Tuesday 12 November 2019

Eoghan Harris: Gilmore has suffered a memory loss on Gaddafi

Even if born in a big city, we all come from a neighbourhood, a word I prefer to the cold "community", which I can never hear without a Sinn Fein subtext, as in "community activist". So I am delighted to read that Cork's Barrack Street Band will lead the St Patrick's Day parade through Savannah, Georgia.

When I was six, I lived with my grandfather Patrick Harris, an IRA veteran, in a small redbrick house in Nessan Street, off Barrack Street. Cork Major General Florrie O Donoghue -- who features chillingly in Gerard Murphy's the Year of Disappearances, Political Killings in Cork 1919-22 -- was a frequent caller to check facts for his biography of Tomas McCurtain.

During their sessions in the tiny front "parlour", I was banished to the top of the street, the site of two institutions that interested me mightily: a small sweet factory, where sheets of molten sugar fell slowly in sugary waterfalls, and the rehearsal rooms of the Barrack Street Band -- from which I still seem to hear the strains of Let Erin Remember.

Luckily for the beautiful city of Savannah, the musical Corkmen will behave with more restraint than Cavan-born General Phil Sheridan, who went marching through Georgia with fire and sword in Sherman's final push against the slave states.


Michael Noonan looks like spending the rest of his life in Brussels, arguing about the bailout. In Brussels be dragons. Relentless RTE reporting of every minor meeting is raising the bar of public expectations far too high.

Noonan has to steer a complex course. On the one hand, recriminations against European partners must be reined in lest it lead back to Labour's fruitless "Frankfurt" rhetoric. On the other hand, we have to take a hard line without stepping over that line.

John Bruton's recent speech at the London School of Economics offers a sound strategic approach. He says that EU leaders, by focusing solely on Irish responsibility for what happened, ignore the fact that free capital movement and a single interest rate risked creating speculative bubbles in parts of the European economy, including Ireland.

Bruton believes the EU and ECB evaded their responsibilities in relation to these risks. The result of that risk-taking must now be remedied, not just for Ireland's sake, but for Europe's sake. And while we may not need full fiscal policy federalism, we do need more effective monetary federalism.


Eric Luke's sunny photo of Brian Hayes and Lucinda Creighton cracking up at a Kenny joke signals a final healing in Fine Gael. The Taoiseach can head to the States leaving a happy home. Cheltenham contributes another feel-good factor.

But when the Taoiseach returns from the USA, he will still find himself running, not on the flat but in steeplechase, with the Becher's Brook of the bank bailout deal looming larger. Luckily -- and so far he has been a lucky leader -- Kenny enjoys three advantages.

First, a confident performance at the White House will silence his former media critics for another few weeks. Second, as a Taoiseach in the tradition of Jack Lynch, he is growing in office, and will not flinch under the slings and arrows. Lastly, he has no real opposition in Leinster House.

Paradoxically, this is a problem -- the spectacle of Kenny and Gilmore riding National Consensus, with Micheal Martin holding onto its tail while the opposition throw themselves fruitlessly at their feet. That situation in the long run is likely to benefit Sinn Fein in building a mass working- class party.


The Seanad elections are in full swing. For me, in a society where little separates the three main parties, political character trumps party allegiance. The Seanad elections spoil me for choice.

Accordingly, I propose to favour those who are sound on foreign policy. So I support those who are not likely to shout fashionable flotilla slogans, denounce Western democracy for keeping the world safe from dictators, or mutter "it's all about oil" whenever an American president proposes to defend democracy.

Among the many attractive candidates on offer are Jeff Dudgeon, Tony Williams, Sean Connick, Marc McSharry, Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson. And yes, I do know there is no woman on my list. I was coming to that.

Fidelma Healy-Eames of Fine Gael will get my

number one on the Labour panel. Apart from seeing her in action in the Seanad, where she is always articulate and well informed on economic and education issues, I was much moved by a message from Martin Concannon, one of her stoutest supporters.

He points out that since 1593, when Queen Elizabeth tried to bring Grainne Mhaol to heel, the political power and influence of women along the western shores has declined greatly. Apart from Maire Geoghegan Quinn's short period as a minister, women have largely found the West a barren landscape.

Martin is right. Only one woman, Michelle Mulhern of Fine Gael, was elected on the western seaboard between Donegal and South Kerry. In Galway, Fidelma Healy-Eames, despite her dedication to her constituents and a fine speaking record in the Seanad, missed a Dail seat by a mere 52 votes. Time to make amends.


Resign now, Miriam Lord tells Enda Kenny, meaning there are no higher mountains to climb after his perfect performance in the USA. Kenny's physical fitness, feel for American politics, sunny disposition and can-do attitude went down a storm in a country devoted to change.

In spite of my misgivings about his muddled approach to the Middle East, I welcome the visit of Barack Obama, whom I described in these columns as literally a black Protestant. But I would cheer even more enthusiastically if he were accompanied by Hillary Clinton, the woman who gazed at Gaddafi, saw he was evil, and held on until she got her no-fly zone.

Let me finish by giving two fingers to Robert Fisk and Eamon Gilmore. First to Fisk, for a nauseating outing on Newstalk this morning. Shane Coleman -- a welcome addition in covering Irish politics -- treated Fisk with the reflex reverence he receives on RTE, no matter what nonsense he spouts.

So what did Fisk think about the no-fly resolution? Fisk didn't seem to know. It might go horribly wrong because the British and the Americans were behind it. Or it might not be too bad because the Arab states wanted it. Waffle, whinge, whine.

Coleman should have asked Fisk two hard questions.

First, is he for or against taking down Gaddafi? Second, if the answer -- after a long waffle -- is yes, and only the Americans, British and French are ready to risk the lives of their brave pilots, why is Fisk so reluctant to praise the Clintons, Camerons and Sarkozys who are risking blood and treasure, and so anxious to suck up to Arab despots who only sit on their arses?

Gilmore is even more gormless. How can he stand beside Hillary Clinton at the White House, listen to her hard line against Gaddafi and not say: "Madam Secretary, we in Ireland fully support forcible action against the Libyan dictator, who supplied weapons to Provisional IRA terrorists in our own country"?

Let me repeat it for the record. Fine Gael should have gone it alone. Better alone than badly accompanied.

Sunday Independent

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