Monday 20 January 2020

Lise Hand: Nobody does dramatic exits quite like the Soldiers of Destiny

Fianna Fail always did have a flair for the dramatic. And nobody -- bar perhaps a Shakespearian actor pursued by a bear -- can do a dramatic exit quite like a defeated or disgruntled Soldier of Destiny.

The party's week hadn't gone too badly -- they had all enjoyed the discomfiture of Sinn Fein's Aengus 'Loadsa Leaflets' O Snodaigh over his mountainous cache of spent cartridges.

And they had their first post-apocalypse Ard Fheis to look forward to this weekend. It would be a fresh start, the first public step along the road to recovery, the chance to present a harmonious happy face to their long-suffering party faithful.

And then, with an actor's exquisite timing, 48 hours before the start of the Ard Fheis, along came Eamon O Cuiv, drifting into the action like the ghost of Hamlet's father, and throwing everything up in a heap.

It was just before 5pm when news filtered around Leinster House that a split had just happened, and that the Fianna Fail deputy leader had either jumped or been pushed by the party leader over Eamon's public refusal to toe the party line on the matter of the fiscal treaty referendum.

Though in truth, the cock had crowed two times -- in the space of 24 hours Eamon had refused twice on the airwaves to row in behind Micheal on this issue. Nor was this the only time that the two men had clashed -- the pair had quite a barney last autumn over whether the party should run a presidential candidate or not.

Micheal prevailed on that occasion. And yesterday he suggested that it was time for his mutinous first mate to walk the plank.

In truth, the pair were an odd couple from the start -- the Oscar and Felix of Fianna Fail. The urbane Corkman was determined to take the party down one road, while Eamon remained firmly on a traditional boreen.

And so Eamon walked the plank, fell off, and swam straight onto the plinth of Leinster House to set the record straight. He painted it as an amicable split, if such a thing ever exists in Irish politics.

"It is a parting of the ways," he said, adding that Micheal "made it clear it's incompatible for him that I would be deputy leader of Fianna Fail and that I would remain on the front bench. I obviously have to accept that."

So what would he do if the seemingly inevitable comes to pass and he loses the party whip? Will he hot-foot it into the embrace of another party?

"Certainly you can rule out Sinn Fein, if that's what's in peoples' minds," he said without equivocation.

"I won't join the Green Party either, so I won't join Fine Gael either," he added. (He didn't mention Labour. Perhaps he just forgot.)

And despite assuring all and sundry that there were no tellys thrown from windows during his break-up with Michael, Eamon did hint that the dark art of spin might be used against him now.

"The machine gets into operation and then tries to blacken my name and then make it into some personality argument. I can absolutely assure you that is not the issue here," he said.

Phew. It was all a bit hectic. And until 5pm, the first day after the announcement of the referendum had gone surprisingly quietly.

During yesterday morning's Leaders' Questions, one would've bet one's negative-equity abode that the Taoiseach would face a grilling about the whys, whens and wherefores of the fiscal compact referendum, especially from those arrayed on the 'No' side, including all of Sinn Fein, various members of the Technical Group and even Fianna Fail's deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv who hadn't yet decided upon his dramatic exit.

But there wasn't a dicky bird about the thing. It was the euro-elephant in the room, the phoney war before battle begins. Or so it seemed -- until by sundown the referendum had claimed its first casualty.

Not that Dev Og regards himself as such. He is still up for a scrap, but unlike Hamlet, isn't being guided into the fray by the ghost of an ancestor.

"I always remember when I went for election the first time, I went into a certain shop in Connemara and a tourist came out of the shop with a postcard, and written on the postcard was an Irish proverb, 'You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was'", recalled Eamon.

Golly. The scene is now set for tomorrow's Ard Fheis, and no mistake.

And now the spotlight is firmly on Micheal the Dev-Slayer.

Get the popcorn in.

Irish Independent

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