Ó Cuív takes a vow of silence
Deaglán de Bréadún
Does anyone remember one of Bertie Ahern’s better malapropisms, when he described some unsuccessful venture as a “damp squid”. One could not help being reminded of it this afternoon, listening to Éamon Ó Cuív expounding the reasons he is staying in Fianna Fail.
It is, on balance, good news for Micheál Martin. A vocal critic of the party’s approach to the referendum has taken a vow of silence. At the same time, one suspects Martin and others might have been glad in some ways to see the back of Ó Cuív, who has been so much trouble from their point of view.
If the vote in the referendum goes against the Treaty, Ó Cuív will no doubt feel vindicated. Such a result would obviously be bad for Martin’s leadership although it would also be bad for the Government – and the latter would privately cheer more than a few Fianna Fail hearts.
Some see Ó Cuiv’s conduct on the Treaty issue as part of a conspiracy to overthrow Martin. That is too Machiavellian, even for a member of the De Valera clan.
In truth, Ó Cuív is a genuine Eurosceptic (he is not anti-EU but dubious about further integration) and he is also the type of person who cannot resist giving his views on the issues of the day. Silence does not come naturally to the chatty Galway West TD.
Martin, on the other hand, is a very committed proponent of the European project. He can also be very critical of EU policies and the institutions but from a different side of the fence than Ó Cuív.
Indeed, one suspects that Martin would be a lot happier as a European Commissioner than he is as leader of a small opposition party. Most people would, I suppose.
Some in the media were very disappointed in Ó Cuiv this evening. Had he jumped ship, it would have been a big, juicy story. Instead he has remained within the fold: who was it said, “My party, right or wrong”?
It was interesting that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams refused to comment on the Ó Cuív issue earlier in the day. Up to now, Sinn Fein representatives have been openly dismissive of Ó Cuív as a possible ally on the anti-Treaty side. They have pointed to his role in the last government, signing-up to austerity policies.
Sinn Fein needs to get into government here – on acceptable terms – if it is to advance its anti-partition agenda. O Cuiv is about the only “establishment” politician to express an openness to that idea. When the referendum is over and forgotten, that comment of Ó Cuív’s may turn out to be the most significant thing he said in the last week or so.