A DEFINING incident in the political life of former Tánaiste and Labour leader, Joan Burton, happened when she toppled from a canoe during a photo shoot in Athlone.
It was as if the gods were speaking in metaphors! Ms Burton teetering on the edge for three or four seconds before going splash, a catastrophe that was followed later in the general election by an inept, bungling Labour Party, totally lacking in political co-ordination and pathetically trying to stay afloat before it too collectively sank into political oblivion.
In other words, Ms Burton’s unfortunate accident typified all of Labour’s prior and subsequent misfortunes in the sense that both she and the party created such a sea of troubles for themselves that the electorate politely sent the cloth cap brigade to a watery grave – never again to be salvaged, we hope.
So, in expectation of more fun and games, we had recourse to reading the tea leaves to see what was in store for Burton’s one time pal, political comrade and mentor, Indakinny, leader of Fine Gael and current general factotum for one of the most disparate and disunited governments in the history of the State.
After carefully examining the detritus at the bottom of the cup (Barrys Tea, of course), we concluded that the leaves had taken the shape of an ominous message.
Confusion in FG
The spirits, deities and messengers of the Occult were warning that political demoralisation among Fine Gael supporters was rampant and likely to run riot in the wake of Inda’s declaration that he was ‘stepping aside’ as Taoiseach before the next election.
Bad news, indeed! It seemed to confirm that Inda had reached his point of no return, his high noon, his sink or swim time, despite his actions having the potential to banjax the party.
Metaphorically, he too had fallen out of a canoe and, as night followed day, in the serried ranks of that once great party, led by giants such as Blueshirt General O’Duffy, Cosgrave, Fitzgerald, and Alan Dukes (remember him?), he had allowed confusion to take hold.
Because for reasons best known to himself, he didn’t openly explain to the punters why he had enough of being the leader of Fine Gael. As a result, he was perceived as a ‘baten bird’ that had manifestly failed to satisfy the expectations of the party.
‘Didn’t he lead the party to an electoral rout?’ his critics were declaring. ‘Wasn’t he responsible for losing 26 seats and for breathing life into Fianna Fáil?’ And, in order to stay in power, hadn’t he promised never to offend a smirking Michéal Martin, the Fianna Fáiler who worked hand-in-glove with administrations whose incompetence and amorality wrecked the country and, gallingly, to whom Fine Gael was now ‘in thrall’?
Worse still, the collection of U-turn F&Fers could withdraw support whenever it wished, triggering an election for which he, Enda, had to take responsibility.
Man of honour
Thanks to his promise to throw in the towel, the net result was that Fine Gael now found itself in a humiliating dilemma from which extrication was impossible without the election of a new leader.
From a FG point of view, Fianna Fáil had the Blueshirts over a barrel. Turf cutting on a Mayo bog would be a thousand times preferable to the current situation. Yep, the tea leaves got it right. Thanks to Indakinny, FG was up the creek.
For a politico of Enda’s stature – an old stock parliamentarian whose Dáil values were hammered into shape by commonsense political activity and behaviour – this really was intolerable.
He was, after all, an expert in procedures, strategy, rules and regulations but he appeared to be meekly accepting the fact that the very reason for his role as Taoiseach had been called into question; and that was because of the madcap composition of the current Dáil where grandstanding and infighting ensured very little legislation could be passed.
The single-issue wacky weirdos, namely the Independents, were to blame. They turned molehills into mountains, blowing small controversies into major rows whenever they got the chance.
As a man of honour, Inda is no boot-licker, groveller or political toady to FF or the so-called Loony Left! He’s had enough and takes the line that he has no option but to give up the leadership of Fine Gael and, by implication, of the Government as well.
Life is too short for the misery he has to endure. Indeed, one almost can experience a sense of compassion for poor ol’ Mr Kenny. We certainly understand his reasons for packing it in, particularly with the budget coming down the tracks and the abortion controversy about to raise its ugly head – either of which has the potential to destroy his Government.
And, although he’s not gone yet, FG wannabe leaders are lining up to replace him. They include (allegedly) Simon Coveney, ambitious Leo Varadkar, the dreadful Paschal Donohue (otherwise known as the Widow Twankey of Irish politics –outrageous, hilarious and just a little bit naughty) and, interestingly, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who is being egged on by Junior Minister Katherine Zappone.
Zappone declared Fitzgerald to be ‘absolutely the strongest advocate for the leadership of women,’ which was an odd comment, considering that men also inhabit planet Earth. Indeed the comment could be interpreted as unpleasantly advocating discrimination based on gender.
An American nominated to the Senate by Kenny in 2011, Zappone took a seat in Dublin South West in 2016. Kenny then rewarded her with the position of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. But now, it appears she’s biting the hand that fed her.
Her overhasty involvement in the leadership stakes and the plunging of a sexist knife into Kenny’s back (another metaphor!) raised some eyebrows. The consequences remain to be seen.
Her observations will not do her chum, Ms Fitzgerald, much good, even if that lady’s role in the emerging leadership challenge may well be limited to that of a no-hope compromise-candidate, while hardy bucks Coveney and Varadkar fight it out.
A little nudge?
When Varadkar recently was in Skibbereen, he pointedly welcomed the findings of an opinion poll showing support for him as the next Blueshirt leader.
At the same time he coyly made clear that, while it was nice to be well thought of in opinion polls, he would continue to concentrate on his job as Social Protection Minister and that it was for Enda Kenny to decide the time to go.
But, although he didn’t say so, we are sure a little nudge might help poor Inda make up his mind!