Wednesday 17 July 2019

Mary Lou should read O'Malley's book to learn serving Ireland isn't just about following the leader

Des O'Malley and Liz O'Donnell
Des O'Malley and Liz O'Donnell
Charles Haughey
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

Des O'Malley's autobiography - 'Conduct Unbecoming' - is an essential educational read for anyone who cares about Irish politics. From the late 1960s to the early Noughties, his intellectual rigour, search for truth and plain speaking made him a role model for public representatives.

In a business submerged in expediency, he exemplified integrity.

He offered Fianna Fail a moral compass during the era of Charlie Haughey, when it was most needed. Yet they vilified him, eventually expelling him as a TD and member. Mr O'Malley rejected crass constituency clientelism from the get-go. After filling the Dail seat belonging to his late uncle, Donogh O'Malley, a woman approached him to pay for renewal of her TV licence. "Donogh always paid it for me," she said. Des replied merely: "Oh, did he?"

If you're a CJ Haughey loyalist, you'll find this book tough going. The author is unrelenting in chronicling his flaws, while acknowledging his talent. The former Taoiseach's role in the arms crisis and resultant trial represents him as dishonest. His private relationships with an assortment of business groups allege use of public office for personal gain. The national interest seemed subservient to his immediate personal opportunistic political interests on issues such as the Anglo-Irish Agreement, internal FF democratic procedures, contraceptive legislation, fraudulent budgets, deal-making with independent TDs, intimidation of backbenchers, illegitimate phone tapping and promoting unsuitable individuals as ministers.

There's no hiding place for those who blindly gave Mr Haughey unswerving allegiance. Mr Haughey's historical legacy is indelibly stained by this memoir.

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is the subject of ridicule. Mr O'Malley compares him to four other taoisigh during his 34 years as TD (Jack Lynch, Liam Cosgrave, Garret FitzGerald and Mr Haughey): concluding: "These four individuals had different strengths and weaknesses; but they were all head and shoulders above Reynolds, politically and intellectually. Personally, I don't think he was up to being Taoiseach."

Obviously, Mr Reynolds mismanaged two coalitions, which imploded because relationships had broken down. The Beef Tribunal became a toxic issue between them. Mr O'Malley is lukewarm about aspects of the peace process, due to what he saw as excessive appeasement of terrorists.

Charlie McCreevy, Michael McDowell and Pat Cox all have their perceived failings illuminated; Jack Lynch and Mary Harney, on the other hand, are revered. Autobiographies involve some revenge, settling old scores on your own terms - this one is particularly abrasive, unforgiving and direct.

Mr O'Malley's legacy has often been defined and judged in the context of the more stellar careers of others. But this misses the key values Mr O'Malley brought to Irish politics. He didn't need a Standards in Public Office (SIPO) to tell him what was right and wrong. Many modern political leaders ascend to the very top because they are fundamentally people pleasers, always justifying the means - prepared to perform somersaults, breaking solemn promises, devoid of principle, pragmatic to the point of prostitution, open to any temporary alliances and so skilled at disloyalty and manipulation as to survive all assaults. Mr O'Malley regularly became part of an awkward squad because he wouldn't acquiesce, stay quiet or do as he was told. Never was there a greater need for these qualities than in today's Dail.

Chapter Five of the book - 'Enemies of Society' - makes for chilling reading. As Justice Minister, Mr O'Malley had to deal with the Provos head-on in safeguarding the security of the State. This leads him to the conclusion that modern-day Sinn Fein - and Gerry Adams, in particular - should not be treated as a normal democratic party.

In the eyes of some, Mairia Cahill's allegations against them might support the suggestion that O'Malley's warnings are to be heeded.

Any attempt at cynical demonisation of this woman must be confronted head-on. Having originally rubbished her rape allegations, they accepted those facts and shifted onto spurious unprovable assertions by the late Joe Cahill and Siobhan O'Hanlon. When all else failed to get traction, they smeared her with the 'dangerous Dissident' label, implying that she was a fellow traveller with illegal organisations such as the Real or Continuity IRA - a ridiculous and unsustainable lie.

She has an unblemished record. She now finds herself abused, traumatised, homeless, fearful and in debt. She mustn't be silenced and deserves unstinting public support. Her accusers on social media include Seamus Finucane, who implied on Facebook that she was seduced and in a relationship with her accused rapist. Mr Finucane was referred to in the BBC Spotlight programme along with Padraic Wilson as being part of the IRA kangaroo court structure in Belfast.

Wilson was the leader of IRA prisoners in the Maze prison and was sentenced to 24 years for possession of a car bomb in 1991. He was subsequently released under the Good Friday agreement in 1999. He was later involved in the IRA's internal investigation into the 2005 murder of Robert McCartney. Further to Mr McCartney's sisters' international campaign for justice, the IRA expelled three of its members for their involvement in McCartney's murder.

Another former IRA volunteer, Anthony McIntyre, has explained Sinn Fein's current response as "organised lying". He too has been dismissed as being a dissident. Sinn Fein wants us to airbrush their past in their fresh search for new voters in the Republic. Recent by-elections in Dublin West and South-west proved they couldn't extend over the winning line as they were transfer toxic. Electoral growth is dependent on a strategic transformation to tell the truth about past "restorative and innovative justice" as outlined by Gerry Adams on his blog on the Leargas website.

Mary Lou McDonald and other Sinn Fein TDs face the same dilemma as Des O'Malley did in Fianna Fail.

He wasn't prepared to put the party before principles of honesty. He refused to accept Mr Haughey's modus operandi. Blanket denials that Gerry Adams was ever a member of the IRA continue to treat voters' intelligence with contempt. We can't rely on truthful admissions from Sinn Fein, so a public enquiry, in the Republic and the North, is essential. Mairia Cahill's heroic courage deserves no less.

A raped woman was forced to face her tormentor; then failed by the North's courts system, due to omerta fascism of non-compliant witnesses. Does Mary Lou really expect us all to look away? What a disappointment.

Irish Independent

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