Following publication of my entry of 31st July in the Indo, the PDs had a response published on 10th August, which I reproduce below. This is followed by my own response to the PD rebuttal.
I read with interest Peter Molloy's 'A Prayer for the poor PD's' (Letters, August 4) with some amusement. It is a long time since I have seen the word gombeen used in Irish political discourse; in fact I am sure in fact that many of your younger readers will have no idea what it means. When I was growing up it referred to a style of politics dominated by personality politics and clientalism.
It is clear from Mr Molloy's letter that he is himself is a practitioner of this style of politics as all his criticisms of the Progressive Democrats are focused on issues of personality rather than issues of policy. I had thought that we as a society had moved beyond such a trivial analysis of political matters.
Mr Molloy appears to believe that Tom Parlon is a gombeen politician. I had the pleasure recently of seeing Minister Parlon chair a meeting of farmers in his own constituency. During the meeting a suggestion was made from the floor on a matter of policy which was to say the least impracticable. The response of any Gombeen politician would have been to make soothing noises, promise to raise the issue at the highest level etc. The Minister did not give that response he said straight out it was a bad idea, and why it was a bad idea. Straight talk is not the mark of a Gombeen politician.
Mr Molloy appears to believe that Minister McDowell is unfit for office because he lost his temper, and that he has become "increasingly belligerent".
No one would claim that Minister McDowell is a shy, shrinking violet, but then again who would want a shrinking violet as Minster for Justice?
Minister McDowell had the courage to stand up to Sinn Fein when the overwhelming consensus was that a blind eye should be turned to their crimes, when see no evil seemed to be the public motto. Nor has he been afraid to push through vital reforms in law enforcement in the face of concerted opposition from powerful vested interests. His judgement has been questioned, but more often vindicated.
When Minister McDowell lost his temper, he made a full and gracious apology on the floor of the house; if it was good enough for Richard Bruton surely it should be good enough for Mr Molloy.
Minister McDowell is a refreshing change, a politician who knows his mind and is unafraid to speak it in a forthright and fearless fashion.
Finally, Mr Molloy has the absolute temerity to question Tanaiste's competence.
There can be no doubt that the single greatest challenge facing the Irish political system is the provision of a proper Healthcare system for the Irish people. Irish taxpayers are paying for a world class Healthcare system and Minister Mary Harney is working both hard and smart to make sure they get one.
It is a huge challenge; indeed it is the largest change management exercise in the history of the State. I know of no other politician who would have either the courage to accept the task, let alone to deliberately seek it out, or the skill to bring it to a successful conclusion.
Progress is being made, slowly and painfully perhaps, but real progress nonetheless. The Tanaiste is a woman of acute intelligence, great political skill, and no little compassion. All attributes she will need to deliver the promise of a world class Health Service. I have no doubt she will do so.
On one point only do I agree with Mr Molloy, the fate of the Progressive Democrats (and indeed of every politician in Dail Eireann ) lies in the hands of God and the Irish people. To God I commend our souls and the souls of all in politics, to the Irish people I commend the Progressive Democrats.
DIRECTOR OF POLICY
STH FREDERICK ST D2
My response emailed Sunday 13th August
I refer to Seamus Mulconry‘s response (10th August) on behalf of the PDs to my earlier analysis (4th August) of the party’s situation. I doubt your readers required his help in understanding the meaning of “gombeen politics”. They only have to think “Parlon Country” to conjure up an appropriate image of self-serving cute-hoorism. It’s not a question of intelligence or competence, it’s a question of how those attributes are applied.
Mr Mulconry offers a robust defence of Michael McDowell, a man of undoubted ability and intelligence. However, the minister’s outburst against Richard Bruton was only the latest in a series of gaffes which place serious question-marks over his political judgement. Other include the highly controversial provision of confidential garda information on the Columbia Three case to a selected journalist and a series of high-profile policy u-turns forced on him by his government colleagues, most recently the decision to legalise gambling clubs.
Finally, Mr Mulconry has the brass-neck to accuse me of having “the absolute temerity to question the Tanaiste's competence” as, in my letter of 4th August, I stated that “few people doubt her integrity or work ethic, but her competence is now being called into question by her apparent inability to achieve significant improvement in the health service or to break the hold of the powerful vested interests - the consultants, nurses etc - in that service.”
If Mr Mulconry thinks that the public and the media are already declaring the Tanaiste's tenure a success in the Health arena, then I suspect that he needs to do more research in his role as PD Director of Policy.
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