SO the Leinster House pantomime reached a happy ending and the turkeys did not vote for Christmas. Not so happy for Frances Fitzerald, of course. She is a good woman who has served the country well and – like Alan Shatter, the man she followed into the Justice Department – I suspect her position will ultimately be vindicated.
As was also the case with Mr Shatter, the vindication will come too late. Her career is over.
The Maurice McCabe affair has inflicted immense damage on Irish politics since he made his first complaint about Garda colleagues in 2006. It has destroyed the careers of two Garda commissioners and two ministers and it has now tarnished the reputation of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and put the skids under this Government. I do not see how it can last much longer.
None of this is the fault of Mr McCabe who has been most disgracefully maligned, but the endless argument about who knew what and when is rotting our politics and this week
pushed our three biggest parties to the brink of an election none of them wanted. Ironically, the party that pushed hardest was the one with most to lose from a trip to the hustings.
Sinn Féin was all prepared for a set-piece in which Gerry Adams would do a lap of honour before handing over to Mary Lou in good time for an election.
The Maurice McCabe affair has inflicted immense damage on Irish politics and has now put the skids under this Government
At his final ard fheis as Sinn Féin president, Mr Adams displayed the flair for compromise he has shown throughout a long and successful career, by easing through a motion that will allow the party to go into government as the junior partner in a coalition.
Junior partners tend not to fare well – ask Labour, the Greens or the PDs (if you can find them). Nevertheless, that is a risk Sinn Féin has to take if it ever hopes to be the senior government party.
This week, Sinn Féin faced the possibility of being led into an election campaign by a leader who had not even been confirmed in the job and of entering talks about a possible coalition role before the party had a chance to absorb this new tactic. Ms McDonald says she is ready for an election any time – but she must have been extremely happy to see the FG-FF axis survive.
Mr Adams’s ard fheis advances were quickly rejected by both those parties, tripping over themselves to assure voters they would never share power with the Shinners. But they will, you know. Some time, they will. And, if the terms are right, so they should. Our Big Two expect unionists to share power at Stormont with Sinn Féin. It is hypocritical to reject out of hand a similar partnership aat Leinster House.
Personally, I would prefer not to see Sinn Féin in government. I fear their populist economic policies could bankrupt the country – if, that is, they really try to implement them.
I have another reason. I am from Belfast and I cannot forgive the IRA’s political wing for the horrors it inflicted on my neighbours, friends and family nor for rejecting the power-sharing deal agreed by Brian Faulkner and Gerry Fitt which could have brought peace in 1973.
That’s my view and I won’t change it. But I am of the same generation as Gerry Adams. It is not our call any more. Younger generations need to move on.