Friday, March 02, 2007

Sleeveenism - O'Toole v. McDowell

In his Irish Times column of Feb 27th, Fintan O’Toole defined “sleeveenism” as “a combination of cunning and cowardice, the sly use of low tricks to avoid facing up to a potentially difficult situation.”

O’Toole went on to accuse Michael McDowell and the PDs of “an act of supreme sleeveenism” with regard to the Labour Party’s proposed Civil Unions Bill. To wit, the Minister for Justice’s proposal “not that the bill be rejected, but that its reading be postponed for six months. Six months from now, of course, there will be a new Dáil and all motions left over from the old Dáil will lapse. The effect of the McDowell amendment is to consign the Civil Unions Bill to oblivion without anyone having to actually vote against it. Fianna Fáil and PD TDs can go to the doorsteps, tell gay people that they support their right to equality and tell social conservatives that they sunk an attempt to recognise gay partnerships.”

In his defence, published in today's Irish Times, Michael McDowell states that “it would be a mistake and politically dishonest to accept the Labour Bill. It would be especially wrong to do so in the context of legal advice that the central scheme of the Labour Party Bill was unconstitutional.”

If Michael McDowell felt so strongly about the demerits of the Labour bill, he should have voted against it, rather than kicking it into limbo. Regardless of which man is correct on the legal argument, I believe that the charge of political sleeveenism has been proven, based on the defendant’s own testimony.

I rest my case.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Times.

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