Rheumatoid arthritis is not a funny thing to have – three of my sisters suffer from it, and suffer is the word – so I’m slow to turn negative towards Dermot Ahern of Fianna Fail, who says he’s not running in the coming general election in the south, because he’s suffering from it. Rheumatoid arthritis, that is. His announcement carries a difficulty, though: his last public utterance didn’t exactly built up a head-wind of trust. You remember his last public utterance, don’t you? Q from reporter: ‘Is the IMF here getting ready for a bail-out?’ A from Dermot: ‘No, they’re not. Such reports are fiction.’ So while it’s not exactly the boy who cried wolf (as far as we know, all Dermot’s other public utterances over his 24-year political career were totally truthful), it’s tempting to think that he might be being a little economical with the truth when he says he’s quitting for health reasons. And that he told the Taoiseach he was quitting over a year ago. And that he thought of standing when he heard Gerry Adams was going to run. And that practically everyone in Louth that he meets is ABA – Anyone But Adams.
Whatever the reason and whatever the truth about his medical condition, he’s definitely quitting the stage, so the decent thing to do is to wish him well. And the next thing to do is ask ‘What effect will his departure have?’ Well, it could go one of two ways. Either his replacement by a less-well-known FFer will mean fewer FF votes in the general election or his replacement will mean more FF votes in the general election. It’ll be fewer votes if the voting public are disappointed to see Ahern go; it’ll be more if the voting public have decided to go ABA – Anyone But Ahern.
Time, as the BBC reporters like to say, will tell.