One week ago now, the Taoiseach was ’round the bar, then on the radio, then sitting on the fence, a sitting duck, deciding what way to play his cards after TD Coveney’s tweets. Now, he’s got his back to the wall. You can throw in a plethora of farmyard puns, but the fact remains that Brian Cowen was loved and is now goaded for the type of “popularity” of which we’ve been long aware.
I can still remember the whole Willie O Dea saga, although his situation was a horse/hoarse of quite a different colour (to throw in another farmyard pun). For all that happened, all the newspaper photos and the opinion articles that were published, it’s a line from a comedic skit that sticks in my mind: “You can say what you like about Willie O Dea, but Willie O Dea gets things done.” And this, this, is the truth. Willie O Dea (with 38.6% of the vote in the five seat Limerick east constituency) is the kind of man who does, or at least did, give Enda Kenny (20.6% in 5 seat Mayo) and Brian Cowen (26.7% in 5 seat Laois-Offaly) a run for their money when it came to racking up heaps and heaps of first preference votes. The reason that Brian Cowen has those two “TD” letters attached to the end of his name, and probably the title of Taoiseach before, comes down to a certain fusion of cockiness and humility (and smartness) that in Ireland translates to popularity. I remember when Irish citizens were aboard the flotilla in the waters near Palestine and Israel. I remember the words he spoke in the Dáil chamber: “If anything should happen to any of our citizens, there will be consequences”. You could feel the TDs quiver as an identical question momentarily moved to the back of their minds: “What consequences?”.
We’ve known what our Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been like for decades. There probably hasn’t yet been an election victory where a chorus of “The Offaly Rover” hasn’t been heard, and there’s quite a quality version on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j8F-9nmZ5I&feature=related . Now, if you’ve seen the video, it follows that after having sung a good few verses of the Rover, intermittently with a number of beers and an outrageous amount of chatting and handshakes (not that the handshakes would affect his voice), that upon getting up a few hours later, his voice just wouldn’t be in its prime for Morning Ireland. Look, if you want a Taoiseach who throws out a few verses of the Rover, then you’re not going to get a clean Monday morning interview. Obviously, as Taoiseach, the priority should be interviews. Why An Taoiseach chose to do both however, is beyond me?
I yearn for a new government, but I’m afraid that a changeover may only complicate things. The pressure is on Fianna Fáil and less decisions are going unnoticed than before. Maybe in twelve months it will be time for a change. Fine Gael and Labour say that they’re ready. Let’s hope they’re really ready in twelve to eighteen months.
Look, it’s a week gone and I can’t remember what questions Brian Cowen was even asked on the morning Ireland interview. I’m not sure that many people do. Only the hoarseness and the accusations will remain in my mind. I do, however, believe that there is a lot to be learned from such situations. I’d guess that An Taoiseach is still pondering his decisions in his own mind. If I were him, I’d be wondering why I gave the interview in the first place. There are many other ways other than late nights to get a hoarse voice, and when you do, you have to realise that you shouldn’t do an interview. Nobody wants to hear a hoarse voice on radio, whatever the reason. I would imagine that many people expect that An Taoiseach would organise himself in such a way as not to hinder himself in his duties. In this case, the sing-song-morning-interview was terrible terrible planning, whatever way you look at it.
Whether this mistake brings the government beyond the point of no return remains to be seen. I think the camel’s back still has a little more room for straw. From his initial position on the fence, Brian Cowen I believe, is rapidly coming to understand his mistake. He’ll realise, if he hasn’t already, that showing how he’s learning from this mistake is the key to spinning the debacle in his favour. Experience isn’t infallibility but rather learning.
Link to an article I read prior to writing this blog: “A Very Irish Hangover” by Kathy Sheridan, Irish Times, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0918/1224279149800.html?via=mr