The Gist: Nothing To Lose
The Fianna Fáil leader had enough.
It’s been a big week for aficionados of stories at the intersection of Fianna Fáil, policing and data protection. And at the end of it we have a hint of what approach Michéal Martin plans to take to his span of days as Taoiseach. This is the Gist.
Barry Cowen didn’t want to answer any more questions. He didn’t want to talk about the circumstances around his conviction any more. He just wanted everyone to Move On.
This is a tactic from the old hegemonic Fianna Fáil. When a party answers to nobody but the leader, as long as the leader’s been squared, the conversation can just be shut down. The problem for Ireland’s shortest serving Minister in history was that leader of Fianna Fáil isn’t the unassailable peak it once was. The FF leader answers to everyone else now, and he didn’t like it.
This gap between Martin’s recognition of the reality of FF’s position and the reflexive presumption by his TDs that they have returned to the status quo ante of the pre-crash age explains much of the party’s internal divisions.
So, Cowen is out and Dara Calleary, the Chief Whip from the West, is elevated to the Cabinet returning Connacht to the top table.
The defenestrated was so shocked he issued a whole twitter thread as a statement expressing how unexpected it all was. But now we know that Martin has realised that, if his TDs have less to fear from him long term than other, less time-limited, leaders, he has no reason to worry about making enemies.
The question is whether he will have realised this can be a permanent way of proceeding, or he will continue leaving off taking these painful decisions until after he’s already expended political capital defending the indefensible.
And, of more long term significance for the rest of us, can he can persuade his party to recognise that the FF of 2020 is unrecognisable from the FF of 2006? There are a few short months for the once National Movement to realise that t
he past is a different country, and they voted differently there.