MICHEÁL Martin has a fascinating way with words, particularly the ‘cult’ word. The Fianna Fáil leader used it several times in reference to Sinn Fein and, more recently, when he was asked his opinion on the controversial antics of the Church of Scientology, which has established itself in Dublin.
‘They’re cults,’ he snapped, a term he uses for derisively describing groups of people that he doesn’t like.
And, curiously, if one accepts the dictionary definition of ‘cult’ – a religious group whose beliefs are considered extreme or strange – many right-thinking people would say he’s spot on.
Indeed, with a little bit of linguistic elasticity, and in view of the fact that De Valera’s Soldiers of Destiny were once perceived as a cult because of their ability to generate fanaticism and huge devotion to their leader, Martin’s definition also fits Fianna Fáil to a T.
But today, in a sad reversal of solid convictions and the erosion of religious-like faith in the party, contemporary Fianna Fáil seems to have more in common with Voodooism or, to be more precise, Rastafarianism, than with the right-wing outfit Dev established in opposition to the 1921 Treaty all those years ago.
For instance, the ‘Rastas of the Rastafarians’ cult transfers easily to Irish politics in the sense that Rastas can be viewed as the political embodiment of a cultish mixture of Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern, whose impact on Ireland will last forever.
And although Haughey is dead and Fianna Fáil barred Don Berto from ever re-joining, mirabile dictu, the influence of the two lads is immensely strong.
Metaphysically they’re still around, still in the political world, encouraging Micheal Martin, whispering in his supporters’ ears, ensuring that one day the Ballinlough man will be head of state, overlord and Taoiseach of our glorious Twenty Six Counties.
OK, so Mickey has some distance to travel before becoming Taoiseach but that detail can be resolved in much the same way as it was with Charles of Kinsealy and Bartholomew of Drumcondra whose political arrival was announced with the winning of a general election. In Martin’s case, such a happy event will take place next Spring.
Indeed, Martin is already walking in the shadow of the Great Charlie and Berto, the Great Gambler from Drumcondra – thanks to his multiple roles as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health
And, when in time he assumes the mantle of Taoiseach, according to the Good Book of Political Prophecies, (De Paper) the streets of the ancient City of Corke will resound with cries of approval and congratulations, and the best of men will be full of good will, admiration and joy.
Full of beans
Yet (to return to Planet Earth for a moment), it’s a mystery why Martin should want to be Taoiseach at all, bearing in mind that he’ll run the risk of being vilified for having been a minister in a government that wrecked the country and saddled every home with the debts of rogue bankers, crooks and ‘developers.’
Let’s face it: Martin’s political reputation is tainted, and even within Fianna Fáil he’s perceived as an impediment to the party’s progress.
Nevertheless, as the recent Árd Fheis showed, he’s full of beans at the prospect of leading the F&Fers back into government, preaching to anyone who’ll listen that even a Blueshirt Coalition, led by himself (natch), would suit him nicely. He also made clear that he’d have no truck with ‘cults’ such as Sinn Féin.
Leap of faith
And, let’s face facts: he’s had a charmed political life, having survived the NAMA-Haughey-Ahern meltdown of Fianna Fáil. Without a shadow of a doubt, the punters will take that miraculous event into their electoral considerations!
Most importantly, no one can point a finger and say he personally was responsible for destroying the once mighty Band of Brothers, although a leap of extraordinary faith will be required if the punter is to swallow the PR hype and ballyhoo surrounding Fianna Fáil’s resurgence.
His acolytes, however, point out that, according to the polls, Martin now is more popular than the media obsessed Fine Gael leader, Vlad the Impaler!
Long way to go
And there’s also this point: in the 2011 election FF lost more than 50 seats and a quarter of the entire electorate, but in the last General Election it managed to scrounge back 23 seats, giving it a total of 40 seats. Can Martin take credit for the party’s rehabilitation? (Fine Gael currently holds 50 seats and Sinn Féin 23).
A bump in support does not mean that the public has given Fianna Fail a clean bill of health or wiped its very dirty slate. Nor should a partially revived FF be a reason for believing that Ireland has forgiven the pain and suffering inflicted by Martin and Fianna Fáil’s business cronies.
Indeed, to his credit, Martin is the first to recognise the depth of the hole in which his party currently finds itself. With some candour, he recently said: ‘We have a long way to go, Fianna Fáil and other parties, to ensure we have the trust with voters.’
That aside, his uncharacteristic jauntiness at the recent Ard Fheis was a sight to behold. To an outsider the annual knees-up was dreary – a sensation reinforced by Martin’s dreadful closing speech (a pupil from his days as a ‘máistir’ in Leahy’s educational establishment on Cork’s Camden Quay would have done better). Yet, he succeeded in transmitting this simple message: the party had the right to expect the best in this best of all possible worlds – success at the polls, and soon!
Lost for words
What a pity, though, that Martin refused to pay due deference to his one-time mentor, Don Berto, by awarding him a ‘distinguished service medal.’ Martin, snorting in indignation, declared he wasn’t going to be taken in by a mischievous prank and that the prodigal hadn’t a snowball’s of ever returning to the fold. Bertie would remain a political non-person.
It was an unkind thing to say of a once great chum, comrade and mentor, despite the ‘mischievous’ intention behind the proposal!
After all, hammer and tongs, the two men together had fought the good fight. Tooth and nail, they toiled in the trenches, shared aspirations, and dreamed the great dream. (How poetic!)
But to humiliate an auld butty like that! That was ... that was ... sorry … we’re lost for words.
Sobs. Please pass the onion.
The moral of the story? Politics can be a hypocritical vocation! Or, as dear Oscar said to a politician claiming to have higher standards than was the case, ‘I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That, sir, would be hypocrisy!’