At least Edwin Poots was only the culture minister… The Fianna Fáil junior minister “with special responsibility for science”, Conor Lenihan, may believe the party has been “very damaged”, but he’s also got reason to thank his lucky stars for the recent controversy about Brian Cowen’s under par interview.
At the start of the week the Irish government’s Minister for Science had been due to officially launch an anti-evolution book, “The Origin of Specious Nonsense” [Link? – Ed] You can google it yourself.
According to the book’s website Mr May says evolution “cripples sanity, promotes myths and obscures reality”.
He also said anyone who teaches evolution is “either ignorant or deliberately suppressing the known scientific facts.
“It [evolution] is a toxic poisonous mind virus which destroys the hearts immune system against hope and common sense,” he added.
The report adds
Mr Lenihan said he is not launching the book as Minister for Science but rather as a TD because Mr May is a constituent of his.
And everyone would notice he wasn’t wearing that particular official hat at the time…
Except that, as a subsequent Irish Times report noted, he had initially been described in promotional material for the launch as the “Minister for Science” – and there’s no indication of when that reference was removed.
Speaking to The Irish Times last night, [the book’s author John May] said Mr Lenihan had agreed to launch the book some weeks ago, but had since requested that his description as Minister for Science be deleted from publicity material about the launch.
Mr May said this had been done “immediately”. He said Mr Lenihan had agreed to launch the book as “I am a friend and a constituent”.
But he was so “embarrassed” by the insults against the Minister that he had asked him to withdraw.
Which the Minister readily agreed to do…
Speaking from Galway earlier last night, Mr Lenihan said while he “remained to be convinced” by Mr May’s arguments, he would be attending the launch in a personal capacity and as he believed “diversity of opinion is a good thing”. However following Mr May’s request he has withdrawn from the launch. [added emphasis]
“Remained to be convinced”? You mean you still think there’s a possibility he could be right?!
At the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Eoin Butler passes judgement
So why on earth did Lenihan agree to launch his book? In his only public statement, the minister’s spokesperson claimed that he had only planned to attend in his capacity as May’s local TD and that he did not necessarily agree with the book’s central thesis (such as it is.) That would mean that he did not see (or perhaps was not even aware of) any conflict between his duties as the country’s minister for science and the endorsement of such a profoundly unscientific book.
It would be nice to say that the spokesperson was definitely bending the truth here, and that the minister couldn’t possibly have been so stupid. But I would hesitate to do so in this instance.
As far as this preposterous book goes then, the only consideration likely to have weighted on Lenihan’s mind is whether helping to launch this book would help garner a few extra votes for him at the next election. When it seemed that it might, he agreed to help. When he realised that it wouldn’t, he withdrew. It was gombeen politics, nothing more.