Down in Fianna Fail, something stirred…

I happened to be in Dublin last night, so I thought I’d have a look at Suzy’s regular live blog she does for the Late Late Show. She rightly identified the news breaker of the evening: John McGuinness, Carlow Kilkenny TD and until he was sacked/made redundant Tanaiste Mary Coughlan’s Junior at Enterprise, Trade and Employment on Thursday. You may never have even heard of this guy before, but he was smooth, calm, and honestly telling of his own party’s frailties. And it had Fianna Fail’s instinct for power retention (they are like the Tories in that regard, only without the ideological encumbrances) written right through it like a stick of rock.

UPdate: Constantin Gurdgiev reckons it was:

…a logical conclusion of months of pinned up rage that this country is feeling toward the Cabinet – and primarily to Mr Cowen, Mr Lenihan and Mrs Coughlan – towards the public sector at large and towards the scores of mostly nameless, faceless (but sometimes publicly visible) ‘advisers’ who have systemically destroyed the prosperity of this country and its chances of coming out of the recession as a competitive and growth-focused economy.

And for once, Pat Kenny was spared the ire of the bloggers. After an excruciating interview with Ruby Wax, he was back in his natural element with a politician. But a politician who was prepared to talk and answer the questions the journalist wanted to ask.

It was peppered with statements that were not quite mea culpas, like “We’ve had a hell of a party. Now we are in a different game. ” And there was the vague whiff of revolution when asked about his old boss (the now much talked about – and briefed against – Tanaiste): “I don’t believe she’s in the right position”. There were hints too that the leadership had become detached from the party, which is an old party trope.

Several things strike me. The tone set him aside from the beleaguered, slightly stressed delivery of the current leadership. The content was damning of the leadership’s handling of the economy, but noted that he (and presumably others off) knew about the exiting of Dell from Limerick before the Tanaiste. He also made a virtue of his party’s primary weaknesses: 1, Coughlan has almost become a figure of fun for her opponents; and two the wider perception of the party as stuffed with Gombeen men, “I could sit here and sit on my hands and be a cute hoor”, trans “I’m not one of them, I’m ‘the real Fianna Fail'”.

But despite his attack on the Tanaiste “She’s not equipped to deal with the complex issues of dealing with enterprise and business within the Department. And neither is the department”, the real target has to be the Taoiseach (“…he needs to shift his mindset from being leader of FF to being leader of the country”). I suspect he is being served notice by two big fish in the cabinet who have been remarkably scarce in these difficult times for the government: Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey.

It was enough to have the Irish Times cram a piece into the print version of the paper with bits pulled together from three different journalists (presumably sitting at home spilling their coffees)…

But that’s nothing to the amount of beverages that mush have been spilt in the Coughlan home last night. The gossip around the Leinster House bubble about her and the rough manner in which she conducts her office is all over the place. This is one occasion when Oscar Wilde’s “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about” is the last thing she needs.

Mark Hennessey was right, the party is survival mode. But it’s response has, as ever, not been as ‘muted’ as some were expecting. In the meantime, keep an eye on tomorrow’s Dublin papers…

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