SOME years ago, we watched with much amusement a political heave against the then leader of the Fine Gael party, Dame Enda Kenny. Prominent in the conspiracy was the current Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, who later excused his activity on the basis that ‘he was not someone who lived in the past’ and that although he had been exiled from the front bench, he had come to terms with his misfortune.
You see, Mr Creed had participated back in 2010 in Richard Bruton’s infamous heave against the Leader, along with several other rebel Fine Gael TDs. The attempted putsch flopped and, as the world well knows, the upshot was that Kenny stood down the entire frontbench. In Creed’s case, he was banished to the political wilderness for five years, where he cut a lonely and sad figure in No Man’s Land – in other words, on the desolate back-benches.
Nevertheless, even today many people stand in awe of Mr Creed’s single-minded determination to ‘get on’ in politics and to overcome adversity. Despite his attempt to overthrow the then leader of the party, Creed’s political self-justification helped him weather the storm that ensued and to survive politically until his surprising rehabilitation took place.
Kenny, to the astonishment of many people, forgave him and, what’s more, entrusted him with the Agriculture portfolio – a responsibility which he’s hung onto, even to the present day, and including the time when Vlad the Impaler took over as Taoiseach. Some achievement!
But the dreadful loss of the perks and privileges that takes place when a minister falls out of favour certainly taught him a lesson. So, inevitably and as part of his political rehabilitation, his madcap conspiratorial antics were discreetly consigned to the dust-bin of history, or explained away in appropriate agricultural terminology (courtesy of St Colman’s College?) of having been the victim of ‘le temps de cuisson haricots verts’ (Whaaaa?? -Ed).
That aside, the point is that as a result of his banishment, Creed learned a really important political lesson: to keep the head down at all costs – which, to his credit, he has done with great success. What’s more, it’s a political strategy that might even explain his remarkable silence regarding a controversy that recently erupted in Macroom, right on his doorstep, concerning asylum seekers and refugees.
NO SPONGERS HERE
You see, the disgusting ‘sponger’ mess at Oughterard, where locals successfully prevented a direct provision centre for refugees, might well have been replicated in Macroom were it not for the common decency and good sense of the townspeople. But, curiously, our own Michael Creed, the Minister, for his own reasons remained silent on the matter – which is not to say, of course, that he was in any way deficient in common decency and good sense.
Oughterard was the third place to reject the location of a direct provision centre. Rooskey in Co Roscommon and Moville in Donegal did likewise (the latter two had been earmarked for refugees but the buildings mysteriously went on fire!).
LACK OF PLANNING
So, when the news leaked that up to 60 asylum seekers had arrived at the Riverside Hotel in Macroom, the local inhabitants scratched their heads and wondered: ‘Why did no one tell us?’ And, ‘Where was yer man, the Minister, Michael Creed?’
Worse still, according to Joe Moore of the organisation Anti-Deportation Ireland, there seemed to be no planning relating to emergency accommodation centres. He pinpointed issues such as accessing medical care, the lack of variety in food, and school transport, as causes of concern.
He also said that when direct provision centres were first set up, in 2000, they were meant to be temporary but 19 years later they were still with us. ‘These emergency-temporary centres seem to have crept in and now it seems we have as many of these as we have direct provision centres,’ he warned.
As reported in this newspaper, the Riverside Park Hotel was intended to be used as an ‘emergency temporary accommodation centre’ but, as Macrumpians meticulously pointed out, they were becoming a parallel system to the permanent centres, and with less favourable conditions.
They were keen to separate the temporary nature of the centre in Macroom from centres elsewhere that were permanent.
Locals also thought it important to stress that Macroom did not follow in the footsteps of anti-refugee objectors up the country, nor did they use the type of language that forever will disgrace Oughterard. On the contrary! Macroom genuinely wanted to help people who had suffered war, the destruction of their homes, and hatred! And their feelings came from the heart because unlike some other places, the town, to its credit, pulled out all the stops for the arrival of this latest contingent of the wretched of the earth.
NOT SWITCHED ON?
What understandably miffed people was the lack of information surrounding the decision to utilise the hotel as a ‘temporary centre’.
They also complained that Michael Creed was not politically switched on – otherwise he surely would have given them details of the plans, if any, relating to the housing of refugees. But he didn’t!
All of which did not deter local Fianna Fáil TD Andrias Moynihan from taking a slice off his FG counterparts, reminding them that although there was a readiness to help refugees, Macroom people felt that they had been kept in the dark ‘by a government that is normally fond of spin and public relations’.
Other local politicos complained that whereas Macroom did not oppose the arrival of refugees, and the reaction to them in general was positive, townspeople were annoyed at being kept in the dark.
This, in turn, they said, had the potential of creating bad feeling and online nastiness.
In other words, locals felt that Fine Gael and local lad, Minister Michael Creed, could have done better – the consensus being that on such an important matter, he should not have stood on the sideline!