do in’ a comrade is sneaky.
Unless, of course, Murphy’s foes are currently enjoying that delightful sensation of finding someone more politically incompetent than they are. In such circumstances they are entitled to feel very virtuous and super-critical of others. What’s more, on the basis that Murphy is out of public favour, it makes perfect sense to have him shoulder the blame for the failures of everyone else in the party.
Consequently, it’s relatively easy to initiate an internal campaign of victimisation without any fear of retaliation, but it’s a risky thing to do because even the dogs in the street can see that scapegoating a comrade is dirty politics – even by Blueshirt standards.
As someone said, the best way to avoid becoming a scapegoat is to find a real one!
Still and all, it ain’t nice to witness such a reprehensible strategy carried out in public, and by a party that likes to think its middle class respectability is above reproach.