News Gerard O'Regan

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Story of the immovable object and the unstoppable force rocks FG

Published 21/09/2013 | 05:00

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The once-close relationship between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Lucinda Creighton appears damaged beyond repair

There is now a real chance that Lucinda Creighton's once glittering political career could be heading for the scrapheap – such is the level of fear and loathing between herself and Enda Kenny.

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The chasm between both sides has surreptitiously widened in recent days following her appearance on 'The Late Late Show', coupled with comments from the Fine Gael leader. Lucinda made it clear she is in no mood for atonement, and Enda was equally hardline on the possibility of mercy being shown to his abortion- bill dissidents.

Of course, it cannot be forgotten, the backdrop to this particular divide is that Lucinda was one of the leading lights when 'new' Fine Gael tried to shaft Enda, both as party leader and as spearhead of the 'old' brigade in the party.

It was a coup of the fairly recent past, which petered out for some of the usual reasons such heaves flounder. There was disorganisation and lack of focus on the part of the mutineers, coupled with insufficient ruthlessness from the wannabe leader, Richard Bruton, and his closest acolytes.

Realpolitik meant that Enda had no option but to implement the old maxim of keeping his enemies close, when he dispensed the honours of office after the party came to power. Lucinda landed a plum job as European Affairs Minister.

But what is clear from the body language of recent days is that the personal wounds remaining from that bid to unseat him have never healed; they are even more raw since Lucinda failed to back the Government in the battle to get its abortion legislation through the Dail.

The fact she was undoubtedly motivated by conscience is neither here nor there given the all too recent history of rancour between her and the party leader. As time goes by, her personal reasons for not supporting him become ever more irrelevant. From his point of view it was the second time she went against him.

A further significant development of recent days is that Lucinda and the other abortion defectors have been given speaking time in the new Dail term. But this is a double-edged sword, particularly for one so vocal as the Dublin South East TD.

She has long campaigned for "new style politics" but now that the power of political office is no more, the only way she can make her mark is to provide some cutting-edge contributions to Dail debates.

But if these are to have any real frisson, she will need to take Kenny and his ministers to task, whenever she feels this is necessary. Such an approach will do already wounded relationships no good at all.

In fact, if Lucinda, and her somewhat motley grouping, is seen as sniping from the sidelines during moments of high tension for the Government, it will add to the perception that her loyalty to the party is now seriously in question.

On the other hand, she could make a conscious decision not to say anything out of turn. But given the outspoken nature of her political persona she would find that something of a nightmare strategy. By adopting such a low-key approach, she would also run the risk of disappearing from the public consciousness as a serious political player.

So what should she do? Keep schtum? Wait? Bide her time? The political winds are always shifting, even more so as the virus of recessionitis refuses to go away. And the history of politics is littered with examples of sworn enemies who eventually forgive and forget – and do deals – when mutual survival is at stake.

An undercurrent of speculation remains that Lucinda, and some of her closest supporters, is toying with the idea of starting a new political party. But the odds seem against it. She has given no indication she has the messianic sense of mission and drive such an undertaking would require.

In any case, the formation of new political groupings such as Clann na Talmhan and Clann na Poblachta in the 1930s and '40s, and the Workers' Party and the Progressive Democrats in more recent times, proved to be but fleeting moments in our political history. They all lingered for a while – but then disappeared into oblivion.

In addition, some of Lucinda's potential heavyweight political supporters are holding down some plum jobs in the Kenny Government. They are unlikely to follow her into a potential political wasteland.

Some in the party have, in recent days, made soundings that mercy should be shown to the abortion naysayers, if not now, at least before the general election, by allowing them to return to the FG fold after a period of purgatory.

But apart from his personal animosity towards Creighton, such indulgence any time in the near future would make things difficult for Kenny, with those TDs, who unlike Lucinda and co, wavered but still stuck with the Government during the abortion bill hysteria.

Lucinda also needs to watch out for skullduggery in her constituency, and the possible emergence of a rival for her seat who has the backing of the Fine Gael hierarchy.

The one-time darling girl of the party has boxed herself into a corner – it will require some deft political footwork to get out of it.

Irish Independent

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