Well. This election was dull, dull, dull. Until, that is, one Martin McGuinness announced that he was running. Then there was a sharp intake of breath in Dublin 4 and the media went into frenzy mode. This gradually diminished to a lower, near-tedium level (“These bloody debates, I’ve had a bellyful”) until Monday night when once again, a move by Martin McGuinness raised the temperature sky-high and all bets were off. Or at least those on Sean Gallagher the non-Fianna Fail candidate.
The Gallagher case is full of more zig-zags than a Bertie Ahern news conference but a number of things do stand out.
1. Gallagher has refused to answer questions about the €83,000 loan he took from his own company. The law says you can take a loan of 10% from your own company. Gallagher took a loan of 70% and so clearly breached the law, which could have landed him in jail. He says it was all a misunderstanding.
2. In 2001, Louth Enterprise Board put a loan of over €25,000 into a firm co-owned by Gallagher. In 2004 the Louth Board came looking for its money but in the meantime Gallagher’s firm had changed its name and claimed its right to pay back nothing. After a legal dispute, Gallagher’s firm paid back some but not all of the money. Nobody knows how much. Or little.
3. “I sought no money. I received no money from anybody” – Sean Gallagher during Monday’s debate.
4. “It’s very feasible that if I did deliver to his (Hugh Morgan’s) premises a photograph, he may well have given me a cheque”. – Sean Gallagher on RTÉ yesterday.
5. “I think I mentioned it to possibly three or four people, and I have no idea to this day whether or not they made a donation”. – Sean Gallagher on RTÉ, 20th October.
Sound familiar? Mmm. Quite. So what now?
Well, either the electorate in the south will awaken from the deep slumber into which they’d fallen and smell not so much the coffee as the stink of ancient Fianna Fail fish and tell Gallagher on Thursday to get lost. In which case we’ll be back where we started about 21 years ago, when the Áras was a rest home for clapped-out politicians. Or the awakening will have come too late for enough drowsy voters and Sean Gallagher, who if we’re to believe reports has contradicted himself on a number of occasions (what we ethicists sometimes refer to as “lying”), who has been a Fianna Fail man all his adult life and who acted, it seems, in the proud tradition if not the exact practice of the Galway Tent, will lead the south of Ireland for the next seven years.
Finally, a word or two about the duties of Martin McGuinness. In the media’s constant questioning of him over several carefully-selected but unsolved killings which the police and the gardai haven’t cracked, it’s clear they expect McGuinness to do this work for them – bring those responsible to justice. McGuinness the politician should become McGuinness the policeman. So what are we paying the police and gardaí for?
Plus. For ten days or so, the media had the story listed under No 1 above. But while there were vague rumblings, no outcry was heard. It wasn’t until Monday night and McGuinness’s questions to Gallagher that the media suddenly woke up and began shouting their heads off about Gallagher’s odd business practices. So in addition to policeman/detective, it appears McGuinness must add the work of being the media’s alarm clock.
So that’s detective, alarm clock and politician, all rolled into one man. Sounds to me like a multi-talented person we could usefully elect to the Áras.