It has been a sobering week. The man who looked me in the eye at a public conversation in UCD two months ago, who said he could not unsew what he had sewn, and that RTE was a receding shore to which he would never return, has unsewn. It is the sea that now recedes.
George Lee spoke with such a tremulous gallantry that we didn't see through the sham. More importantly, nor did the 27,000 electors who were lured with false promises of fealty, of service, of duty, of integrity, and of honour. They were betrayed, utterly: so too were his two secretaries, now out of work.
So Lee will return to the Gomorrah that is Montrose, and presumably all will be forgotten. He will be in good company.
I thought a year ago that we had reached the nadir of nadirs, but I had clearly underestimated Ireland's creative capacity for deceit, humbug and cowardice. And so I have no idea when the reek of hypocrisy in this state will finally cause people of this island to keel over and vomit. If Montrose be our gauge, not for a while.
But the events of the past week showed us the true mettle of Fine Gael. It is not a party fit to govern or to lead. The Lee act of betrayal was a wonderful opportunity for Enda Kenny to show true anger, to cry repentance for his folly and to rage against the hypocrisy and me-feinery of his former party colleague. Instead, we got incomprehensible, aimless verbiage: not wrath but froth.
And behind him, not a single person that could lead the country, with composure, integrity, dignity and calm. But that is the nature of Fine Gael. It is defined by self-doubt and equivocation. With all its Lucindas, its Simons, its Garrets, its Olwyns and its Richards, its silly name notwithstanding, it is not a family of Gaels. It is a perpetual minority, largely of non-Gaelic, Anglo-Norman Catholics in ethnic origin: strong farmers, smalltown merchants and lawyers.
Fianna Fail, with its eighty years of being in the driving seat -- with the Simons being occasionally permitted to take over whenever Cuchulainn got tired at the wheel -- still gets the obedient Soloheadbeg vote. But with so much political power for so long, it has colonised the old unionist boroughs of Pembroke and Kingstown, and the salubrious postal districts of Dublin 4 and 6. It has created a mandarin class whose accents and manners are identical to those of Fine Gael. Fianna Fail children go to Clongowes and Gonzaga, and their social camouflage is completed by their gloriously Protestant names: the Emmas, the Jessicas and the Jennies whose great grandfathers (or so the family legend maintains) were in the GPO.
The civil service is now an undeclared extension of Fianna Fail. Its upper ranks in particular have the moral values of Fianna Fail. These unashamed senior officers understand perfectly how they should NOT be expected to contribute proportionately to the saving of the Irish state, and equally, why they should not be expected to explain why. Pure Fianna Fail.
The daughters of these Fianna Fail mandarins might speak Californianised Kingstown -- omigod, no way Lucinda! -- but the pike lies in the spiritual thatch still. Take them to a social gathering of Sinn Fein/IRA, Fine Gael, Unionists, and they'll join the Shinner table. Their suits might shimmer with expensive threads, but they embody still the weird morality of Fianna Fail, in which clan and conspiracy, cronyism and ancestral cordite define loyalty.
But tribal confidence is the real key to Fianna Fail. Foreign diplomats on assignment here are routinely astonished by the armour-plated smugness of the Irish middle classes, from people who have never been to a concert in their lives or seen a Shakespeare play. Regardless of how little they know about something, they will have a dogmatic opinion about it, and never listen to other opinions. As one visiting American said recently: "Ireland can really feel like being stuck in the dumb class with the loud kids who never do their homework. It's like they can't even be bothered to google and find out the bare basics."
The rest of us gaze through the window, watching. We are irrelevant. We speak of law: Fianna Fail speaks of deals. And it is the deal-making culture that has brought us to ruin. So the Fianna Fail vampire should now be lifeless in its stone tomb, a stake in its heart as the scorching sun rises.
Instead, it is Fine Gael -- inept, querulous, and gibbering -- which is this dawn blinded by the terrible realities of life in a society that demands neither public diligence, nor probity, nor honour.
All, all of a piece throughout: thy chase had a beast in view. Thy wars brought nothing about. Thy lovers were all untrue.