The Fianna Fail response to "Portergate" has been depressingly comic. Let's split that phrase apart: two central themes, depression and comedy. Let's start with the latter.
It is comic for Brian Cowen to suggest that Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney's tweet is "a new low" in Irish politics. Coveney may have been somewhat tactless in sending his thoughts out into the internet ether, when the general public had already begun commenting on Biffo's terrible performance; but was it a new low? Below ceding the State's responsibility for orphan's and mentally-disabled children to the Catholic Church? Below engaging in covert arms smuggling into Northern Ireland, and then pinning the blame on an Army Intelligence officer? Below even stoking the most over-inflated property bubble in, quite possibly, the history of mankind? Below using one's maiden speech in the Dail to demand that the Jews be routed out of the country? No, I don't think so.
It was comic for Dermot Ahern to claim Cowen was only "congested" on Damien Kiberd's Newstalk programme yesterday. It was comic for Mary Hanafin to claim Cowen was only "hoarse" on Prime Time last night. It was comic for Micheal Martin to claim this morning that Coveney's text had cause Ireland to lose serious face before the world. It is comic, in the extreme, for Fianna Fail to try to suggest that the whole incident is some sort of Blueshirt conspiracy to bring poor Brian down. Seriously, lads, you keep telling us the Blueshirts aren't organised enough for government: if they could pull off this sort of coup, they're organised enough to be the bad guys in the Da Vinci code!
Which leads me on to depression - I immediately sink into despondent gloom when I realise that the reason the FF crowd are spinning away merrily on this topic is because they are pathologically incapable of taking responsibility. If Biffo even showed the slightest hint of being prepared to take the blame, of actually putting his hand up and saying "you know what, I was out too late and gave a bad interview. I am sorry" you might actually confuse his refreshing honesty with something approaching leadership ability. But instead, they treat us like we are idiots - yes, Biffo was out till 3.30am, yes he was drinking, but no, when he woke up he wasn't hungover - he had a cold!
The inability to admit mistakes, the refusal to recognise failings, the belief that they can pull the wool over our eyes, these are the characteristics our government displays. And, if today they are trying to pretend it wasn't the Taoiseach's fault that he was hungover, for the last two years they have been spinning that they are not at fault for a rapidly collapsing economy. Even a modicum of leadership, of moral bravery, would go a long way now. Instead, we get this, from Frank Fahy TD ...
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