Thursday, May 03, 2007
INSIDE POLITICS - FF MANIFESTO LAUNCH
Fianna Fail's manifesto launch was extraordinary. The party has tended to go for the big rally type event to launch its big policy papers - Dublin Castle for the National Development Plan and Mansion House yesterday for the launch of the manifesto.
The party hoped that what's amounted to a flip-flop on stamp duty would draw a line under the latest gloop Bertie Ahern has found himself in with regard to personal finances.
And for about 20 minutes, it looked very much that way.
But we hadn't accounted for Vincent Browne. Once he rose to his feet, grabbed the microphone and said 'my first question is' you knew that it was going to be something spectacular. Nobody else in Irish journalism has that depth of strength; the energy; the experience and nous, and the - I don't know how to put this any other way - brass balls or cajones to have done what he did today.
He was well briefed and was clearly intent on staying with the issue from beginning to end. His last question (and he knew it) wasn't a good one, as it delved into family law matters arising from Ahern's separation from his former wife. But the rest were brilliant - specific and forensic to give the Taoiseach little wriggle room for venturing cross country in his answers.
The argy-bargy between them was amazing -reminiscent of the showdowns between Browne and Charlie Haughey in the 1980s. And when PJ Mara tried to intervene and put a stop to Browne in full flow, Browne reminded Mara that 20 years ago he had tried to obstruct journalists from asking questions about the personal finances of Charlie Haughey. That was a checkmate if ever there was one.
The exchange lasted for about 15 minutes and electrified a campaign that had been patchy and moribund. In fact, after stonewalling all week, when Ahern was forced to answer the questions he gave a relatively good account of himself. Of course, with the Taoiseach, there were loads of loose threads to the answers.
Sure it overshadowed the manifesto launch. But in a strange way by finally speaking out the Taoiseach may have turned a corner. Unless of course, there's some other runaway train coming down the tracks this weekend.