Wednesday 26 November 2014

Promise from Micheal Martin is always better than reality

The FF leader seems to have trouble keeping the women happy

Published 11/05/2014 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with Mary Fitzpatrick and Deirdre Heney
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with Mary Fitzpatrick and Deirdre Heney

On one level, Micheal Martin should be the last party leader in Leinster House to find himself in trouble on the women front.

The Taoiseach does his best to keep on the right side of the 'dear ladies' but, when it comes to Enda Kenny, there is too much of Father Ted and the 'lovely girls' syndrome surrounding the Dear Leader.

The Tanaiste tries hard too, but the cruel truth is that women like an Alpha male and we, alas, are not in those territories here.

Micheal, in contrast, is the sort of modern political leader that is designed to secure the female vote. The Fianna Fail leader is a nicely tidy metro-sexual who has just enough rakishness to be interesting, but who is also safe enough not to threaten.

However, despite these attributes, Micheal, it seems, cannot avoid regular, almost farcical, rows with the female sex. The latest furore over a Dun Laoghaire melodrama starring Micheal as the dark villain, Kate Feeney as the woman scorned and the seduced and betrayed Mary Hanafin is particularly astonishing.

One of the many, many lacunae that has dogged the party's local and European election campaign has been the status of Fianna Fail as being a party that is not amongst women.

The posters anxiously tied across the lampposts of the land would lead one to think Fianna Fail is running nothing other than attractive 20-something career girls.

Yet the reality of things for Fianna Fail, when you do the count, is that barely a fifth of that party's candidates are women. To put it mildly, someone is selling a pig in a poke, or an illusion on a lamppost, when it comes to this one.

However, when Senator Averil Power eloquently pointed to the gap between aspiration and reality, she was privately 'carpeted' in the leader's office

Her fate, mind you, was mild when compared to the experiences of Kate Feeney.

Ms Feeney, having been photographed right, left and centre with Micheal at the recent Ard Fheis of the Living Dead, was initially ruthlessly excised from the political picture when Mary Hanafin came into view.

The subsequent treatment of Ms Hanafin, who was dropped as swiftly as the initially proud cat drops a live mouse when the female of the house (there they are, those women again!) starts to scream, was even more surprising.

After all, the combination of a former female minister and the first female president of Young Fianna Fail in a single council constituency would have done wonders when it comes to the gender desert in which Fianna Fail finds itself.

Instead, all too typically Micheal – having dashed for the comfort blanket of familiarity via the return of Hanafin, then got windy about the familiarity which Hanafin represented – tried to put out the fire with an empty bucket.

Of course, Micheal has got himself into a tangle with the women when Deirdre Heney, a long-term FF councillor and senior policy adviser, was less than delighted at having Sean Haughey dropped in upon her.

Sadly this appears to be part of a broader pattern where, with the women or the young, the promise from Micheal is always better than the reality. Be it with Kate Feeney, or Mary Hanafin, or Deirdre Heney, the beginning may consist of fireworks but this doesn't last.

When we come to the entrance point of the main event, things begin to droop. Of course, amidst the entire furore about scorned and betrayed candidates, one small point may have been lost.

When it comes to the pretty Fianna Fail faces on the posters, something of those innocents in 1914 heading off to war, certain they will be in the Kaiser's palace for Christmas surrounds them.

Sadly, the message the rumble in Dun Laoghaire sends out to the new Fianna Fail breed dreaming of being on "top of the world, Ma!" in 2014 is that the Fianna Fail generals are starting to fear their fate will be equally unhappy.

Sunday Independent

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