“Who is Gerard Craughwell?” was the question Shane Ross asked me outside Government Buildings shortly after 6pm yesterday.
He did so with a pretty large smile on his face.
You see, for those of you who don’t know, Craughwell is an Independent senator who, up until last week, was a member of Ross’s Independent Alliance.
The story goes that Craughwell, being only a senator, was not allowed play at the grown-ups’ table in terms of talks about government, deciding to hightail it and resign from the group.
Having been re-elected pretty handsomely, Craughwell is cock-a-hoop these days, and it was with some surprise to the gathered media that he appeared outside Government Buildings not with the Independent Alliance, but with the so-called Rural Five.
He has demonstrated some nifty footwork to shift from one group to another in a matter of days.
This group — Denis Naughten, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath, Michael Harty, and Michael Collins — made their way from the Merrion Hotel with Craughwell and his fellow senator, Victor Boyhan, in tow.
Once Naughten, McGrath, and Grealish had dealt with their questions from the media, the spotlight shifted to Craughwell.
“Are you lost?” he was asked over his involvement with the Ross group.
“No I have come along with the Rural Five to listen to see what is being said in there,” replied Craughwell.
“So are you the Magnificent Seven?
“I would think so, yeah.”
So it was in that context 20 minutes later that I asked Ross about Craughwell and he gave his ironic reply.
Finian McGrath chipped in: “We are very upset [now he is gone].”
Ouch. No love lost there.
It also transpires that there was little enough love in the room between the Independent Alliance and Fine Gael over the issue of Waterford Hospital, and cardiac services for it.
This has been the major issue of concern for alliance member John Halligan; if he can’t be satisfied, then he is out, he said bluntly over the weekend.
Yesterday , it is believed that a “full and frank” meeting took place between the sides, as the Independents felt Fine Gael were reneging on previous commitments.
The lads got another dose of that Leo Varadkar fellow. They don’t like him, it’s fair to say.
It also emerged that there is life in Mattie McGrath still in terms of these talks.
Having previously said he would not touch any deal done to move on the Eighth Amendment, as claimed by Katherine Zappone, Mattie was front and centre as the boys made their way through the gates of Government Buildings.
Explaining his revival, McGrath said: “She came out and said she has commitments on the Eighth Amendment. The Taoiseach said something very different to me. We have to wait and see. I am opposed to repealing it, but let’s wait and see.”
Both groups were adamant that they will not be railroaded, strong armed, barracked into doing a deal in time to have a vote for taoiseach this Thursday.
The Fine Gaelers are going spare with the wait but the simple truth is they will just have to stomach it and pay a hefty price if they want to continue to pretend they run the country.
On a separate point, much credit is due to Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, who has spoken out in a very honest way about his battle with anxiety and depression.
In an incredibly brave article, Troy set out how he crashed emotionally after the election, and is now slowly rebuilding himself.
Not looking for pity, Troy has shone a light on the many private traumas, mini and major, even some of our leading politicians go through. Kudos.
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