FG Gives ‘FF’ the Boot
Deaglán de Bréadún
My former colleague in the political press corps, Mark O’Connell used to like quoting “a Leinster House wag” in the course of his reports for a Sunday newspaper. The wag could be a different person every week and, if one made a remark that O’Connell considered particularly witty, he would bestow the title upon you for the next edition – not by name of course, but you knew it was you when you read it.
Matt Kavanagh’s moving photograph from Wednesday’s protest march
O’Connell has gone on to become a successful barrister, proving that there is a life beyond political journalism, but Leinster House still has its fair share of wags, including some new recruits to the category.
The waggish remark this morning was that Fine Gael’s Frank Flannery had achieved a new level of political power – when you can demote yourself. That’s how the wags – the more cynical ones at least – were interpreting reports that the affable westerner had lost the title of Director of Elections but would continue as Director of Operations (director of this, director of that – what have we got here, Hollywood?)
The cynics – and there is a deplorable prevalence of them in political circles – are saying that, far from being unhappy with losing one of his “directorships”, Flannery may even have suggested the move himself. (For an alternative version, click here – I can’t locate our own newspaper’s report on the matter.)
So cynical for folk so young! The argument, which I repeat here without comment, is that the gesture makes party leader Enda Kenny look firm and decisive. It placates the unreconstructed Blueshirts in the party who were annoyed when Flannery suggested Sinn Féin were now politically-sanitised, more or less.
It also distracted attention from the decision to put down a motion of no confidence in the Government which led to a fairly pointless and repetitive debate in the Dáil chamber, culminating in a sort-of-reaffirmation of Brian Cowen’s leadership despite the massive and widespread electoral setbacks suffered at the weekend by the Soldiers of Destiny.
It also distracted from grumbles that the no-confidence motion caused a postponement of the debate about the Ryan Report on child abuse. However, a senior FG person said the confidence motion could have been debated in private member’s time and it was all the Government’s fault, etc.
Be that as it may, the most affecting sight around Teach Laighean this week was the massive turnout for the silent march for the victims of child abuse. One is used to protests but this was in a class of its own.
First there was the sheer size of it. The crowd extended from the gates of Leinster House, along Molesworth Street and all the way down Dawson Street to the Nassau Street gates of Trinity College.
Second, there was the quiet dignity of the protest. There is a strong case for organisers of protest marches to conduct them all in silence. It adds greatly to their impact, in my opinion.
Thirdly, there was the absence of politicians from the crowd until it actually reached Leinster House. I did not notice any TDs or Senators among the crowd until then.
Fourth, there were the little shoes carried by some of the marchers, a reminder of how tiny and vulnerable many of the victims were. What kind of State allowed such atrocities to be carried out? This was not the Ireland the poets and patriots dreamed of, in days of old. Self-government was meant to liberate us from oppression, not the other way round.
Something is stirring in the soul of Ireland. The implications for Mother Church are beyond all calculation, unless there is an appropriate response. But at the same time it was good to see that an alternative perspective was also represented in the form of a lady who stood in solitary witness at the gates of the Dáil, holding aloft a little placard – no more than a piece of paper really – with the the words, “They gave me a home”, in reference to the religious orders.
Amidst all the eminently-justifiable and sadly-belated outrage, let’s not forget that there were good people in those congregations as well, who gave lifelong and selfless service to the poor and underprivileged. It is not in any way to minimise the appalling horrors and, indeed, terrible crimes that were perpetrated on innocent and defenceless children to observe that, on the day that was in it, that woman showed courage.