JACK LYNCH has blundered already, he hasn't yet learnt that he simply mustn't do anything or take any decisions without first clearing it with Haughey. Charlie had decided on who were going to be Parliamentary Secretaries and attached to what Ministries. The suave wheeler-dealer Gerry Collins was to be Chief Whip and Party Manager. Bobby Molloy was to join his "Guru" George Colley in Industry and Commerce and the Gaeltacht, and Des O'Malley was to assume part of the Donogh mantle in Education. However, just one hour before Jack was to make the announcement in the Dail-somebody said that. there couldn't be another O'Malley in Education. Jack panicked-couldn't get Charlie on the 'phone and switched Des to Chief Whip, Gerry to Industry and Commerce and The Gaeltacht, and Bobby to Education. Colley won't draw an easy breath with Collins in the back office-Molloy will find it difficult to contain himself with Faulkner and poor Dessie just isn't up to handling all those Blaney-Haughey -Colley slick-artists.
Charlie decided to give brother-inlaw; Noel Lemass, a break. After all, Donogh O'Malley had made good after all those years in the wild wilderness and Noel had begun to shape up over the la&t few years. He had also made the supreme sacrifice by agreeing to move from Dublin South Central, where his electoral strength lay to Dublin South West - and he managed to save the second seat for the party there-if only by a hair's breath. Charlie was anxious to reward such a gesture at a time when others had demonstrated such crass selfishness in the face of party interests. Noel has been assigned to the Board of Works where big brother can keep an eye on him and already he has been publicly reprimanded in the Dail for muddling up questions on the sale of the Hume St. houses.
Todd for the high jump
David Andrews was surprised that he had been left out of the Parliamentary Secretaries line-up-but he shouldn't have been. Fianna Fail has never really been a glamour-boy party and "the topping-the-poll-and-to-hell-withthe running-mates mentality" just does not go down. Anyway David really isn't very bright and the Andrews are falling out of favour. Brother Niall failed to win a nomination in South County Dublin and don't be too surprised if papa Todd goes for the high-jump in R.T.E. very soon.
Flor Crowley was another surprised would-be Parliamentary Secretary. He thought he'd done his bit by throwing as much mud as mud-mucker 0 Morain. But neither Charlie nor Jack were impressed and Flor needn't expect any turn in his fortunes for some years to come--if ever.
They were very tempted to give Michael O'Kennedy Education. But the party's tradition of reward on service was not to be violated in this instance (look what happened to Kevin Boland). However, O'Kennedy is virtually assured of promotion before the expiry of the 19th Dail.
Sweetman drops Harte
Everybody missed the big Fine Gael news of the month"':"- the dropping of Pat Harte from the Shadow Cabinet. Harte had been one of the few supporters of the Just Society policy in 1964-65 and had" been a consistent admirer of Declan Costello. He very clearly aligned himself with the party's "young tiger" element over the last few years and had stood unsuccessfully against Pat Lindsay for the party secretaryship at last May's Ard Fheis. Harte has been conducting a standing row with Gerry Sweetman for some time now - but it was only last January that it has become overt. The issue was Declan Costello's return to active politics. Harte was critical of the leadership's half-hearted overtures to Costello-and at the time he openly denounced Sweetman whom he felt was blocking Costello's return. Since then relations with Sweetman were exacerbated by the latter's interference in the
Fine Gael organisation in North-East Donegal-Harte's constituency.
Harte's demotion has been presented as if it was at Harte's own request"he was not anxious to remain on the front bench." But the fact is he was dropped at Sweetman's instigation. This is a measure of the extent to which Sweetman has now taken over Cosgrave and the party.
The timing of Harte's demotion was delicate. It was done at a time when none of the senior party men (e.g. Tom O'Higgins, Garret Fitzgerald, Tom Fitzpatrick, Paddy Belton and Mark Clinton) could raise any violent objections as each of them was depending on a traditional party support to get "their"
men into the Senate (O'Higgins and Behon both have brothers going upFitzgerald is plugging' Michael 'Sweetman and Alexis Fitzgerald-Fitzpatrick is" backing" fellow-Cavanman Andy O'Brien and Clinton is pushing John Boland). It was' all 50 very clever. Also very clever was the "anxious not to remain on the front bench" bit---:which was partially true as obviously with" the rift between Sweetman and Harte-the latter would not be happy in the Shadow Cabinet with the former.
Several of the newly-elected Fine Gael T.D.s are quite disillusioned at this "gutting" and many of their suspicions that something was wrong in the party's higher elechons are somewhat substantiated. The incident doesn't end here. The knives are sharpening for Sweetman-Cosgrave's turn will come later.
" The other interesting. thin"g about the" Fine Gael front bench is, of course, the appointment of Gerry Sweetman as spokesman. on foreign affairs. The reasoning behind this was very simple. He wanted to remain on the front bench and could not do so as director of organisation any longer (as with the election over the post is considerably less important than previously). A place had to be found for him. Though Mark Clinton had left Agriculture-Sweetman couldn't be appointed there for he had been enormously unsuccessful as spokesman on Agriculture from 196567. Tom O'Higgins wanted to stay in Finance and wouldn't be moved-this was also true of Donegan and Industry and Commerce. Therefore, the only other position of any prestige which remained was External Affairs - which Cosgrave himself had looked after since 1967.
It was a measure of the party's disinterest or indeed hypocrisy towards External Affairs that it should appoint a person so utterly uninterested and uninformed in them to that position. This is not at all to denigrate the real abilities which Sweetman commands but to emphasise their misapplication.
Cosgrave had an obvious man for External Affairs in Sir Anthony Esmond who at last May's Ard Fheis made a magnificent speech on the recognition of Biafra and on E.E.C. membership-both of which are very topical subjects at the moment and of which Sweetman is entirely ignorant.
There was some surprise at the appointment of newcomer Dick Burke as chief whip in preference to Tommy Dunne of North Tipperary. Burke, of course, merited a place in the front bench but Dunne's quite amicability would probably better have suited the position.
There are a lot of other things to say about the Fine Gael front bench but it can wait-they will all be there 'til October at least.
It is widely believed that Sweetman is to retire shortly as director of organisation. His most likely (and favoured) successor is Ritchie Ryan who though he would certainly try very hard would just not be as competent a hatchet man as Sweetman has been.
"Vote of Confidence in Cosgrave"
Ryan excelled even himself recently in a speech in which he called 66% of the Irish electorate - ignorant - cowardly and stupid and said that Cosgrave had received "a massive vote of confidence" in the election-this latter remark stands beside the 0 % increase in the party vote since the 1965 general election. However, perhaps even Cosgrave deserves some praise for this achievement with fools like Ryan insulting the electorate.
Ritchie has been reading NUSIGHT I see by the remark-"I want to speak bluntly (I wonder if that's the word). There is no justification whatsover for the scribblings of some commentators which infer the possibility of a new alignment between Fine Gael and Labour under the leadership of a man who has done nothing for years past to assist in the replacement of Fianna Fail with a progressive government." Ritchie is, of course, referring to Declan Costello and the hint in last month's editorial that Costello might head a Fine Gael-Labour alliance.
Ryan didn't exactly sacrifice himself in the cause either, come to think of it. Remember the neat knifing job he did on Maurice O'Connell (see June issue of NUSIGHT) a month before the election -O'Connell being the only Fine Gael man that could have taken a second seat for the party in Dublin South Central-but of course Maurice at the same time formed a threat to Ritchie's seat. The canvass whisperings of Ryan supporters about Garret Fitzgerald being a communist didn't help too much either. However, I just loved the bit-"the Irish people have disgraced themselves again by their crass inability and cowardly unwillingness to use the ballot box to get rid of a government which most of them detested"-and the hilarious thing is-he really believes it. Mad, quite mad! The Labour party has its problems too, already a number of branches, even in Dublin, have repudiated the "New Republic" for "its alien anti-Christian ideals." Even Noel Browne can't keep the faithful faithful in Dublin South East. However, Brendan Halligan will see to that lot and there won't be too much trouble there.
However, as far as the Labour party is concerned - for a change it's in the Dail that it's all happe,ning. It's just as well that Brendan Corish reads NUSIGHT for he might have appointed Dr. John O'Donovan as spokesman on Finance-after all, with all those doctorates in economics, etc. But no! It was felt that Jimmy Tully had that just, comprehensive, practical ordinary-man's grasp of the nation's finance that the socialist Labour party needed. So much for "Das Capital."
It was so nice of Brendan to give Maire Cruise McEntee O'Brien the Gaeltacht portfolio. After all, now that the O'Brien's have launched their duo T.V. act-why not?
NUSIGHT still beiieves that Con or could make the leadership of the Labour Party within a few yearsif he sticks to it. Already his Fianna Fail imposed horns are beginning to recede. Indeed his recent moving speech on Biafra in an adjournment debate astounded even Deputy Joseph Leneghan ("why don't you go home to your black babies"). Fianna Fail are beginning even to disbelieve its own propaganda.
It seems likely that very soon Labour will need somebody of O'Brien's stature to keep the party together. Thornley, Keating and Desmond think Noel Browne is a "twit" and the opinion is reciprocated. A public row nearly erupted when Browne spoke on the Universities Bill and said that U.C.D. was run by the Knights and T.C.D. by the Freemasons. Thornley, who had made a constructive intelligent contribution to the debate just prior to then, was infuriated. Then of course as NUSIGHT revealed last month there is no love lost between Browne and O'Donovan. Thornley and Keating think poor J ohnno was born long after his time and Johnno thinks David and Justin have a lot of growing up to do.
Then there's Barry Desmond who has been out of favour with everybody since 1967. How's that for a mess and I've not even mentioned Michael Pat Murphy, Seamus Pattison, Dah Spring and Sean Tracey who as a group don't get on with anybody else and as individuals don't get on with each other. Corish just about keeps them together and at the momer.>t he's the only one that could do it-but Conor has the stature and except for Michael Pat he gets on just fine with everybody-so far.
It.s very funny really-though it would be even better if Ritchie Ryan were in the Labour party. Well-maybe notl