News Eoghan Harris

Thursday 2 October 2014

Enda will not easily bell the sharp-clawed Creighton cat

Published 13/10/2013 | 05:00

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ONLY connect, says Shakespeare. So I will join a few dots this week. But by and large I want to give you a break from the bits and pieces of the Budget.

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That's because I try to follow George Orwell's advice to political writers: don't repeat anything you heard anywhere else. By now the economics of the Budget have been exhaustively explored. But its still worth noting that it will favour the greedy, not the needy.

Bankers won't be asked to give back €1.1bn, which Stephen Donnelly TD told Pat Kenny they took from the State coffers to pay generous pensions to those given voluntary redundancy, instead of, as Kenny rightly remarked, involuntary redundancy.

Likewise, we know that ESB fat cat managers and underworked technicians (even their own trade union official Brendan Ogle admitted they were spoiled) will not be asked to dip into the annual average €100,000 they pick up between salary and pensions.

So I won't be moving the dial back to Sean O'Rourke next Tuesday to listen to Michael Noonan laying on the Limerick accent while he rambles through well-worn territory. I'll be perfectly happy to hear whoever is on Pat Kenny. Especially if he's one of the outspoken Ed family: Ed Walsh, Eddie Molloy or Eddie Hobbs.

* * *

The public shares my boredom with the political spin surrounding the Budget. Given Ruairi Quinn's dismissal of any wage increases in the private sector, those who work there know that, like Kiltartan's poor in An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, no likely end will "leave them happier than before".

Last Monday not even the economically literate Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue on Newstalk's Breakfast Show could divert texters to talk about the forthcoming Budget. The public wanted to talk about the transparently staged machine-gunning of a cat in the superb new season of Love/Hate.

The public's indifference to high politics irritates some journalists. Why talk about a cat when you should be talking about the Budget? But that's the problem with the Platonic or prescriptive view of life: harping on how things ought to be rather than on how they actually are.

Bitter experience has taught most working people that, lacking a tough reform party, life is less prescriptive than descriptive. And with Labour acting as cheerleaders for Kenny and his cronies, there will be no change. The wealthy wicked will still flourish like the green bay tree. And weak politicians will still seek that shade.

So the public is correct to consider the killing of a cat as marginally more important than Darkness at Noonan. Children who are cruel to cats provide clues to future psychopathic traits. Much the same could be said of politicians who can contemplate cutting welfare benefits without taking a severe pay cut themselves.

* * *

The personal always trumps the political. My musings about a cat are merely staving off a sad story about a dog. Her name is Dolly, she belongs to my wife, Gwen, and she's a little stunner, a cross between a French bichon frise and a Scottish West Highland terrier.

Being half-French, half-Scottish, Dolly is about brains and balls. Actually, she's all about balls. Dolly can do anything with a small rubber ball, including flicking it over the net of the public tennis courts at Clarinda Park, Dun Laoghaire, so that I can bat it back from the other side.

Eamon Moore, the legendary vet, agrees that Dolly is a canine version of the Gooch. So imagine our horror when, after a visit to look at her limp, he diagnosed a cruciate injury. The Gooch Dolly will probably never play again.

Eamon may have been pessimistic to keep us disciplined about Dolly's new regime of diet and rest. But it's still bad. Dolly is deeply depressed and sits for hours staring at where the ball used to sit on the hall-stand until we hid it.

* * *

Given that Gwen was getting as grim as Dolly I was glad she came home from the annual service for the Michaelmas Law term, humming the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country. Admittedly, a few hours of it strained my nerves somewhat, but I was still grateful and mentioned the benign effect of the hymn in my note to Alan Graham, one of the organisers, apologising for my absence.

In his reply Alan recalled the hymn had been written by the famous Anglo-Irish diplomat, Cecil Spring Rice, whose cousin, Mary Spring Rice, had sailed on the Asgard with Erskine Childers. This set me off on an odyssey of googling.

"Only connect" turned out to be true. The first Irish college I ever attended, Colaiste Eoghan O Comhraidhe, in Carrigaholt, Co Clare, was set up by Mary Spring Rice's best friend, Nellie O'Brien. Both were Irish-speaking Protestants. As were all the members of their Foynes branch of the Gaelic League, Craobh na gCuig Cuigi, affectionately known as Craobh na gCuig Protastunach.

But while the first verse of I Vow to Thee clearly refers to England, I challenge the conventional wisdom that the second verse's "And there's another country I have heard of long ago" refers to heaven. Given that every generation of the Spring Rices loved Ireland, we can guess what country he really meant.

And while I'm connecting pluralisms, let me pay tribute to the trojan work of John Deasy TD in ensuring the 1,100 Waterford dead of the First World War are recalled in a granite wall memorial. Last Sunday, in a moving ceremony in Dungarvan, attended by all city's Sinn Fein councillors, the flags of Britain and Ireland flew side by side in final farewell.

* * *

Deasy was also active during the Fine Gael post-mortem on the Seanad election. Unlike his cowed colleagues, he was critical of the Taoiseach's performance, or rather lack of it. A reminder that in spite of a servile media, this teflon Taoiseach is as vulnerable to events as every one of his predecessors.

So when the warm and welcoming waters of the One Per Cent Difference event, the Global Economic Forum and this weekend's Fine Gael conference have receded, Enda Kenny will see, rising from colder waters, the formidable figure of Lucinda Creighton.

Creighton is a political cat with sharp claws who will not be easily belled. Like Hillary Clinton, she is married to a loyal and politically savvy husband who has her back. She has supporters right across the political spectrum. A terrible sight for a Taoiseach whose teflon is not strong enough to be tested in a studio.

Bertie Ahern broke Kenny's nerve in their television debate during the 2007 General Election. But Kenny still deserved his place in the sun: he had paid his admission price in persistence. Following the General Election, however, he should have gone it alone, both in political partners and patrons.

That is why Lucinda Creighton, Fine Gael's Love/Hate cat, poses such a problem. Because no matter how much a mushy media tries to mind him, the public is slowly going back to its default position on the man from Mayo.

Sunday Independent

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