IT WAS all terribly awkward.
An excruciating comedy of manners where the anxious principals were petrified they might say the wrong thing and upset the whole country, again, while simultaneously fretting about bumping into embarrassing old acquaintances who would make a show of them.
The tense undercurrent made for an odd atmosphere – quite unlike anything experienced at party conferences down the years.
And yet, on the surface, Fianna Fáil’s 73rd ardfheis went off very well. It looked great. The delegates turned out in force and were on their best behaviour. Nearly everyone tried to smile and sound positive.
But it’s difficult to put the best foot forward when you’re walking on eggs.
On Saturday, it was like Dublin zoo on tour in the RDS, such was the number of elephants in the room being studiously ignored by the top brass.
This ardfheis may have been badly needed to boost Fianna Fáil’s sagging morale and begin the rebuilding process, but there was a sense that the party leader and his backroom team just wanted to get it over and done with without any major mishap.
Micheál Martin’s relieved smile at the end of his keynote address spoke volumes.
He had performed well. He got through it. But that’s about all the comfort he can take from the day.
He still remains shackled to his recent past. Two searing reminders of it – one ridiculous, the other damning – will stand as the defining images from his first ardfheis as leader.
Read the whole thing.