The Political Life of Reilly
I tweeted yesterday about the Alastair Campbell rule that a consecutive number of days in the eye of the media storm meant curtains for a Minister.
I incorrectly said it was four and was subsequently corrected by Mandy Johnstone, former FF Government press secretary, that it was ten.
It didn’t matter that much. The punchline was the same. It was that it takes four years of unrelentless headlines to achieve the same in Ireland.
British politicians seem to go far more meekly than their Irish counterparts. Just casting my mind back to recent examples in Ireland, the likes of John O’Donoghue and Willie O’Dea clung on to the ministries like limpets, until their hands were prised off the steering wheels of the Mercs by their reluctant then boss Brian Cowen.
The four-year thing was a bit of a joke. The point I was making that it takes far more in Ireland. James Reilly is still one further damaging headline, and more likely two, from having to walk the plank.
One of the reasons is that like the advert for the home furnishing shop, in Ireland, when you are gone, you are gone.
There is no way back as there is in Britain for the likes of Peter Mandelson and David Laws. At least not for a very long time. It is conceivable that Willie O’Dea could be a Minister again… but I would say that Limerick will have won at least one All Ireland in hurling (or even football) before that happens.
After weeks of not saying a peep against Reilly we are beginning to see some annoyance being expressed by Labour Party ministers. Ruairi Quinn was very unhappy about being misled yesterday about the site in question been chosen by Mary Harney. And Eamon Gilmore let it be known for the first time today that he wasn’t consulted by Reilly but was party to the decision approving the 35 sentences. However, the important line in his contribution was his statement that there was no Ministerial involvement in choosing the site at Balbriggan; in other words, the decision was made wholly by HSE officials. That gave Reilly important political backing on the specific question of the Balbriggan site.
So where does it go from here? I think Labour TDs will find a formula of words to describe their unhappinness at this ongoing saga, with some criticism of Reilly thrown in . They will also hope that there is nothing else going to come out of the wash that will put further question marks over his tenability.
Because even though they hang in tough in Ireland, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be ousted. And Reilly at the moment is going through the swivel doors to enter the rather unenviable surroundings of the last chance saloon.