Posted on 21st April 2018

Slane Castle

The one thing that struck me watching a rather nervous Minister for Communications Denis Naughten trying to defend himself in the Dail was how remarkably close his head was shaven.  I thought to myself this is deeply symbolic, you could hardly see a hair on his head.  The expressions “by a whisker” and “ a close shave” leapt to mind.  I knew then he was going to survive.  What he did was wrong.  It is such palpable nonsense to try to suggest that he was just expressing his “personal opinion” to Eoghan O’Neachtain, a lobbyist for INM.  He was the Minister for Communications, for God’s sake.  Now I know that the reality is that this is not like the Frances Fitzgerald saga when Fianna Fail were prepared to go to the brink.  In this instance the Soldiers of Destiny do not want to plunge the country into a general election.  However, this misses the point.  If a Minister makes a blunder like this, surely he should answer for his actions.  In this particular instance, he was handling commercially sensitive information.  Where was Leo?  In my view the Taoiseach should have asked for the Minister’s resignation.  For days on end now we have been greeted with more and more revelations about what has been going on at INM.  At this point, the public have every reason to be concerned.  This whole affair smacks too much of the nod and the wink.  I don’t hold with the argument that it is naive not to expect this sort of thing to happen.  The truth of the matter is at a very time when there are very serious questions to be answered about what is going on in our biggest media group, we need a Minister for Communications we can trust.  We also need a Taoiseach who we can trust to do the right thing.  In this case he clearly hasn’t.

I was in London last week and one thing struck me in particular, things seemed very quiet.  Was it Brexit ?  To be honest, it is really hard to tell but what did interest me about those that I engaged with is that there was not the same sense of gloom about their future economic circumstances.  This surprised me because it is at variance with so much I read about future prospects for the UK.  Still, sterling is strengthening and Theresa May’s credibility is on the rise.  Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifist stance on Syria has annoyed backbenchers in his own party and his weak response to rising anti-Semitism has been deeply damaging.  The idea of the impending collapse of the May government and a red tide sweeping Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street is receding.  However, one thing I did learn from those I talked to was a sense of apprehension about the Border issue.  There is no solution to this on the immediate horizon.  We urgently need some really imaginative thinking.

I returned home at the beginning of the week and then had the pleasure to greet some American guests who had come to visit the Slane Whiskey Distillery.  We are starting to catch up with Scotland where whiskey tourism and everything associated with it is big business.  We have got two sayings at the Castle “Slane Rocks” and “Slane on the Rocks”.  The group were all considerably younger than me and were curious when I explained that I had been an undergraduate at Harvard.  The conversation soon got on to politics.  Not a Trump supporter amongst them but an understanding of why he was elected and one young lady in particular who saw a close correlation to Brexit.  I was then asked if Trump would meet the same fate as Nixon.  I said I genuinely didn’t know but that of all things I was currently reading a book called “Kill the President” by Sam Bourne.

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