OPINION: Political cover blown by ‘step-too-far' nonsense?

January 22nd, 2018 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

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‘COVER’ is the buzz-word among ethically-correct politicos whenever the dodgy topic of abortion is mentioned, or (horror of horrors!) if they’re asked a direct question about which way they intend to vote on the Eight Amendment. 

A form of political camouflage invented by Vlad the Impaler and his loyal sidekick, Mickey Martin, ‘cover’ has its origins in the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment. 

Importantly, it’s readily available should the politically-correct brigade (mostly motley Indo/Sindo hacks) threaten to take a bite of a politico’s backside for having the audacity to suggest that a case can be made for opposing abortion.

 Of course, our politicos are merely doing what the foul-mouthed President of the United States would describe as “covering one’s ass”.  In other words, they’re taking  measures to avoid being held responsible for ‘misreading’ the prevailing media opinion on abortion, or for saying something that is not in harmony with the party line.

Political accountability, we once used believe, was when a politico had the guts to accept responsibility for his/her actions and for being answerable to the punters for the political stance taken on important issues. That ended when politicos became obsessed with the fact that an ambiguous comment on abortion could damage reputations. Hence the idea of ‘Cover.’


Caused a panic

Put simply, politicos get agitated if asked to state publicly their position on abortion.

A case in point is the panic Varadkar caused among the cronies with his disclosure that the proposal to allow abortions without restrictions up to 12 weeks would be ‘a step too far for the majority of the public.’

The cataclysmic implication of the comment was explained by an old Blueshirt in Dinty’s: ‘Cripes,’ he groaned, ‘we thought that shaggin’ Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment had settled all that stuff about public concerns and that, if we stuck to the report, we’d have political cover. Wasn’t the benefit supposed to be that the Oireachtas committee was all-party and, as Varadkar said, you’d want to be mad to deviate from it? But where’s our cover now? Varadkar has bloody well blown it with his step-too-far nonsense!’

It’s a conundrum that’s also worrying Mickey Martin’s outfit. Reports indicate that most of Fianna Fáil’s frontbench is opposed to allowing unrestricted access to abortion for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.  

For instance, hugely-ambitious Jim O’Callaghan TD (brother of RTÉ personality, Miriam, a presidential wannabe) declared he did not support the 12-week facility because ‘it would significantly increase the number of pregnancies with Down syndrome or other disabilities that are terminated’.


Staying quiet

According to De Paper, a survey of Fianna Fáil’s front bench showed that five politicos wanted unrestricted abortion access up to twelve weeks of pregnancy, nine had ‘concerns’ and nine, including Our Mickey, bravely preferred to keep their gobs tightly shut.

But it is Varadkar’s herculean effort to preserve harmony in Fine Gael and to avoid fissures that might damage the party that is most interesting. For the moment, he’s holding the herd together, thanks largely to a stroke of genius that will allow ministers to campaign according to their personal views.

At least until a referendum is held. Nonetheless The Irish Times is confident that repeal of the Eight Amendment will have considerable political support. According to that newspaper’s fact-finding, almost half of all TDs were in favour of repeal; fifteen per cent said they opposed the measure and just under 40 per cent of TDs either had not made up their minds or did not respond to inquiries. 

Interesting too that the most coquettishly evasive in answering any question on abortion were Fine Gael TDs. Of the party’s 50 TDs, 31 refused to say which way they would vote!

All of which raises the question as to what line our political heroes are taking in this neck of the woods, Cork South West. And this we know: the usually loquacious Jim Daly (FG) is keeping absolutely mum; his lips are sealed; his position on abortion a secret that he will not reveal even were he to suffer the most frightful tortures of the Spanish Inquisition. Amazing!

On the other hand, his political rivals Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) and Michael Collins (Ind) have no problem nailing their colours to the mast. They’re voting an emphatic No. And that’s it!


Threat to media

For a government that employs a raft of ‘consultants’ and ‘spin doctors,’ its  response to a warning from the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) was remarkable: utter silence.

The high-powered meeja association exhorted Vlad to ‘implement without delay changes to reduce or eliminate the threat posed to freedom of expression by Ireland’s current defamation regime.’

It noted with dismay that damages awarded by the Irish courts in defamation cases were often 10 times higher than in neighbouring jurisdictions. ‘Excessive awards of damages and legal costs have a chilling effect upon the media and upon the right of the public to be informed of issues of significance,’  it said. 


Vaulting ambition

Labour TD, Alan Kelly, is getting ‘desperit altogether.’  In 2016, he tried to challenge Brendan Howlin’s leadership role, but failed to get even one TD to second his nomination.

Then, last December he earned a headline or two after he warned Hapless Howlin that he had less than six months to turn the party’s fortunes around – which was a bit of a task, considering that the party in 2016 saw its Dáil representation catastrophically drop from 37 to seven.

Labour, in other words, is gondies, a fact that still has to penetrate Mr Kelly’s distinguished pate. The story goes that the sad and diminished Band of Brothers told Kelly to back off and let poor Mr Howlin see out his Dáil days in some form of calm and serenity.

Realising he hadn’t a snowballs of ousting Howlin, Kelly agreed, but in January he resumed the Long War, although this time in a more nuanced way.  He said he no longer intended to challenge Howlin for the party leadership. 

In fact, he had no plans at all to remove him (wasn’t that nice?), but he reminded the plain people of Ireland that he had wanted to lead Labour since he was a nipper and that it was good to have ambition. (Touch of Trump?)

Oh, and he announced he was now fixing his sights on becoming a justice minister ‘as the job was suited to the person I am.’  Wow!

Kelly really would be better off in Fine Gael where he’d have more of a chance of ‘getting on’ and becoming a head honcho, justice minister, leader, statesman, generalisimo and lord of all he surveys.  Otherwise, Oscar Wilde’s biting definition of ambition might just stick to him: ‘Ambition is the last refuge of the political failure,’  he said.


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