IT’S been a good year for West Cork’s Mini-Minister of State, Jim Daly, who helps run the Department of Health and has special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People.
The Drinagh man, a former máistir and county councillor, supported Leo Varadkar in the Taoiseach stakes when it was neither profitable nor popular to do so. He was duly rewarded when his protégé won and ascended to the throne.
But, some are of the opinion that Jim’s finest hour as a Blueshirt rebel was in 2016 when the incumbent Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, got the fantastic notion of hanging-on to power for several more years. This led to despair and gloom among the mutineers scheming against Kenny, but not Our Jim.
Unwaveringly and with resolute determination, he stepped into the breach and, in a scorching communication to the toiling plotters, he uttered these immortal words: ‘there is absolutely no point pretending the leadership issue will go away.’
Result? The penny dropped. Enda submitted passively to the inevitable.
Vlad took over t he government. The crisis was dealt with pronto, and the rest is history.
Unions to blame
Indeed, Our Jim has never been scared of controversy, particularly in regard to the media. In very public argy-bargies, he blamed the trade unions for being a barrier to health reform and for ‘stirring up civil disobedience’ over water charges. Indo/Sindo journos were delighted; at last they had found a Man on a Mission.
And he didn’t stop there. He accused the West Cork ambulance campaigners of ‘reckless and opportunistic scaremongering.’ And, although a pedagogue himself, he questioned the amount of money paid in allowances to teachers. The teachers’ union, the ASTI, snorted that he was ‘teacher-bashing.’
He even nailed his colours to the Abortion mast (well, sort of) by announcing that he was not in favour of abortion on demand. However, it was a position he quickly modified by means of a notion that he termed the ‘sunset clause.’ This would involve a review of all abortion legislation after a number of years.
Terribly vague, but it got him off the hook.
Not so simple
And, as for that other FG grandee, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney? Well, 2017 also was a good year for him. Despite being pipped by Varadkar, he did not lose any support within Fine Gael – a sure sign that some day he too might become Supreme Leader of the Blueshirts, and that the door had not been permanently shut.
With that in mind and taking every precaution to avoid an unforeseen slip-up, Coveney poached his auld butty, Chris Donoghue from Newstalk, and gave him the post of ‘special advisor.’
The newshound’s brief is to advise Coveney on knotty problems such as Brexit, the North, the nutcase DUP and, of course, the unsatisfactory situations that threaten the entire planet, namely global warming, Scientology, and the lunatic President of the Free World.
Donoghue will work in tandem with another ‘special advisor,’ Catriona Fitzpatrick, who has the more humdrum job of regenerating constituency support in aid of Simon. But, whereas in Mr Donoghue’ s case, a dekko at Fox News is enough to bring Simon up to scratch on the international stuff, Ms Fitzpatrick will have her work cut out trying to guide her boss safely through the crocodile-infested waters of Cork South Central.
The constituency is a four-seater, which Coveney currently shares with heavyweights Michael McGrath (FF), Micheál Martin (FF) and the immensely-popular Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (SF).
Within such a competitive bunch, there’s room only for one Blueshirt deputy, meaning that Coveney has to ensure his party rival, Jerry Buttimer (who lost his seat), does not edge him out the next time round. And it’s a possibility!
In the meantime a major Fine Gael controversy that will engage minds in the new year is the matter of “The Fake Sod”.
This relates to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s notorious celebration of the first day of construction of Cork’s multi-million events centre. The joyous ‘happening’ took place on the site of the former Beamish & Crawford Brewery where, to loud cheers and much applause, Enda turned a sod of earth to symbolise the commencement of the project.
Ground breaking the announcement certainly was, just days ahead of the 2016 general election, but not in the literal sense – if you get our drift. Because nothing has been built and nothing has started. Zilch!
The entire project is mired in a financial controversy and the most that a proud Cork can show the world is a vast, empty site and a tiny hole in the ground which once contained the famous sod. A thundering disgrace, as the man said.
That was bad enough but what really got up the collective nostrils of Leesiders was the swaggering assertions made after Fine Gael’s recent national conference: a 10-year capital investment plan to invest €100bn in schools, roads and hospitals that, the party predicted, would have ‘a big impact on Cork.’
Here’s what the messenger (Mr Coveney again) said: ‘People know what the big projects are. We have Dunkettle, the N28, the M20 to Limerick, the Northern Ring Road, a new hospital and … an events centre!’
For poppycock and hokum, it bate Banagher and had the citizens falling off their bar stools with laughter. Because the government’s promises regarding Cork had more in common with the whoppers once made by Fianna Fáil desperados than with the earnest undertakings that in the past were pledged with great seriousness by Fine Gael!
Corkonians certainly were not impressed with Fine Gael bestowing imaginary gifts, especially when done on the assumption that the Leeside capital was populated with simple folk who fitted easily into the category of leprechauns and gullible dopes.
And now the bad news that we’ll be talking about in the coming year: Ireland will have to fork out an a whopping €3billion annually should it join PESCO (The Permanent Structured Co-operation).
This quasi-military outfit ultimately will lead to an EU army and a shared defence budget, to say nothing of its subversion of Irish neutrality. At the moment Ireland’s defence spending stands at €945m.
And, speaking of military matters, let’s hope the Top Brass can afford to buy a few chainsaws to deal with fallen trees. The recent storms revealed that in the southern part of the country, the Irish Army has just five qualified chainsaw operators, while in the entire northern section of the country, from Dublin to Galway, there only were two qualified chainsaw operators. Yep, two!
Oh, and there’s no truth in the rumour that the Department Of Defence ordered the following warning to be stamped on all chainsaws: ‘Please do not hold the wrong end of this cutting tool!’