Saturday 22 October 2016

The politically savvy brothers with a nose for blood in the water

Gerard O'Regan

Published 07/05/2016 | 02:30

Danny and Michael Healy-Rae Photo: Eamonn Keogh
Danny and Michael Healy-Rae Photo: Eamonn Keogh

So much for the much vaunted new politics.

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Verbal rockets and missiles were flying all round the Dail yesterday - and various deputies were unwittingly casting hostages to fortune.

But two brother TDs from the southwest looked strangely content, as if they were superior to what they judged was this low level carry-on, in the national parliament. All they really wanted was some form of new government to be put in place - of whatever hue. They could then get on with their own very obvious brand of politics.

Despite their critics Michael and Danny Healy Rae remain remarkably uncomplicated. They want to remain kingpins in their constituency of Kerry South - no more no less. Accordingly much of their posturing over the last few weeks regarding possible support for a new Taoiseach was just hot air.

Apart from any other consideration the finely tuned antennae of the Healy Rae empire is telling them - despite the kind of delirium which inevitably surrounds the election of a new Taoiseach - that things remain in a state of chassis.

So they play their cards close to their chest, keep their options open, and be ever ready to provide a ritual soundbyte for the national media. But all the while they remained primed for another election.

Meanwhile, behind all the hype and hoopla, it was impossible to ignore the sense of foreboding which hung like a pall over Leinster House.

Mr Kenny and his party have remained decidedly downbeat in recent days, although they eventually did cleave to some kind of power. For many Fine Gael deputies it is impossible to ignore nagging voices of doubt in the sub-conscious.

In their heart of hearts is the realisation that this elevation is not exactly as a result of a nod from the populace at large. And without such affirmation the core authority of any government must remain suspect. There also remains a nagging uncertainty that the scaffolding which supports this political arrangement, will in times of crisis, prove to be built on sand.

Ironically, one of the biggest challenges for the new Taoiseach will be to try and revive the flagging heartbeat of his party. He must rid them of a gnawing fear they will be soon be found out - that they are in power under false pretences.

The innate novelty and dynamism of a new cabinet will provide a sheen of security in the short term; but it is a dangerous delusion that things are really more solid than they really are. Sooner rather than later some cold realities will threaten to break the will of this government - most likely when cabinet members fully realise they simply don't have the numbers to do what they really want to do.

Yesterday's Dáil skirmishes also made it clear the "arrangement" between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will prove more trouble than it's worth for both parties. The core of the problem for Micheál Martin is that his party may have ensnared themselves in a no-win situation.

There will be occasions where it will be nigh impossible to decide whether they are "for or agin" the new setup. "We're not out to catch Fine Gael offside," intoned a saintly sounding Fianna Fáil leader this week. That certainly instigated a few moments of raucous hilarity in some quarters. But the fact he uttered such a laughable aside is indicative of the current air of suspended reality fusing our politics.

The first sign of being able to deliver some real damage on a political opponent - what might be described as the scent of the kill - will bring all involved quickly back to basics.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the supposed deal between the two main parties was just a joint declaration for the allocation of goodies. It involved the kind of announcements beloved of all politicians. But early exchanges in this new Dáil show it will provided little cover for either Enda Kenny or Michael Martin, once their opponents on the other benches really put the boot in.

However, as of now the new Taoiseach has one advantage. He owns the ball. He also has shown himself to be an adroit political strategist. But he may have to embrace a debilitating and frustrating game plan, where a never ending battle to simply survive will weave even more uncertainty in the psyche of his party. How many of his TDs secretly feel they are in government only by default, and that they are going to be found out sooner or later?

As for sniffing the way the wind is blowing - we should keep a close eye on what the Healy Raes do - rather than what they say.

Irish Independent

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