You’ll have noticed, I’m sure, that they’re having a general election south of the border. Party leaders and members have taken to speaking highly of themselves and highly critically of all other parties. But for the casual observer, it looks – or looked – as though Fine Gael were home and hosed even before the campaign began.
After all, by general consensus, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney had played a blinder in the Brexit negotiations. They’d kept the EU solidly behind them, and Boris Johnson had to give up on any ideas he may ever have had that there would be a hard border in Ireland. We saw Leo and Simon on the TV – calm, dignified, masterful.
Add to that the fact that under Fine Gael, the economy of the south is clearly on the up. The figures show it – so much less unemployment, cranes everywhere you look in Dublin, flash new buildings being erected at every turn. The south’s average salary something like €150,000 per annum….OK, maybe not that much but definitely as good as you’d get in most states of the EU and a helluva lot better than here in the north.
Only then people dragged their gaze away from the cranes and the flash buildings and the impressive figures on the TV, and began to ask themselves “But what about me? I don’t find that much money in my pocket at the end of the month. The cost of visiting the doctor is enough to sicken you. Rent is savage – I barely can make my payments. And look at all those people lying on the street homeless.”
And then there was that RIC commemoration thing. Leo and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan thought it’d be a fine inclusive act, and even when there were murmurs of objection, they said they were going to go on being inclusive and to hell with the begrudgers. Only then Leo and Charlie met a brick wall of opposition and they had to announce that the public had disappointed them and like Basil Fawlty’s duck, the RIC commemoration was off.
The funny thing with the public is, they have fierce short memories. You might have played a blinder on Brexit, but if you follow that with a total rollocks of the RIC commemoration, it’s the last one that counts – in this case the RIC rollocks.
They also have very short memories when it comes to Fianna Fail. Immediately after the 2008 crash, the FF words were substitute words for swearing, and serious questions were raised as to whether this would be the end of Fianna Fail as a party. Their TD numbers elected fell off dramatically, but somehow or other all that is now forgotten and Micheál Martin is seen as a serious possibility for Taoiseach.
Last Sunday RTÉ had its politics show, and there were three things said – well actually one thing said three times – which I thought were outrageous but let pass. First, Charlie Flanagan said that of course they would not form a government partnership with Sinn Féin. Then Aine Lawlor, the presenter, said something similar; and then the show’s political pundit said the same thing.
What’s outrageous about that? It’s true, isn’t it?
It probably is, but why was Charlie F allowed to make the statement and then not give his reasons for being so SF-shy? Why did Aine Lawlor and the political pundit not explain why Sinn Féin cannot be part of any government? Micheál Martin, a week or so ago, said the FFers wouldn’t go into government with Sinn Féin because of the “influence of unelected people”. Where was the reporter on the state broadcaster to tap Micheál’s chest and ask him “What evidence do you have for saying that?”
Sinn Féin has three very big players bowing out this time round – Gerry Adams, Martin Ferris and Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin. Replacing them with three Sinn Féin candidates of equal stature will be a near impossible task. The party did not have a very good EU election or local election last time out. It can do without having the state broadcaster resting on its oars and letting the Shinners’ political opponents say whatever they please and not require – demand, even – that they back up their words with reasons and evidence.
Or is this the state broadcaster’s idea of a Section 31 for the 2020s?