FF has bad day at office as George visits old workmates
No one was going to take the rap for what Miriam deemed a 'meltdown' -- not director of elections Noel Dempsey
On Saturday morning, Dermot Ahern voiced it first, trying to persuade RTE's Sean O'Rourke that the Government's poor showing at the polls was due to the "tough" and "unpopular" but "necessary" decisions that had to be taken if the country wasn't to be sold off to the lowest bidder at a charity auction.
Anyway, he added, governments always do badly at mid-term elections.
Over on RTE television, a couple of hours later, Mary Hanafin bleated from the same hymn sheet. "By-elections are always very difficult," she sighed, while rejecting Miriam O'Callaghan's insistence that the results were "devastating", though she did concede they were "disappointing".
Wannabe Fianna Fail TD Shay Brennan agreed, rejecting Miriam's claim that the polls were "disastrous". "Absolutely not!" he stoutly replied. Instead, they represented "a protest vote" against "tough but necessary decisions".
Nor was Micheal Martin about to confirm Miriam's contention. No, it was just "a bad day at the office, the political fallout from an unprecedented crisis" in which, you guessed it, "difficult decisions" were taken.
So, was no one in the party going to take the rap for what Miriam deemed a "meltdown"? Well, not director of elections Noel Dempsey, anyway, who wearily spoke of the "unpopular but right decisions" that had been forced upon them.
Everyone, then, was on message, or at least everyone except Cork maverick Noel Flynn, who broke ranks by calling the results "disastrous" for his party. "We offended the electorate," Noel said. "we offended the most vulnerable in society, and unless we change our policies, we're going to be in serious trouble."
But if it was a bad day for the Soldiers of Destiny (not to mention their poignantly hung-out-to-dry partners, the Greens), it was a very good one for George Lee.
However, not everyone was ecstatic about George's electoral triumph, Dermot Ahern snorting derisively to Sean O'Rourke about this "celebrity candidate". Sean protested that George was "much more than that", even though, on the day when George announced he had left RTE to run, Sean had subjected him to some savage questioning.
George himself had vivid memories of that grilling -- a "tough interview", he acknowledged yesterday to Marian Finucane on her morning radio show. As it turned out, she gave him a bit of a grilling herself about his departure from RTE, causing him to snap back testily, "I'm a free agent and I can do what I want."
But over on television, Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar was thrilled skinny at George's success and expressed the hope that other renowned pundits or celebrities, or whatever you want to call them (Leo didn't specify), would follow his courageous example and sign on the dotted line for the Blueshirts. Are you listening, Charlie Bird?
And Pat Rabbitte was a happy man, telling Newstalk's Eamon Keane that since the age of seven he'd had to endure "the all-powerful dominance" of Fianna Fail and now the party was demoted to second place. "All my life I've lived under the shadow of the great big bear, and I never thought I'd see the day," Pat trilled.
On the same station, Claire Byrne referred constantly to "our psephologist" -- known to you and me as the guy (it's invariably a guy) who considers himself an expert in the statistics of elections. Claire's psephologist was called Adrian and he preceded each of his predictions with a "major health warning", which became one of the weekend's buzz phrases as all the pundits tried to cover their soothsaying asses.
By yesterday morning, everyone agreed that the Greens were banjaxed, though no one actually used that word. Instead, pundit Harry McGee told Newstalk's Karen Coleman that they were not just "eviscerated" but also "decimated" and "destroyed". Don't pull your punches, Harry.
Green defector Patricia McKenna agreed. "I predicted this but they didn't listen," she wearily told Karen. "They should have listened, but they were impatient for power." Gosh, imagine anyone not listening to Patricia -- who, after her unsuccessful bid for an MEP seat, will have to be very patient if she wants power again.
On television, the Green's Eamon Ryan had the unenviable task of defending the Government's policies, causing Labour's Joan Burton to remark that Eamon "was talking about saving the planet, but I'm not sure what planet he's speaking from".
Joan then gave the nation's viewers a collective migraine by constantly talking across all of the other panellists.
But where was Fianna Fail's Mary O'Rourke, without whom no election would be complete?
Finally she popped up on radio, asked by Marian Finucane how she liked the fact that, for the first time in its history, her beloved party was now lying second in the polls.
"I don't like it at all," Mary said.