Why Enda Will Have to U-turn on Lowry ….. or Else !
Up to last weekend, I reckon news editors across the media were tearing their hair out, and resigned to a relatively dull General Election campaign. After all, it’s been under way in shadow form since last October, and repeated pledges to “keep the recovery going”, and Opposition parties and Independents doing a Lanigan’s Ball on who they are in, or out with, is hardly the stuff to generate “Hold the Front Page” drama.
Of course there is tremendous on-the-ground excitement as candidates of all political hues do battle for the hearts and minds – and voting preferences – of the electorate, but it’s not the stuff of news headlines, unless a major spat erupts between candidates of the same party.
So where are the editors going to get their dramatic headlines as they compete with one another for readers and viewers over the next 3-4 weeks? That’s why the Michael Lowry Issue, and more particularly Enda Kenny’s studied and persistent refusal last Sunday to rule him out as a potential accomplice in supporting a minority Fine Gael Government after all the votes are counted, is both newsworthy and controversial.
Since Sunday, the media has had a field day grilling every Fine Gael (and Labour Party) Minister and TD, putting the Lowry Proposition to them, and gradually the Enda Kenny brick-wall stance of last Sunday is being dismantled and undermined. And it will continue on a daily basis until the media extracts a Yes or No answer from the Taoiseach himself about whether he would seek the support of the Tipperary TD (whom everyone is assuming will rock in, probably at the head of the poll), in the event of failing to secure an overall majority with the Labour Party.
The Taoiseach’s carefully crafted weekend lines about being focused only on the return of the outgoing government, and refusing to rule in or out “any Independent”, simply does not stand up to even elementary scrutiny. Commentators correctly point out that he has no problem ruling out doing business with either Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein.
And there is also the awkward fact of his damning denunciation of Lowry back in 2011. His comments from then have already been resurrected by the media, and will dog the Taoiseach until voting day. In full oratorical flow back then he told the Dail: “I would remind the House that before the (Moriarty) Tribunal; in fact, when the first issue regarding Deputy Lowry’s conduct arose, Fine Gael acted immediately to remove him, first from Government Office, and then from the party itself. We did so in keeping with our desire to maintain propriety and standards in politics, as befits the party that founded the State”.
Ouch! Heady stuff. And, of course, the legitimate question is whether Fine Gael and its Leader continue to hold those standards as dearly now as they did then?
You don’t need to be an Inspector Clouseau, or the world’s greatest political scientist, to forecast that, bearing all this in mind, the media simply won’t tire of the Lowry Question. Oh, and by the way, apart from a media desire to generate controversy in order to maintain public interest in the election campaign, it is a very serious public policy issue for a large swathe of the electorate.
So if Fine Gael and the Taoiseach fail to dispose of this issue before he calls the election next week, and the Lowry Question continues to dominate coverage at his opening campaign press conference, then they have only themselves to blame. However, I cannot believe that the current generation of Fine Gael Backroom Handlers does not already realise that it’s time to throw away the shovels, and to stop digging that proverbial hole even deeper.