Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Self-styled rottweiller Michael McDowell, Minister for Justice (or Secretary of State, Home Secretary, Minister of the Interior, as other countries have it) has just stepped up to the mark to lead the Progressive Democrats in what will surely turn out to be the most deluded political leadership change in Irish history (and, yes, I remember Alan Dukes in charge of Fine Gael). McDowell has, over the past two years become one of the most reviled personalities in Irish life, being hated by everyone from Sinn Féin-voting taxi drivers to gee-eyed student ravers to tax-dodging West of Ireland farmers all the way up to the natural constituency of 'Dublin 4 liberals', a large number of whom would appear to vote for him. It is like the widespread unpopularity of his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy over here, except that he does not enjoy Sarko's polarising influence. For every one person that hates him, there is at least one another that admires him. Thousands of people hate McDowell and there are few outside his Dublin South-East constituency that do not.
For a man who is quite clearly intelligent, and a capable barrister, he is a dunderheaded fool when it comes to politics. His only creed is one of 'might is right', and he tries to trample all over objections to him in Ireland with the strong-armed tactics of a Donald Rumsfeld or a John Ashcroft, something which backfires terribly in Irish politics. His unpopularity was cemented in the last year by his comparing the colourless Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton to Göebbels and his hatchet job on Frank Connolly and the Centre for Public Inquiry, for which he will ultimately be the fall guy, doing away with a troublesome adversary of Fianna Fáil while the PDs get excluded from the next coalition government, whatever it may be. The PDs can kiss their election goodbye. And the rest of the country will relish the prospect of a more retiring Mickey Mack.