Cowen must be wary of sacked chums
No coming back to top table for ex-ministers
AS the Taoiseach puts the finishing touches to his re-shuffle, he may be nervous about adding to the growing club of sacked ministers.
There are now 20 members of the most unwanted association in Irish politics -- ex-ministers and ministers for state who are now sitting desolately on the Fianna Fail benches.
And if Trevor Sargent, who resigned before he could be sacked, and Michael Lowry, who currently supports the government, are factored in, then the total membership of the club of sacked (and resigned) ex-ministers who are now on the government backbenches is 22.
Some exiles, such as Michael Woods, Rory O'Hanlon, Michael Ahern and Michael Kitt, are so well behaved you'd hardly know they are still here. Others such as Frank Fahey, Willie O'Dea and Bertie Ahern are believed for now to be loyal in public.
But some are far more troublesome. Noel Ahern, Mary Wallace, Sean Power, Noel Treacy and Marie Hoctor are waiting for better times for Fianna Fail. Others adopt a far more high-profile role.
Ned O'Keeffe from Cork may be a Fianna Fail loyalist, but he still lost the party whip after he was unable to vote confidence in Mary Harney.
Jim McDaid, who says FF needs to lose office this year if it is to survive as a vibrant political party, is Mr Cowen's highest-profile political nightmare.
However, in the aftermath of his dismissal, John McGuinness launched a political attack on Mary Coughlan but gave Mr Cowen a most equivocal vote of confidence.
Other dismissed figures such as Tom Kitt and John Browne have been relatively quiet in public while former junior minister Jimmy Devins resigned the party whip over cancer services in Sligo.
So far in the aftermath of his resignation as Ceann Comhairle, the former FF minister John O'Donoghue has been a low-profile figure within Leinster House. But senior party sources told the Sunday Independent that they believe he is "quietly seething over the lack of support he received from Cowen in his trouble''.
Any analysis of the current sad club of 20, and the far happier occupants of the Mercedes, reveals that -- unlike the UK -- in Irish politics once you're sacked from office, old ministers in Leinster House never come back.
With the sole exception of Dermot Ahern, who regained his place at the top table after his initial dismissal by Albert Reynolds, there has not be a political comeback.
THE NEW CLUB OF 20
Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, John Browne, Jimmy Devins, Frank Fahey, Maire Hoctor, Tom Kitt, Michael P Kitt, James McDaid, John McGuinness, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Ned O'Keeffe, Rory O'Hanlon, Mary O'Rourke, Sean Power, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Michael Woods