All go at Gallagher

By Anthony McIntyre (for the Pensive Quill)

Initially when Sean Gallagher’s ‘independent’ hat appeared in the ring for the presidential election it hardly looked tailor made to fit the head of the Irish President. But with the electorate poised to go to the polls later this week it is clear that the Aras is in some danger of falling into his hands.

Whatever the alarmist connotations ‘danger’ is the appropriate term. Doubtless, Gallagher is part of the Fianna Fail machine even if the tracks of his party membership have been covered with a floor mat upon the face of which ‘independent’ is brightly stencilled. Fianna Fail in government effectively destroyed the economy and sacrificed society’s future for the sake of instant gratification. In the words of Fintan O’Toole the Soldiers of Destiny at the head of government “blew it. They allowed an unreconstructed culture of cronyism, self indulgence, and, at its extremes, of outright corruption to remain in place ... they fostered ... a false economy of facades and fictions. The practiced the economics of utter idiocy ... they amused themselves with fantasy projects and pet projects while the opportunity to break cycles of deprivation and end child poverty was frittered away. They turned self-confidence into arrogance, optimism into swagger, aspiration into self delusion.”

No better advertisement for a re-launch of the same old same old than to allow Fianna Fail’s man near the Aras.

This morning I woke up to find an email from a journalist who had once interviewed me. In the body of the text he had pasted in a substantial piece on Sean Gallagher that had featured on the website. The writer, obviously not happy with Gallagher’s campaign, penned a pretty hefty critique. I have no way with the limited time available of establishing the veracity of the charges made but to say they were neither substantial nor well presented would be a gross misrepresentation of the case made against Gallagher. The writer gives more than enough reason to be concerned about the possibility of this candidate bedding down in the Aras. Distilled down, the argument made is that Gallagher is up to his neck in Fianna Fail and is deceiving the electorate. It is well worth reading.

There is a certain paradox about the Gallagher phenomenon. As more comes to light about his seeming indivisibility from the toxic Fianna Fail, the greater the surge in support for his Aras bid. An electorate determined to punish Fianna Fail for its management of the economy at the last general election seems set to apply a liberal dose of double think, embrace the Soldiers of Debacle and allow them yet one more spin on the merry-go-round.

Last night in the RTE debate hosted by Pat Kenny, the Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness finally managed to get himself off the ropes and land a few telling hooks on the jutted chin of Sean Gallagher. There was no knockout blow but the recipient of the McGuinness hand speed staggered, reeled and used an envelope to cover his solar plexus while McGuinness scored with well placed hits on the chin. The defence was feeble and may yet prove fatal, inviting only more hooks and uppercuts: ‘If he gave me an envelope I . . . if he gave me the cheque it was made out to Fianna Fail headquarters and it was delivered and that was that. It was nothing to do with me.’ As David Norris pointed out in the same debate the envelope defence was most definitely not the right move.

Gallagher today took to disparaging and goading his Sinn Fein tormentors:

This was a political assassination attempt by Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein last night. The person in question Hugh Morgan is a convicted criminal and he loaded the gun while Martin McGuinness pulled the trigger. I told the truth on Frontline ... This was a legitimate and legal fundraiser. No banks were robbed and no members of the Gardai were killed during it.

He further claimed that Sinn Fein had ambushed him during the course of which it had launched a hatchet job. And his point is? Underhand, below the belt, it’s politics; politicians do that sort of thing. They would cut each other’s throat for a vote. Regardless of what motivated McGuinness - and it was hardly out of concern for the Irish people not being told the truth - ultimately the allegation he made is something the electorate needs to know prior to casting its vote. In any event, the irony is unlikely to be lost on it that it is Martin McGuinness, so reticent to discuss his own past, who supplied the information about Gallagher’s.

The spectacle being viewed here by the electorate is a bare knuckle fight between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail, a war of position being fought out in the presidential arena prior to the upcoming war of manoeuvre aimed at seizing the Dail. Fianna Fail is seeking to securely deposit and anchor its floating electoral resources, declared and otherwise, in the Aras so that it might invest them at a later date in a general election. The Aras is a major beachhead for the party that will figure significantly in its planned comeback. It is eager not to repeat what it may well regard as a fatal error on the part of the SDLP in the North 30 years ago when it allowed Sinn Fein to ‘borrow’ the Fermanagh South Tyrone seat at Westminster. Sinn Fein permanently ‘borrowed’ the SDLP vote and today holds the seat. The SDLP is now effectively dead in the constituency. Fianna Fail is hell bent on ensuring Sinn Fein will not encourage voter promiscuity within the Soldiers grassroots.

The determination shown by McGuinness in gunning for Gallagher is rooted in Sinn Fein’s real, although unstated, reason for ever having entered the Presidential election to begin with. Sinn Fein wants to gut Fianna Fail and fill the vacuum in the wake of the evisceration. A Gallagher victory would put an end to that. It would mean Fianna Fail having kept its grassroots powder dry, to be used at a future date rather than it filling the parliamentary muskets of Sinn Fein which would then be turned on Fianna Fail.

It is strategically vital for Sinn Fein to stop Gallagher and Fianna Fail. Higgins, the likely beneficiary of the current McGuinness assault, if elected, poses a much lesser threat to the Sinn Fein game plan which would prioritise colonising the Dail over planting McGuinness in the Aras.

If Gallagher wins, Sinn Fein’s strategic foray might not prove so bountiful after all. Small consolation for those in a society who thought they had exorcised Fianna Fail.

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