Micheál sparks melt­down and Olympian lev­els of whinge­ing

The Irish Times - - News Agenda - Miriam Lord’sWeek

Jobs and who gets them are a se­ri­ous mat­ter for politi­cians, as the far­ci­cal events this week in Fianna Fáil proved. Noses were hugely out of joint fol­low­ing Micheál Mar­tin’s an­nounce­ment of se­nior and ju­nior Min­is­ters, spark­ing Olympian lev­els of whinge­ing in the par­lia­men­tary party.

After the new Taoiseach in­sulted cer­tain TDs who had been ex­pect­ing the call to Cab­i­net by leav­ing them out, he then fol­lowed up spec­tac­u­larly by burst­ing the care­fully nur­tured no­tions of many oth­ers by ig­nor­ing them for ju­nior posts too.

Michael Moyni­han, who has been a TD for Cork North West for 23 years with­out both­er­ing the na­tional con­scious­ness too much, had a de­li­ciously pub­lic melt­down when he failed to make his leader’s sec­ond-string min­is­te­rial team. After all his years of loy­alty, he was ab­so­lutely fu­ri­ous. “Of course I am dis­ap­pointed. Not alone has he in­sulted me, he has in­sulted the en­tire com­mu­nity of north­west Cork.”

We un­der­stand the glee­fully po-faced re­ports filed about the deputy’s upset did not con­vey a true sense of the colour­ful lan­guage em­ployed to fully ex­press his grief.

There was much sym­pa­thy for the for­mer chief whip among party col­leagues who felt that he was shab­bily treated. “What was Micheál play­ing at?” asked one. “Michael Moyni­han would have died for him un­til four o’clock on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.”

There was sim­i­lar sym­pa­thy for party deputy leader Dara Cal­leary, who had been ex­pect­ing a se­nior min­istry only to be floored with a po­lit­i­cal punch to the so­lar plexus when given the job of chief whip. “He was shafted for be­ing too nice to the other side,” said a Fine Gael ad­viser, re­fer­ring to Cal­leary’s role as lead ne­go­tia­tor for Fianna Fáil in the gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion talks. “If that was me I would have told Micheál to shove it up his hole,” mut­tered an over­looked col­league who wasn’t at all bit­ter at not even get­ting the chance to turn some­thing down.

The omis­sion of Jim “Legally Bland” O’Callaghan (in­set) was not as un­ex­pected, as re­la­tions be­tween the se­nior coun­sel and his leader are said to have cooled in re­cent months.

The Dublin Bay South TD was of­fered a con­so­la­tion ju­nior min­istry. He told Micheál to stick it where the sun don’t shine and then in­formed the na­tion he did this self­lessly for the sake of the party, which he wants to help re­build. There was no men­tion of his se­nior coun­sel’s salary which he would have been obliged to aban­don for a pif­fling ju­nior min­is­ter’s wages.

Young and up­com­ing whip­per­snap­per Wil­lie O’Dea had the brass neck to come out and say Lim­er­ick had been “grossly in­sulted” and the Fianna Fáil big­wigs in Mayo were so ap­palled by the Cab­i­net choices of Micheál “Cromwell” that they held “an emer­gency Zoom meet­ing” on Sun­day night. His col­league in Lim­er­ick county Niall Collins was on the 16th green in his lo­cal golf course when he was told he had a job; he had a hole in one at the same spot last year. Fianna Fáil’s James Law­less in Kil­dare North was not so happy, claim­ing he was flooded with calls from mem­bers of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity who were ap­palled to see him lose out. Why did so many peo­ple take the an­nounce­ments so badly when they knew the boss had so few po­si­tions at this dis­posal in a three-way coali­tion?

In con­trast, while there were many upset hope­fuls in Fine Gael and a few among the Greens too, they held their emo­tions in check. “The Fine Gael lads had to bite their lips be­cause they want to stay in with Leo Varad­kar for when he is taoiseach again and hands out the big jobs in 2½ years’ time” ex­plained a Fianna Fáiler. There was also a view that Varad­kar had sig­nalled his in­ten­tions well in ad­vance – no­body from the class of 2020 would be cho­sen and the longer-serv­ing “old-timers” wouldn’t be kept.

He also sent out a mes­sage that peo­ple who were strong and will­ing me­dia per­form­ers would be re­warded. So the in­clu­sion of Dublin’s Colm Bro­phy as a ju­nior Min­is­ter was no sur­prise as there is no catas­tro­phe he won’t vol­un­teer to talk up. Kil­dare’s Mar­tin Hey­don is an­other me­dia stal­wart and was duly recog­nised, while the well-re­garded Kerry TD, Bren­dan Grif­fin, who didn’t have such a high pro­file, failed to hang on to his ju­nior min­istry. Now that the mes­sage is out there, ex­pect a few more will­ing sol­diers to step in front of the cam­eras in an ef­fort to keep up with Neale Rich­mond and Jen­nifer Car­roll McNeill, two new TDs who ap­pear to be liv­ing part-time in tele­vi­sion and ra­dios stu­dios.

Meath’s Thomas Byrne was de­lighted to get the plum job of Min­is­ter of State for Euro­pean Af­fairs, a role that out­go­ing min­is­ter for ed­u­ca­tion Joe McHugh wanted in lieu of a Cab­i­net post, and when he heard it was gone he de­clined “his pick” of any of the other de­part­ments.

In other job news, apart from the dispir­it­ing lack of women at ju­nior and se­nior level, the week’s other big win­ner was Fianna Fáil Sen­a­tor Mark Daly, who took ad­van­tage of a stub­born stand-off be­tween out­go­ing cathaoir­leach De­nis O’Dono­van and fel­low long-serv­ing Sen­a­tor Diar­muid Wil­son to nip up the mid­dle and swipe the cov­eted ti­tle from un­der their noses. A Sen­a­tor told reporter Marie O’Hal­lo­ran that O’Dono­van and Wil­son “are life­long friends but were like two bulls in a field and nei­ther would give way and Mark Daly slipped through the gap”.

Kerry charmer Daly would not be the most pro­lific speaker or at­tendee in the Seanad and is par­tial to hob­nob­bing with US politi­cians on Capi­tol Hill who like the way he waxes lyri­cal about the Fourth Green Field. Now that he is “speaker” of

the Ir­ish Se­nate there’ll be no stop­ping him in Amerikay.

Com­rades

Who among us, upon hear­ing of the death of a much-loved pil­lar of so­ci­ety, has not rushed to the wardrobe to dig out a white shirt, black tie, black slacks and Tri­colour arm­band? It’s the spon­ta­neous thing to do. In the ab­sence of fu­neral at­ten­dees Mary Lou Mc­Don­ald and Pearse Do­herty, it fell to lead­ing Sinn Féin TD Vi­o­let Anne Wynne to mark the pass­ing of pa­triot and hero Bobby Storey by read­ing his name into the Dáil record.

The newly elected deputy for Clare did so on Tues­day. “I send my con­do­lences to the fam­ily and friends of our com­rade Bobby Storey, who will be laid to rest to­day. Bobby epit­o­mised repub­li­can­ism in Ire­land and will be dearly missed. I have no doubt but that he would be happy in the knowl­edge of the strides our party has taken in re­cent years to get to where we are,” she said, read­ing care­fully from a script. No­body else echoed her re­marks.

The Ceann Comhairle didn’t call for a minute’s si­lence, but then, no­body asked for one.

On the Le­in­ster House plinth on Thurs­day, Mary Lou, bravely bear­ing up fol­low­ing the sad loss of the lov­able en­forcer, named her front bench. It’s an

im­pres­sive line-up. Sinn Féin will give the new Gov­ern­ment no quar­ter. Un­for­tu­nately, her big re­veal was over­shad­owed by the con­tin­u­ing con­tro­versy over the lack of ad­her­ence to so­cial-dis­tanc­ing rules at her dear com­rade’s fu­neral in Belfast. Bobby, she said, was her friend and she will apol­o­gise to no one for pay­ing her re­spects. And there was noth­ing she nor any­one else could do to pre­vent peo­ple com­ing out in their droves for the fu­neral pro­ces­sion.

Ob­vi­ously, mind­ful of the pub­lic health re­stric­tions and their civic duty, the Sinn Féin or­gan­i­sa­tion in west Belfast would have put the word out that peo­ple should stay at home be­cause the fu­neral guide­lines – which have caused such heartache and hard­ship to so many – ap­ply to their party and sup­port­ers in the same way they do to or­di­nary folk. But since when was Sinn Féin able to tell peo­ple what to do in west Belfast? It’s not like HQ on the Falls Road dic­tates the law in that neck of the woods, is it?

As she stood on the plinth and spoke in glow­ing terms of the per­son­al­ity, if not the acts, of the for­mer IRA com­man­der said to be the mas­ter­mind be­hind the post-peace process North­ern Bank rob­bery and cel­e­brated as the sort of fella you wouldn’t like to cross on a dark night, Deputy Mc­Don­ald drew com­par­isons with crowd scenes at the fu­neral of Det Garda Colm

Horkan, who was shot dead in the line of duty in Castlerea, Co Roscom­mon. While not men­tion­ing the slain garda by name she said: “This is the prob­lem when some­body is a pub­lic fig­ure or when some­body dies in very tragic cir­cum­stances and very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, peo­ple will come out to pay their re­spects.”

Party sup­port­ers on so­cial me­dia were not so cir­cum­spect.

It is true that so­cial dis­tanc­ing went out the win­dow at that fu­neral in Castlerea, as it did along the Falls Road and An­der­son­stown Road, where black flags flew from build­ings. But un­like the chore­ographed scenes in west Belfast, the scaled-down turnout of politi­cians and top Garda of­fi­cers (the Pres­i­dent and taoiseach ex­pressed their con­do­lences re­motely) in Charlestow­n did not pose for pho­to­graphs and self­ies with the pub­lic af­ter­wards.

The most-read story in The Ir­ish Times this week is by North­ern Ed­i­tor Gerry Mo­ri­arty, who wrote an ab­sorb­ing and chill­ing ac­count of the life of Bobby Storey: “The IRA plan­ner and en­forcer who stayed in the shad­ows”. It’s a long read, but well worth the time. He was also, ac­cord­ing to Mary Lou Mc­Don­ald, “a great re­pub­li­can”. Big Bobby may have been a hard man in his day, but he was The Peo­ple’s Thug. For her ar­dent #not­my­taoiseach so­cial-me­dia sup­port­ers, who were so quick to cite the Castlerea fu­neral when Sinn Féin’s top brass flouted the so­cial-dis­tanc­ing rules, here’s an­other slo­gan: #not­myter­ror­ist.

Blaa blaa

There was some sur­prise at the an­nounce­ment of the new Sinn Féin front bench when Louise O’Reilly, one of the party’s star Dáil per­form­ers, was moved from Health to shadow Leo Varad­kar in En­ter­prise, Trade and Em­ploy­ment. It’s not that peo­ple think she isn’t up to the job – she won’t be go­ing easy on her for­mer col­league in Fin­gal County Coun­cil. But they were re­call­ing her party leader’s words in the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre last Satur­day when she was set­ting out Sinn Féin’s op­po­si­tion stall for the 33rd Dáil.

“Be­cause of your lack of am­bi­tion, this is a Gov­ern­ment al­ready on bor­rowed time. Work­ers and fam­i­lies know that they de­serve so much bet­ter and it’s that be­lief that will drive Sinn Féin’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­liver ef­fec­tive op­po­si­tion,” Mary Lou Mc­Don­ald said in her speech after Taoiseach Micheál Mar­tin had ap­pointed his Cab­i­net. “We have the poli­cies. We have the team: Pearse Do­herty has the plan to shape a fair economy, Louise O’Reilly for a na­tional health ser­vice, Eoin Ó Broin has the plan to make hous­ing af­ford­able. We are happy to share those plans with you.” But Louise has a dif­fer­ent plan now. Water­ford’s David Cul­li­nane is the spokesman on health.

She seemed quite pleased with her new job, al­though as she made her way back in­side Le­in­ster House from the plinth she passed a jour­nal­ist who hap­pens to be a na­tive of Water­ford. “Huh,” she said, “and a blaa is only a bap any­way.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GARETH CHANEY/COLLINS

Louise O’Reilly with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou Mc­Don­ald at the an­nounce­ment of the party’s new front bench at Le­in­ster House.

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