Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Thank you Michael Lowry, thank you Denis O'Brien
Well thank God for Michael Lowry. We should all go down on our knees this morning in gratitude for his existence. If it hadn’t been for him and the picture of his corruption presented in the Moriarty Report yesterday, we might have bought into the Fine Gael analysis of southern Irish politics. Which was? Oh, just that the good name of Irish politics and the very state itself have been besmirched and brought low by that shower of greasy-till fumblers, Fianna Fáil. Certainly that’s the line Fine Gael sold the voting public in the recent election, with the happy result that they did better than in any election in living memory. Thanks to his stern it’s-time-to-end-the-brown-envelope-culture line, Enda has finally climbed to the top of the greasy pole. Helped, of course, by his high-minded insistence that his party couldn’t possibly go into government with Sinn Féin. As Maggie Thatcher put it, that was out, out, out. Standing on the high moral ground, Enda needed someone to occupy the lower moral ground so people would see how high his ground was, and Sinn Féin were it.
What’s that? That’s the corrupt south, nothing to do with us? Well try this. In 2006, it’s understood, Denis O’Brien, the man at the centre of this scandal, donated almost £500,000 to the SDLP. As further proof of his good feelings towards that party, he delivered an address to the party the following year. The title of his talk was (no, don’t laugh) ‘Shaping An All-Ireland Economy'.
Few parties can afford to turn away a man who approaches them with half a million in his fist; and if you’re the SDLP, you want to grab any chance for a talk that has a bit of All-Ireland glister, to balance the post-nationalist stuff. It’s just a pity that, in retrospect, Denis’s idea of how to operate in an All-Ireland economy mightn't be quite what the rest of us had in mind.
But hey - Fine Gael and the SDLP, indissolubly linked with spectacular southern sleaze. On a Spring morning, you gotta smile.