Macroom is the town that swears it never reared a fool, but for Michael Creed, the Fine Gael leadership race has posed challenges that would test even the shrewdest of Macrompians.
The dilemma for the local Cork North West TD and Minister for Agriculture is well appreciated by local Fine Gael activists. Few are surprised that he has so far stayed schtum on his favoured candidate.
"Creed came out in the heave against Enda back in 2010 and he paid a heavy price for it," said former chairman of Cork County Council, Cllr Tomás Ryan from Dripsey.
"Coveney and Varadkar both backed Richard Bruton as well but they ended up in Cabinet whereas Creed was frozen out [until 2016], so I can understand his reticence this time – he's between a rock and a hard place," he added.
Even Coveney supporters agree, including Cllr Gerard Murphy from Newmarket, who ended up upsetting the local political architecture when he unseated Creed in the 2002 general election when he was his running mate.
“Michael paid a huge price for coming out against Enda back in 2010, which is a pity because I’ve no doubt that had he spent the past five years in Cabinet he would be a contender himself this time,” Murphy said.
Creed is not alone, he added: “Quite a number of prominent Fine Gael people, Seán Kelly and Mairéad McGuinness, for example, have both said that they will declare for one or other after the hustings.”
The memory of the unsuccessful heave against Enda Kenny seven years ago has left a deep imprint in Cork North West Fine Gael, when Creed was one of the spokesmen for the anti-Kenny camp.
“Michael was left out in the cold by Enda for five years and he hasn’t forgotten that,” said one local activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, “It all goes back to the heave.”
Creed has other problems, too: “Back Varadkar and get slammed in Cork for not backing a Cork candidate or back Coveney and risk being dumped out of Cabinet if Varadkar wins. He’s on a hiding to nothing and there was nothing he could do except keep his mouth shut,” said another local, though another added that Creed simply gets on well with both candidates.
He would not be surprised if the Macroom man had spoken to both contenders when the race began and told them not to expect him to declare one way or another.
“I reckon Michael could well have reminded them about what happened the last time he showed his hand and how they ended up with Cabinet posts and he ended up being sent to Siberia for five years,” this member argued.
Cllr Ted Lucey, a Macroom-based pro-Coveney Creed loyalist, believes the candidates will cut Creed some slack: "It's understandable that he would keep his counsel this time out."