I was supposed to write this blog for Monday, due to some personal issues I couldn’t do it until Tuesday and then when I was about to post the blog Barry Cowen, the minister for agriculture was fired from his position after 17 days on the job. Replacing Cowen is TD Dara Callerary. Sure this is supposed to look at last week in politics, but politics moves fast. In the interest of balance next week I will try and look at more opposition news.
There is an interesting trend of Labour being interviewed for oppositional news rather than Sinn Fein, who are the largest oppositional party at the moment.
Since the general election, Fine Gael (FG) has been playing political chess while everyone else is playing checkers. And you have to admire them for it. Moving their ministers out of volatile portfolios such as housing and health, while retaining control over government expenditure is a political masterstroke.
In two and a half years Fianna Fáil (FF) is not going to solve housing issues, nor are they going to solve the health sector; and maybe Fianna Fáil does not want to fix these issues. How can they if their remit is only two years? Micheál Martin gets to be Taoiseach but at what cost to Fianna Fáil’s future? So far, it is nothing looking good for FF, and it’s only week two.
At the start of the week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he had no idea newly-appointed Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen had been convicted of drink driving in 2016.
Minister Cowen is still being dogged by his “stupid, stupid mistake” after he was caught drink-driving in 2016. Mr Cowen made contact with the office of the Ceann Comhairle to arrange speaking time. Mr Cowen made a formal apology to his peers about the controversial drink driving ban which he has called a “lapse in judgement”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin did, however, say that he won’t be asking Mr Cowen to resign over the driving ban as the incident was “dealt with at the time.”
It then came out during the week that Mr Cowen was up in court for speeding on his learner driver licence just three months before his ban for drink-driving.
It seems like the Cowen drama is going to drag on for longer as the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) is being asked by the Garda to investigate the alleged leaking of information concerning Minister Cowen’s drink driving arrest. It is reported that Mr Cowen accusing gardaí of criminality for leaking allegations that he attempted to evade a garda checkpoint before he was caught drink driving.
In other FF news Dublin TD Jim O’Callaghan seen by some in the party as a potential successor to Mr Martin as party leader; was critical that Fianna Fáil had not secured either the justice or foreign affairs portfolios.
In good Fianna Fáil news? The government and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly officially launched a contact tracing app.
In Green Party news Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has become a victim of a smear campaign after a picture of Minister O’Gorman with LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell began circulating online. Tatchell is known for presenting controversial views regarding the age of consent and paedophilia.
Mr O’Gorman wrote an open letter to the public in which he targeted any claims that he was associated with Tatchell or his ideals. The letter stated:
‘This week, my hope was to focus on getting stuck into my new role as a Minister. However, over the last few days, there have been claims made online about me which I cannot allow to stand uncorrected.
I met Peter Tatchell once and took a photo. This was the only time I have met him. I knew of him as someone who stood up for LGBT people in countries where their rights were threatened. I was surprised to read some of his quotes from the 90s, which I had not read before. Any of those views would be completely abhorrent to me.
The minister said online claims he is unsuitable for his role because he is gay are “homophobic”.
In other Green Party news Green Party leadership Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin have answered questions on Saturday in a two hour online hustings – the second of three before the membership vote. With the main talking point for the Green Party is the Green Party in office, which didn’t leave much for discussion on policies going forward perhaps because the party is in unison with the programme for government.
The first of the leadership hustings took place on Tuesday 7 July, and the next and final hustings will take place next Tuesday, 14 July.
In opposition news: A Sinn Féin TD had revealed he was on a learner’s licence when he was caught drink-driving in 2013.
Cork East TD Pat Buckley received a three-year ban for the offence which was reported in the Irish Examiner.