Miriam Lord: Fragrant Stephen climbs on to FF’s frontbench

Burbling Micheál Martin explodes with happiness as he unveils his new trophy TD

Former Independent and Social Democrats TD is joining FIanna Fáil and will take on the role of Brexit spokesperson. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

In these worrying times, we need a good laugh to lift the spirits.

So full marks to Fianna Fáil for cheering up everyone on Thursday.

When a beaming Micheál Martin swaggered up to the cameras with his new trophy TD, a giddy cynicism bounced off the walls of Leinster House along with the rain.

Dangling from the Fianna Fáil leader’s armoury was the fragrant Stephen Donnelly, who has taken up with Fianna Fáil after a string of broken political romances.

“I’ve always made it clear that I’m open to new talent,” burbled a radiant Micheál. He believes the former fiercely Independent TD for Wicklow, turned former founder of the Social Democrats, turned former Independent but definitely on the market TD, is quite the catch.

Donnelly has mileage on the clock but he will “broaden the attractiveness of the party”. He will serve as its Brexit spokesman.

As the new talent smiled winsomely at his leader’s shoulder, Micheál thanked Pat Casey, his other Wicklow TD, for welcoming Stephen “so generously”. Pat tilted a stoic chin.

Annoyance

“Another Fianna Fáil columnist for the Sindo,” whispered a passerby.

Swept into the Dáil in 2011 on a wave of anti-Fianna Fáil sentiment, the management consultant impressively articulated the frustration of voters who wanted to punish the party for wrecking the economy.

He delighted his urban Wicklow base by heaping scorn on FF and its old-school way of doing business.

An Independent TD’s limited scope for advancement didn’t suit him and he founded the Social Democrats with Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy.

At the time, Murphy said they were offering a ladder of hope. “Reaching up and grabbing a rung and pulling it back down to the people.”

Donnelly left within a year and ran off with the ladder. Now he’s shinned up it to Fianna Fáil’s frontbench. “We believe that Stephen will add value to the party,” said Micheál.

Obviously, Stephen is over his annoyance with the Soldiers of Destiny.

“I’m more concerned about the future of the country now than I was when I first got into politics,” he said.

One reporter decided to read him a selection of his very uncomplimentary tweets over the years about the party and what he called “the stale cabal of Irish civil war politics”.

One said: “Take a look at Fianna Fáil policies for the past 15 years and tell me you don’t see serious incompetence.”

Lookit.

Grinning

That was then. This is now. “What is important is what is happening today.”

“How true,” hissed a smirking FFer behind us. “Move on!”

Everyone was grinning. Except Micheál. He was glowing.

Another reporter wondered if Donnelly’s decision was a cynical attempt to bag himself a ministry in the next government.

Micheál, now about to explode with happiness, dismissed the suggestion. Embracing new talent is the key to growing the party. Even the founders of Fianna Fáil knew that at the start. “De Valera had only 20-odd TDs.”

They have 44 odd ones now, and counting.

Donnelly’s decision to join Fianna Fáil was easy in the end, if only to stem the tide of people apparently coming up to him all the time and singing his praises and urging him to join a party and do even greater things.

“The majority of them said, ‘Fianna Fáil – it’s the clearest political fit with you’.”

And in a happy coincidence, Fianna Fáil owns a really big ladder now too.