Another political nail was driven through the coffin of the luckless Martin premiership this morning, with news of the resignation of Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary on the charge of violating fresh new lockdown protocols he himself had signed off on the very same week.
The second Minister of Agriculture to go in as many months following the resignation of Barry Cowen on the back of a drunk driving incident, Calleary was revealed to have been dining contra public health regulations at an Oireachtas golf dinner in Galway.
Calleary’s goose was cooked following an expose by Aoife Moore from the Irish Examiner on Wednesday, detailing how the Minister violated public health guidelines at a 80 person dinner commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Oireachtas Golf Society at the Station House Hotel in Clifden County Galway.
One of the many sub rosa social societies operating in Leinster House, the Golf Society is a fairly exclusive club reserved for former or sitting parliamentarians and assorted hangers on. In addition to this many members of the upper echelons of Irish life, including the CEO of the Irish Banking Federation and former state media apparatchik Sean O’Rourke, were also present raising the political temperature even more.
After a brief firestorm, Calleary tendered his resignation followed by Leas Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer, the day has been littered with template apologies from across the Oireachtas divide. With political blood in the water, attention soon turned to EU technocrat and Fine Gael Svengali figure Phil Hogan, with accusations doing the rounds that the former Minister broke even more guidelines due to his alleged Kildare residency travelling to the event.
The turmoil even extends to senior members of the judiciary, with Supreme Court Judge Séamus Wolfe also forced to humble himself due to his attendance. Never have so many senior bigwigs been embroiled in a fiasco so farcical, with Gardai commencing a formal investigation to boot.
While reminiscent of the infamous 2011 golfing fiasco between former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Anglo-Irish Bank chief Sean Fitzpatrick that started a chain reaction that toppled the then Fianna Fáil coalition, this debacle may very well cut just as deep with the Irish public. Unlike 2011, the ruling duopoly has exhausted a lot more political capital in the ensuing decade with a buoyant Sinn Féin lurking in the background, and even an emergent populist right starting to grow legs potentially about to capitalise on the carnage in the medium term.
There is simply no other spin that can be put on the event by the parties themselves or the INM affiliated regime press. After months of rule by technocrat under the guise of a public health emergency, whereby the entire nation was placed into quarantine and set on the path to recession, swathes of our political class thought it prudent to break these stringent guidelines for the sake of attending an elite dining club a day after increasing restrictions.
The last strands of legitimacy have essentially been vaporised not merely from the state lockdown effort, but from a bundled coalition not even past its opening three months. While the political regime turned its collective media guns on the Sinn Féin leadership for the Bobby Storey funeral, it has been forced to play the defensive since mid-week, imploring for allowances to be made to implicated officials.
While the prior Varadkar led government was dogged by an inordinate amount of self-inflicted scandals, the new order is in overt political freefall with no end in sight. From the botched EU covid-fund negotiations which forfeited billions away from state coffers, to the care home crisis, as well Apple Tax ruling, there are simply more and more fires for Martin to put out. We are witnessing the political swan song of Fianna Fail enjoying, or rather, enduring a brief period of governance before taking an inevitable political nosedive this time will be terminal.
A marooned Martin faces the prospect of electoral outflanking, not merely from an insurgent Sinn Fein, but a duplicitous Fine Gael eager to sabotage the coalition just in time for the transition midway through its term.
For budding members of the populist right, this vista should be greeted with total and absolute glee. If ever there was a sign of the fragility of the current order, it came in the form of this 80 person hubristic gombeen dinner at the West Galway hotel crippling an entire government.
The curtain is fast coming down on the 20th century political culture that has landed us in our present situation, for better or worse, and which Calleary and attendees were very much part of. While there are many faults in the new progressive Ireland, one thing for certain is that the ossified network of gombeenism is scheduled for the dustbin, to be replaced by an equally as inept progressive elite similar to the United States or most of Europe.
If ever there was a visible demonstration of the need for a populist backlash, it surely came with having chunks of our elite thinking themselves above the law dining after signing off on more lockdown protocols.
The game is up for the farce of a regime we witness daily in Ireland through its political and media machines. What is coming to replace it is arguably far more insidious in the form of an overt left wing progressive government, but this at least moves the dialectic ahead on this nation’s politics, ending the century long ideological winter which kept Irish politics so far behind the rest of Europe.
With every forkful consumed at the Cliffden hotel, our ruling political cadre may have fast tracked their political demise. While it is now inevitable that a Sinn Fein-Left coalition will sweep to power after this zombie coalition falters, the question remains as to how will Irish politics will reformulate once the 20th century duopoly retreats if not collapses, opening up the space for real political outsiders.
Politically fragmented beyond redemption, hopelessly incompentent and subservient to a variety of powers both foreign and domestic the 26 county state as we know it is on its last legs, in private many politicos know it. The Irish elite were fortunate enough not to have a major political challenger during the last crash, saving their skins, but with the impending recession may not be as lucky, opening up the Pandora’s box on populism both from the left and right.
The coming decade may not see a rapid ascension of nationalsit forces in this country, but at least will bear witness to the end of the stagnated political cartel that has haunted the 26 counties since inception.
What is being generically labelled GolfGate today is the foreshadowing of the demise of certain pillars of our political class tomorrow in the form of a populist tide. While initially taking the form of a Mary Lou Tanistry, the question remains is who or what political forces will be able to carve out a niche for itself in the rubble and it is there where many readers of this publication focus themselves.