Blessed Martyr of Mount Merrion makes an embarrassing retreat from high moral ground
And so it came to pass yesterday afternoon that the Blessed Martyr of Mount Merrion advanced slowly across the plinth of Leinster House, the weight of the waiting world upon his shoulders.
Verily, the skies almost wept as Eamon O Cuiv approached the mob of media awaiting him (almost -- in fact, the rain held off nicely).
Fianna Fail could no longer countenance the constant bleating of the party's self-anointed black sheep advocating a No vote in the fiscal treaty referendum while the rest of the flock were quiescent in the Yes fold.
Micheal Martin wanted the silence of the lamb, or else he was for the (lamb) chop.
But Eamon is no ordinary political animal. He is Dev Óg, dauphin of the De Valera dynasty, doughty keeper of the Fianna Fail flame and the sort of self-regarding chap who thinks that diffidence is a word to describe rogue members of the IRA.
He may have been reared and educated in the leafy surrounds of Dublin 4, but Dev Og is a West of Ireland man to the manor bainin. He was in the thick of it when the brown stuff began to fly over the septic tank charges, and now he's defying the party line on the referendum.
And on Monday it looked as if Eamon was spoiling for a scrap with his party leader, proclaiming he had "a monumental" decision to make overnight after he took the hump over a letter he had received from the party's whip, Sean O Fearghail, advising him to cease and desist from stumping for a No vote.
Would the grandson of the Long Fella make his long goodbye? Would he cause a split in Fianna Fail over a treaty, thereby giving film director Neil Jordan the chance to make 'Michael Collins II'?
And so after a day of high suspense (okay, mild curiosity), at just after 5pm Eamon O Cuiv, Fianna Fail TD for Galway West, walked from Leinster House over to the press pack.
He gave a leisurely tour around the byzantine route which brought him to this impasse with his party. He quoted -- with no small degree of indignation -- a few lines from the chief whip's letter which had caused so much umbrage: "It is not feasible for individual party members to campaign as they wish, irrespective of the parliamentary party's formally adopted position," he read aloud.
Eamon added that he had "reflected" on his position over the weekend. Yep, he was definitely heading for the hills. In political-speak "reflection" is a euphemism for packing one's bags while calling a taxi for the airport.
But wait. Suddenly the unmistakable odour of burning rubber filled the air, as the former deputy leader of Fianna Fail executed a U-turn which would make Michael Schumacher weep tears of envy.
Eamon saw no point in placing himself outside the Fianna Fail Tent. "I will therefore continue to work from within to restore the party to its original influence," he declared. "I can see no party other than Fianna Fail, for all its faults, that represents my views."
Nor was he finished yet, and promptly threw himself into reverse as well. Not only would he remain within the fold, but he would quit his bleating about a No vote.
"I will not be making any further pronouncements in the media on the referendum in accordance with the wishes of FF leadership," he announced, and then spent the next 10 minutes meticulously explaining why he was voting against it.
On the face of it, the whole thing seemed to be a shambles, with Eamon akin to the uncle at the wedding who merrily takes to the dance-floor with a series of bizarre moves guaranteed to mortify all belonging to him.
Was it gormless uncle-dancing, or a carefully-planned two-step which will leave him alone on the party's high moral ground if the referendum fails to pass?
Last night it certainly didn't look as if he had covered himself in glory. As one unimpressed fellow on Twitter opined dourly: "If only Dev had been more than like his grandson, Michael Collins would've come away with a jolly egging."