Poor old Dicey Reilly, spinning his yarn to stroke politics experts
IT’S BEEN an awful political week.
Infuriating, unsettling and – probably worst of all – disappointingly inevitable.
But in a happier turn of events, most of the Cabinet was able to escape to Brussels on Wednesday, thus avoiding the embarrassment of having to sit beside James Reilly while he struggled unsuccessfully to convince the Dáil that he hadn’t been caught pulling a major political stroke.
Neither did they have to endure the discomfort of knowing that practically everyone in the chamber was of the view that Reilly wasn’t the only Coalition Minister in on the wheeze.
The Minister for Health may be relatively new to national politics, but even he must have realised he was spinning his convoluted yarn to an audience of experts who weren’t going to buy his story for a minute.
You don’t climb the greasy pole to a seat in Leinster House without knowing how pork barrel politics operates, even if you don’t partake yourself.
His fellow Fine Gaelers and Labour colleagues will have known the score, along with the inky-fingered Sinn Féiners across the floor. But, in a lovely irony, the loudest protests about the mysterious appearance of two towns in Reilly’s constituency on a coveted list of places to get primary healthcare centres came from Fianna Fáil.
Pulling strokes? Fianna Fáil wrote the manual.
Micheál Martin and his health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, were all over Reilly as he tried to talk his way out of trouble.
Their killer line hung in the air, unspoken: Minister, you don’t teach your granny to suck eggs . . .
So why was it such a terrible week? It was terrible because, away from the scandalised shouting and indignant waffle, Minister Reilly’s little divvy-up of prized places on this national list wasn’t such a big deal around Leinster House. The big deal was the fact he was rumbled.
To paraphrase Bertie: he only went and upset the apple tart.
In fairness to some of the new intake, they are horrified by the events of the last two weeks. Their Government promised to be different from all the rest. Their Government swept to power with a promise of reform – operating by the rules and ending the pernicious reign of nod-and-wink politics.
And now it turns out their crowd is just as bad.
Overall, though, we found the general reaction very dispiriting. It was a shrugging acceptance that this is the way things work. Much of the Opposition included.
“What’s wrong with a bit of patronage? Isn’t that what we’re elected to do?” argued one Government TD.
Across the airwaves, hapless backbenchers polished their brass necks and blustered for Ireland, seemingly unaware that Joe Public isn’t entirely made up of gullible half-wits. The big guns went missing.
But talking to people around Leinster House, we didn’t find anyone rushing to convince us that the shuffling of the care centre locations was anything other than a classic example of stroke politics.
So, we had the Minister for Health, unable to produce a shred of documentary evidence to explain how certain locations were fast-tracked up this important list of health centres.
But Enda is happy with James. And Eamon is happy with James. And that’s all that matters. In the interests of stimulus and stability.
Then we had the original list of places earmarked for these facilities, ranked in order of need and fully backed up by a substantial document outlining the methodology used to select them.