Wednesday 28 September 2016

An aerial view of the Consensus Coalition

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

’The Consensus Coalition’s real roots are the relationship between Kenny and Martin’ Photo: Maxpix
’The Consensus Coalition’s real roots are the relationship between Kenny and Martin’ Photo: Maxpix

Summer is here. And just because I’m stuck in Dublin is no reason to rain on your bank holiday parade.

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Accordingly, I won’t spoil the feel-good factor with lugubrious sermons.

Instead I propose to take a quick look back at the political winners and losers last week before going on to more congenial topics.

Chief loser last week was John McGuinness who found that it’s politically dangerous to talk to strangers in parked cars.

McGuinness tried to present his chat with former commissioner Callinan as a public service. In vain.

The frosty reception he got from the media showed scepticism about his motives in waiting so long.

Although no pundit said so plainly, McGuinness’s timing also smacked of internal FF politics.

That’s because his belated revelations were no help to Micheal Martin — who recently passed over McGuinness for promotion.

On another day the revelations might have destabilised what many observers (wrongly) think is a fragile government. 

Contrary to what some critics claim, Martin does not want to collapse this Government until he has seriously wounded Sinn Fein, a project that will take at least two years.

Whatever McGuinness’s real motives might have been, the media did not accept his stated motives in delaying his revelations.

But let’s give McGuinness the benefit of the doubt and accept that he was legitimately trying to wound two birds with one stone — the Callinan regime and the Martin regime.

If so, his judgement was still flawed. First, a secret can only be stored so long before going stale. Much heat has gone from the Callinan case.

Second, if he thinks a stale secret could destabilise the Martin deal he is suffering from the same delusion as many in media.

True, at first sight, what I call the Consensus Coalition looks shaky. Take a longer look and you find more solid foundations.

That’s because the Consensus Coalition’s real roots are in the relationship between Enda Kenny and Martin.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, both men have a good working relationship based on a common, if temporary, interest.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail need this truce to draw breath before their next big battle.

Both also need the breathing space to restore their hegemony in Irish politics by fragmenting the forces of Sinn Fein, the Trots and Independents.

From a distance, the Consensus Coalition seems to sway in the wind. But so do these flexible Japanese buildings meant to cope with earthquakes.

Inside the building, the Government is getting on with the job, in consultation with Fianna Fail.

Some ministers are doing better than others. Paschal Donohoe is proving to be a safe pair of hands.

He has also won deserved plaudits by firmly ruling himself out of the Fine Gael leadership stakes.

Simon Harris has made a solid start in Health and his wide consultations catch the spirit of the Consensus Coalition.

Simon Coveney acted with good authority in telling the Nimbys to bite the bullet on social housing.

Here I speak as someone who has lived beside the good and bad of social housing.

The good is self-evident. But not all who benefit make good neighbours.

Coveney got some stick for postponing action until after the August holidays — but was just being realistic.

Because until they’ve had their holidays we can expect little from a coddled public sector — some of whom should work a 30-hour week before calling for one.

But while these three ministers are flourishing, two others are floundering.

Leo Varadkar, having called for Michael D Higgins to get a second term on the trot (read that again), donned his jacket and left for the long vacation.

But while Leo’s laid-back performance creates no crisis, the same cannot be said for Frances Fitzgerald who is flailing about

Justice needs somebody with a steely determination to stand up to the gangs, but also to the garda lobbies.

Shamefully, garda representative bodies have been using the current crime crisis to process pay and overtime claims under the cover of calling for “more resources” — their code word for more money.

But the public is not convinced that throwing money at the gardai is as good as throwing the ringleaders in the clink.

Hence the Claire Byrne poll which showed that 77pc of the public support selective internment.

Depressingly, both Fine Gael or Fianna Fail still prefer the legalistic PC line to following public opinion.

 

***

Normally I would be spending this bank holiday weekend enjoying the chat outside Bushe’s bar and La Jolie Brise in Baltimore.

But the recent death of my old friend Youen Jacob has cast a shadow over the summer and I had no stomach for the trip south.

Luckily, many of the joys of West Cork are primarily spiritual. And I can travel there anytime by losing myself in the coastal aerial photos in Dennis Horgan’s Cork — The View from Above.

Aerial photography first gripped my imagination in 1976 when I watched Ted Dolan’s pioneering series, As the Crow Flies, with an elegant and erudite script by the great Paddy Gallagher.

Apart from the abstract beauty of Ireland from the air, it also alerted me to the amount of land held by the Roman Catholic Church between the Stillorgan and Merrion roads.

The Church has similar lucrative landbanks all over Ireland. All the more reason why the victims of child sex abuse should not have had to hammer on the door for financial redress.

Horgan’s beautiful book also started another train of thought as I recalled that Erskine Childers had been a pioneering aerial photographer in World

War I.

A bit of digging left me with even more admiration for Childers — as well as for the wonderful tolerance of Michael Collins.

Collins worshipped Childers and would never listen to those around him who wrongly suspected Childers of being a spy.

Mind you, they had every reason to be suspicious. Because Childers had not just a good war, he had a great war.

In August 1916, a few months after he ran guns into Howth for the Irish Volunteers, Childers was serving in the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) as an aerial observer and photographer, and was decorated for his heroism.

After the war, the RAF set up a small group to evaluate the bombing of German naval and military targets. The two officers charged with the report were Major Childers and a Major Morris.

Childers and Morris spent four months interviewing Belgian civilians, examining and cataloguing damaged buildings and scrutinising RAF and RNAS reports and aerial photographs.

Major Childers was the man who mattered. Major Morris was a technical officer attached to the Dunkirk Naval depot, but Childers was the one with combat experience.

And in a war in which bombing had been a new and seldom practised form of warfare, Childers had taken part as an observer in the Cuxhaven raid, one of the biggest of the war.

In a powerfully predictive report, Childers and Morris concluded, as far back as 1918, that bombing was a secondary and imperfect method of warfare. And that’s still true.

Cork — The View From Above by Dennis Horgan, Collins Press, €24.99

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