Pandemic, plotters, and pragmatism: Martin keeps rebels at bay

Varadkar looks to recover Midas touch

Now that the pandemic has moved into the departure lounge, we can’t rule out the possibility that some TDs and Senators will find the time to further ponder – in the broader national interest, of course – on just how comfortable (or otherwise) they are with…their party leaders.

  The would-be plotters who want to take Micheál Martin down – a fairly motley crew, it must be said – had no real option but to be pragmatic about the fact that the ideal time for a revolt is hardly during a pandemic. That bought time for Martin, and he is a much more assured FF leader and Taoiseach now in comparison to some months’ back, not that this will change the minds of certain backbenchers.

  As for Leo Varadkar, while he appears to be having difficulty in activating his Midas touch, there is certainly no immediate threat to his leadership. But there is the sense that he may have just one more spin on the merry-go-round (before possibly then going on to pastures new in ‘Europe’).   

  My own view is that, after a rocky start as Taoiseach, Martin has recovered well, and has in fact been a very safe pair of hands in recent months. He is now, finally, comfortable in the shoes of An Taoiseach.

  If politics wasn’t a ruthless business where back-stabbing, hypocrisy and naked ambition is the norm, he would be odds-on to continue unopposed as Fianna Fáil leader after his term as Taoiseach ends in December. It is however far from certain that he will get to continue, as his enemies and critics within the parliamentary party will take a dim view of the Cork man trying to stay on.

  What is in Martin’s favour is the fact that there is no clear and obvious successor to him (that, and the fact that he’s doing a decent job!). It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. As ever in politics, the King will be overthrown at some point; the only question is…when?

  Fine Gael leader Varadkar has such self-confidence, it’s almost inevitable that he occasionally trips himself up! Still, his straight-talking approach has a lot going for it.

  While Varadkar is on the back foot over allegations that he leaked a confidential report some time ago, the safest bet is on him taking over as Taoiseach later this year, enjoying a lap of honour, and probably then moving on.

  The apparent loss of his Midas touch notwithstanding, Simon Coveney is (just about) the bookies’ favourite to succeed Leo, with Simon Harris, Paschal Donohoe and Helen McEntee also shortlisted.


Books on Haughey and Reynolds will interest Roscommon readers

Sean Doherty, the late Roscommon TD, has a chapter – ‘The Doc’ – named after him in Gary Murphy’s epic 716-page biography of three-time Taoiseach, the late Charles Haughey.

  Simply named ‘Haughey’, the book is a remarkable piece of work by Murphy, a Professor of Politics at DCU’s School of Law and Government. While I was pleased to receive a copy as a present at Christmas, it’s on a lengthy ‘waiting list’ on my bookcase.

  Having engaged just a little with the very knowledgeable Professor over the years – he was kind enough to compliment the People’s election coverage – I congratulate him on this monumental project. Having read a number of books about Haughey in the past (‘The Boss’ by Peter Murtagh and Joe Joyce, read like a thriller and remains a classic) I very much look forward to reading this latest perspective on the life and times of a hugely divisive (and charismatic) figure in Irish history.

  How critical or sympathetic the author is in relation to Sean Doherty, I don’t yet know. (From Cootehall, Doherty was a very colourful politician who served as Minister for Justice under Haughey. He became embroiled in a number of controversies – including a phone-tapping scandal – fell out of favour with Haughey, and later exacted his revenge by lighting the fuse that led to the then-Taoiseach’s political demise in 1992).

  While highly controversial, Sean Doherty generally retained the loyalty and affection of his supporters in Roscommon. His untimely death occurred in 2005. I have no doubt that many Roscommon People readers will be keenly interested in this book.

  I should also mention that Conor Lenihan, a former Minister of State and an ex-journalist, recently wrote a biography of another former Taoiseach, Rooskey native Albert Reynolds. Like Gary Murphy’s ‘Haughey’ tome, ‘Albert Reynolds: Risktaker for Peace’ has been receiving favourable reviews.

When Michael met Seamus…

Former Minister of State Michael Finneran is one of a number of well-known local personalities who recently sat down with RosFM’s Seamus Duke for a reflective radio interview on the ‘Good Morning Roscommon’ show. The interviews are now available as podcasts.

  Dysart native Finneran served as a councillor, Senator, TD, and Minister of State, before retiring in 2011. The RosFM podcast series features a host of other well-known locals, including Ciaran Mullooly, Jack Halliday, Rita Oates, Barry Molloy, Paula Naughton, Adrian Leddy (and many more). The interviews are available on the RosFM website,