CORK TD, Billy Kelleher, caught the F&Fers by surprise when he declared that it was his intention to take the place of MEP Brian Crowley and contest the forthcoming Euro-elections in May.
No one saw it coming, least of all Kelleher’s boss, Our Mickey, who – according to reports – suffered a deep feeling of irritation at the announcement. On the other hand, the reaction from the usually unflappable Mr Martin might not have been irritation, but fury (accounts differ!). What is certain is that the move caught the Great Man off-guard, and speedily he denounced Mr Kelleher’s decision as ‘unauthorised.’
Our FF spies, however, expressed some wry amusement at the latest calamity to afflict the Taoiseach-in-Waiting. The terms of farewell that Kelleher used to praise the departing MEP, Crowley, had everyone in stitches.
‘A colossal void will be left by him on the European stage,’ said the straight-faced Billy, apparently unaware of Crowley’s attendance record in Brussels and Strasbourg.
But, more importantly, Billy was laying down a marker to the political chums. Although not declared openly, he was saying something like this: ‘Mickey can like it or lump it, but I want that MEP job and, fair’s fair, it’s open to anyone to contest the election.’
The announcement knocked the Soldiers of Destiny for six. What’s more, its audacity had the potential to trigger among loyal F&Fers a neurological bout of political dizziness that could have knackered communication between the brain and the party’s great decision-making abilities. So far, it hasn’t.
Too many Corkmen
Several political correspondents juicily pointed out that, if Kelleher won a seat in the Euro-elections, his success would trigger a by-election in Cork North Central that Fianna Fáil would have difficulty winning. For instance, polls continue to show that Fianna Fáil is not making progress and, indeed, the latest Sunday Business Post/Red C poll had the party down five points to a miserable 22%.
The fact of the matter is that Fianna Fáil continues to trail Fine Gael by as much as ten percentage points and the party is now perceived as little more than a flunkey whose task is to keep the Blueshirts in government.
For instance, the point frequently is made in the Cork Arms that, even if a miracle happened and Fianna Fáil managed to scrape into government as part of a mythical coalition, the seven or eight Cabinet seats that Martin would demand could never include Kelleher.
The reason? Too many Corkmen spoil the broth! In other words, having three ministers from Cork would be a bridge too far for any sort of self-respecting partner in a coalition government. Kelleher would have been well aware of such a reality, saw the writing on the wall and decided to head off to Europe where the grass is greener.
ASBO campaign flop
Nonetheless, he will be remembered for one thing: the total failure of the campaign that (ironically) helped get him elected as a TD; namely his solution to the blackguardism problem in Cork city, the infamous ASBOs! These were anti-social behaviour orders that at the time were being used in Britain with some success.
But the Gardaí didn’t want them, preferring the Public Order Act for dealing with ‘scrotes’. As far as is known, only three ASBOs were issued nationally and only one in Cork.
Whether or not Kelleher garnered any political kudos from his ASBO campaign is open to question, but for a while he got top billing in the local media.
Fired with enthusiasm, he developed a strategy to defeat Cork’s teenage ‘gangstas’. It included a city centre curfew, and Army personnel to be deployed as part of a crackdown on street crime.
No one took him seriously and, before long, his reformist aspirations fizzled out and he never succeeded in changing the immoral, criminal and self-destructive lifestyle that (we were led to believe) was rampant in one part of the city. However, we are sure that, once ensconced in his Euro-parliament seat, Mr Kelleher’s valuable contribution to mankind will be properly appreciated.
Unless, of course, a recent comment that he made to the local press comes back to haunt him. Fianna Fáil, he said, ‘should be seeking to seize power.’ We were taken aback! Seizing power!!! Was it possible, we wondered, that he had in mind a coup d’état led by that great volunteer military force, the Free Clothing Association (FCA)?
But, on reflection, we realised the error of our interpretation. He didn’t mean that Fianna Fáil should take power suddenly and forcibly. Of course not. Perhaps it would have been better if he had used less emotive words, such as capture or conquer? Hmm. Perhaps not!
Which only goes show that in Irish politics linguistic absurdity is never a handicap!
How times change
Dearie me! How sad that rubbing shoulders with the big lads in Leinster House has sapped the revolutionary zeal of that one-time parliamentary radical, John Halligan!
Varadkar and his government refuse to support Senator Frances Black’s Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018. Essentially, the Bill seeks to ban the trade on goods from illegal Israeli settlements.
‘At its most basic, the Bill is about upholding international law,’ said Fianna Fail’s Niall Collins, a position that so far Minister Halligan has not endorsed. Yet, who can forget that the Mini-Minister once tried to organise a parliamentary visit to North Korea, a country that is a political outcast among civilised nations. His intentions were laudable: to promote international solidarity and peace.
Halligan’s ‘leftism’ also was directed at ‘landlord speculators’ who drove people into homelessness. So outraged was he that he said he would ‘jail the bastards.’
And then there was that famous interview in 2016 when he warned the government that he would bring ‘all hell down on them’ if they didn’t deliver on his election support deal. The junior minister added that he was not going to be ‘f***ed over by anybody.’
‘Tempora mutantur,’ as the Romans might say. Even a day or two is a long time in politics!
Still and all, it’s sad to see Halligan – a politico who took no prisoners and colourfully said what had to be said – has now joined the ranks of the politically lethargic!