Watching and listening to Micheál Martin these days brings to mind two things: the Mr Men series of books for young children, and the singing duo that Billy Connolly was half of before he went solo. The Mr Men were such things as Mr Silly, Mr Chatterbox and Mr Mischief. The Billy Connolly singing duo was called the Stumblebums.
Since becoming Taoiseach, Micheál has found himself looking very silly on more occasions than he surely expected. There was that Barry Cowen thing, where his Minister for Agriculture got fired and then told the press how he felt Micheál had got it wrong, thus adding to the ranks of anti-Micheáls within Fiann Fáil. Then the Taoiseach hoofed it up north to charm Arlene and Michelle, neither of whom were particularly impressed. After that he had his pronouncement of No Border Poll over the next five years, but a Shared Ireland Forum, which he and the SDLP have both cooked up, while saying that the biggest single party with a clear all-Ireland drive, Sinn Féin, were too toxic to be involved. That’s the northern version of the southern refusal to have Sinn Féin in talks, let alone coalition. For why? For because Micheál had declared they “had never said they were sorry” for the Troubles. Mr Silly, Mr Chatterbox, Mr Mischief? Well done, Micheál.
But there’s more. Even as Micheál prepared to unveil his list of ‘green’ countries, to which Irish people from the south could travel and return, his best buddy Leo told reporters that he personally was against sending mixed messages to the public. He didn’t mention Micheál by name, but you knew what he was getting at. The coalition had declared that Irish people should not go abroad except it was a matter of urgency and unavoidable; yet here was Micheál listing the countries they could go to and return from without quarantine – even though the government had repeatedly said that all unnecessary travel abroad should be suspended.
Mr Silly? Mr Chatterbox? Stumblebum? There are reasons to think this may be a disaster-prone Taoiseach. A consummation which the likes of Barry Cowen, Jim O’Callaghan and Eamon Ó Cuiv devoutly wish for.