Hope you enjoyed Christmas, had a good time last night and aren’t feeling too bleary today. Perhaps you are suffering from nasal congestion, and need to call in to Brian Cowen’s constituency office for a cure, or maybe if you live in County Meath you feel like making a visit to Minister Dempsey’s office and asking for a dig-out – after all with all the pension entitlements he has accumulated he might be able to help you.
Bertie in a cupboard. The Taoiseach in a bunker and a virtual Enda on the Fine Gael website wanting the public to give him ideas. Welcome to the surreal world of modern Irish politics. No wonder people are confused. They are also angry, disillusioned and they want change.
To be honest at this stage I don’t care what was discussed at the infamous golf outing at Druids Glen. The Taoiseach’s reputation is already trashed. Information has to be dragged out of him. It is described as a social event, and yet it is said weighty economic matters were covered. His driver was at the dinner, presumably so he could take him home. Isn’t it grand for some.
As I write this we are driving through Florida on a promotional tour for Slane Castle Irish Whiskey listening to Kings of Leon. The opening track to “Come around Sundown” is “The End”. Yes, Biffo, the lyrics do say “this could be the end”. People have been asking me what’s wrong with our Prime Minister. I’ve been explaining that he suffers from nasal congestion and we are going to have an election to clear the tubes. It really is the end but will it be a new beginning ?
The crisis facing our country is so deep that I have my doubts whether the existing participants in the political process have the vision or the courage to grasp what really needs to be done. At the heart of it is the fact that there is something rotten and dysfunctional, not only in the manner in which our own country has been governed, but also at the heart of Europe. We have been forced into a form of fiscal slavery by the conversion of bank debt into sovereign debt. The French, German and British banks lent our rogue banks billions. Of course they wanted us to take the bail-out. It gets their banks off the hook but enslaves the Irish taxpayers.
Is the die cast ? Endless Kenny, well handled by Minister for Enda , big Phil Hogan, will become Taoiseach. Eamon Gilmore will become Tanaiste and there will be a tussle over Finance, but Michael Noonan will probably shade it and eureka we will have a new government with a solid majority, even if elements of Labour and Fine Gael are pulling in different directions.
There is something fundamentally depressing about this general election campaign. It arises from a sense that behind it all is a tremendous sense of foreboding, a realisation that after it is all over, the real battle begins, and it will be fought not in the Dail chamber but in the corridors of power in Europe.
So, as things stand, in the midst of the deepest economic crisis that has faced the State since its inception, and with many people crying out for leadership and reform, we are confronted by the absolute certainty that our next Taoiseach will be a man who has been in the Dail since 1975 and is the father of the house. As I write this column and to the intense relief of his supporters he hasn’t so far made a gaffe. He has even been to Germany to talk to Angela Merkel. The future Minister for Enda, Phil Hogan, must be delighted and Fine Gael handler, Frank Flannery, must be trembling with excitement at the extraordinary prospect that the Blue Shirts might get an overall majority.
I do not envy the task of this incoming government , for immediately following its formation it will be faced with the job of defending the nation from financial penury. Fine Gael and Labour’s achievements in the election were stunning, and Enda Kenny’s dedication to electioneering by personally telephoning voters nothing short of inspired.
St. Patrick’s Day was special. I was home. Standing in the streets of Slane holding my granddaughter and watching a float go by celebrating 30 years of rock and roll, in the midst of a village steeped in history was joyous. St. Patrick lit his fire from the Hill of Slane. White doves of peace were released during the parade. It was a gathering of family and friends. There were cheerful and smiling faces everywhere. It was a reminder that we can get through this dark economic crisis that threatens to engulf us.