No pussy-footing around fat cat question at FG tink-in

 

APPEARANCES can be deceptive. Take Alan Dukes: by a long stretch, the lankiest leader Fine Gael has ever had. Stray cats rifling bins in back alleys look fatter than the former Deputy Dukes. Do not be fooled.

Fine Gael certainly isn’t. Yesterday in Cavan, in the nicest possible way, Alan’s erstwhile colleagues regretfully whispered that he’s been overindulging in the Whiskas of late. Swimming in pilchards, apparently, since his recent conversion to the banking fraternity. Accordingly, Enda Kenny and troops declared they weren’t in the least bit surprised when their former boss publicly backed Nama, in direct conflict with FG party policy.

He would do that, wouldn’t he? Unfortunate, but there you are.

Their once lean and hungry Jack Spratt has taken the financial soup and morphed into an oversized moggie. He is now a fully paid-up member of the Fat Cats Protection League. From the comfort of his velvet cushion in Anglo Irish Bank, Alan has become a cheerleader for Nama, the Government’s bank rescue package.

Enda tried to be diplomatic when asked what he thought of his predecessor dismissing Fine Gael’s proposed alternative to the measures. “The financial world and the Government have a different view of Nama,” he sighed. (Poor Alan is now a denizen of that world.) “Why wouldn’t they be happy to see Nama going through when they stand to benefit from it?”

On Morning Ireland, his deputy leader Richard Bruton also politely indicated that Alan has gone over to the dark side.

Meanwhile, back in Cavan, where the party is enjoying its annual tink-in and sing-song at the very lovely Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Hotel, George Lee wasn’t in the humour of pussy-footing around the fat cat question. “The banks are wetting themselves at the prospect of it going through.” So that’s what people mean when they talk about Pampered bankers. Steady on, George. He numbers Alan Dukes among the fraternity of the crossed-legged pinstripes, now that he’s fallen in with Anglo.

Speaking of which, the hotel boasts an “infinity pool”, which appears to go on forever, rather like Fine Gael’s term in Opposition. One assumes this lovely facility was made possible due to the wise collaboration of George’s incontinent bankers, but only in the financial sense.

Nobody said a bad word about Garret FitzGerald, who also nailed his colours to the mast in his Irish Timescolumn on Saturday. Sort of. Kind of. But not really in any criticism of Fine Gael way. At least that was the line yesterday.

No. You see Garret is so good, and concerned, and worried, that he thinks Nama might as well go ahead because, while he doesn’t know if it will work, it’s better than nothing. And nothing means the IMF coming in to return us to the Dark Ages and take away our decking.

There was a rumour that Richard Bruton uttered the word “ludicrous” when asked about Garret’s opinions on Nama during an early afternoon interview, but it was thought better to draw a veil over that. Not that Enda was worried about the interventions from the two elder statesmen.

He was very fired up when he spoke to the media, very gung-ho and positive, with an answer for every question and a sense of urgency about him.

Garret and Alan? What about it? They’re entitled to their opinion. “I haven’t locked up John Bruton and Michael Noonan.”

All eyes were on former leader Noonan, just to see if he wanted to join Garret and Alan on the issue. “Kilkenny already have the four in-a-row, so what’s the point in me making it three in-a-row,” grinned Micheal, on message.

These lads can see State cars purring over the horizon. Ministerial portfolios to be handed out. If there is private dissent about their party’s implacable opposition to Nama, it won’t be aired in public.

Apart from the proposed establishment of the Government’s National Agency for Distressed High Rollers (Nadhir), Fine Gael entertained Grandmaster Snip, Colm McCarthy, for the afternoon.

Colm’s contribution – the media was not invited – got a mixed reception. “He’s speaking from an ivory tower. The final straw came when he said he doesn’t have a mortgage himself. It’s all number crunching economist stuff with him – he’s not in the real world. He should hear what we’re hearing in the clinics,” said one deputy afterwards.

Deputies couldn’t have been happier when they saw the Taoiseach on the news, speaking from Wexford with the Dunbrody Famine Ship behind him. Then Brian Cowen was shown boarding the ship. “Says it all, doesn’t it,” said one, shaking his head, secretly delighted.