Malice Through The Looking Glass




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.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


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45 thoughts on “Malice Through The Looking Glass

      1. Ray O'Connor

        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 don’t disagree with everything you say Dan

  1. DubLoony

    He’s right about the battle of the narratives. SF are opportunists who think the answer to everything is another election. FF trying to look like grown ups doing it for the good of the country – no-one is buying it.

    FG leadership is one that Enda has had almost continually. He’ll go to the white house & hopefully give a memorable performance before bowing out. FG will want new leader to settle in before any election, much to FF annoyance. So either May or September.

    And NONE of it will serve justice for the McCabes

    1. Ray O'Connor

      And the greens won’t do anything either with Eamon Ryan in charge

      he’s firmly in the old school boy camp based on his time as Minister

      But the he just reflects the views of the Green PArty

  2. Lord Snowflakee

    This is a very revealing article indeed

    Yet again we have the familiar narrative of ‘good’ green guys cast against ‘bad’ FF and no admission that collectively the government/cabinet were responsible for the mess they left the country in

    and you wonder why you wouldn’t get elected against a cat running now Dan?


    1. pluto

      Why did the Greens get decimated and not FF? FF are the ones responsible for the mess that resulted and continues to this day..

      All that has come as a result of the squabbling over who said what and when etc.. is that the original breaches that McCabe whistleblew have been forgotten!

      They will happen again and again and there will be more McCabes who will have exactly the same things done to them.

      1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

        You lie down with a dog, you get up with fleas.
        The minority party always gets screwed.

          1. Nigel

            One thing the Greens showed was exactly how useful integrity is in Irish politics and how far it’ll get you.

          2. Lord Snowflakee

            I don’t believe the Greens had any integrity

            They were a self-serving quasi-religious priest-like cult of climate change extremists forcing through half-baked policies on amongst other things taxes related to emissions from new diesel cars, now shown to be completely a scam perpetrated on the motorist

            they were proven and shown to be incompetent beyond belief in their association with the banking crisis, and this was understandable given their complete lack of experience in government or senior management and single-issue ethos

          3. Nigel

            I think your assessment is the ballsiest of pure balls except for the bit at the end. They had integrity, but they also decided to go into power with FF. So: guilt by association and guilt by being utterly outclassed by seasoned and entrenched political players. They are now despised both for AND for not being everything FF an FG are. And people still sneer at indies and small parties for not ‘going into power.’ Bualadh feckin bos, now let’s hurry on and get FF back in!

          4. Lord Snowflakee

            What I took from this article Nigel was a tone of deep cynicism, and indeed a tacit admission that went something like this

            “the system is rigged … we are the good guys … but we can’t win the battle of narratives … even if we’re really, really good … and they are really, really bad … we don’t have the connections … so here’s what we’ll do … we can’t beat them … we’ll join them”

            Fair play to Dan for telling the self-serving bitter truth about so-called ethical Greens

          5. NNigel

            The only close to accurate item that you took from that was an abridged account of how they lost a battle of competing narratives. And that kind of misreading is the gift that keeps giving in Irish politics.

        1. Nigel


      2. Lord Snowflakee


        The cabinet is collectively responsible

        FF did get decimated, they got rid of their leader, had the lowest post war vote I believe ever they had

        Greens have same idiots still running their show instead of Catherine Martin who might have a few balls

        And Dan Boyle hanging around like a bad cauliflower decaying

        The only one I had time for was Trevor Sargeant, remember he resigned on a point of principle? Even though there was no need for him to do so in my opinion

          1. Enter Sandman

            In fact while I disagree with Lord Snowflakee about it being a resigning offence the crucial thing is that he did actually resign, he did not have to be pushed

    2. Listrade

      Every time. Every article Dan writes. He’s a bollox because… Maybe he is, I dunno, sometimes I agree with his stuff, sometimes I don’t. But it gets tiresome that every week its the same response and no reference to what is written.

      Dan has given an example to demonstrate a point, a point we all knew, but its worth putting into context of today. There is a machinery that pushes a version of events into the public domain. The media is complicit in letting this version become the narrative and the version of record. That version isn’t always the most accurate or truthful.

      For years there has been nothing on this story. Dismal, biased media coverage holding the narrative put forward by the Gardai. A few TDs have constantly raised this issue and fought for McCabe. Now there’s political capital to be made, everyone’s at it. Hmmmmm. Where have they all been before? RTE’s now all over it after years of discrediting McCabe.

      Apart from those who have always been there for McCabe, none of those now aboard the outrage bandwagon give a absolute fig for McCabe. They see blood and political capital. Just be careful of which version of events is being pushed.

      10 years of this. More than one minister and Gardai Senior Management has blood on their hands here. The scapegoating is useful to give the impression of action and outrage, but only to hide the sins of others.

      An orchestrated campaign against McCabe for 10 years. Yet we’re to believe its only the last 2 that are relevant, that we have a lone wolf Commissioner and its only this minister, this Taoiseach who are dirty.

      There’s a version of events here that all these new outraged politicians popping out the wood work and the complicit media want us to go with because it helps us forget the role they played for the last 10 years.

      This is becoming about an election and leadership battle. Just when FF suddenly get great polling results too….hmmmm, that timing is interesting. This should be about McCabe and it should be about the total reform of AGS. We don’t need inquiries and they’re just debating the stuff we’ve known about for 10 years.

      I don’t care about Dan’s previous position. If it were an article by Cowen offering advice on handling a financial crises, sure, have at him. But no matter what Dan writes its the same crap, same dismissal and it’s boring now.

      It’s a simple article offering an example of being wary about which version of events becomes the accepted version. It’s about distractions.

      1. Lord Snowflakee

        conspiratorial nonsense and hyperbole

        it goes without saying that an arm of state propaganda (rte) pushes a version of events because at the highest level the garda press office etc have insider contacts there and can get their story in first

        plus this so-called notion of balance

        the REASON however they push an agenda of who will hang for it isn’t because of some machiavellian plot as you assert, it’s because this story of who’s pushing humpty dumpty off the wall, was it Leo, or was it simon, or even was it Mehaul – well that’s an easy story to tell to the great unwashed in the minute or two that you might have their attention,

        whereas Katie Hannon or bodger from broadsheet reciting a timeline of events stretching over years with several seeming unrelated strands (or are they, he mused?) -well that’s a long, difficult story to tell, there is a lot you can’t say because it’s allegations at this stage, there are other things you can, and constantly reminding the public of which is which, is wearying and oh look

        .. it’s the MAYOFLY!! he’s losing some of his stick and is FALLING OFF THE WALL!!!

        HEAR YE ! HEAR! YE!!!

        1. Listrade

          So it’s conspiratorial nonsense, but it goes without saying that RTE pushes an agenda from certain sources? Consider me humbled.

          But it also misses the point.

          I don’t assert a Machiavellian plot. I just refer to what I took from Dan’s post, that you do have to be wary of the agenda that is being pushed and which “version” of events is becoming the accepted in the media. Not to say that this isn’t the truth, but that there is a reason why this becomes the main version that is pushed from “sources” or leaks.

          It has all become about who knew what and when. But only the current administration. Occasionally someone throws in a token “think of Maurice” to feign sympathy with the person they were complicit in undermining, but this is about political gain and opportunism. It may not have been a plot when the stories broke, I’m sure the timing of the FF poll is a coincidence (I’m being honest there too, until shown otherwise), but the coverage and stories and leaks are no longer about what happened to McCabe, they are about changing the current administration.

          The agenda and version being pushed suits a lot of people. Except McCabe, because the orchestrated attack on him is now a mere footnote to anecdotes about meetings.

          1. Lord Snowflakee

            It’s a bit previous to claim the whole thing is orchestrated like that in advance though, which is entirely what you were saying in previous post, at least that was the meaning I took from it

            You’re giving the boys and Prone far too much credit!

            There’s still the whole thing about events, dear boy, events.

            Even if media types have foreknowledge of a story about to break, no one can exactly predict the public reaction, for example:one thing that really stuck out this week was kenny’s mumbling performance in the Dáil, and where last week there may have been a concerted effort to pin the tail on the Zappone donkey, this week she emerged with her reputation entirely intact, and now no-one is talking about her at all.

            So if there are shadowy elements trying to orchestrate witch-hunts etc, they don’t appear to be very good at it

  3. pat harding

    It seems the point is being lost again.

    We have a situation in which a conspiracy of actors (involving senior members of the Gardai) where involved in a deliberate attempt to personally destroy a member of the same police force, for effectively telling the truth.

    It has now turned into a political sideshow involving when Enda Kenny moves on…..

    The simple issue is this. The general public has lost confidence in the Garda Commissioner, and she should resign immediately, to be followed out the door by several other senior members of the police force.

    O’Sullivan should not be given an opportunity to brazen it out, in most civilised countries she would be fired, simply because it happened on her watch.

    In which respect, would the media please focus on the real culprits and the one’s immediately responsible.

    1. Lord Snowflakee

      Bit too hard for you to reply to my original post was it?

      Seeing as you guys were responsible for absolutely still rubbish ‘national broadband scheme’ (sic!), no surprise you’re not the most tech savvy

  4. newsjustin

    Sorry – this isn’t about the article!

    Does anyone here know when the Dail is scheduled to sit this year – what are the St Patrick’s/Easter/Summer recess dates? It’s surprisingly hard to find online.

    1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      It is! I could only find this week’s goings-on. It’s almost as if they don’t like to advertise their 10-week summer hols.

  5. nellyb

    “been actors in the blackest of dark propaganda” – i don’t believe ‘actors’ is appropriate terminology, Dan, you’re taking away from the gravity of event. Too conwayesque. They are actors to you, but McCabes are likely to consider them psychological arsonists acting with impunity.

  6. Water Boy

    Dan is on the money in many of his observations.

    1. Vincent plays a formula – select the sacrificial lamb and get the kill – facts secondary

    2. Maurice McCabe has been entirely lost in the past week, a sad game of he said, she said has been led by specific elements of the opposition trying to squeeze political advantage by shouting loudest.

    The McCabe Tribunal beckons

  7. Frilly Keane

    tell ya wha’

    Oul’ Dan is getting great use out’ve that suit

    beige or not
    doesn’t owe him a penny

    1. bertie blenkinsop

      I thought it was a corduroy jacket, which is a great look when you’re young imo and can rock the young fogey look but once you hit 30 it’s been handed in (or back) to the charity shop.

      1. bisted

        …that’s it…thank you Water Boy…Dan is the Maor Uisce with the senior hurlers in that suit…shame they were seriously out of their league…more Nicky M̶o̶u̶s̶e̶ Rackard than McCarthy Cup…

      2. Dan Boyle

        You’re on the money. The corduroy jacket is separate. Wasn’t bought. Had been left in hotel, obviously by someone experiencing a mid life crisis.

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