From top: Frances Fitzgerald with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Fine Geal South Dublin County Councillor Vicki Casserly at the Fine Gael Election Convention for Dublin Mid West last Monday; Dan Boyle
An alternative interpretation of The Wizard of Oz questions whether the witch Glinda, was a ‘good’ witch, but was instead a more Machiavellian figure, who used the character Dorothy as a weapon in which to depose her rivals – the ‘Wicked’ Witch of the West and the Wizard of Oz himself.
I’m not saying the Frances Fitzgerald is any way a witch. During the time that we worked together in the Seanad, I found her to be quite a pleasant woman. She was in the midst of a political comeback then. She had lost her Dáil seat in Dublin South East (also the constituency of John Gormley of the Greens). I admired her capacity to fight back and seek to secure a presence in the Dáil once again.
That opportunity came in the 2011 general election when she became elected in Dublin Mid-West, whilst living in Dublin West. Enda Kenny looked kindly upon her and she became Minister for Children, a newly created Department, with a brief to bring about a children’s rights referendum to insert a new wording into the Constitution.
This was a ball that very nearly was dropped. The turnout for the referendum revealed an electorate that was less than enthused. Its validity was challenged (and rightly so) when Fitzgerald, as minister, blatantly set aside the McKenna judgement in spending public money in order to try to bring about the government’s desired result.
She was more fortunate, but also more deserving of praise, in her later handling of the same sex marriage referendum.
After the first fallout from the revelations surrounding the appalling treatment of Maurice McCabe, which brought about the departures of then Garda Commissioner, then Secretary General of the Department of Justice, and the Minister for Justice himself, Alan Shatter; Frances Fitzgerald found herself as the big political winner.
While she was lucky in her advancement, she was also given a clear agenda of what changes needed to be made within the Department of Justice. Forearmed with this knowledge she showed herself unable, but more likely, unwilling to make any changes.
By the end of her tenure at the Department of Justice she had gone quite native, not challenging the Garda Commissioner (who she had appointed) or any of her senior officials in the department.
Her failure in any way to challenge has made her a passive participant in the appalling behaviour that has continued to be exerted upon Maurice McCabe.
With the end of the Enda era, Fitzgerald’s political luck seemed to continue. Destined to be brushed aside by Leo’s new broom, Fitzgerald found herself not only still in the cabinet and free of the straitjacket of Justice, but also clinging to the prestige title of Tánáiste.
However luck carries anyone only so far. Silo thinking produces closed minds. Seeking to avoid appalling vistas tends to create even worse scenarios.
With her passivity and failure to inform or consult, Frances Fitzgerald deserved to be dismissed. Those who should have done so, in failing to do so, have shown up their own inadequacies.
The eventual falling on the sword may have postponed for now a still inevitable election, but that only means that the twitch is dead. Sadly it will return.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
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Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.