It’s beginning to look like a Kennedy family thing. Bernard Cowen was a Fianna Fail TD and Minister of State back in the day. His da was a Fianna Fáil councillor. Brian Cowen was a Fiannna Fáil Taoiseach, brought low by, among other things, a half-awake moment after a night of drink and craic. And now his brother Barry has been brought low by an over-the-limit alcohol-while-driving conviction, on top of which there are claims that he tried to get away, pursued by the gardaí.
Barry has made no bones about how he feels on the subject of party leader Micheál Martin: he’s surprised and disappointed that he’s been sacked, which is like saying a carousing drunk was tired and emotional. Micheál Martin waited decades to become Taoiseach, and now that he’s got there he’s beginning to look alarmingly unstable. There are quite a few malcontents in Fianna Fáil who have a low opinion of Micheál Martin’s leadership, and Barry Cowen, a real heavyweight in the present Fianna Fáil set-up, has just publicly joined their ranks.
I’m told Micheál Martin in person is as nice a guy as you’d find in a fortnight’s walking. But my heart has little sympathy for the bind he’s now in. Yesterday afternoon in the Dáil, he was all for standing by his man; by the time the nine o’clock news rolled round, he was booting his man out of his office as Minister for Agriculture.
It all comes down to whether Barry tried to run away from the cops, something he strenuously denies, while fully admitting he was over the limit. Have the gardaí tampered with the report on his case four years ago? I don’t know. I’m totally opposed to drink-driving, as pretty well all of us are; but I still say Cowen shouldn’t have been sacked. Even if he was running away. If you knew the cops up ahead were breathalysing, and you feared you were over the limit, wouldn’t you do a discreet U-turn and get the hell out of there? I would. So even if the running-away charge is accurate, I’d still feel that Cowen shouldn’t lose his job in Cabinet. His work there involves relatively few drink-driving decisions, I’d say.
And if you’re going to yell “Oh, but if the garda report is true, then Cowen lied and how can we trust his word in anything if that’s the case?” – don’t. Just don’t. Because the next question is obvious: have you ever told a lie? And if yes, do you think you should never be believed on anything again?
This case has serious repercussions, and opposition parties and even Fine Gael (discreetly) will be baying for blood. But I still think Cowen, even if the worst about him is found to be true, should have kept his job. With one fell swoop (whatever that is), the story is now about Micheál Martin. And I find I have very little sympathy for him.
The next couple of days should be interesting.