Thursday 19 September 2019

Kevin Doyle: Carey resignation brings unease within FF to the surface

Pat Carey has stepped down from his position as director elections for Fianna Fail
Pat Carey has stepped down from his position as director elections for Fianna Fail
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Even when he was being savaged by Pat Rabbitte on 'Prime Time' for having "destroyed this economy", Pat Carey was still regarded as one of the good guys.

His re-emergence during the Marriage Equality referendum was not expected in political circles but it proved a major coup for Fianna Fáil who faced criticism they weren't fully committed to the Yes side.

Mr Carey spoke about coming out as gay in his sixties, about having a partner for the past four years and about why he felt equality was such a big issue.

There are few who would argue against the proposition that the 68-year-old's intervention swung many voters, particularly in the older age demographic who were more likely to vote no.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin frequently pointed towards Mr Carey's prominent role in the campaign as he tried to sell the message that his party played its part.

But it still came as a surprise to many Fianna Fáil TDs and senators when the former minister arrived back in party headquarters as the director of elections.

"It came out of left-field to me," admitted one TD.

It was a calculated risk by Mr Martin who wanted to appeal to a more liberal voter. There was no doubt that the former school teacher had the experience and knowledge necessary for the job.

During 14 years in Leinster House he had progressed through the party ranks and by the end of Brian Cowen's government was nicknamed the 'minister for everything'.

He was loyal to Cowen while others ran for their political lives and ultimately that cost him his seat in Dublin North West.

The director of elections position usually goes to a sitting politician but the leader went "outside the current hierarchy".

It raised eyebrows but unhappy TDs and senators did not want to start the campaign with headlines that read: "Fianna Fáil election row".

Nobody could have predicted that exactly a month later, Mr Carey would step down amid "rumour and innuendo" linked to reports that a former minister was under investigation for child abuse allegations.

The fact that Fianna Fáil, rightly or wrongly, now find itself attached to the scandal has led to significant murmurings about the leadership.

On the eve of an election that is the last thing he needs, although party sources say it would be worse if Enda Kenny had stuck to his guns and called a November vote.

Party members don't expect any public backlash from the story and notably don't feel they will be damaged in the eyes of the public in the same way that Sinn Féin was after being associated with Republican sex abuse scandals.

However, it may become a catalyst for a deeper unhappiness within to come to the surface.

TDs and senators complain that a small pool of people carry all the influence and key decision are being taken without consultation.

Mr Martin has managed to etch out some breathing space from Sinn Féin in the opinion polls, and while he has limited his post-election Coalition options, most buy into the idea that the party is running a "two-election strategy".

Next year is about getting back in the game after five years of penance, while the subsequent election will be the real battle to get back into power.

Whether Mr Martin is the g eneral leading Fianna Fáil into that fight is open to debate.

His detractors are not so much waiting in the long grass as watching his every move.

"All of that is beginning to simmer now. Of course it's nothing to do with what is alleged now but these things bring focus on other issues," said one TD.

The election is being sold as one that is about stability for the country but Michéal Martin may need to steady his own ship first.

Irish Independent

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