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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 13, 2011 @ 10:59 am

    Will Gay leave Fianna Fail badly Byrned?

    Harry McGee

    UPDATE:  We have known since lunchtime that Gay Byrne has pulled out.

    I cannot see Fianna Fail even contemplating considering an outsider now.

    Will it reflect badly on Micheal Martin?

    It’s hard to know, given that it’s early and the party has – to be frank about it – very little to lose.

    I think Fianna Fail will have to run a candidate now. You can’t have a situation where the leader was courting an outsider and when he rejected the advances, he still jilted all the internal suitors. That would just look desperate, really desperate.

    So, it’s going to be Brian Crowley, in my opinion. And in such a strange line-up, I think he’s going to do exceedingly well.

    I don’t think the candidate list is complete yet, though. I think at least one more independent candidate will emerge.

    And below is the earlier blog post, where the analysis of Fianna Fail’s options etc is still valid, in my opinion.

    What was that loud splash I heard? Surely, it couldn’t have been  Micheál Martin’s presidential strategy bellyflopping spectacularly?

    Micheál Glic has sat on his hand for many months and refused the media’s daily demands to name the party’s candidate… and name him now!  In one way it was classic  Micheál: the political equivalent of the newspaper editor whose indecision is final.

    Or was it the parable of the hare and the snail? Norris sprinted off leaving clouds of dust in his wake. Sean Gallagher and Mary Davis brought their roadshows starring sincerity and patience and love and understanding to a local authority near you. Fine Gael decided to go down the democratic route. What a mistake that was, says its detractors. And Labour picked its most electable candidate – but given his age and his lingering radical reputation, some wondered could Michael D Higgins have the necessary reach?

    All the evidence is that Fianna Fail decided before the summer break to long-finger its strategy. A committee was formed to explore all the options a week before the recess but it never met. That was hardly dynamic.

    It was only with the departure of Norris that a new sense of urgency was created.

    What happened next seems to suggest two strands within Fianna Fail: one comprised of the Martin loyalists (ambitious and mostly younger); the other of the traditionalists and Seanad lags.

    The committee that never met was bypassed. There was an informal process. I’d guess that a small number of TDs discussed it by themselves and made a direct appeal to Martin. The argument went that the field wasn’t awe-inspiring and the removal of Norris presented an opportunity. They knew Martin was ultra cautious (to the point of hostile) about a Fianna Fail candidate. They had watched Gay Byrne in action and knew what a consummate pro he was.  Byrne was a perfect fit. But because he was outside the party, he would need to be enticed now. That would give ample time to ensure the process of endorsing him could happen in early September and  he would be onboard in good time to mount a decent campaign.

    Hence the phone call from a holiday home in West Cork to one in West Donegal last weekend.

    Sadly, there was a fly in the ointment.

    And that was Brian Crowley. He had stated his intention many months ago and had even written to all his parliamentary colleagues asking for their support during July (the letter may have been inspirted by whispers that some colleagues in the party were approaching others!).

    And a number of his colleagues are unhappy that TDs are going out on the airwaves and in print to pledge support for Gay Byrne. They sense that all this mounts to an exercise that will place so much momentum behind Byrne that his selection will be a fait accompli.

    It’s further complicated by the actions of the leader. He would give no commitment to Crowley. But by contacting Gay Byrne and making the proposition, was he not in effect nailing his colours to the mast?

    So this sets up an internal conflict, ostensibly between the leader and his own troops.

    I spoke to about ten TDs and Senators yesterday (out of 34) who have doubts (or even oppose) the notion of Byrne being the candidate endorsed by the party. Part of it is a Munster thing but there is also a ‘traditionalist’ outlook that opposes the party resorting to any kind of gimmick.

    As Kerry senator Ned O’Sullivan said to me yesterday:

    “There has to be a group position, a party position, rather than
    individuals coming out,” he said.
    “I am unhappy that there seems to be an impression abroad that an
    outsider will have a better chance that one of our own. Are we a party
    or are we not?
    “We have people of our own who have indicated willingness. I am not so
    sure they are being treated very fairly by all this drip-drip
    presentation by others.”

    Many of them openly say they support Crowley, and by my reckoning his support comprises more than a Munster or traditionalist rump.

    The savvy  O’Sullivan and his Seanad colleague Mary White were concerned that the drip-drip of TDs supporting Byrne might undermine the democratic process and that the parliamentary party might not be in a position to make the decision collectively. That’s why O’Sullivan wants the parliamentary party to meet as a matter of urgency to thrash all this out, before the next scheduled meeting of 12 September.

    The Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan is no fan of Gay Byrne’s either and thinks the notion of him being the party’s candidate is a nonsense.

    Moyniahn  has an interesting and novel suggestion. He said that what the party should propose is a constitutional referendum in the autumn that would extend the term of the current president Mary McAleese by five years and ditch the presidential election altoghether.

    His thinking was sound enough: “She is doing an excellent job. And extraordinary times like we’re living through demand extraordinary measures.”

    Has Micheál Glic, the master of indecision, been a little bit too hasty and arbitrary on this occasion?

    There are three potential booby traps as I see them.

    1. Gay Byrne decides NO, making it all seem a futile exercise

    2. Gay Byrne says YES, but the parliamentary party gets contrary and either gives the leader an earful for ignoring them, or rejects Gay Byrne and chooses Brian Crowley instead. The latter would do huge harm to Martin’s authority as leader.

    3. Gay Byrne says YES and finds that the love of the people for him does not transfer from the world of broadcasting to the world of politics.

    When I heard that Martin had approached Byrne earlier in the week, I thought it was a clever move by Micheal Glic. But there are pitfalls and plenty of them. And members of his parliamentary party feel a bit ignored and feel that Brian Crowley has been very hard done by by Micheal and his courtiers. There is a bit of diplomacy required.  And there is also trouble ahead!

    • J Doyle says:

      Gay Byrne is too anti Europe. Secretive about his past earnings re losses with accountant . We have an excellent choice in Brian Crowley and other party members.

    • Leo Regan says:

      August, then month the news would not quit. So, now that Gaybo has read the terms of the deal, and seen that Cork is not interested, and seen the complications and intrusions that will arise during the campaign, he has kindly made his decision, Thank you sincerely, Gay, you did the right thing. FF can proceed to nominate Brian Crowley to find he will do them a load of good in rehabilitation and renewal of morale. Only their leader is a liability and after the Presidential campaign, the party may wish to give him an indulgence, or move to a younger leader, as the Tories did, to re-invent themselves. This stunt was an appalling lack of judgement, and the cabal who persuaded Martin to go with it, should be purged.

    • jaygee says:

      Thank God Mr. Byrne has decided not to stand. The country is a big enough laughing stock as it is.
      Why not forego the election, and appoint Seamus Heaney by national acclamation.? I can’t think of
      another Irishman who is more respected nationally and internationally.

    • cbr says:

      Brian Crowley for prez — lovely man. Will do good.

    • Leo Regan says:

      In pondering alternative independents, I would also recommend Seamus Heaney, but I don’t imagine for an instant that he would engage in this already tawdry process.

    • John Gillen says:

      Miceál Martin was always someone who was indecisive. In his various ministries, particularly as Minister for Health & Children, whenever he was faced making a decision, he invariably set up a committee to look into the issue. He has done the same in relation to Fianna Fail’s role in the presidential election. All that is needed is a meeting of the parliamentary party which, lets face it, it now little more in size than a largish committee.

    • roger says:

      Brian Crowley for prez………good god. looks like anyone will do now for Ff…..as long as they have some of unique ability to lure votes from auld ones/godgers

    • This presidency thing is becoming a bit of laugh. Why not shove in Michael O’Leary while we’re at it.At least he’d bring some “spice” to a rather drab institution and there wouldn’t be much in travel expenses.

    • Art says:

      Remind me, why do we need a President and Séanad again? Is it no to replicate a House of Lords and Governor General. Get rid of both and save money.

    • Coal Train says:

      As Kerry senator Ned O’Sullivan penned, in his cut-and-paste poetry:

      “There has to be a group position, a party position, rather than
      individuals coming out,” he said.
      “I am unhappy that there seems to be an impression abroad that an
      outsider will have a better chance that one of our own. Are we a party
      or are we not?
      “We have people of our own who have indicated willingness. I am not so
      sure they are being treated very fairly by all this drip-drip
      presentation by others.”

    • Brad says:

      Between them, FG & Labour what do they come up with? An insufferable bore and a pompous old orator in love with his own voice………………..sez pretty much all about this coalition……..

      @ cbr — political parties aside, absolutely agree with you about Brian Crowley. Perfect for the job.

      @ roger — as opposed to what? The 3 Gays or some Gerry-atric from the Adams family?

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Never mind who the candidate is, why isn’t the term, salary, pension and expenses being reduced?

      Gaybo was never going to stand – he let his ego get the better of him and thankfully, for his own sake if not ours, someone close to him got to see sense that a certain part of the public might have fond memories of Uncle Gaybo, but they will not feel the same about Mr Byrne as try as he might to be Uncle Gaybo, the second he officially became a candidate he would be Mr Byrne and he would be ripped to shreds.

      As dull as Gay Mitchell is, and as slightly obnoxious as he is, the hard facts of life are that Ireland badly needs to rebuild bridges with continental Europe and to that end we need someone who understands the reality of how the EU works (not how we wish it worked but how it actually does) and Mitchell understands that and has full access to the government to coordinate the rebuilding.

    • Eoghan O'Neill says:

      Who is Brian Crowley !?! I genuinely haven’t a clue…and I consider myself fairly well informed! Bottomline is… FF is a TOXIC brand…anybody who thinks otherwise is delusional and may possibly require to be taken away by men in white coats! Miceal Martin as a politician is a failed ex minister for health…and I am pleased to suggest his stewardship of FF now will be equally unsuccessful. Indecision is just not MM’s forte…it is a FF trait !The sooner you realise this the closer one comes to understanding FF. Let’s call a spade …a spade! To repeat…who is Brian Crowley !! Seriously, I haven’t a clue..is it a pseudonym for MASS MASOCISM !?! Good luck and good riddance to anything FF. The author has no political attachments to any party. Have a nice day y’all !

    • TC says:

      Perhaps the “stunt” picked the wrong candidate. The youth and youngsters of Ireland should cast their eyes to Bono for President. Charismatic, born diplomat, fearless, humane, independently wealthy with a proven social conscience this country could do worse. The position is not just a toothless tiger podium – the President can in theory address the Government on the res that matter ..the brain drain, ghost towns, energising the manufacturing strata. We need a man with ideas, a person who inspires others, a boy scout with vision who can turn criticism into action, the man with a bit of magic to sprinkle on an emerald that has forgotten how to dream. Bono where are you??? Your country needs you…..

    • TC says:

      Bono for President of Ireland.

    • Geoff Keate says:

      I don’t think FF have the slightest hope of getting a candidate elected at this time. The brand is completely toxic and will be for some time. My personal favourite would be Eamon O Cuiv, but I think he would be completely rejected, and I hope to see him lead his grandfather’s party back into government. Micheal Martin, though well meaning, seeks to lead the party towards the liberal agenda. For many of us, that is precisely why we would have voted for FF, because it was not part of the church-hating anti-Irish liberal elite. My hope is that Eamon would lead the party away from the corruption of the Haughey years, and re-create the party as Dev would have wanted. I would suspect that there are many in the party who would support O Cuiv for the same reason.

    • Mlle Inah says:

      That’s some bad pun Harry..!

    • Peter Barrins says:

      I’m surprised they haven’t decided to put Cowen forward!!

    • BB says:

      @12 — Bono. Oh I second that and would love to see Ali Hewson in the White House — Áras. She’s so beautiful, impeccable manner….make excellent role model for young women. Be great for Bono & co. great acoustics some of the rooms I’d say. Oh be brilliant. I remember when I used to take French students in the Summer months. There is no more arrogant, more pouty, more difficult type than the French teenager and nothing impresses them but every one of them would walk the long mile road from Dalkey Harbour up the Vico Road just to even look at the gates of Bono’s house!! Let’s be original!! Come on Micheál Martin………Gaybo was never really a runner for prez………….Bono’d be brilliant…….

    • Tess says:

      FG/Labour coalition is getting more and more TOXIC by the day.
      What with sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous STEALTH TAXES and PRICES that keep rising rising RISING (why?) — and Noonan (Moon man more like) tells us to go out and spend — WITH WHAT?? And this crafty self-inflating coalition government sporadically wheels out yet another ‘expert’ to lend validation to its insincerity, double-standards, pretence, two-facedness, duplicity — in effect, hypocrisy as it debunks election manifesto promises and salivates over fat salaries.
      Actually DECLAN GANLEY would make a brilliant prez. Mr Ganley was absolutely brilliant as guest presenter on the Vincent Browne, tonight with, show. He fairly turned the tables on the leftie luvvies. Brilliant.


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