ALTHOUGH Thomas Midleton’s comedy, It’s a Mad World, My Masters, is now remembered more for the title than for the content, characters such as Sir Bounteous Progress, Richard Follywit and Master Shortrod Harebrain continue to live in our imaginations because of the similarity between the black humour ‘madness’ of Jacobean drama and the ‘madness’ of the Irish political world in the 21st century.
For instance, the recent avant-garde antics of distinguished politicos such as Fianna Fáil’s ‘Communication’ spokesperson, Mr Timothy Dooley and Mr Mickey Martin (leader of Fianna Fáil), are a case in point.
Mickey recently gave an admonishing rap to Mr Dooley’s knuckles because of comments the good man made in relation to Fine Gael’s Dear Leader, Vlad the Unvanquished, the current Taoiseach.
In doing so, the impression of living in a topsy-turvy political world was provided by the sight of an eminent Fianna Fáil politician (Mr Dooley) at the receiving end of ‘tut-tut’ criticism from the leader of Fianna Fáil (Mr Martin) – and all because Mr Dooley made critical comments about the Fine Gael Taoiseach (Vlad the Impaler).
Here are some naughty statements regarding Brexit that flowed from Mr Dooley’s pen (or laptop): ‘The stand-off with our nearest neighbour is as a direct result of Taoiseach Varadkar’s failure to engage in basic diplomacy over the past two years.’
And this: ‘The Government’s lack of experience and arrogance will hurt Ireland in the coming months.’ Wow! That certainly was subversive!
So concerned was the leader of Fianna Fáil, Mickey Martin, that he peremptorily instructed his fellow Fianna Fáil man, Mr Dooley, to remove, expunge, excise and eradicate all references criticising Vlad’s diplomacy regarding Brexit. Ignored too was the fact that, theoretically, Fine Gael always has been Fianna Fáil’s sworn enemy – but, obviously, not on this occasion!
The problem for Martin was that Mr Dooley had written something which the Brits might interpret as the disintegration of the bipartisan consensus on Ireland’s approach to Brexit. And that certainly was not desirable, nice, nor politically advantageous.
What’s more, the Fianna Fáil leader was determined that the Brexit debate ‘should not descend into political one-upmanship’ in case any criticism of the Fine Gael Government’s position on Brexit, even by the Fianna Fáil opposition, would be damaging to the interests of the country. Consequently, a united political front was the order of the day.
In other words, criticising the government for its approach to an issue of national importance was Verboten! It was a disloyal and unpatriotic act even though Mr Dooley did not suggest that the government in any way was caving-in on the backstop.
Dooley, later sought forgiveness for his metaphorical ‘sin’ and, in what seemed like a public confession, contritely admitted that his comments had been ‘ill-timed, a little harsh … unfairly taken out of context … misrepresented by Brexiteers … and then seized upon by elements of the British media to suggest that he wasn’t supportive of the backstop. Happily, Dooley later explained that the controversy ‘had now been put to bed.’
And that, certainly, was a relief!
Rapidly becoming a situation of ‘last person out, please turn off the lights’ the abandonment of the Defence Forces by disgruntled soldiers, sailors and air-people continues afresh, week after week.
Recent statistics predict more than 800 members will have left the Defence Forces by the end of this year. A naval spokesperson said: ‘More people leave in the second half of the year, hence if we have lost 407 in the first half of 2019 we can predict the number for the entire year will be more than 814 … Yet, the Army still has to commit to overseas missions, the Naval Service has to carry out patrols and the Air Corps has commitments to search and rescue operations.’
A recent survey by an outfit called ‘Research Matters’ came up with even more chilling stats. Of the personnel polled by the company, more than half intended to quit military life within the next two years – which, if such comes to fruition, could lead to the loss of 1,100 personnel by 2021.
And the interesting bit: The minimum number needed to carry out operations is 10,500. Currently it stands at 8,750 – a figure that’s dispersing surely and steadily.
Cnut the Great
Meanwhile Paul Kehoe, the Fine Gael Minister with responsibility for Defence, is beginning to resemble the historical figure of King Canute, otherwise known as Cnut the Great. Although Cnut intensely disliked his dyslexic brother (for obvious reasons), he was gifted with supernatural powers and commanded the incoming tide to halt and not wet his feet. Sadly, the tide took no notice.
Likewise, Minister Kehoe also seems to have few mystical powers. Recently he was criticised for being ‘asleep at the wheel’ after admitting that nobody told him that the LÉ Eithne and the LÉ Orla were in dock because crews couldn’t be found to staff them.
He now believes the Naval Service can be ‘regenerated’ but doesn’t tell us how!
Fianna Fáil, in a rare attack on their ‘very best FG chums,’ took a slice off Kehoe, accusing him of having a ‘dysfunctional tenure’ by denying what was happening. Interestingly, Mickey and his Fianna Fáil crew have yet to call for Kehoe’s resignation, even though it’s apparent to all the fish in the sea that as a Defence minister he’s not the best person for the job!
The saga of controversial independent TD, Michael Lowry, who always will be associated with the Moriarty Tribunal, recently took a new turn. Fianna Fáil will seek his support in the event of that party sniffing a possibility of a return to power after the next general election.
Back in 2016, the Fianna Fáil leader, Mickey Martin, said that the strength of the Moriarty Tribunal findings meant no political party could involve Lowry in a coalition government. Nonetheless, in July of this year, Martin refused to rule out working with Lowry after the next general election.
He denied there was any formal agreement with the former FG minister but indicated that a possibility might exist of working with him.
At the end of July Martin was again asked if he would be happy to have Lowry on his team, considering that ‘an understanding’ already existed between Fine Gael and Lowry to ensure government support.
Martin did not want to comment in detail on anything relating to the possibility of his party being dependant on Lowry’s support. ‘There could be many independents and I am not going to single one out,’ he craftily answered. But we got his drift! Welcome, dear Mr Lowry! Welcome indeed!