Frances Fitzgerald can be our ‘hero of the hour’

The phrase “all politics is local” is generally attributed to the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the late Tip O’Neill. 

In Ireland, it is not just local but vocal, considering the shouting match going on between our three main political parties about which of them is to blame for bringing us to the brink of a pre-Christmas general eElection.

It doesn’t really matter whether it was goading by Sinn Féin or pressure by Fianna Fáil backbenchers on Micheál Martin to threaten to pull the plug that led the Fine Gael parliamentary party to act all defiant and pass a unanimous vote of confidence in the embattled Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald.

Minister of state Michael D’Arcy has accused Sinn Féin of “political terrorism” and Fianna Fáil of “political vandalism” but he might care to look at the Taoiseach’s egoism and his own party’s dogmatism in adhering to a rigid stance instead of adopting a more rational approach to this crisis.

There are not too many grounds for optimism but that could change overnight if Ms Fitzgerald exhibited altruism by allowing the welfare of the nation to take precedence over her own political future.

Fitzgerald’s position and that of her party colleagues is that she should not resign, either as Tánaiste or minister, because “I have done nothing wrong”. That is not a good enough
reason either to gain office or retain it.

In any case, it misses the point. The reality is that Ms Fitzgerald showed gross ineptitude in her handling of the whole Maurice McCabe affair, from his treatment by senior gardaí to her failure to recall a very important email that should have raised red flags in her department.

She may have been precluded from interfering directly in the legal strategy adopted against McCabe but she could have used her influence to better effect.

Ms Fitzgerald may, indeed, have done nothing wrong. But the problem for her and for the country is that she has done little or nothing right.

She now has an opportunity to change that by doing the right thing, both for her party and her country. Otherwise, we face an election that nobody wants at a time when nobody wants it. As Fianna Fáil veteran Willie O’Dea so succinctly put it: “The last thing I want to do is be going around to the doors in Limerick during Christmas competing with carol singers ... I hope a general election can be avoided.”

She can also prove that one woman can do what three men (Varadkar, Martin, and Adams) cannot: Save the nation from the trauma of a pointless general election.

Her days are numbered, anyway. If an election is called, she loses her tenure. Even if the makeup of the next Dáil is a carbon copy of this one and Varadkar is re-elected Taoiseach, it is unthinkable that he would, in turn, recommend her
reappointment as Tánaiste.

She has two choices: Either dig in her heels, endure a
bruising general election campaign, and end up in the political wilderness, or resign for the good of the country and emerge the hero of the hour, with the prospect of rehabilitation and, perhaps, future ministerial office.


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