Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Cowen gambles 
stability for
Party advantage 
and falls flat on face; 
replaced by Martin as 
Greens quit Government;

General election on
for February 25th

Shell-shocked FF 
desert Biffo in droves 
as FF Party 
morale crumbles;

At the end of a tumultuous three weeks in Irish politics, Taoiseach Brian (Biffo) Cowen has been replaced as Fianna Fáil Leader by Micheál Martin and suffered the collapse of his Government as coalition Green Party partners withdrew from Government and a General Election has been called for February 25th.  

The rot started the week after the Dáil resumed following the Christmas break in early January with revelations in the “Sunday Independent” of a previously undisclosed meeting between Biffo and former high-flying banker, Seanie Fitzpatrick, of disgraced and insolvent Anglo-Irish Bank in July of 2008 a few weeks before the Irish Government brought in its controversial blanket guarantee claimed necessary to prevent total collapse of the Irish banking system when the Anglo-Irish insolvency became public knowledge.

Under pressure to provide details of the encounter, which took place at Druid’s Glen golf course near Foxrock in salubrious South Dublin suburbia, Biffo, in a Dáil statement, tried to minimise the event as a quiet golf outing in a social setting which had nothing to do with bank troubles or Government business of any kind. But, faraor, this cosy description was blown wide open by a cruise missile from Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, when he asked Biffo to list the other attendees at the gathering at which the Taoiseach was present. This, after an hour of bluff and bluster by Biffo claiming the Opposition were trying to hang him out to dry over what was a mere social occasion, proved his undoing when he had to reveal that also part of the cosy social gathering were Alan Gray, a board member of the Irish Central Bank, the institution which is the state regulator of banking in Ireland and Gerry McCann, a former director of the then seriously insolvent Anglo-Irish outfit!

People watching the live broadcast of the proceedings on television could see the shock-wave rippling across the Government benches,  with jaws dropping and sharp intakes of breath. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin reinforced his attack by revealing that he had been present at the same venue at a wedding reception when Biffo and Co. arrived and had seen the other supporting characters when he approached the Taoiseach to invite him to meet the Bridal party as a courtesy. Following this embarrassing debacle which unleashed a whole new round of questions from media and Opposition putting Biffo’s leadership into question again and starting a roller-coaster ride to resignation a few days later.

Events followed in rapid succession. A number of clapped out FF ministers had signalled they would not be contesting the coming election. Cowen saw an opportunity to update his tired Cabinet by bringing in young bloods from the junior ranks of the government. He proposed a confidence motion in himself to see off rising dissidence in the parliamentary party which he won and then, when the Green Party expressed unease at the appointment of any new ministers he re-allocated the portfolios  to the remaining Fianna Fáil ministers. Green Party ex ministers, in high dudgeon, claimed they had not agreed to this proposal and that Biffo was on a solo run. Further consternation on the FF backbenches as the, 48 hours previously, motion of confidence which Cowen had won from them began to dissipate like the early morning mist in the sunrise on the Offaly bogs.

Limerick sewer-rat, Willie O’Dea, sacked as Defence Minister last year as a result of a court perjury scandal(see ‘Brat on a Hot Tin Roof’ in our 2010 articles) emerged to rubbish Cowen’s leadership publicly and plump for dissident Foreign Minister, Micháel Martin, and dismayed coalition partners, the Green Party, who had wrestled with their consciences behind closed doors for a whole day, came into daylight again to announce they were resigning from the Government. Biffo’s goose was plucked, stuffed and cooked all in one go. Seeing the writing on the wall, Biffo resigned the Party leadership. Ex Foreign Minister, Micheal Martin, won the contest a few days later and replaced Cowen as FF Leader. The whole thing a farce, not unlike a mutiny on the Titanic, replacing the Captain as the Iceberg had already holed the Ship of State and the rump Government was forced to accept an ignominious bailout of the State’s indebtedness by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Fianna Fáil, the dominant party in Irish politics since 1932, when they first entered Government, now riven by factions and despised by a fiercely angered public because of the financial collapse, forced into a general election with only 14% in the polls, down from 42% in the last election in 2007 now facing the most devastating meltdown of a political party in Ireland since the demise of the Irish Party at Westminister at the 1918 General Election which led to Irish independence in 1922.

No comments: