There was a certain irony this morning to the fact that we had the philosopher Paul Brady on RTE 1 discussing the merits of Machiavelli's "The Prince" as a guide to the modern politician, while on Newstalk we had Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael TD and spokesperson on Children's Issues, defending Enda Kenny's handling of the recently revealed scandal involving PJ Sheehan, another FG TD. On the one channel we had someone discussing the handbook for the politically ruthless, while on the other, we had waffle and spin designed to defend a decision which seems to define spineless weakness.
For those of you who don't know, and who couldn't be bothered clicking on the link, Mr. Sheehan was stopped by the Gardai leaving the Dail one night last July. He was, in the words of the attached article, '"extremely intoxicated" at the time, to the point that he required assistance to "remain upright"'. However, he insisted on being allowed to drive, and when the Garda in question tried to prevent him, she was told that her career was under threat and that "You'll get nothing from us when we're in power".
Leaving aside the delightful fact that Ireland has now been engulfed by two shameful political episodes in the space of less than a week, both involving alcohol, and from opposite sides of the house, what really stinks here is the complete absence of leadership FG are showing on the issue. Enda Kenny could not ask for a better opportunity to show off his political cojones! A 77-year old TD, who would probably not run in the next election, and who is only the Deputy Spokesperson on Agricultural Affairs is revealed to be undone by the demon drink, and in the process insults and threatens a servant of the state. Straight forward decision, Enda, red card him, announce that you when you are in power no one will be able to abuse their position for personal gain, and state categorically that those who work in the service of their fellow citizens deserve the respect of all. You come across as a great leader, statesmenlike and just, while simultaneously focussing attention on the Government and their refusal to can a Taoiseach who was, ahem, "hoarse" on the job. At worst, you annoy a few hardcore Blueshirts down in Cork South West who believe that it is every man's right to drive while drunk, and sure isn't that what Collins was fightin' for?
Instead, we again have the absolute absence of bravery in the Irish political arena. Kenny (who apparently only learned all the facts yesterday, even though the event happened in July, and Kenny was present at the time, and told the guard to ignore Sheehan!) has decided to deprive the good PJ of the mantle of Deputy Spokesperson on Agri- yadda yadda. So the bould PJ keeps his TD salary, keeps his expenses, keeps his perks, but merely has to stop pretending he cares about farmers nationwide, and can instead go on to only focus on the farmers of Cork South West. Magnificent.
We are always being told by the politicians how tough and underhand the party political environment is: how cut-throat can it be if even threatening a police officer won't lead to you getting the chop? Mr. Kenny, might I suggest you buy this book, and learn how this whole "leadership" thing is actually done.
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