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Fergus Finlay: Enough of the 'national interest' guff, it's time this lot went once and for all

I never want to hear the phrase "the national interest" again. Every time it has been uttered in the past couple of days, it has been spouted out in some politician's self-interest.

People who have done enormous damage to our country are going around preening themselves as if they were super patriots.

If they had even the remotest understanding or care of where the national interest lies, they'd be long gone.

I have a pal I meet every now and again. His favourite phrase, whenever we start to talk about politics, is "you couldn't make it up".

When Bertie won all the money on the horses a few years ago, that was his reaction. When Willie O'Dea told the High Court he had never uttered a word about his constituency rival, and then was caught on tape doing precisely that, my pal used the same phrase.

But I met him last night just after the Green Party press conference, and he was dumb-struck. I kept waiting for my favourite phrase, but at last it was just beyond him.

What had blown his mind altogether was the fact that in the middle of the press conference, John Gormley had started delivering a lecture to the Opposition parties about their duty to the national interest!

Here was the leader of a political party with six TDs, four of whom were ministers or junior ministers, announcing that they had no confidence in the Government any more, and that there had to be an election before March.

Back in November they had said the same thing, only then the election had to be in January -- and they'd carried on drawing the ministerial salaries while they waited for it.

And now they were telling the Opposition they had a duty to the national interest!

They weren't the only ones, of course. Mary Hanafin talked about the national interest earlier in the day. Brian Lenihan put it into every paragraph he uttered.

So did Michael Martin and so did Eamon O Cuiv.

Every single one of them was launching a campaign to become leader of the political party that has brought Ireland to its knees -- and every single one of them was doing it in the national interest! Eamon O Cuiv is the grandson of the founder of Fianna Fail.

A month ago he was responsible for a massive cut in child benefit, and for swingeing cuts in a range of social supports that are only starting to bite now. Yesterday he decided to run for the leadership of Fianna Fail because of his well-known interest in social solidarity.


At the same time as running for the leadership of a political party, he holds down a job as Minister for Social Protection.

A few days ago he was also given the additional job as Minister for Defence.

And yesterday he was "assigned" to the post of Minister for the Environment.

Three ministerial portfolios, and he's running a campaign to be leader of his party.

In the national interest, or course.

Our country is going down the tubes, and we have a Government at half-strength.

If one of them gets swine flu, the entire Government will be unconstitutional, because they are at the bare number.

And if they're left to their own devices, they would allow this to carry on for months.

Unless they're forced to do it, they won't call an election for another three to four weeks. Then they'll swan around the country for four weeks of a campaign.

And even after the electorate kick them out on polling day, they'll be the "caretaker" Government for another three weeks after that before a new government can be elected.

We're living through a political nightmare, foisted on us by two political parties who couldn't be trusted with the weekly shopping.

And what's the betting that between now and polling day we'll see even more screw-ups at the hands of these people?

The only possible way they can serve the national interest is by promising never to seek election again.