FINE GAEL HAVE JOB ON HANDS TO BEAT SHINNERS.
So Simon Coveney says the Blue Shirts will not be “too despondent” about its latest showing in the polls, but if the truth be known they damn well should be, because amongst their supporters I am detecting a distinctly held view that Sinn Fein will form the next government and that “we better get used to the idea of Mary Lou being the next Taoiseach”. Well how has it come to this ? Not long ago Leo Varadkar was seen by his parliamentary party as the golden boy who could sprinkle electoral stardust and deliver votes. Not so, just look at the latest evidence in the Bye-Election in Dublin Bay South, when Labour’s Ivana Bacik won the seat in what was regarded as Fine Gael heartland. Without question the Zappone-affair inflicted considerable damage both to the Leader and Deputy Leader of the party. It made members and supporters of the party uncomfortable. It goes to the root cause of what was so unattractive about the Zappone affair, an overweening sense of entitlement and the attitude that the rules for the many don’t apply to us. That was why during the formation of this government, I thought the Tánaiste’s insistence that he should have an aide-de-camp sent out all the wrong signals. That is a privilege normally reserved for the President and the Taoiseach and in a sense you could argue he was disrespecting both of them, so the Tánaiste, who has acquired the nickname of “Leo the Leak” and is still technically under criminal investigation for the leaking of a government document, is not as secure in his leadership as he might imagine. Simon Coveney, the Blue Prince from Cork, is looking a little tired of the political race and should his leader fall would he be the right person to take the battle to Mary Lou or will the party faithful be tempted to look elsewhere ? I might hazard a guess that they would need a new fresh leader to take on Mary Lou. As the possibility of a Sinn Fein led government zooms near there will be a significant proportion of Fine Gael supporters who will clamour for a leader capable of stopping the Mary Lou juggernaut. Now there may well be those who see the solid and steadying hand of Heather Humphreys as the answer, as the only Presbyterian member of the Dail, she is, believe it or not, Minister of Justice, Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands and it shows competence. She would certainly have the bottle to take on Mary Lou. However, I think a more interesting contender may be the current Minister without portfolio, Helen McEntee, who is presently on maternity leave. Frankly being out of the frame at the moment gives her a great advantage. She can distance herself more effectively from the current leadership, enabling her if she so wished to be a fresh new broom. She has impeccable Fine Gael roots as her father Shane was a popular Fine Gael TD for Meath. Helen McEntee is a savvy political operator who has seen Leo Varadkar up close and personal, most particularly having to deal with the tricky issues around the High Court Judge Seamus Wolfe. Able, attractive and articulate – a good antidote to Mary Lou.