ENDA KENNY needs me. He needs me if John McNulty loses the Seanad by-election tomorrow and he needs me even more if John Mc Nulty wins.
I feel I’m wasted in this job when I could be out there saving Enda. I can write him the speech which will save his political skin and be a first in the history of Irish politics.
He doesn’t even have to worry that I’ll make him say something frighteningly leftie or liberal or even worse, environmental, just because my politics may be different than his. I know speech-writers have to play to the strengths of their politicians to earn their enviable fees and I’d do no different.
That’s why I’d start by getting him to do something he has shown a fondness for doing before: quoting Barack Obama. I’d have Enda Kenny face a forest of microphones on the plinth tomorrow and say: “I screwed up.”
The forest would thin immediately as several reporters collapsed from shock, but those few left standing would catch the rest of the speech above the nee-naa of ambulances and record its momentousness for posterity:
“I didn’t screw up because I let you imagine something that isn’t true, as I suggested last week. I screwed up because I did something wrong in seeking to use the board of the Irish Museum of Modern art to beef up the cultural CV of John McNulty prior to putting him up for election to the Educational and Cultural Committee of Seanad Eireann.
“It wasn’t the fault of some nameless Fine Gael official. It wasn’t the fault of Minister Heather Humphreys. She was under orders and I am her boss. It was my fault. I did it.
“The reason I did it lies in my background. I was brought up in a political household. I inherited my seat in 1975 from my father. I learned from a very early age how politics works in this country. I learned that political life was about gaining power and I learned that when you gained power you packed every board and court-room you could with people you liked and trusted because they were your own people. The more of your own people you could put into those positions the more chance you had of staying in power or getting into power again.
“When ex-Fine Gael Councillor Hilary Quinlan defended being on the board of Irish Water while working as driver to Minister Paudie Coffey, with the words, ‘You tell me any party out there who doesn’t look after their own. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s politics,’ he was stating the obvious.
“The impulse to man the battlements with your own men is in nearly every politician of my generation. We were brought up to be insecure in a relatively poor country which clearly remembered its civil war. We tend not to trust people who we don’t see as ‘our own’, and that’s why this Government’s record on appointing State boards is so poor, with only 20 percent of them having come through the new, open system of appointments, and a whopping 80 percent straight from the relevant Minister’s desk.
“That’s why I began my defence of the appointment of former Young Fine Gaeler Darragh Loftus to the board of Solas by stupidly saying, ‘I saw him grow from a primary school lad to the adult he is now.’ I realise the fact that I saw Mr Loftus growing up should have no bearing on whether or not he gets to serve on a State board; that thousands of other young people in Ireland have BScs and MBAs and the fact they didn’t grow up in Castlebar, but came from ‘the other side’, should have nothing whatsoever to do with their suitability for public service.
“But it takes more than one thumping majority in one election to change a mindset. You have to understand that the mean age of Fine Gael deputies is nearly 47 years old and the mean age of Labour TDs is over 50. Most of us grew up with this culture ingrained in us to the point that it is an instinct.
“I didn’t see the problems it would cause for the Government if John McNulty spent less than two weeks on the board of IMMA before the Seanad election. I was too busy trying to answer another question, that about John McNulty’s suitability to the Educational and Cultural Seanad panel in the first place. I was relying on my political instincts, instincts developed over nearly four decades in the Dáil and common to many of the politicians in Leinster House.
“You expected higher standards of a Taoiseach which you elected to change politics in this country. You had every right to expect higher standards. But I am a product of the system which has undermined our democracy.
“I am trying to learn a totally new way of doing my business. I will try to learn very fast. But I need you to travel with me. We can put the best rules in place to ensure openness, but it will be difficult to enforce the rules if you, the electorate, put pressure on us to break them. Politicians are there to make laws, not break them.
“You will have to pay water charges from January next no matter who gets elected in Dublin South West or Sligo/Leitrim and you know that so why vote for someone who says you won’t? It’s horrible paying for water because it reminds us every day that our natural resources are limited. But that’s the hard truth and unfortunately it takes making a payment to make us face the hard truth.
“It is the politics of hard truth we need now. And in the politics of hard truth, you won’t excuse just any standard of behaviour in me because the economic indicators are getting better. You know we weren’t all ‘nearly eating out of bins three years ago’, as Hilary Quinlan said. You know most of what the Troika told us to do we would have had to do anyway. You know the recovery has been the work of two governments and most of all of you, the Irish people.
“You all know what it has cost us to avert our eyes from clients and hacks and cronies from the time of Charles J Haughey, whose own daughter defended back-handers from businessmen on television with the words, ‘I think people saw that he was doing the job for the country that needed to be done’.
“What you’re going to get from me in future is the hard truth. If you don’t like it, you can say so because we live in a democracy, but it’s what you’re going to get from me regardless. This moment here on this plinth, not Febuary 25, 2011, is the moment when the democratic revolution begins.”
So what’s the bets? Am I hired? Or will the Taoiseach mumble and bumble on until the dogs in the streets themselves are barking, “Give us Varadkar”?
It wasn’t the fault of some nameless Fine Gael official... It was my fault. I did it
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