Sunday 15 December 2019

O Cuiv is now nothing but a busted flush

More than three weeks before the casting of votes in the referendum, one clear winner has already emerged.

By successfully facing down his former deputy Eamon O Cuiv, Micheal Martin's position is now probably more secure than at any time since he was elected Fianna Fail leader in January 2011.

In truth, Mr Martin has been blessed with his enemies. Since last February, when he announced that he was opposed to the Fiscal Stability Treaty and would be voting No in the referendum, Mr O Cuiv's behaviour has grown increasingly erratic.

For someone who clearly harboured ambitions of replacing Mr Martin as the leader of the political party founded by his grandfather Eamon de Valera, Mr O Cuiv has gone about things in a very ham-fisted manner.

From the time he was first elected Fianna Fail leader 16 months ago, Mr Martin's critics have alleged that he lacked decisiveness and was unwilling to confront difficult situations head on. Mr O Cuiv's half-hearted challenge since the Government called a referendum at the end of February has given Mr Martin the opportunity to belie those critics.

But he took his time in doing so. While the issue of Mr O Cuiv's opposition to the Fiscal Stability Treaty has been festering for more than two months, it was only when he reiterated his opposition to the treaty last week -- and for good measure opined that Sinn Fein would be his preferred coalition partners in any future government of which Fianna Fail formed part -- that the party leadership was forced to act.

Even when Fianna Fail belatedly moved against Mr O Cuiv, it did so in a very low-key manner with chief whip Sean O Fearghail writing to him politely pointing out that it was party policy to support the treaty.

While the threat of expulsion was certainly implicit, Mr O Fearghail's letter never explicitly mentioned Mr O Cuiv's future membership of the party.

Instead, it was Mr O Cuiv who chose to raise the issue of his membership of the party. All day yesterday we were promised a major announcement from him on the plinth of Leinster House. The announcement, when it came at teatime, was a severe anti-climax. Instead of following his conscience and campaigning against the treaty, even if that meant being kicked out of Fianna Fail, Mr O Cuiv told us that he would be staying in the party after all and meekly promised not to campaign for a No vote.

Mr O Cuiv, a bit like the Grand Old Duke of York, was left looking ridiculous. After marching his troops up the hill, all he could think of doing was to march them back down again. After yesterday's performance, it is difficult to see Mr O Cuiv ever re-emerging as a credible challenger for Mr Martin's job.

After wrestling with his conscience and deciding to stay put in Fianna Fail, Mr O Cuiv is now nothing but a busted flush.

Irish Independent

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