Friday, November 30, 2007


It's been a strange and exciting political week. It's so early in the electoral cycle that we shouldn't expect such drama.

It was almost like a buy one get one free offer. No confidence debates are comparatively rare events - though there was one launched against Bertie Ahern in late September. The debate reached moments where it was electric - especially the powerful catch-in-the-throat 24 minute speech of Mary Harney's.

Her speech was impressive on a number of levels. Its scope; the extent of her apology to the women damaged by the unforgivable mistakes; and her 'I put patients first' defence of her tenure as Health Minister.

Two other traits were widely reported. The first was that Harney delivered the speech without notes and didn't miss a beat. It was, simply, a tour de force. though I would warrant that the bulk of it came from a script that Harney had learned 'de ghlan mheabhar'.

The second was her raw emotion - she seemed close to tears a few times. Another female TD later told me that the tears were of anger rather than of sorrow. Later in the speech Harney didn't pull her punches when doling out criticism to Fine Gael and Labour. I think the past ten days have also proved that FG's Dr James Reilly will be a formidable adversary. He has been able to match Harney in emotion and tears; as well as in taunts that are as hard as iron girders.

The surprise was Ned O'Keeffe's decision to drum himself out of the FF parliamentary party. Ned said it was nothing personal bur of course all politics is personal. Ned had been building up to this for some time, like a balloon being blown it. It was almost inevitable that it would burst. And while Ned's speech (he never got a chance to deliver it) was from-the-heart, his abstention from the vote had deeper and more complex reason than simply having no confidence in Mary Harney - this particular head of steam had been building up slowly since the election when Ned received the first of a number of perceived slights.

And now today, another twist (and maybe a twist of a knife in the back). The Teflon anorak just doesn't seem to work any more when it comes to the sticky stuff in the Planning Tribunal. Paraic O'Connor of NCB's evidence is very damaging. Notice too how the opposition leaders have lost all their reticence compared to their scaredy-cat attitude prior to the election. Senan Maloney's scoop in this morning's Indo (which revealed the National Lottery was a sleeping partner in a bid for a casino in the Phoenix Park) will also have implications for Ahern.

Finally, my favourite two lines of the week came from De Diary of a Nortsoide Taoiseach, the Phoenix magazine's brilliant parody of Ahern.

"Tuesday. I'm beginnin' to tink we made a tactical blunder in winnin' de election. Not dat we had a choice. De oppositon were so shite dat if we had somehow managed to lose, we'd have been de subject of a steward's enquiry."


Anonymous said...

If Padraic O'Connor had come out in September 2006 and said what he said this week in the tribunal this week, the course of Irish history might have changed. Bertie's Ddobbo interview would have been undermined.

Mr White is the key issue in S moloney's story. What was his role??

Dan Sullivan said...

It says something about modern democracy and the decline of many of the skills of argumentation that we're all meant to be bowled over that a minister can talk about their brief for 25 minutes or a less recent example that the leader of the largest British opposition party can speak without a prompter for about an hour.
The really odd thing about the appeal for a bipartisan approach from Mary Harney is that she and others are invoking the peace process and the Tallaght Strategy. With regard to the north it was that FF accepted the principles underpinning the Anglo-Irish agreement and thereafter they were basically following an SDLP or rather a John Hume roadmap with regard to the process of getting the republican movement off the terrorism trail. When it comes to the Tallaght strategy as it was Dukes budget at a macro level that Macsharry was implementing in 1987 it would have been ridiculous for Dukes to simply turn around and oppose it completely. People seem to have completely forgotten that FG opposed much of the detail of that FF government’s cutbacks.
So both those examples involve a FF lead government following the policies of parties not in government. Harney in contrast appears to think that bipartisan means giving her a free pass and that others should be supporting whatever the government policy is, whenever they get around to having one.