In yesterday’s Irish Times Deaglán de Bréadún comes up with as good a reason for Michael McDowell’s demise, as TD, leader of his party, and Tanaiste as any offered elsewhere. He argues, in particular, that his responses to a media onslaught on Ahern over ‘Bertiegate’ allegations leaked from the Mahon Tribunal were highly erratic:
Having successfully convinced a significant proportion of the electorate in 2002 that the PDs were needed to ride shotgun in ethical terms on Fianna Fáil, the smaller party was inevitably damaged when it decided to remain on the rollercoaster with Bertie Ahern last autumn.
But the PDs might have survived that episode if they had kept their nerve when the election campaign got under way. Always very media-oriented, some members of the PDs were rattled by further leaks from the Mahon tribunal which again showed the Taoiseach in an unfavourable light. Historians may come to see it as the critical moment of the campaign.
Sunday newspapers were led to believe the party was walking out of government. But there was an internal revolt and the PDs reverted to their self-appointed role as the Coalition’s internal moral monitor. The PDs came across as dithering and indecisive during their “lost weekend”. Ironically, Fianna Fáil was energised by the crisis.