29 June 2000 Edition
``You're not singing any more''
Red card looming for Ahern and Harney
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Some people think that sport and politics don't mix. Others argue whether or not art mirrors nature, but what about when politics mirrors sport? Strange as it may seem, the slow spiral of the Dublin Government to a comfortable crash landing in the autumn took on all the drama and spectacle of the Euro 2000 championships this week.
For example, Bertie Ahern is becoming more Keegan-like every day. His hourlong radio interview last week on Today FM's Last Word programme showed Ahern, like Keegan, a man clearly out of his depth, with sad excuses for poor performance and absolutely no concept of what went wrong and how to fix the obvious mistakes being made.
Worst still, like Kevin Keegan, Bertie Ahern has absolutely no conception that as the Fianna Fáil `manager', he is ultimately responsible for the party's mistakes, especially those that were a direct result of decisions he took.
Unfortunately, also like Keegan, there doesn't seem to be much stomach within his own ranks to replace him just yet. Add to this Mary `Raul' Harney and you have the beginning of a clear trend.
This week sees both Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats riven with internal differences and wrangling over their respective publicity debacles.
Fianna Fáil were still mopping up the O'Flaherty mess when the twin incoming balls of another missing £100,000 donation and the South Tipperary by election result hit the back of the net.
Mary Harney, who is also still suffering from the O'Flaherty debacle, had new problems this week. Now Harney has to contend with a circuit court judgement that her comments about the possibility of a Haughey conviction for obstructing the work of the McCracken Tribunal have created a ``real and substantial risk'' that he will not receive a fair trial.
The Haughey judgement came as a cruel blow to the hapless Mary.
Haughey has been the defining stamp on Mary Harney's political career. She left Fianna Fail because of him and helped form the PDs, the ashes of which she currently rakes over.
The PDs, who secured Haughey's resignation from government in 1992, surely should have been using the tribunals and the accompanying court cases as grist to their mill. The whole slow drip of Haughey's excess, the gifts of huge sums, the unpaid taxes, the lavish lifestyle, the misappropriation of monies donated for Brian Lenihan's medical costs as well as the Fianna Fáil leadership account should have been the time for Mary Harney to shine
Instead, a bit like Spain's Raul last Sunday, Harney missed the open goal.
Ahern was also raking over the ashes, not quite of a party in collapse but one in obvious decline. The South Tipperary by election showed that the Fianna Fáil vote had effectively collapsed, falling from 37.3% in 1997 to 22.8% last week.
The election of Seamus Healy, described by one Sunday newspaper as a `left-wing republican', showed where the real threat to Ahern and Harney is coming from.
Here the soccer analogy ends, because though Fine Gael wear blue they are miles away from the class shown by Italy or France in the Euro Championships. In fact they are a bit alike that other team in blue - Yugoslavia. They too collapse under pressure.
Ahern and Harney are in no hurry to go to the people; the toe in the water in South Tipp showed just how cold things are. It is strange though, that with such good economic figures and such potential to achieve positive results, we have a government so indecisive and just plain bad.
Considering the crowing and publicity hype shown by this government over the past three year it seems strange that the chant from the terraces is ``you're not singing any more''. However this is the truth, Fianna Fáil and the PDS had the potential to do something really special in terms of government. They have clearly blown it.