Minster McDowell: mad mullah or melting violet?

Robin Livingstone kicks off with a spot of amatuer pyschology on the Minister of Justice, and while he notes that “that people seem these days to have lost all sense of perspective, to say nothing of their sense of humour” finds him a flawed character. Eilis O’Hanlon in the Sunday Independent (anyone got a link – I couldn’t find it – grrr), when she called into question both the thin skin of politicians and the pointlessness of making apologies over their stupid remarks in what should be a rough trade. More seriously, Colum Kenny believes the minister has the necessary tough mindedness for the job of ‘defending the state’, but that mMcDowell also needs to be seen to be fair. Last word to Alan Ruddock in the Sunday Times:

So why the apologies? Is McDowell starting to crack? Will he soon grovel to Frank Connolly, the journalist he suggested was an IRA stooge? Will he announce that Gerry Adams is, after all, a fine man who has nothing to do with the IRA? Or was it a momentary aberration? Perhaps McDowell had grown tired of being hated and wanted to be seen as a normal, caring, human kinda guy.

If so, it won’t wash. The real McDowell is an essential piece of grit in the smooth blandness of the Ahern administration. He and Mary Harney, his party leader and the minister for health, are the only two who consistently try to do their jobs, who appear to have some passion about their role in politics and who, as a consequence, draw much of the heat from the opposition and from the media.

Their Fianna Fail counterparts are, in stark contrast, political mice. They say nothing, do nothing and are determined to get to the next election without ruffling any feathers. There are occasional exceptions — Noel Dempsey has shown some bravery in tackling illegal fishing, for example — but for the most part we are governed by anonymity. What has Micheal Martin done in the Department of Enterprise? What does Mary Hanafin do to raise educational standards? What has John O’ Donoghue ever done apart from ensuring the safety of his own seat? What happened to Brian Cowen? Who is Eamon O’Cuiv?

McDowell does not hide away, and neither does Harney. The price they pay is notoriety and media opprobrium, but at least they give the impression that they care.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty