Willie O’Dea: Limerick is insulted, I tell you, about me not being a Minister

Just when we thought we had Coronavirus over us, we’re now facing the prospect of mass protests in Limerick:

Not just insulted, either, but grossly insulted. And not only Limerick, mind you, but Cork North West, to boot:

Let’s be honest here: The new Taoiseach has made an absolute balls of his ministerial appointments, and it’s going to cost him his job as leader of Fianna Fáil when he quits as Taoiseach at the end of 2022.

First, there was the atrocious way in which he treated Dara Calleary, who is very well liked in Fianna Fáil, and in the political world at large. Then there was the fact that in discarding Calleary, he left the entire western seaboard without a minister, which is something that matters, whether you think it should or not. Then there was the way he left out Jim O’Callaghan, and in so doing created a leader-in-waiting, whose hands will be conveniently clean of all those compromises you have to make in Government. And now he’s handed O’Callaghan two high profile supporters, in O’Dea and Moynihan.

There is, of course, an irony in the fact that for eight years, Martin has taken FF from slump to slump, and these guys have all fallen in line and never raised a word of discontent – but as soon as they didn’t get the big jobs, there’s war. It would tend to confirm every cynical comment that’s ever been made about the attitude of many Irish politicians.

There won’t, of course, be mass protests in Limerick, or in Cork, because hardly anybody outside of Leinster House gives a hoot who the Junior Minister for the Environment is. The more lasting damage is probably the sense in rural Ireland that the cabinet appointments reflect a Dublin-centric Government that doesn’t much care about what happens outside the pale.

And in fairness to Mr. Martin, you can see what he was trying to do. He wants a Cabinet that looks like Ireland, which, these days, is much more important than a Cabinet that can actually govern Ireland. So by promoting a first timer in (the very highly rated) Norma Foley, he was trying to give FF a fresh new face or two as compared to the last time they were in Government. Willie O’Dea’s sin isn’t a lack of ability – it’s the fact that he reminds too many people of the Bertie years. This is about branding, not about government.

The consequences of all this in the short term won’t be much to write home about – but the problems will arise when the going gets tough, and Willie decides to go on the tonight show and criticise the Government and the Taoiseach at a crucial moment. You can well imagine him becoming the leading backbench opponent of the carbon tax, for example, or any other number of questionable initiatives.

And what has Martin gained, ultimately? Norma Foley may well be an excellent Minister for Education, and let’s hope she is, but she’d have been no threat to him on the backbenches as a first term TD. Better to have them on the inside, pissing out, as they say, than on the outside, pissing in.

Especially when their name is Willie.

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