SPARE a thought for the Andrews clan, whose next family get-together is bound to be a frosty affair after one of its disgruntled scions was revealed as the poison pen behind an anonymous Twitter account.
Using the handle @brianformerff, deposed Fianna Fáil TD, Chris Andrews, spent months spewing out a constant stream of bile and invective at the Fianna Fáil hierarchy, his constituency colleagues and, most bizarrely, himself.
Although the account has now been deleted, many of his venomous tweets can be still be viewed by doing a simple search of Google cache — the back up copy the search engine automatically saves of everything posted online.
Many of the posts, now that the identity of the tweeter has been revealed, are, in retrospect, hilarious so, in the interests of posterity, but mostly an exercise in schadenfreude, it’s worth recounting a few.
For instance, on Apr 26 he declared, “FF families seem to think they are special. The Andrews, Ryans, and Lenihans have a sense of entitlement” — a self-deprecating sentiment that is certain to result in his removal from at least a few of his relatives’ Christmas card lists.
Taking pot shots at the party leadership early on in the year, he derided the senior apparatchiks left standing after last year’s bloodbath general election as; “into their political royalty like the Ryans [and] the Andrews” — and here was me thinking Fianna Fáil was the republican party and not a bunch of fawning monarchists.
Sticking to his theme, that dynastic political families, like his own, will soon be confined to dusty political scrapbooks, he tweeted on Apr 4: “The public are sick of political families and the public sent out that message to the Lenihans, Andrews and the Aherns in [the last general election].”
One assumes that he felt best placed to interpret the public’s message, which was certainly delivered loud and clear, because he was one of the aforementioned unfortunates who lost their seats.
In a tweet that is unlikely to endear him to any Fianna Fáil members, he used the happy occasion of Euro 2012 to taunt a constituency colleague with; “I see your pal and FF favorite PJ Mara is out enjoying [Euro 2012] with his and FF pal Seanie Fitz.”
Fianna Fáil’s enemies have long associated the party with builders and bankers, but it’s rare to have a former party stalwart agree so wholeheartedly with the smear and, indeed, dub the reviled former Anglo chief a party hack.
He went on to opine; “PJ wouldn’t associate with the foot soldiers like me or [other members] for that matter” — although, having earlier described his family as royalty, it’s hard to imagine that he really views himself as lowly infantry.
Perhaps conscious that some in the party were determined to unmask the bilious tweeter behind the anonymous account, he decided to throw people off his trail by using his sock puppet account to disparage himself.
One hopes that, having come to this sorry impasse, Mr Andrews paused momentarily, as he attempted to conjure up slurs about himself, and wondered what the hell he was doing with his time.
“@chrisandrewsff and Ardagh clan in FF have a sense of entitlement which is not healthy,” said the Janus-faced politician, who may, in his defence, be speaking the truth about his purported sense of entitlement.
@chrisandrewsff, by the way, is his legitimate Twitter account — although that has been curiously silent since the mortifying story broke on Sunday.
Showing an impressive aversion to irony on Apr 5, he took time off from lambasting the members of his own family to complain about those vile people on Twitter who use the medium solely to “engage in character assassination instead of dealing with facts” — this, coming a man who set up an anonymous account with the express purpose of assassinating characters.
While he enjoyed crossing virtual swords with pretty much anyone within the party, he particularly loved trying to goad Sarah Ryan, former MEP Eoin Ryan’s daughter and a member of the Fianna Fáil national executive, and Jim O’Callaghan, a barrister, Fianna Fáíl councillor and prospective rival for a nomination in his Dublin South East constituency.
It was with these nasty, cowardly and spiteful tweets that Mr Andrews showed his true colours and likely destroyed any chance of ever reclaiming his Dáil seat.
In a conversation with another party member, he said of Ms Ryan: “She got elected because of her dad and you and I know that. Public rejected her but FF hardcore didn’t” — an utterly bizarre accusation from someone whose grandfather, father and uncle all served in the Dáil at various times and whose surname, undoubtedly, was one of the primary reasons that he himself ever made it to Leinster House.
While he routinely complained about Mr O’Callaghan in a plethora of rancorous posts, he also contacted at least three political journalists directly (Mary Minihan from the Irish Times, Stephen O’Brien from the Sunday Times, and RTE’s Philip Boucher Hayes) to, falsely, impute that it was worth digging into the barrister’s legitimate work, representing former Fianna Fáil fundraiser Des Richardson at the Mahon Tribunal, in a naked attempt to use innuendo and rumour to besmirch his rival’s reputation among a cohort of people with the potential to hugely influence public opinion.
Having spent a considerable amount of time pouring scorn on a variety of high-profile Fianna Fáil families, not least his own, he nevertheless made a prediction that “all the Ryans, Andrews, Ardaghs [and] Kitts will all be on tickets even though they were all rejected”.
Since Mr Andrews has now resigned from the party, in anticipation of imminently being booted out by an incensed Micheál Martin, one has to assume that at least one dynastic name, his own, will definitely be missing from that list.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear if he will face any further sanction, other than ignominy and disgrace, for attempting to smear and sully many that he was relatively close to over many years.
While a discredited Mr Andrews goes to ground, and presumably resorts to wearing a disguise when he wanders around his constituency, the real question is, why did he create a sock puppet account to, largely, voice opinions that he had made in the past? In late 2009, speaking about the party’s miserable fortunes under Brian Cowen’s stewardship, he told a Sunday newspaper: “The party is being destroyed and the grassroots who have built it up have been alienated” — the exact same concerns he raised online about the party’s travails with veteran TD Micheál Martin as leader.
The conclusion must be that he was not interested in raising legitimate concerns about the direction the party was taking but, rather, his sole agenda was to vent his spleen and launch highly personal and incendiary attacks on his political opponents from the presumed safety of an anonymous account.
For the small minority, who also use anonymous Twitter accounts as vituperative vehicles to settle personal scores, there is a lesson in all of this — post online in haste and you are likely to repent at leisure.
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