Saturday, January 20, 2007

So, Pat told John Bowman on Questions and Answers that he wouldn't put Fianna Fáil back in Government.
"Now is there any part of that you don't understand?" he asked rhetorically.
Well, umm. Yes, there was in fact, Pat. The part you told Gerald Barry the following Sunday.
"The Labour Party can't decide after an election to go into government without a motion to annual conference from the leader, and I have no intention of putting such a motion, unless I think the circumstances are right."
We didn't understand that, Pat. And while we're at it, we weren't all that sure about the written answer you gave the following morning to the Indo.

"I have no intention of convening a special conference to recommend going into government with Fianna Fáil."

It was the equivocation of 'I have no intention" that got to us, as well as that qualifying clause: "unless I think the circumstances are right".

Why did you not just say "I won't" or "I won't go into government with them under any circumstances".

And then following your interview with Pat Kenny on Thursday morning, there were whole swatches, whole acres, whole prairies of words that we didn't understand.

For the funny thin was that the more you clarified your position, the more confused we all became.

To employ the phrase that George Bush's chief strategist Karl Rove loves to use: "If you are explaining, you are losing."

Of course, who was lurking in the long grass all week only Michael McDowell, waiting for the chance to come out and shout "Gotcha" at Pat.

Labour were trying to do the same con now as Dick Spring did in 1992. he trumpeted. Gotcha.

Rabbitte is trying to do a 'back door' deal, he tromboned. Gotcha

How amazing my debating points are, he bassooned. Gotcha.

There's only so much irresistable force an unmovable object can take. So Pat came back with a couple of Gotchas of his own, telling McDowell that there wasn't a peep out of him when the PDs struck their Mepistophelean deal with Charlie Haughey in 1989.

And then woke up yesterday morning to hear Caroline Murphy telling us on '"What it Says in the Papers' that the Irish Times had led with that 'pomp meets circumstance' story, the verbal spat and hot air between Rabbitte and McDowell. For an awful moment, I thought to myself 'bad political correspondent, bad political correspondent'. You have missed a trick by secreting the story well inside the paper. But the momentary panic passed quickly. Rabbitte and McDowell are the ultimate media luvvies. Maybe we downplayed it too much. But the Irish Times overplayed its importance, seriously so.

So what can we make of all this? Well, Pat Rabbitte is keeping his options open. He's not totally ruling out Fianna Fail. Problem is he can't say that, given that he's sworn his fealty to Enda Kenny in his own blood. So by using all kinds of verbal dexterity and elasticity and lubrication he has tried to parlay his way out of it. But each increasingly elaborate defence has failed to prevent him from being check-mated.

Now we come to the really weird part. Remember BertieGate and Bertie Ahern's abject performance as he muttered his way out of the problem. And didn't Fianna Fail bounce out of that like a frog wearing springs. Ditto for Enda Kenny last week when John Deasy rained on his parade. A two-point leap in the opinion polls. And so, all the trouble Rabbitte made for himself this week has also kept him at the centre of things. I'd say that's worth a point or two in the next opinion poll.

And what of Bertie Ahern this week? Inside a Saudi tent peeing out. His pitiable comments on human rights show how much Mammon has ecliplsed morals in Irish society. Micheal Martin made an abject defence of the trade mission on Thursday saying he would always choose engagement over isolation, and said we can't go round the world judging people. So, it's okay then for Ireland to deal with any regime, irrespective of how despotic it is.

This week, I rang the press offices of the three ministers - Micheal Martin, Mary Hanafin and Mary Coughlan - who accompanied the Taoiseach yesterday to see if any of them had raised Saudi Arabia's horrific abuses of human rights. None bothered to get back. Who cares when there's money to be made?
My Irish Examiner column, Saturday January 20

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