Tuesday 19 June 2018

Despite what they say, it was a good week for Leo

At the start of last week, Micheal Martin seemed like the lucky one, but in the end, it all worked out pretty well for Leo Varadkar too

Reshuffle: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with newly appointed ministers Heather Humphreys and Josepha Madigan, plus new Tanaiste Simon Coveney outside Government Buildings, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Reshuffle: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with newly appointed ministers Heather Humphreys and Josepha Madigan, plus new Tanaiste Simon Coveney outside Government Buildings, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Does anyone else think Leo had quite a good week? As it ended, he was parading one-and-a-half shiny new female ministers and Micheal Martin was writing love letters to Europe about his best frenemy. Indeed, last week seemed to bring Micheal and Leo closer than ever. Shane Coleman and Stephen Collins, two shrewd commentators who don't mind standing outside the herd, were predicting the Government could last a lot longer than everyone else is assuming.

There's no doubt that Leo and Micheal seem more united after their first proper row. Even as the row went on over the course of last weekend, the rhetoric on either side was being slowly toned down, with Fine Gaelers, by last Monday, pulling back on accusations that Fianna Fail were just playing politics. Simon Coveney, in his now infamous appearance on Claire Byrne last Monday night, had gone from reckless condemnation of Fianna Fail to accepting their bona fides that all they were looking for was political accountability. Coveney was being mocked by the mob last Monday as a kind of Comical Ali figure for still staunchly defending Frances when everyone agreed her ship had already sailed after the additional emails that became public earlier that day. But, in fact, the internal party politics of Fine Gael were more important at that point and Coveney knew what he was doing.

The party stuck by Frances to the end and even after her fall. Even if she had retired without a scandal, the tributes paid to her, by those in her own party and even political opponents, could not have been warmer. This was, the message was clear, a decent, honourable woman, a great politician and well liked, and no one took any pleasure in her having to step down. But it had to be done. One of those unfortunate things. The rules of the game. She was greeted with a standing ovation by her own party at their first meeting after her retirement. No one seemed to have any urge to really stick the knife in, and Fine Gael almost got away with it - apart from Leo's assertion that Frances would be back at the top level of politics soon, which might have been pushing it a bit too much for some people. But nobody could argue with the fact that she could well get off on a technicality when she comes before Charleton in January.

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