Appointed at teatime on Saturday, June 27, and sacked just after teatime on Tuesday, July 14, Barry Cowen’s term as a government minister was inordinately short.
In recent history the only thing that compares with that is the case of former Donegal Fianna Fáil TD, Dr James McDaid. After defeating the fifth leadership heave against him in November, 1991, Charlie Haughey, set about a cabinet re-shuffle including a replacement of defeated rebels.
Haughey chose Dr McDaid, then an up and coming backbencher first elected in June 1989, to be Defence Minister. But before they even got to Áras an Uachtaráin, and the official conferring of ministerial seals, all hell had broken loose.
From the opposition benches, Fine Gael and the Workers’ Party, raised the question of Dr McDaid being cited as an alibi, along with other people, for James Pius Clarke. The British authorities had sought Mr Clarke’s extradition for alleged Republican offences which the Irish Supreme Court rejected.
The opposition TDs pointed to a photograph of Dr McDaid in the company of anti-extradition campaigners. Their arguments about the sensitivity of the Defence Minister’s role at a time of continuing IRA violence spooked Fianna Fáil’s coalition partners, the Progressive Democrats.
After a meeting between the Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and the Progressive Democrat leader, Des O’Malley, all the government appointments were postponed for a day. Then Dr McDaid publicly withdrew his name from the nominations.
James McDaid had been almost a minister for almost a day.
But Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, may be looking at a more recent short-lived ministerial span to help him through these tough days.
In June 1997 Bertie Ahern appointed veteran Ray Burke, who had been a mentor to Ahern in opposition, as Foreign Affairs Minister. The new Taoiseach had put aside fears about allegations of planning irregularities concerning Burke.
But these allegations persisted and Burke resigned from cabinet and the Dáil on October 7, barely four months after his appointment. It was a body blow to Ahern’s fledgling minority coalition – but he persisted and won two subsequent elections continuing as Taoiseach for 11 years.
Fine Gael also had these difficulties. In December 1994 John Bruton, heading a three-party rainbow coalition, named Michael Lowry as Communications Minister. But in November 1996 Mr Lowry was obliged to resign and a subsequent tribunal found he had evaded tax by having a supermarket tycoon pay for building work at his home.
The dithering minister has turned into the Terminator Taoiseach as Micheál Martin got blood on his hands. Barry Cowen's position as Agriculture Minister was "terminated" after he refused to clarify his position.
Ordinarily, when a political party is returned to government – particularly in the wake of a recent election which nearly decimated it – its members express joy, pride and gratitude. But, then, Fianna Fáil was never an ordinary party.