Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Gene Kerrigan Reports : FFFGGG coalition turns into a laughing stock – ministerial piglets swarm around stinking trough

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Gene Kerrigan remains a pillar of good journalism in a very low quality newspaper, the Sunday Independent.

IT took months for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens to cobble together a Government. It took days for them to turn it into a laughing stock.

When they haven’t been mugging one another, the politicians have been adding little extras to the goodies that these days go along with the job.


Hardly had the current Taoiseach appointed his Cabinet when the in-fighting began, and the backstabbing.

This went beyond the usual laments about which county, townland, village or street didn’t get its own minister.

It’s hard to believe that adults are involved — with some of them whinging openly about how the position they were given was not the one they wanted.

FFFGGG piglets desperate to dip snouts in the trough

I’m almost convinced that these creeps see the jobs not as positions of public service but opportunities for career advancement.

Fianna Fáil seems to have entered one of its vicious periods, in which factions queue up to knife one another.

Since they have to share the goodies with Fine Gael and the Greens, there are fewer goodies for each party.

The resulting dashed hopes and fresh grudges have ramped up the hostility already existing between competing factions.

Someone squealed on Barry Cowen about his drink-driving record. So, of course, political lifers set out, their lips trembling in anger, to uncover which snitch had betrayed what faction.

The natural-born enmity for their political opponents has been sharpened by the paucity of actual political rewards.

And, since there’s little of political substance dividing them, the competition is over personal loyalties and perceived betrayals.

Last week, in the Irish Independent, Philip Ryan explained how, “names are being passed around among TDs, senators, councillors and members about who they believe is responsible for Mr Cowen ending up in the headlines”.

To be honest, I like it when these bruisers start kicking the bejesus out of one another. It’s not only entertaining, it diverts them from doing even more damage to the rest of us.

One Fianna Fáiler publicly threw a truly extraordinary accusation of backstabbing at a prominent party member.

And if you think I’m going to quote what yer man said about the other fella, you’ve got another think coming.

This year has been quite exciting enough, thank you. I don’t want to spend most of 2021 coughing into my mask down at the Four Courts.

As a result of our generous libel laws, writing frankly about the political state of the country is difficult.

It’s like we’re all standing in a small room, having a chat, and someone’s let off the mother of all farts. We chat away, keep straight faces, pretend we don’t get the stink.

Barry Cowen did a stupid, reckless thing and was caught. Barry is smart enough to know that one of those patently false apologies that are all the fashion these days would merely antagonise people.

So, he said the right words about his own stupidity and walked away free and clear.

Significant questions arose from his case — but an effort by Paul Murphy to have Mr Cowen answer TDs’ queries on these matters was voted down by the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael crowd and their camp followers.

Outside the Dáil, Alan Kelly, leader of the Labour Party, called for Cowen to address the unanswered questions.

It goes without saying that the same Mr Kelly voted in the Dail against providing time to question the minister.

They never let me down, the Labour Party. Always good for a laugh.

The Barry Cowen controversy was a side issue compared with the greedy, grab-all mood that now dominates politics. Pocketing anything not nailed down, the incoming shower have descended on their new domain like a team of shoplifters heading into Arnotts.

It used to be that TDs were appointed as ministers, and they did the job along with the appropriate civil servants. These days, each minister comes with an entourage of advisers and consultants, press briefers, speech writers and sneaky leakers.

They claim it’s all necessary, but the accumulation of hangerson seems to be as much about status as it is about work. And once a position is beefed up, it stays beefed up in perpetuity.

There were, according to Micheál Martin, about 20 politically appointed people protecting Leo Varadkar from reality.

Mr Martin wasn’t complaining, he was merely preparing to justify similar levels of nonsense for his own set-up.

It seems, according to Mr Martin, that we now have “a tripartite Government” — with three party leaders. And Mr Martin assures us that, “the three parties will retain the same number of staff, roughly, as the former Taoiseach had”.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what that means.
I want it to mean Micheál and Leo and Eamon will share out the 20 jobs of those who used to hold Mr Varadkar’s hand.

I don’t want to even imagine it might mean that there’ll be 20 Fianna Fáil people to hold Micheál’s hand. And 20 Fine Gael people for Leo, and maybe a few for Eamon — just so he doesn’t feel left out.

With every new position to be filled there are backsides to kiss and ribs to slip knives between. The decisions on each position generate fresh animosities.

And, of course, there have to be what we might call Special Arrangements Just Because He’s Leo.

Mr Varadkar is now Tánaiste, but that wasn’t enough. As Taoiseach he had an aide-de-camp, and he wanted the same in his new gig, so he’s beefing up the position.

This seems to be part of his strategy of acting as though he merely gave Mr Martin a loan of the Taoiseach’s office for a little while, in return for Fianna Fáil keeping Fine Gael in power.

You’ll have noticed that Mr Varadkar likes a bit of pomp. It used to be, for instance, that a Taoiseach would go to a TV studio, sit behind a desk, face the camera and “address the nation”.

That procedure emphasised the message — the announcement, without distractions.

Mr Varadkar, though, has adopted a US presidential tone.

He has a podium, various props and careful lighting. The camera is positioned to see him march towards the podium. The production values emphasise the marketing of the messenger, rather than the message.

It has been very, very effective in promoting Mr Varadkar’s image.

Since Mr Varadkar couldn’t swagger on without a special title, Simon Coveney had to be turfed out of his old job as Tánaiste.

Which, of course, didn’t do wonders for Simon’s ego. So, his people wondered if his position would, in turn, be beefed up.

The lads went into a huddle, and they’ve allowed Simon to hold on to his State car and Garda driver, for some reason that escapes me, but I’m sure it’s all legit.

Has there ever been a government that has had no time to actually do anything, but has attracted the dislike of so many?

The Fianna Fáilers hate the Fine Gaelers. And some of them hate even more the Fianna Fáilers who have tied them in with the Fine Gaelers.

The Fine Gaelers look down on the Fianna Fáilers, and everyone looks down on the Greens.

Seldom has the business of governing a country been so definitively trivialised.

The words of Maya Angelou come to mind:

‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’

Mind you, it’d be worse if we were in the middle of a life-and-death situation, with a wrecked economy, where open governance, truth, transparency and a frank assessment of reality is required.

‘We chat away, keep straight faces, pretend we don’t get the stink’

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