From top: Green Party members led by then party leader John Gormley (centre) leaving Government Buildings on January 23, 2011 after informing the Taoiseach Brian Cowen that they can no longer continue in Government: Dan Boyle
As The Maurice McCabe scandal has shown our politics is bedevilled with a belief that the most complex path is that most likely, not so much to deliver truth, but to somehow hold reputation intact
Dan Boyle writes:
It was the fag end of the FF/Green government. The Greens had already decided and had announced that the government was working towards its conclusion.
A Budget and a Finance Bill needed to be passed. It was hoped some other bills might also be approved, but there was no real expectation.
A meeting was organised in the Taoiseach’s office to arrange remaining government business. Brian Cowen was accompanied by Tony Killeen (not that long a cabinet minister) and the Government Chief Whip, John Curran. On the Green side I made up the numbers along with John Gormley and Eamon Ryan.
After what had been a number of horrendous months, Brian Cowen was in an euphoric mood. The previous evening he had unexpectedly won a vote of confidence from his parliamentary party. His demeanour screamed hubris.
Towards the end of the meeting he announced his intention to fill a number of cabinet positions that had become ‘vacant’. Each of us Greens said that would be a bad idea. It would, in effect, be the announcing of a new government.
Later I found myself appearing on TV3’s Vincent Browne Tonight. I like Vincent. His exposés added to his combative style, have dragged Irish politics to a better place. I was well used to his shtick. Before transmission he would have had decided what the story was, and from that he would not deviate during the programme.
In effect he called me a liar. I admit I somewhat lost it with him, challenging him as to which of us had actually been at the meeting. The story was what was or wasn’t said at that meeting.
There was a Fianna Fáil version of events and there was a Green version. This is what piqued the media’s interest. What I took from this experience was a painful lesson, that the truth mattered less than possessing the most persuasive narrative.
I’m reminded of these events, as with most people, I try to make sense of new Irish politics this week.
We have seen and heard a number of overlapping accounts of what was said by whom when. It’s possible that none of those involved have been telling an unvarnished truth. What is certain is that all involved have been trying to outspin each other, in their efforts to win the most persuasive narrative contest.
What has been most dispiriting about all this, is that none of it should really matter.
What should matter is the fate of one citizen, a public servant, who for trying to do right, has endured years having the essence of his character maligned, through many agencies of this State.
Some of these agencies, formed for the protection of actual victims of our society seem to have, at least peripherally, been actors in the blackest of dark propaganda against a man whose only crime has been the telling of the truth.
Under these circumstances the who said what is of little relevance. Even the idea of a judicial commission versus a public inquiry is something of a sideshow. Either mechanism only guarantees further delay, and certain further distress for Maurice McCabe and his family.
There instead should be an Oireachtas resolution thanking Maurice McCabe for his service, apologising for how he has been treated, and insisting that all those in public positions who sought to stymie his efforts resign.
This won’t happen because our politics is bedevilled with a belief that the most complex path is that most likely, not so much to deliver truth, but to somehow hold reputation intact.
I recently leafed through a newly published book on the FF/Green government. I came across an admission from a Fianna Fáil person who had been at that meeting with me, that the Green account of what happened was what happened.
It seems that, eventually, truth does become the persuasive narrative.