Feel lucky, punk?

So the early stages of the southern election campaign have been dominated by Bertie’s finances. This is probably entirely predictable, when you bear in mind that the timing of the election was very specifically designed to get the Mahon Tribunal adjourned. But apart from the usual to and fro, there are two aspects to this thing that interest me.

The first is the intervention of Tánaiste, interior minister and Desocrat gauleiter Michael McDowell. Given that his party’s supposed raison d’être is to keep Fianna Fáil honest, Dirty Mike could scarcely fail to come out with a hard-hitting response. Nor did he. What McDowell said was that, while the Desocrats would not leave the government, he, McDowell, could not vote for Bertie’s re-nomination as Taoiseach unless he, Bertie, gave a full statement on his personal finances to the Dáil. Now remember that neither of these things – the statement or the vote – could take place until the Dáil reconvenes, namely until after the election.

Bertie, who has more front than Amanda Brunker, treated this flapdoodle with the contempt it deserved. Of course, our leader said, he had no objection to giving a statement to the Dáil after the election. And why should he have? The worst that could happen is that he would be subjected to a more than usually sanctimonious speech from Rabbitte. And Bertie, with the wicked sense of humour one expects, went on to make Dirty Mike look even more ridiculous by offering to answer detailed questions on his finances, but only to the proper authority – the Mahon Tribunal, conveniently adjourned until after the election.

Our Bertie is a lot sharper than he lets on. He’s well aware that in the next Dáil the Desocrats – who could well see their parliamentary party reduced to just McDowell and Harney – won’t exactly be in a position to issue ultimata. And we’ve been in this selfsame situation before. Last year, McDowell had a perfect opportunity to bring the government down over Bertie’s brown envelopes trouble. Bertie played chicken with him and Dirty Mike, whose desire to remain Tánaiste far outweighs his concern for the probity of public life, bottled it.

The second interesting aspect of this affair is that, far from this corruption row being a disaster for Fianna Fáil, FF’s poll ratings are starting to pick up a little. This of course also happened during last year’s Bertiegate storm, and it puts me in mind of Sir Garret’s dictum that the Irish political class isn’t really all that appalling when you consider the Irish electorate. It seems the great unwashed aren’t quite as high-minded as Electric Enda, Rabbitte and the Irish Times. Plus, many of those most loudly proclaiming their outrage at FF corruption would never go near FF in the first place. Indeed, I come back to a recurring theme of this blog, that the state class of tofu-eating South Dublin neo-democrats exist in an antagonistic relationship to most of the Irish nation. So, when IT editrix Geraldine Kennedy berates the peasantry for being so morally derelict as to vote Fianna Fáil, it only makes the peasantry even more likely to vote Fianna Fáil.

Besides, so what if Bertie is on the take? If you believe Frank Dunlop, so is most of the political class, and FF more so only because FF is the dominant party in the state. In fact, what is more surprising is the relatively modest amounts quoted. Bertie is no Robert Mugabe – he isn’t even a Charlie Haughey. And I have a feeling that it does his image as a lovable Del Boy figure no harm at all.

1 Comment

  1. WorldbyStorm said,

    May 10, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    I certainly think you’re correct that there is a curious, if inverted, class aspect to FF support, one that incorporates both urban and rural working classes to a greater degree and proportion than any other political formation on the island. And that’s what sustains it through good and bad times. And that too, behind the sneering, is what motivates much of the antipathy from the bien pensants who are unable to distinguish (or perhaps they are, now I think of it) populist centrism from corruption and consider their hands are clean while their noses are in different troughs. Hmmm… that came out way too pompous.

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