SO, it’s all round the mulberry bush again! Fianna Fáil is threatening once more to ‘pull the plug’ on the Blueshirt government.
As the man in Dinty’s famously said: ‘I hate false alarms. Somebody should give that Martin fella some elocution lessons about calling an election.’
On this occasion, however, it’s Martin’s sidekick, Michael McGrath who’s crying wolf, prompted by the appointment of Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal. In an echo of his master’s voice, McGrath threatened that if there was any more of that sort of thing a general election was on the cards.
According to the Indo-Sindo, FF rank and filers were ‘champing at the bit’ (chomping, surely?). The facts spoke for themselves. The ‘grassroots’ were sick of Martin and McGrath’s failed strategy of having one leg in government and one leg outside. And the polls were proof of the pudding: there was no increase in support for the F&Fer party.
To make matters worse, Fine Gael was perceived to be rubbing F&Fer nostrils in the muck. Vlad and his ministers ‘swaggered about’ provocatively and arrogantly. They were ‘headstrong’ and deliberately ‘disrespectful’ to the Soldiers of Destiny.
Infuriated FF punters
Whatever about the truth of such assertions, it is certain the pot is boiling, stimulated in no small way by questionable political appointments and argy-bargies over extra spondulux in allowances. Result? Infuriated FF punters!
And at the heart of everything is the fear that the once great Fianna Fáil party will continue to be nothing more than a mudguard for Fine Gael so long as the likes of Martin and McGrath remain as head honchos.
Worse still, the opportunities for Fianna Fáil to get a dig in are going a-begging – a situation that may be due to the fact that a long time ago the political thirst for amassing filthy lucre drowned honour, conscience and truth in the bottomless bilge of party politics – not only for Fine Gael but, as we well know, for Fianna Fáil too.
Nothing better illustrates this sordid fact than the tussle over whether Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty should repay the yearly allowance of €15,829 as Fine Gael Chief Whip.
In a burst of moral probity, the minuscule Labour Party – not Fianna Fáil, mind you – pointed out that Ms Doherty already was drawing a fat sum as a minister and that legally another income could not be made to her as a party whip.
Of course there was absolutely no suggestion that anything untoward lay behind this latest episode relating to pecuniary profit and loss among Irish politicos. Certainly not!
For which reason De Paper’s choice of words might have been a tad over the top. It reported that she might be ‘forced’ to return some of her allowance. One wonders what the ex-Old Lady of Academy Street had in mind: the thumbscrew, electric shock, the rack, water boarding?
Fortunately, Vlad the Impaler put things in perspective: He highlighted Fine Gael’s principles of political justice and goodness.
‘The interest of the ministers who sit around my Cabinet table is not in salaries and allowances,’ he said, his chest swelling with Blueshirt uprightness.
He added that the focus of his Government was ‘getting through legislation that matters to the people and members of the public.’ He would not introduce legislation to provide any additional allowances to any politician.
The FG reaction to his speech was loud and hearty. Applause, shouts, songs and toasts hit the rafters. What a man! What a Taoiseach! Our Vlad!
And yet, incredibly, he has his disparagers, particularly those who lost out in the allocation of junior minister jobs.
For instance, media reports described John Deasy TD as ‘bristling with anger’ and ‘out for blood.’ He had expected elevation to the corridors of power, but Vlad cast him aside.
To make matters even more distressing, Deasy threatened not to support the Government in crucial votes. Now that constitutes an offence for which mutineers were shot at dawn, a fate (we hope) that will not befall the Dungarvan maverick!
Another chap who lost out, a Pat Deering of the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency, complained he would be ‘squeezed politically,’ while a disappointed Louth TD, Fergus O’Dowd, predicted ‘suffering’ for Fine Gael and ‘neglect’ for the constituency.
But the tale that brought tears to our eyes was that of dumped EU Affairs Minister, Cork’s Dara Murphy, who admitted picking the wrong horse (Simon Coveney) in the Taoiseach race.
Distraught with grief, he said that Varadkar sacked him even though he (Murphy) had attended ‘hundreds of meetings relevant to the Brexit discussions.’ He also ‘felt’ there was ‘an anti-Cork element’ in Varadkar’s decision – which, if true, is an assault on the loyalty and devotion of every Leeside Blueshirt, living and dead, since the dawn of civilisation.
Vlad immediately issued this withering one-liner: ‘All appointments were made on the basis of performance,’ which hurt. After all, ex-minister Murphy has gone down in Leeside lore for his presidential style fund-raising breakfast in the Imperial Hotel.
In return for forking out €85, Cork property developers and other business types had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with a skilled political figure, well versed in conducting the business of government.
Nonetheless, Murphy too was banished! ‘Oh, what a falling off was there,’ as Shakespeare might have said in different circumstances.
Which raises this question: Was Vlad aware of Murphy’s outstanding political status in his constituency up in Knocka?
Who can forget the time his chauffeur-driven car broke down at 3am on a Sunday morning while on his way with the missus to catch an early morning flight in Dublin for a meeting in Brussels on a Monday.
Displaying the initiative that marked him out as a quick-thinking Corkonian, a phone call ensured a squad car with two gardai was diverted from its rural beat to drive him pronto to Dublin Airport.
The begrudgers had a field day. They wanted to know why the mini-Minister was driving to Dublin (520km round trip, plus mileage exes) when he could have flown from Cork to Paris or Amsterdam and taken a 70-minute high-speed train journey into the centre of Brussels?
No to election
Conclusions? The most amazing phenomenon of all is that although the signs point to a disintegration of government, Fianna Fáil is unable to make the most of what’s happening.
Indeed, Varadkar had a right old snigger when he accused Martin of threatening to collapse the government and force a general election, even though Vlad knew and Martin knew that nothing could be further from the truth.
Because, according to Michael McGrath, the party’s justification for doing nothing is that nobody will reward Fianna Fáil for causing a general election ‘that the public do not want.’
And that definitely is the weirdest argument of all!