Updated: 22/11/17 : 04:13:33
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Tánaiste fights on for her political future

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

FRANCES FITGERALD is fighting for her political future, that much became clear in the Dáil last night, Tuesday.

Nothing she did will damage her was the subtext of her main statement shortly after 8pm.

However, what she did NOT do could (ultimately) cause her continuing and greater grief.

Looked Comfortable

The Tánaiste herself has ensured that but neither she nor her opponents landed a heavyweight glove or a knockout last night.

The Tánaiste looked comfortable on Oireachtas live TV when the Leas Ceann Comhairle Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher ended this episode. 

But maybe down on the floor of the Dáil it was ‘relief’ moreso than ‘comfort’ that Frances Fitzgerald felt; the proverbial calm we see before the storm’s fullest fury.

Minor Partners

A Motion of ‘No Confidence’ is already being mooted.....but that may be designed more to test Fianna Fail’s stasis rather than the stand taken by Fine Gael last night.

Unlike coalitions over the past three decades, the minor partners appear not to have much to say — publicly anyway — on the major issues of the day, this one included.

All this and much more became abundantly clear in that hour of questions to the Tánaiste, sandwiched between her special statement and wrap-up reply last night.

Three Questions

Fianna Fáil asked three questions but its spokesman Jim Callaghan said the Minster  had not answered two of those.

We will not get a general election before or (immediately) after Christmas from this issue.

Fianna Fáil might be (sorely) tempted to catch Sinn Féin on the hop — catch the Shinners in no mans land on its leadership. 

But whenever — whenever — we get the next election, the Tanaiste’s style in this issue will move back centre onstage.....if she is still in post.

In such scenario, the person who made her Tánaiste would also come under scrutiny. That’s the nature of politics.

It can be argued — and with some good merit — that the issue this week at stake is NOT about either Frances Fitzgerald or Leo Varadkar.

It was and remains overall all about Garda senior management attitude, plural, to a whistleblower who would not stay silent or sthum, Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Lawful Authority

But the Department of Justice statement to Katie Hannon of RTE late Monday night has re-energised a Dail debate that will never go away.

To borrow an apt idea, this whole episode is ‘the gift that goes on giving,’ to the Opposition anyway. 

Who told who and who knew what and when and what did they then do within their lawful authority and obligation(s).

In that respect, the shortest, most succinct and most telling contribution last night came from Social Democrat Roisin Shortall, all of one minute.

Boosted Confidence

Two things might have helped Fitzgerald when she was on the square last night.

It would have boosted confidence(s) all around to see the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sit four-square at her side in the Dail. 

Why? Well the Tánaiste herself told the Dail that the Taoiseach himself had been in contact yesterday with Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The Dail should know if there was (a) anything new or (b) anything germane in what the Garda whistleblower had to say about the issue privately yesterday. 

Hopefully we will get that answer, and others, before country TDs leave the Dail for this weekend’s humdrum of clinics.

Lasting Legacy

That said, in all of this current episode in the Dail my thoughts keep going back to how swiftly Albert Reynolds was smoked from office in 1994.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten and Reynolds lasting legacy on Peace in Ireland was derided by the frenzy of Dail detractors back then.

Gerry Adams also showed surprisingly short memory on the same subject in his Ard Fheis valediction last weekend.

Adams omitted ANY of Albert’s role in bringing Shinners in from the frozen tundra.

Despite their many misconceptions they did not do it all by themselves. They still need to learn generosity.

Albert Reynolds took real political risks to both open doors on American passports for Shinners and handshakes in the Dail grounds etcetera. Eaten bread.....