Reflections on momentous week in and around the corridors of power

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

If the Dáil was Wall Street we’d have a crash every week – followed of course by a miraculous recovery. It’s been a rollercoaster ride over the past couple of weeks as the issue of abortion has given rise to the kind of debate, and division, and peculiar occurrences and emotion we associate with controversies long consigned to the memory.

I’ll be a denizen of Leinster House for a decade from the beginning of next month and I can say that only perhaps three times over that ten years have I seen such extraordinary scenes.

I came into the Dail as political editor of the Irish Examiner in 2003. It was the year after a general election in which Fianna Fáil had cruised to victory ensuring a second term for Bertie Ahern.

Fine Gael was in the doldrums and had a new leader Enda Kenny. Labour was also not doing too well, flatlining in 2002 under Ruairi Quinn and its new leader Pat Rabbitte would not prevent it flatlining in 2007.

Every time I remember that summer, I compare the eerie quietness in Leinster House to the creepy isolated and deserted Overlook Hotel in the classic horror film the Shining. My only two immediate memories are good weather and the day being punctuated by the roar of passengers on the Viking Splash tour as they passed by the complex.

The point is that nothing was happening that summer and nothing of any real significance happened for the next couple of years (the boom was getting boomer, don’t you know!) until my Irish Times colleague Colm Keena broke the story of Bertie Ahern being investigated by the Mahon Tribunal.

Of course, far under the surface, the fault was beginning to rumble but the whole political establishment (and that included writers and just about every economist in the country bar one or two) was blissfully unaware. We did not know that we did not know, to borrow J Kenneth Galbraith’s memorable line.

Once Bertie’s money troubles broke, it triggered a series of events that hurtled us along for six years and has only slowed down in the last year or so as the new Government has drawn closer to its mid-term.

With the Coalition having a huge majority and having laboured through almost the entirety of the bailout programme, it looked like we might return to the slightly boring but oh-so stable atmosphere of the summer of 2003 a decade later.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.