Inside Barry Cowen’s sacking: Party’s ‘Last Dance’ and ex-minister hires legal team. Where are John McGuiness, Willie O Dea, and Eamon O Cuiv, and the rest of the Angry FF Heavies?
Fallout from the saga will continue on several fronts, writes Fionnán Sheahan
Barry Cowen was sacked as a Cabinet minister in the controversy over his drink-driving ban. The saga is by no means over. Cowen is pursuing a number of legal routes and has a high-powered legal team to advance his claims.
His solicitor handling the case is Robert Dore, best known for representing Fr Kevin Reynolds in the defamation case against RTÉ for the ‘Prime Time Investigates: Mission to Prey’ programme.
Bar Council veteran heavy-hitter Gerry Danaher is advising on any defamation aspects. A contemporary of Michael McDowell and the late Adrian Hardiman, he was a close associate of the late former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. He came to prominence on the State legal team at the Beef Tribunal in the 1990s.
Would Micheál Martin be welcome here in Clara? No, I don’t think so, not at the moment’
In the heart of ‘Cowen country’, there’s anger at the way local TD Barry was treated, writes Ellen Coyne
Clara is quietly seething. The Co Offaly town sits at the heart of ‘Cowen country‘, home to a political dynasty that includes former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, his brother the erstwhile agriculture minister Barry and their late father Bernard Cowen.
Days after the Taoiseach sacked Barry Cowen, locals are still stewing over the shock decision. As the jingle for the RTÉ lunchtime news plays over the tinny television speakers in The Mill pub on Thursday, a group of older men hunched over their dinner mutter darkly about “Martin” and his reasoning. A furious local Fianna Fáil supporter on the town’s main street describes the Taoiseach, with absolute disdain, as “the man who brought Fianna Fáil down to 14pc”.
He asks not to have that quote attributed to him, only because he “wouldn’t want to upset Barry”.
The Fianna Fáil leader had enough.
It’s been a big week for aficionados of stories at the intersection of Fianna Fáil, policing and data protection. And at the end of it we have a hint of what approach Michéal Martin plans to take to his span of days as Taoiseach. This is the Gist.
Barry Cowen didn’t want to answer any more questions. He didn’t want to talk about the circumstances around his conviction any more. He just wanted everyone to Move On.
This is a tactic from the old hegemonic Fianna Fáil. When a party answers to nobody but the leader, as long as the leader’s been squared, the conversation can just be shut down. The problem for Ireland’s shortest serving Minister in history was that leader of Fianna Fáil isn’t the unassailable peak it once was. The FF leader answers to everyone else now, and he didn’t like it.
This gap between Martin’s recognition of the reality of FF’s position and the reflexive presumption by his TDs that they have returned to the status quo ante of the pre-crash age explains much of the party’s internal divisions.
So, Cowen is out and Dara Calleary, the Chief Whip from the West, is elevated to the Cabinet returning Connacht to the top table.
The defenestrated was so shocked he issued a whole twitter thread as a statement expressing how unexpected it all was. But now we know that Martin has realised that, if his TDs have less to fear from him long term than other, less time-limited, leaders, he has no reason to worry about making enemies.
The question is whether he will have realised this can be a permanent way of proceeding, or he will continue leaving off taking these painful decisions until after he’s already expended political capital defending the indefensible.
And, of more long term significance for the rest of us, can he can persuade his party to recognise that the FF of 2020 is unrecognisable from the FF of 2006? There are a few short months for the once National Movement to realise that the past is a different country, and they voted differently there.