Thursday 27 October 2016

Shaun Connolly's Campaign Diary: Joan's curtain call to leave Enda with a rogue problem

Shaun Connolly

Published 13/02/2016 | 02:30

Tanaiste and Labour Party Leader Joan Burton. Photo: Barbara Lindberg.
Tanaiste and Labour Party Leader Joan Burton. Photo: Barbara Lindberg.

Pleading the fifth on repealing the eighth told you everything you needed to know about the level of "debate" some party leaders are prepared to engage in.

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Generation X-Case was almost a full quarter century ago, but all four leaders, with a combined age of 254 between them, showed how little connection they had with Generation Now on the TV3 leaders debate.

At least Joan Burton and Gerry Adams came out firmly for a referendum, but how the Labour Party leader will square that in any future government with the King of Equivocation Enda Kenny is anyone's guess.

Mr Adams, seemingly president for life of a party where no TD ever dares even mildly disagree with him, was allowed to talk uninterrupted for a full two and a half minutes on justice before a (metaphorical) bomb seemed to simultaneously go off in the heads of the Taoiseach and Micheál Martin as they suddenly remembered Jerry McCabe, the Jean McConville scandal, kangaroo courts, knee-cappings, and the IRA - an organisation of which our Gerry, of course, was never a member.

It was also a shame Ms Burton, who launched her party's health policy in Cork yesterday, had not bothered to read the document ahead of the TV debate the night before.

Health should be Labour's captured castle, but their reputation lays in ruins after agreeing to be put into an induced coma on the issue by Fine Gael, as they meekly believed Mr Kenny's uncosted magic beans fantasy of universal health insurance.

Mr Martin did not even bother turning up to his party's health launch where, in the usual indecisive muddle, a messy compromise was reached of refusing to give out more free care on the one hand, while being too scared to offend voters by taking it back from the over 70s and under sixes on the other. Indeed, you could sum-up the FF health policy as being at sixes and seventies.

His Endaness was judged to have done well in the TV shouty-fest by being able to stand up and talk in coherent sentences at the same time.

Though his best line came when, amid the roaring, he appeared to say of an FG-FF bunk-up: "This is no time to mess around with Micheál."

Poor old Joanie looked like she knew it was her political curtain call.

If Enda has any sense, he will lean hard on Leo Varadkar to make sure Ms Burton gets enough second preferences in Dublin West because the last thing he needs on his tail for the next two weeks is a Rogue Joan.

Just ask Eamon Gilmore what that's like - the beleaguered chap had to flee to Colombia as an EU envoy charged with stopping a vicious guerrilla insurgency in order to get a bit of peace and quiet after being Burtoned.

For obvious reasons, Cromwell is rarely quoted in Irish political discourse. But at the end of the deeply uninspiring TV let-down it was hard not to think of his withering summation of the Rump Parliament: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God - go."

Another Chump Parliament here we come.

The Cappuccino Classes

Ruth Coppinger often comes across like the angriest person in Ireland, and to be fair to the Lefty-Pendent TD, there is an awful lot to get angry about.

But Auto-Rage Ruth's surprise, and seemingly off-the-cuff, sort-of suggestion to combat tax-avoiding global corporations by setting-up nationalised coffee houses must have left irredeemably middle class comrades like Richard Boyd Barrett choking on their chia lattes.

Pressed on how such a (Red)StarBucks scenario would actually work in practice by RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke, who was clearly scenting blood, Coppinger suddenly copped-on to the ridiculousness of the situation and angrily changed tack to accuse the host of looking for Twitter traffic at her expense - though looking for brain traffic to support her flopoccino wheeze was probably the real ambition.

The bizarreness of it all made would-be St Ruth of the Roasted Coffee Bean Revolutionaries sound like the rose-tinted socialist shop steward Peter Sellers played in classic '60's political satire 'I'm All Right Jack' who, when musing on the people's utopia he dreamed of leading, sighed: "Ah, Russia, all them corn fields and ballet in the evening."

Of course, lefty Ruth's right - ain't that the truth Ruth?

Bullets over ballots

Bullets, not ballots, now dominate the world's view when it thinks of Ireland.

International news channels have shown near zero interest in the election but have gone heavy on the explosion of gang warfare.

Dublin has been depicted like a sort of rain-sodden new Gotham - but without the twisted glamour.

At least Frances Fitzgerald spared us the empty posturing of predecessor Michael McDowell and his laughable 2004 soundbite about "the last sting of a dying wasp" from gangland.

But in the face of such depravity, government reaction looks more like the inconsequential flap of a trying butterfly.

Not the best first half of the campaign for FG as the party of law and order and responsible recovery lost control of both the crime and economic narratives.

And as the campaign backdrop of bullets, shoot-outs, and mobster funeral masses, rolls in a loop across global networks, who would have thought Enda Kenny's favourite soundbite would now ring-out in a twisted fashion as "Ireland: the best small country to do grisly business in".

Irish Independent

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