To lose one agriculture minister might be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two, the IFA might have said to the Taoiseach last night, is just rank carelessness:
Cullinan said: “We are very concerned about the disruption caused by the loss of two Ministers for Agriculture since the new government was formed, and reports that a new Minister would not be appointed for three weeks.
The Taoiseach confirmed to us this evening that he intends to appoint a new Minister next week
“We emphasised the importance of having a Minister in place to represent farmers on crucial issues such as CAP, Brexit and the national Budget in October.”
Rome, in 69AD, had the year of the four emperors, of course. Nero fiddled while the city burned, and was swiftly succeeded by Galba, and then Otho, before Vespasian came to the throne and brought fifty years or so of stability and prosperity. Ireland is about to have its year of the four agriculture ministers. Who, the farmers might reasonably ask, will be their Vespasian?
Brendan Smith, the Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, would be the obvious candidate. Much like the aforementioned Emperor Vespasian, he’s the experienced runner, having held the position previously, back in the good old days under Brian Cowen. He knows the brief, he’s from a rural constituency, and he’s unlikely to cause any trouble.
But then this is modern Ireland, and Brendan Smith is, not to put too fine a point on it, an old white bloke. Which gives Anne Rabbitte a leg up, surely?
Rabbitte already has a job, is the only thing. She’s presently minister for people with disabilities – a hugely important portfolio, and surely a person of her integrity would not wish to abandon that post when she’s only started to come to terms with it? She is also from a rural constituency, though. But then, given their results in Dublin at the election, that’s a qualification most FF TDs share.
The other candidates, you’d imagine, are Donegal’s Charlie McConalogue and Limerick’s William O’Dea. McConalogue has youth on his side, and some experience in agri matters as a former spokesman in opposition.
O’Dea is surely an under-valued candidate, though: He has experience at cabinet level, and is a heavy enough hitter to make the farmers feel that they have someone at cabinet who’ll be listened to, and who is punchy enough to fight the green ministers on matters of concern to rural Ireland.
Whoever it is, the most important qualification, at this point, is the ability not to cause trouble. It’s gotten to the point where you’d nearly advise the Taoiseach, much like an American President does with the FBI, to have the Gardai provide a full vetting report on the candidates. Who has a few unpaid parking fines that might come out? Who’s a bit too fond of the chicken dinners, and potentially incapable of turning down an invitation to a decent feed?
Smith would be my choice, in Martin’s shoes. There’s a lot to say for experience, and someone who speaks the language of rural Ireland. An advert for diversity he may not be, but you’re not going to find a lot of “we want more woman and minority politician” concerns in the mart at Granard, are you?
If that is top of his list though, he could reach into the Seanad and appoint Lisa Chambers. She has no obvious qualifications, of course, besides being a woman and utterly loyal to Mr. Martin, but the media would like it, and they’re a more important constituency to the Fianna Fáil leader than some poor fella in Ballyhaunis who can’t get a good price for his bullocks.
As an aside, how did Martin ever think he could get away with leaving the job vacant for three weeks? Is his mind just totally frazzled at this stage? It might be, you know.