Confusion over Barry Cowen’s firing highlights coalition weaknesses

Last week, Sinn Féin decided to celebrate his long-awaited assumption of leadership of the opposition after the elections in Dáil Éireann by shooting himself in the foot. This week Fianna Fáil decided to celebrate taking over leadership of the new coalition administration by shooting herself in the face. Unfortunately for his government partners Fine Gael and Green Party, Micheál Martin opted for a shotgun and injured not only himself but Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan with his scatter shot target as well.

The Barry Cowen controversy is unlikely to go away anytime soon, especially if the press smells blood in the water, and Sinn Féin will be only too happy to use the confusion in the government ranks to convey his recent hypocrisy about the Bobby Storey funeral in Belfast to bury. Especially given the persistent unease among the grassroots in FF about the party’s direction of travel and dissatisfaction with the sharing of the electoral spoils of the war clogging the remains of the once powerful Fianna Fáil machine.

In the meantime, the past misdeeds and the current disguise of the Soldiers of Destiny will only confirm the worst suspicions among the hypocritical blueshirts, who apparently reacted with alarm to any allegation of wrongdoing by Lake Garda or to mistakes made by FF circles. Or worse, from people in the ministerial office.

Speaking of blueshirts, what a great performance Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney offered on RTÉ last night when the Fine Gael TD valiantly tried to tear his way out of the last minute hole that Fianna Fáil’s Taoiseach threw him into loyal son of Cork, presenter Miriam O’Callaghan, got none of it, adding to the happiness of the nation. Not that the ruling troika’s FG leg was in a much better place than its partnered rivals, given this week’s revelations of Coveney and Varadkar’s demands for exorbitant special treatment over their cabinet roles. Including a military attaché for the Tánaiste, no doubt with a briefcase tied to his wrist to secure the Dublin West TD’s sandwiches.

And let’s not forget the Green Party, which is currently in the middle of a leadership contest. The incumbent candidate reportedly promises to break government offices and seats in parastatal agencies for those gathering behind his flag.

An unstable start to an already unstable government that leaves one wondering what’s to come. But at least Micheál Martin actually made a quick decision on an issue of great public controversy and in a firm and unambiguous manner. Even if he didn’t do it just seven hours later.

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