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13 June 1997 Edition

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Television: A Sticky wicket

To paraphrase Wilde, only a man with a heart of stone could fail to laugh at the plight of Proinsias De Rossa and his dwindling band of opportunists.

Apart from the scenes of elation from the count centre in Cootehill, the highlight of the TV week was surely watching it dawn on the hapless Proinsias that he could only get elected without reaching the quota and thanks to transfers from Fine Gael.

RTE's best ever television election coverage -- Election 1997, all day Saturday -- saw the cameras stay rolling until 4am to witness this spectacle, and many Republicans stayed up with them, willing the bearded Stick to lose.

Here was beauty like a tightened bow; the long humiliation of an arrogant man.

From other count centres, the news poured in. Eric Byrne thrown out in Dublin. The shrill Kathleen Lynch, Cork's answer to Mary MacMahon, also got the chop. Joe Sherlock, that old Sticky warhorse, once more failed to get his nose in the feed bag.

Suddenly, our hearts raced: Out of the blue there was a chance of the double! De Rossa was almost sure to lose in Dublin North-west, while the treacle-voiced Liz McManus looked headed for the dole queue in Wicklow.

It was not to be. But even as the sorrow welled in our breasts for poor Caoimhghín O Caoláin - who must, after all, share the opposition benches with this wretched pair - our delight could not truly be quenched.

Because it is now clear to all that this evil little bunch of loyalist sympathisers, the Democratic Left, are politically a spent force, and will soon disappear completely.

Once, this party had something akin to an ideology shaping its political principles. True, it was a noxious cocktail of self-hatred and pseudo-Marxism, but at least you knew what it stood for.

How Frank Ryan must have laughed from beyond the grave when he saw the people that abused his name so cynically for years prop up the Blueshirts in government. And, of course, they became a seamless part of the Fine Gael tapestry, to the point where even Labour party ministers became sickened by the sight of them.

So have the voters. Despite the publicity that the party's four ministers in the last government drummed up so shamelessly in a willing press, the DL trailed Sinn Féin in the election.

Even more amusingly, the party's own members, in massive numbers, have simply walked away. Half way through the doomed Bruton administration, the DL actually ran out of members to appoint to government quangos. At its recent Ard Fheis - sorry, Party Conference - the DL had to beg the few remaining members to take their friends along, just to bring up the numbers.

In fact, the Democratic Left - the name must be a tribute to Orwell as the organisation espouses neither democracy nor socialism - is no longer really a party at all. Its TDs, apart from De Rossa, would feel comfortable in any other party except Sinn Féin. They have become Independents.

And now, its ludicrous, unionist position on the North is being by-passed by history. No one, from the White House to Whitehall, is holding out for an internal solution, except De Rossa and Paisley.

On Questions & Answers (RTE, Mondays, 10.30pm) this week, Proinsias was at his most pathetic, trying to undermine Fianna Fáil by encouraging the PDs to revive their own gut-level dislike of northern nationalists. Liz O'Donnell, hardly an intellectual colossus striding the corridors of Leinster House, needed about five seconds to see right through him.

In fact, it seems likely that De Rossa will soon resign. His credibility on the North is shot and he has been badly wounded politically by his failure in the libel courts. We must take him at his word that he knows nothing about printing fivers; sadly, this will make it especially hard for him to come up with the hundreds of thousands of pounds he has ratcheted up in legal costs.

His three erstwhile flunkeys, Gilmore, Rabbitte and McManus, have already no doubt seen the writing on the wall. No doubt they plan some lame caper like a ``merger'' with Labour.

Goodbye now.

By Michael Kennedy


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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