Colette Browne – a very good writer of opinion – The Examiner is first class.

Ghosts of Fianna Fáil past return to give Martin a fright ahead of ard fheis

By Colette Browne

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AS Micheál Martin prepares this weekend for his first ard fheis as
Fianna Fáil leader, the atmosphere has been soured as ghosts of the
party’s shambolic past resurrect themselves to rattle their chains and
pour scorn on his performance.

One such ghoul is former Cork TD, Noel O’Flynn, for whom the passage
of time has had an amnesiac effect.

In an interview last week, an immodest O’Flynn was adamant that Cork
needed his brand of political representation, and, suggesting he was
willing to ‘selflessly’ give up the comfort of retirement and bravely
go once more into the breach, said he missed being “the voice of
Cork”.

Strangely, as far as I can recall, O’Flynn was more commonly referred
to as “the mouth,” because he was unable to keep it closed whenever a
tense situation demanded silence, and the moniker was entirely
disparaging.

One such occasion was back in 2002, when, a couple of days after a
racist attack left a Chinese student dead, O’Flynn decided to launch a
broadside against asylum seekers, denigrating them as “spongers,
freeloaders, wasters and con-men”. Ironically, his intemperate
outburst has provided historians with an apt description for most of
his former parliamentary-party colleagues.

Having now decided to recast himself as a heroic man of the people, a
misty-eyed O’Flynn said his unparalleled political nous was cut
prematurely short when he agreed to take one for the team and retire
from public life in advance of the last election.

O’Flynn’s retirement was not entirely altruistic, and, actually, he
only stepped down, thereby facilitating the election of party rival,
Billy Kelleher, in Cork North Central, because O’Flynn claimed Martin
promised to support his son Kenneth’s Seanad bid. Unfortunately, the
former TD’s dreams of a “Flynnesty” were cruelly dashed when his son
failed to win a seat and he has now assumed the role of bitter crank,
loudly accusing Martin of reneging on the deal.

While some of us would naively assume that an elected office, with its
attendant generous pay and perks, is not suitable for use as a sordid
bargaining chip, O’Flynn has no compunction about vilifying Martin for
failing to deliver on his promise to rubber-stamp his son’s graduation
to national politics.

So, while the former Cork TD was one of the first to publicly back
Martin in his leadership bid, he now mysteriously claims “he is part
of the problem”, and, in keeping with the party’s reputation for
self-effacement and humbleness, has compared the party’s trials to
those of Moses and his search for the promised land — or, in this
case, the government benches.

“Micheál Martin has been there for the whole 14 years while Fianna
Fáil were in government — he is part of the problem. It reminds me of
the 40 years that Moses spent in the desert, the reason being all
those that committed sins had to die off before they would find the
promised land,” he said.

Truly, the gall of the man knows no bounds, and the fact that the deal
was made tells you all you need to know about the so-called reform
agenda of the Fianna Fáil party. Fellow party stalwart, and
rose-tinted spectacle wearer, Mary O’Rourke also gave an interview
last week in which she denounced the current crop of TDs as “not very
bright or intelligent” and said that while Brian Cowen was, obviously,
“very smart and very intelligent … he wouldn’t smile for anyone and
that is what ruined us”.

Now, the new coalition government is not overrun with Mensa members,
that much is obvious, but at least the country didn’t cede its
economic sovereignty on their watch — a calamity that O’Rourke seems
to ascribe to the fact that the party’s disgraced former leader didn’t
say cheese enough. In between bouts of promoting her new reality show
on TG4, former tourism minister Mary Hanafin also found time last week
to publicly ponder where it had all gone wrong for the party — and,
more particularly, for herself.

While she expressed her bafflement at the bankrupt state of the
country, one thing she was assured of was if she had the chance to
again vote for the banking guarantee — you know, the one that wrote a
blank cheque for the entire banking system and beggared the country —
she would do it all again proving that you can’t teach an old dog new
tricks.

In fact, her only regret, and the thing she was most troubled by, was
giving a less than complimentary interview about Brian Cowen last
year, because, although she didn’t allude to this, her lack of loyalty
cost her the requisite grassroots support for a vice-presidency
position within the party.

Elsewhere, and apparently bored of spending his considerable lump-sum
payment and €128,000 annual pension, John ‘the Bull’ O’Donoghue also
chose this week to remind us all about how much we need him.

Last seen losing it at an election count, where he informed his
slack-jawed audience that it was “ironic” he was conceding defeat in a
“magnificent sports complex that I helped to build”, conjuring up
images of the notoriously red-faced TD up a scaffold plastering walls,
‘the Bull’ is now up to his old tricks and positioning himself for a
triumphant return to politics.

RENOWNED for his extravagant spending as a member of the last,
benighted government, when he thought nothing of using limousines to
take him between terminals at Heathrow, or the government jet to
ribbon-cutting constituency functions, O’Donoghue said many would be
surprised to learn that he lives quite frugally. Of course, now that
he’s spending his own money and not the State’s, his determination to
live the simple life is, perhaps, not so surprising. Lambasting the
upstarts who have replaced him in his Kerry-South constituency,
O’Donoghue suggested “their crowning moment was to attend the opening
of two [community] hospitals which I built” and baldly told voters,
“you’ve tried the rest, bring back the best”.

Four years after the economy imploded, with unemployment stubbornly
stuck over 14%, Mr O’Donoghue still doesn’t get it. He didn’t build
those community facilities in Kerry; it was the taxpayers of the
country who provided the money that was disproportionately siphoned
off to Kerry-South while he was minister for arts, sports and tourism,
and, unfortunately for his political ambitions, the era of auction
politics, when ministers could use departmental budgets to put a
down-payment on an election, is long over — the country can’t afford
it and the people will no longer stand for it.

With the Fianna Fáil party hovering at 16% support in opinion polls,
those criticising Martin’s performance as leader should, instead, be
counting their blessings that the party’s share of the vote has
stabilised and isn’t even lower, because it will be a cold day in hell
before many from my generation — those young people now
disproportionately suffering unemployment, forced to emigrate or
saddled with huge mortgages — will ever vote for a Fianna Fáil
candidate.