As the prison gates clang shut behind US Army Private Bradley Manning, one wonders how Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, feels about this. After all, Manning did the party a service. Or, might the apparently troubled soldier have been part of a plot to do the party harm?
These are just some of the questions that don't bother the Labour Party.
Manning goes to jail for leaking hundreds of thousands of US government secrets. Much of it was trivia, some horrifying – in particular, the video revealing US troops in helicopters, in Iraq, raining death upon civilians with the enthusiasm of teenagers crouched over their PlayStation gamepads.
Also hidden in those thousands of documents was the Gilmore scandal. I doubt you remember this. When I asked the Labour Party about it on Friday, an obliging press office chap wasn't sure what I meant. He had, he said, a vague memory of something like that. He'd ask some others if they could help.
Ireland's like that. We get all excited about something or other, then the media drops it and we move on to something else. Some of us, though, can be found long afterwards, mooching around the remnants of these things, hands in our pockets, muttering, "How could that be?" Or, "What the hell was that all about?"
Now, to be fair, this doesn't seem to have bothered the Labour Party overmuch. A cable was sent to the highest levels in Washington, and to diplomats around the world, portraying their leader as a two-faced gobshite. On the other hand, Mr Gilmore denied the substance of the cable, which, if true, means someone set him up. Either way, you'd imagine Labour would be pretty upset. But, no, they're cool with that, whatever the truth.
Let's jog your memory. Remember the Lisbon treaty referendum? We voted the wrong way – so they made us vote again until we got it right. We said No in June 2008. A month later, French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Dublin to agitate for a second referendum. Publicly, Gilmore was adamant – no second referendum. So adamant that he at first refused to even meet Sarkozy.
The US Embassy gathered info on Sarkozy's visit, to send to Washington. It claimed to have direct access to people in the offices of Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny, who told them what was said to and by Sarkozy. The cable, sent to Washington on July 23, 2008, then said this: "Gilmore, who has led calls against a second referendum, has told the Embassy separately that he fully expects, and would support, holding a second referendum in 2009. He explained his public posture of opposition to a second referendum as 'politically necessary' for the time being".
And, sure enough, in 2009 Gilmore announced that he was now convinced that the Lisbon treaty had been so changed that it justified a second referendum. Others said there were just cosmetic changes, or – as Gilmore's cabinet colleague Lucinda Creighton put it: "Nothing has changed in the Lisbon treaty and it would be dishonest to suggest otherwise."
Gilmore was far more impressive than those who were always for a second referendum. He had been staunchly against it, so the "treaty changes" must be real enough to make him change his mind. And we voted Yes.
When WikiLeaks gave the cable to the Irish Independent, which published it in June 2011, many people jumped to conclusions. Gilmore, it was said, was a double-dealing, back-stabbing opportunist of the lowest order. He had pretended to be against a second referendum, and pretended he changed his mind. Frankly, I must confess I had a few unkind thoughts about the man. But, were we deceived?
Gilmore denied deceit or inconsistency. And we had a lot on our minds at the time. It was just four months since we'd thrown out Fianna Fail. It was dawning on many that the "democratic revolution" that saw Fianna Fail obliterated was nothing of the sort. Instead, it was just politics as usual. Fine Gael and Labour immediately reneged on election promises and enthusiastically pursued the same policies which just weeks earlier they had damned as obscene and unjust.
Yet, there was something far worse in what was alleged against Gilmore. Politicians have always broken election promises – though seldom as fast, as thoroughly or with as much zeal as this lot. What Gilmore appeared to do was deliberately take a public position that he privately opposed. Then, for political effect, he appeared to change his mind. This was new – this was pretty low.
But, was Gilmore framed? Let us accept that Gilmore is an honest man. Let us try to explain how that cable might have come to be.
Is it possible that, in 2008, some CIA operative anticipated Gilmore would be Tanaiste within three years? As such, with an Irish EU presidency in 2012, this wild socialist radical would have proximity to power and might threaten the very stability of capitalism. Rather than stand by and let the flames of Gilmoreism rage across the continent, creating perhaps a European Spring, shouldn't the CIA intervene – as they did in Iran, Guyana, Nicaragua and Chile . . .
How could this CIA agent undermine this threat to the fabric of civilisation? (I know, I know, we're taking a bit of a flyer on this one, but stick with me – I'm sure I'm on to something . . .)
Might this CIA agent have persuaded US diplomats to plant – in an otherwise genuine cable – a false and deadly quote from Gilmore?
Something he never said? Something that would paint him as – well, duplicitous, untrustworthy, a treacherous weasel?
But, you say, this was in a secret cable. It was never meant for the eyes of Irish citizens. Why would the CIA plant false evidence in such a hidden document? Unless . . .
In order for this cable to damage Gilmore, the CIA had to know it would be leaked in 2011. How could they? Isn't it obvious? They could know only if they arranged the leak. Enter CIA agent Bradley Manning.
Impossible, you say! Is Soapbox suggesting that in order to enhance the credibility of the false and damning quote attributed to Gilmore they had to arrange for hundreds of thousands of genuine secrets to be leaked, hugely embarrassing the State Department and its allies? Wouldn't this mean that WikiLeaks itself is a CIA front?
Well, think about it. Are you suggesting that the leader of the Labour Party is a perfidious hypocrite? And that the Labour Party doesn't care? Is that not an appalling vista? Is it not more credible that the CIA faked the quote, set up WikiLeaks and recruited Private Manning? Gilmore survived, it's true – but suffered enough damage to ensure that Gilmoreism failed to take the world by storm. The European Spring was nipped in the bud.
Looking for supportive evidence, I asked the Labour Party if any complaint was made to the US embassy over the past two years about a fake quote in a secret cable? Unfortunately, they knew of none.
Eamon Gilmore, Bradley Manning – victim or villain? You decide.