Week of seismic changes and saddest of departures

World of Politics with Harry McGee

It was one of those weeks in politics where it was hard to keep tabs on everything – a new Commissioner; a new Minister for Finance; the Ceann Comhairle initiated a standing ovation in the Dáil for a young woman who was beaten unconscious by a serving soldier. Industrial action by Aer Lingus pilots has threatened to bring chaos and create the kind of political unrest not seen really since the 1980s.

And then two of the colossal figures in Irish life died – sports broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and journalist Tommie Gorman.

It wasn’t a huge surprise to learn that Michael McGrath would be the next Irish Commissioner. The post was in Fianna Fáil’s gift and since 2020 only two names have been mentioned in relation to it. The first was Micheál Martin.

Following Fianna Fáil uncertain election that year, there were doubts about Martin’s stay-ability and about how he would perform as Taoiseach. Indeed, many of his colleagues were of the view that he would step down shortly after reverting to the role of Tánaiste and then go to Europe.

It didn’t pan out that way. Somewhere along the line all internal opposition to his leadership faded away. Somewhere along the line too he decided that if he led Fianna Fáil into the next election he had a good chance of becoming taoiseach for a second time.

That left McGrath. From the moment he entered politics he was an assured, smart and undramatic politician; a safe pair of hands.

McGrath, of course, had his own leadership ambitions. Of all the TDs in the party, he had for a long time been regarded as the favourite. He was an extraordinary election machine in Cork South Central.

But there were a couple of caveats. Could the party afford to have a second leader not only from Cork but from the same constituency. McGrath had loads of ability, but did he have the personality and breadth to become leader?

All of those questions are academic now; he opted for Europe. The fact that Government has put forward his name so early will help McGrath secure a substantial portfolio, likely to be in the economic or financial area.

Pictured: Happy day…RTE’s Northern Editor Tommie Gorman plays up to his news colleague Paddy McEntee’s camera at NUI Galway where he was conferred with an Honorary Degree of Masters of Arts back in 2009.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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