FIANNA Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, is politically astute, clever but slippery. In other words, he’s a supremely accomplished politico, adept at taking advantage of political opportunities whenever they present themselves.
But, sadly, he may just have been too clever by half to judge by the reaction to the Pauline conversion that put him into the pro-abortion camp, particularly since jokers will delight in presenting him as an official rep of the ‘Hands Off Our Ovaries’ gang. Shocked too are many TDs, including our own Cork South West deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony and Cork East’s Kevin O’Keefe.
Prominent Fianna Fáil TD, John McGuinness warned that Dáil approval of ‘unrestricted’ abortion laws would be a major issue; and rumours circulated this week that a majority of the FF parliamentary party would not support unrestricted abortion up to three months into pregnancy.
Nevertheless, Martin’s reversal of a stated FF position was not bats, or off the wall. Rather it was a calculated contribution to the abortion debate by a person who had done his research and had come to the conclusion that public opinion was shifting. For this reason, Martin declared he was reversing his opinion on abortion.
And, although he did not say it openly, the implication was that his party should do the same since he was its leader. It was a radical change of tack, typical of the Don Berto era, and it indicated that Mickey had learned well from the master.
It can’t be denied that he now has taken his party down a very controversial path. We must also presume that he carefully examined the positives and negatives of his decision, including the crunch factor as to whether the political advantages accruing from pursuing a ‘Yes to Abortion’ policy outweighed the obvious political disadvantages.
Yet, the awful dilemma facing him is the possibility that he might have put himself on the wrong side of the fence and that he has alienated serious support (said to be about 70%) from traditional Fianna Fáil. Pro-life TDs are now saying that they are entitled to a share of media attention similar to what the Cork man got for his support of abortion.
But, the most remarkable aspect of his U-turn was its unexpectedness. On the other hand, perhaps the Latinist in Mickey saw a parallel between Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon and his own Leeside determination to buck conventional wisdom.
When the great Roman was irrevocably committed to his course of action, he uttered this famous message to the troops: ‘Alea jacta est’ (the die has been cast). Mickey, if he still had been teaching Latin to first years at Pearse Leahy’s establishment on Camden Quay, would have translated the text as “there’s no turning back”.
So, from now on he’s a pro-abortion politico and commentators are suggesting that his four-seater constituency, Cork South Central, will be the first to suffer the after-effects. Already bouts of irritability, shaking, sweating and nausea are spreading among Fianna Fáil elder lemons who couldn’t care less about Martin’s crafty espousal of a free vote on abortion.
What concerns the bigwigs is party policy. Fianna Fáil was being defined as an anti-abortion party, which gave it a clear market identity that went down a treat in its rural heartland. Martin now has scuppered the process and once again Fianna Fáil is looking like a hand-me-down version of Fine Gael.
Better head honcho
It should not be forgotten either that in the 2016 general election Martin’s political fortunes took a slight tumble in South Central; a small one but significant!
You see, his FF running mate, the very personable Michael McGrath, marginally outpolled the leader and, since then, mischievous voices within the ranks of the Soldiers of Destiny have been suggesting that McGrath was the up-and-coming Mr Big and would make a better head honcho than Martin.
Of course there never was much political love between the two. Three years ago, Martin was accused of ‘shafting’ his comrade after he added his secretary to the local election ticket behind McGrath’s back. It’s also a fact that breathing down Martin’s neck is Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire who took the third seat in 2016.
Martin beat him into third place by 693 votes, but the psychological damage was enormous. Sinn Féin has become a serious threat in Martin’s constituency, which might help explain his mean, relentless, and illogical attacks on Republicans for what he wildly claims is their falsification of history. (Some observers also argue that Martin has publicly supported abortion on demand because Sinn Féin was hoovering up support among voters in the twenties to thirties age bracket, to the detriment of Fianna Fáil).
In the meantime, Martin, having ruled out ever doing a deal with Sinn Féin and aghast at the prospect that he may well be the first leader of his party never to serve in government, has been cosying up to the Blueshirts. He famously and warmly told the nice Mr Vlad that he did not rule out the prospect of a FF-FG coalition after the next general election. Mr Vlad nodded but said nothing.
The compatibility that the two men now enjoy on the matter of abortion has deepened and developed under the Confidence and Supply Arrangement, even if rank and file F&Fers continue to seethe at what they consider to be the humiliating role the party has had in the coalition: as a mudguard to Fine Gael with the sole function of keeping the Blueshirts in power.
It is a bit part that turns the stomach of traditional Fianna Fáil which, combined with Martin’s volte face on abortion, has set normally well-adjusted FF heads swirling. Thanks to Martin, the party is at sixes and sevens, going nowhere; and that, if anything, is fascinating!
Does the North’s Right Honourable Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim and prominent member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), know something about Vlad that we don’t. He accused our Taoiseach of being naive, inexperienced, arrogant and a ‘nutcase.’
Now, a ‘nutcase’ is someone who is crazy and possibly dangerous. Sammy is no eegit, so we must presume that he chose his words with care in order to insult Vlad as forcibly as possible. But, in the process, the repulsive politico also offended the ordinary people of Ireland who elected Varadkar.
Such was the outcry that Mr Sammy, a few days later, said he regretted having used the word ‘nutcase.’ Mind you, he ‘regretted’ but he didn’t apologise, perhaps because the lunatic fringe doesn’t do apologies. Which goes to show that it’s better for the DUP to let people think they are idiots than to open their gobs and prove it!
Or as the slogan on the Falls Road used say: ‘Support bacteria; it’s the only culture the DUP has!’