The aftermath: The winners and losers after a tough political week
A tough political week has seen threats of an immediate election recede. But it has left a litany of losers … and a few winners also.
Frances Fitzgerald was the biggest loser as she lost the second most senior job in Irish politics as Tánaiste and Enterprise & Jobs Minister. A very senior figure in Fine Gael, and now aged 67, she had battled for decades and fought off many political reverses. She says she will stay in politics but there may well be no way back.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar looked to be winning a gut struggle with his rival Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil. They hovered on the brink of a snap election but the Taoiseach looked set to tough things out. Then it emerged that he knew many crucial things over the weekend, raising big questions about his judgement. This was his first big test and he blew it.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan began as untouchable as he was not in office when most of the disputed events occurred. But gradually big questions emerged about things at the Justice Department on his watch. An ill-advised “head-throw” in the Dáil compounded his difficulties. The Opposition have signalled their intention to put pressure on him.
Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, went into this row reluctantly, goaded by Sinn Féin with whom he constantly vies for leadership of the opposition. For several days he looked to be on a loser as the Taoiseach insisted Frances Fitzgerald would not resign. Then on Monday things turned 360 degrees with further revelations that Ms Fitzgerald had detailed knowledge of the McCabe case far earlier than was argued. Mr Martin has succeeded in ousting Ms Fitzgerald and avoiding a snap election.
Labour TD Alan Kelly had spent a month firing in questions to the Justice Department and raising the issue in the Dáil all to no avail. For weeks he got nowhere but persisted. Now the Tipperary maverick TD’s doggedness has paid off. He took up a case earlier pursued by Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness and Independents Mick Wallace and Clare Daly.
The Irish people
The Irish people faced the threat of an unwanted Christmas week general election – the first such thing since 1918. That campaign would have been straddled by the big EU leaders’ summit for Ireland about Brexit, due on December 14 and 15 in Brussels. But the bad news is that relief may not be short-lived as an election early in 2018 beckons and will be a big Brexit distraction.