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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 19, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    Win-Win for Cowen and Martin

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    It’s not easy to foretell the result or outworking of political developments. But it was pretty obvious even before yesterday that Brian Cowen was going to win and win well. The only thing that could have gone wrong was if Brian Lenihan had come out against the motion of confidence but his RTE interview with Sean O’Rourke on “The News at One” made it clear where he stood. This piece from today’s print edition reflects my state of knowledge prior to the result of the vote being announced last night:-

    Man who would be king has put himself into pole position

    ANALYSIS: IN THE run-up to last night’s critical vote on the leadership of Brian Cowen, the consensus in Fianna Fáil circles and the political class in general was that Micheál Martin would emerge from the whole affair with his stature enhanced.
    The man who would be king had brought the realisation of his ambition that much closer. There are times in politics when you have to put up or shut up, and Martin had nailed his colours firmly to the mast.
    The general consensus for several hours prior to the parliamentary party meeting was that Cowen would win the vote by at least two to one.
    This was accompanied by some incipient speculation that Martin would immediately resign as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
    There was general agreement, however, that Cowen was unlikely to force him out, although Martin had lost brownie points with actual and potential suppporters by acceding to the Taoiseach’s request to put his resignation on hold until after the vote.
    Cowen is regarded as someone with an innate sense of fair play and, for that reason, the widespread expectation was that, in a spirit of magnanimity and the interests of party unity, he would not demand Martin’s head once the result of the secret ballot was announced.
    The only consideration that might have hindered Cowen from taking a generous stance was Martin’s forthright critique on Morning Ireland in relation to the Government’s communications strategy, or lack of it, on the EU-IMF bailout.
    The atmosphere must have been somewhat tense at yesterday morning’s Cabinet meeting where Martin’s special task was to secure Government approval for taxation agreements with the Pacific island of Vanuatu and the Caribbean republic of Panama. Internal party issues were reportedly not discussed.
    The schedule for Mr Martin this week had included Dáil questions tomorrow at 3.30pm and a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh on Friday morning: would Micheál still hold the portfolio or would it be allocated elsewhere by the Taoiseach, perhaps to himself, was the question on many people’s lips yesterday afternoon.
    Comparisons were being drawn between the trajectories of Micheál Martin and Albert Reynolds.
    The Longford man had thrown down the gauntlet to then taoiseach Charles Haughey in late 1991 by declaring his support for a motion of no confidence in him.
    For his pains, Reynolds was fired from the cabinet along with his “country-and-western” associate, Pádraig Flynn. Haughey won the vote but, a mere two months later, Reynolds had replaced him as taoiseach.
    The motion of no confidence on that occasion was tabled by Kildare TD Seán Power, part of the “gang of four”. He remains a Dáil deputy as well as a sharp critic of the Taoiseach of the day.
    But yesterday Power’s strictures were mainly reserved for the Minister for Finance and he expressed shock and surprise at the notion that Brian Lenihan, seen as a long-time critic of Cowen’s failings, would now be backing the Taoiseach.
    There was an even sharper rebuke for the Minister from Kilkenny dissident John McGuinness: Lenihan might have greatly enhanced the prospect of a Cowen victory but in the process he diminished his own chances of the top job, at least in the short term. There was also a feeling that Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin was ill-advised in withholding her own stance in advance of the meeting, although party loyalty would be a strong consideration in her decision.
    There was no expectation in any quarter that Cowen’s leadership would survive the general election and the widespread assessment was that Martin had put himself in pole position in any contest to take over what was left of the party after polling day.
    One long-time member of the parliamentary party put it thus: “Micheál has built up a great base for after the election; it was a good day’s work.
    “It will also help him keep his seat in Cork South Central where he will be seen as a potential successor to Jack Lynch: the next Cork taoiseach.”
    A stalwart Cowen supporter admitted that Martin had “done himself a lot of good” and, while he was at it, “given the Taoiseach a new lease of life and a new mandate”.
    Leadership issues would now be “put to bed” for the duration of the election campaign and Martin would hold on to the votes he obtained in the confidence vote, estimated in advance of the meeting to range between 20 and 30 in number.
    Better to have challenged and lost than never to have challenged at all, apparently.
    © 2011 The Irish Times

    • JOC says:

      “Better to have challenged and lost than never to have challenged at all, apparently.”

      Martin’s stock has definitely improved a few points. To this point he was generally perceived as a nice man and a genuine politician. Though he has worn a ministerial prince’s crown for 14 years through a variety of portfolios Martin did not hold universal appeal due to the perception that he lacked steel, cunning and driving ambition(all those admirable qualities we hold dear).
      He has proved his critics wrong over the last few weeks. While there is some debate as to the effectiveness of his tactics by not resigning once he had disavowed Cowen as party leader there is a sense that he has played the role of fall-guy well. He has shown that he had the mettle to stand up and be counted for his views knowing full well that his initiative would not succeed and that he would be rejected and forced to resign as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
      While some of the other pretenders to the throne engaged in posturing reminiscent of a medieval royal court, Micheal Martin willingly assumed the mantle of scape-goat to demonstrate FF dissension and his personal views on the political mismanagement of issues that cause the ordinary Irish person to grit their teeth in total disgust.
      It would be very typical of the hypnosis of the Irish people to the wiles of ineffective and corrupt politics that has gripped our country for many years to allow this TD to be relegated to the history books .
      We speak about political differentiation and the taint of “same old same old” politics around our mainstream parties.
      One thing is for certain, this commentator would happily switch political allegiance to vote for the credentials, sense of honour and independent objective thinking of Micheal Martin who took on the impossible and selfless task of one man reform of a party destined to political obscurity in the short term.

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      A good analysis but I would like if you could give me pointers to another type of analysis. What makes them do it? Brian Cowen at 51 has a good wife and a nice family and is a decent sort of guy to have a pint with. He could have gone back to Clara six months ago and lived on his laurels, or what was left of them. But he stands up there every day getting pummelled from right, left and center and gets up the next day looking for more. Furthermore he must know like the whole country that he has not a hope in hell of any shade of redemption. So why does he do it?

      Ditto to men like Martin and Lenihan carrying deep personal tragedies. Ditto to Mary Harney who in the end would have been vilified just at being found buying a new dress in Grafton Street. Ditto to the lot of them who are going to get up on the backs of lorries outside Sunday Mass for the months of March/April to be shouted down with insults which would send the strongest stand up comedian in search of a rope.

      I could see a young 30 year old dauphin strutting the stage in search and adulation, but why does this guillotined bunch of has beens get up once again and do it all over. Why o why?

      Why do they do it?


    • In Ireland it’s “we can complain about the IMF but we can’t defend the Survivors of Church and State Institutional Abuse….”

      Self knowing is being avoided, BIG TIME, in Ireland.

      The residential School System story and all that goes with it is a far greater crime than the IMF story (which is relatively easy to deal with : Iceland have shown the way).

      It is a crime in which the Irish State and THe Vatican are equal partners. No party in Ireland at present can say it has dealt with this issue decently, honourably, and that inlcudes the Sinn Fein lot!

      What is it that stops the Irish people fom defending the Survivors?

      From demanding that those who protect the Vatican, who indemnify the Vatican and themselves from civil and criminal liability be brought to account?

      One thing I have noticed is the absolute silence on abuses within the elite fee paying boarding schools which occured – I know, I was there. I am a survivor.

      It is insane. Clinically so.

      Ireland and her people need group therapy and fast.

      Without looking at the psychology, the intergenerational patterns of abuse and their effects, without understanding how the abused ‘adapt’ to a situation where abuse is constant, no future Irish Government will do any better.

      They say that psychosis is the breakdown in the struggle between self-healing (which is a natural phenomenom) and denial (which is the often first natural response to an atrocity, but if it remains becomes part of the problem) that precedes breakthrough IF the appropriate support is available.

      “THE ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

      Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims. ”

      Judith Herman wrote those words of wisdom.

      Ireland is a case of mass fear of Honest Self Knowledge, methinks!

      Fear of the known, but not fully admitted?

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