Wednesday 28 September 2016

Fine Gael's political poker playing is a stunt House of Cards' Frank Underwood would be proud of

Published 08/04/2016 | 07:32

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in ‘House of Cards’
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in ‘House of Cards’

IT'S rare that you can make any sort of comparison between US political drama 'House of Cards' and Irish politics.

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However Enda Kenny and Fine Gael's perfectly executed political plan over the last 48 hours would even impress devious Frank Underwood.

The media management and strict adherence to a simple message by Fine Gael had Fianna Fail on the back-foot from the beginning, and went off without a hitch.

I doubt few believe that Fine Gael members had any desire to enter a partnership government with the old enemy, however on Wednesday night we were told that Enda Kenny had 'unanimous' support from his party for the move.

That's right, not one single Fine Gael parliamentary party member objected, or so we were told.

What a united party, one putting the country first, was the clear message sent.

Throughout Thursday, an incredibly well orchestrated media campaign began, with the party's best media performers deployed throughout the day.

Simon Coveney took the morning, Frances Fitzgerald took lunchtime, Simon Harris the evening and finally Richard Bruton took the night shift.

The message was clear and on point: This was a historic offer, it would end Civil war politics, and aren't Fine Gael a great bunch of lads altogether for putting the country first.

Fine Gael got the jump on Fianna Fail, both outcomes would have them come out stronger.

The preferred option: Fianna Fail reject the idea, forcing another election, but Fine Gael get the credit for showing leadership and trying to end pointless civil war politics - and Fianna Fail get the blame for pulling the trigger on GE16 II.

The less desired option: Fianna Fail take up the offer, but Fine Gael having made the offer are seen as the main party in an "equal" partnership having displayed such leadership. 

Option one was the result, and as Micheal Martin prepared to take to the plinth to take control of the message and the narrative for the first time since Wednesday evening, Fine Gael again got the jump.

Word spread that Mr Martin was planning to make a statement, and a Fine Gael spokesperson was deployed to express Enda Kenny's disappointment that the offer had been rejected.

What an unexpected bonus - Not only had they controlled the message around the offer, they'd now taken control of the message around its rejection.

The emphasis on the potential historic nature of the deal was ramped up because now that it was off the table, the misty-eyed crocodile tears could begin to fall.

Fianna Fail's one chance take back control of the message was gone, and once again the party was on the back-foot.

The party had lost its chance to finally take to the spotlight and call the move for what it was - an opportunistic and disingenuous political stunt.

The pragmatic political display by Fine Gael essentially meant they had out Fianna Fail-ed Fianna Fail.

One wonders if such an energetic approach and strict adherence to a core message had been displayed in the run-up to the election if Fine Gael would even have found themselves in this position in the first place.    

Was it a cynical political move by Fine Gael? Yes. However the manipulation of their opponents, the control of the narrative and unity of purpose displayed by the party over the last 48 hours would even impress ruthless Frank Underwood.

Online Editors

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