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Wednesday 26 October 2016

Gunslinger John McGuinness could sort out Fianna Fail

Despite the efforts of Micheal Martin, his party needs a Putin not a fusspot

Published 04/05/2014 | 02:30

John McGuinness
John McGuinness

In the strange half-world where Fianna Fail resides these days, Bertie Ahern's one-size-fits-all catchphrase of 'ah, the hardy lads, working hard' has been replaced by the variant.

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Increasingly these days, each crisis, be it of the existential variety or the absence of tea bags, attracts the self-same response of "well, in fairness, Micheal is working very hard".

In truth, poor Micheal would want to be "working very hard" for plenty aren't ... but that's a different problem.

The question that Fianna Fail is finding increasingly difficult to answer, is whether hard-working Micheal is "a busy fool" rather than a man making real changes.

There might be no lack of will or of effort, from Micheal at least, but like a car stuck in wet mud, all the revving appears to be getting them nowhere.

This should, after all, be the best of times for Fianna Fail, given the spectral political scenario facing a Coalition that has lost the support of 25 per cent of the electorate.

Instead, they increasingly bring the witches in Macbeth with their cackling warnings of "double, double toil and trouble" to mind.

The FF internal cauldron will certainly be bubbling even more in the wake of the revelations that the Public Accounts Committee Chairman John McGuinness has developed an interest in the leadership.

Sadly, from the perspective of Dear Leader Micheal, the nervous attempts to dismiss the McGuinness demarche as a sort of post-dated April Fool's joke will have done little to calm the seething.

In the close clubbable world of FF, those who were anxious to dismiss the prospect of a McGuinness leadership bid clucked about how "John is very dour, very much a sole trader, not one of the lads, standoffish" and, well, just difficult.

Every reason given as to why McGuinness should not, from the eyes of our insiders, lead clubbable harmless Fianna Fail is precisely why a citizenry winnowed into apathy by the state of FF under nice Micheal would find him attractive.

Significantly, those self-same points meant McGuinness was not a member of Biffo's circle of trust during the age of Bertie and Brian Cowen.

He is the FF Lady Macbeth who comes to any debate about the future of the party without blood on his hands.

His absence of the clubbable gene is also critical given that FF needs to take a political carpet-beater to the arrogance which believes that if the FF emperors just lie back on the political chaise longue an anxious electorate will race up bearing grapes.

To secure such a change though, a leader must have the capacity to instill fear in his troops, and the problem in this regard is that Micheal's dominant trait, in so far as dominance applies to Micheal, is fussiness. He is, in short, a man for Ps and Qs rather than the political Putin FF needs.

The sense is that FF needs a Savonarola, not a fusspot, to reform itself, and that is a narrative that is more applicable to McGuinness than Martin.

Those who are busy trying to protect the leader from McGuinness, should note the more one looks the less that house of cards stacks up.

The main charge is that McGuinness would go mad if in power.

But outside of noting that perhaps we need a bit of madness in how we are governed, McGuinness has corralled and controlled the very diverse political stampede of egos within a PAC that requires far more sensitive political hands than most ministries.

And he has done so in the teeth of a repressive government; for the PAC chairman had his own 'trial of fire' over such 'scandals' as the quality of toilet paper in his office.

Everyone, of course still, agrees Micheal is "working extraordinarily hard", but even within Fianna Fail the concern is growing that FF has turned into a lighter version of Fine Gael in the hope that harmlessness might blind the citizen to past vices.

By contrast, in a Dail full of Boss Hogg types, McGuinness is the Clint Eastwood 'Man with No Name'-style outsider riding into town to clean up the mess.

He is in a Dail full of professional politicians with soft hands and sweet mouths; the gimlet-eyed political gunslinger who is only short of spitting tobacco out of the corner of his mouth onto the refined flooring of the Dail before he goes to war with Rehab or the Central Remedial Clinic.

Some are still trying to dismiss McGuinness as a stalking horse for clever plotters but McGuinness is also being compared with Albert Reynolds.

Given Albert's standing as a man in a hurry prepared to take great risks to secure great achievements, it's not the worst of comparisons.

The mirror is not in this regard entirely true though, for while Albert was a pragmatic realist, McGuinness is a closet Romantic.

Despite his grim visage, his is a message from the heart where a politician who is not part of our self-selected elite has articulated the anger of the citizenry at the failure of our indolent State apparatus to protect them.

In a country that is "tired of being treated like an economy, rather than a society", increasingly the PAC chairman's critique of the turning of Irish democracy "into a veil, behind which autocrats can act with impunity" is gathering a following.

Dear Leader Micheal will undoubtedly be hoping that the following will not start to expand within his own little empire.

Sunday Independent

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