In its official publications, printed material and correspondence Fianna Fáil (FF) is - in a second line - always described as "The Republican Party". Even Bertie Ahern mentioned this easily overlooked and rarely used additive in his resignation speech last Wednesday.
But as things have developed in Fianna Fáil over the past few days, this promotional definition will need to be changed soon. First of all, FF has long moved away from republican ideals and is for a considerable time now a party of tribal politics and the protection of tribal and private interests.
So perhaps "The Tribal Party" might be quite appropriate. When I discussed this matter yesterday with a neighbour, he suggested - in light of the next party leader - "The Fat Yob's Party", which would also fit, but might be seen by some as a little rough.
My own suggestion is "The Sycophantic Party", and I will explain to you why.
Shortly after Bertie had announced his more than inevitable date of departure from the helm of the state, ministers of his cabinet queued outside RTÉ to deliver their personal heaps of praise on the man who had more or less made them all and given them their jobs. This did not really surprise me a lot, since FF is a very cliquish and clannish party and Bertie has been the Bass - I mean Boss - of it for more than a decade.
I was however a little astonished that no one mentioned with a word his flaws and shortfalls, or referred to the real reasons for the early departure of the Taoiseach. They all praised him in the highest ways, and the more of that I heard, the more I began to wonder if Patrick Bartholomew Ahern - known as Bertie - is actual a mortal man of flesh and blood.
Listening to his colleagues in government - and they should be the ones who really know him - he looked more like an angel or a demi-god. But then again I remembered who was talking. And when was the last time that one could believe a word Fianna Fáil was saying in public?
Must have been long before my time, since I do not remember any.
But the real character of FF came to light on Thursday, the day after Bertie's announcement. By then the Taoiseach - even though still in office until May 6th - was already history for his party. No more words about him from the loyal ministers.
Instead they queued up at RTÉ again, this time to renounce any personal interest in succeeding Bertie, and at the same time declaring their support for Tánaiste Brian Cowen (above) as the successor. It is interesting to notice that at that time Cowen had not even declared his interest yet. But this was - as it turned out - not really necessary. In good old Soviet Politburo style the man from County Offaly only declared himself a candidate after every single FF cabinet minister had nominated him in public. Well, down in the pub in Offaly they like things sewn up safely before they go out. They don't like to take risks and prefer to wait for their prey like a snake on a stone.
But of all events of the past week one element really stands out: The unbelievably sycophantic way FF ministers heaped unheard of amounts of praise on Brian Cowen. Only the day before Bertie was the greatest man on Earth for them and they could not find enough superlatives to describe all achievements and the unique and superior personality of the Taoiseach.
But that was Wednesday. By Thursday the party had moved on to prepare for a coronation. The King is dead! Long live the King! No need for even the slightest fig leaf of Democracy. Oh no, in Fianna Fáil they do things their own way. Anyone who does not like it can always emigrate...
So after the inner clique of the party had decided to make Brian Cowen their next leader, all the superlatives were poured over him. In fact, he received - a month before his appointment to lead the country - way more praise than Bertie had been given the day before, after a decade in office. Well, such is the fickle character of Irish politics, and the sycophantic character of FF politicians.
Almost all cabinet ministers fell over themselves in their effort to portray the Tanaiste as God on Earth, but the most sickening sycophant of them all is Dick Roche (left). He was so anxious to make his feelings for Brian Cowen public that he sent a long press release to RTÉ without having it processed by his office first.
Joe Duffy read passages of it out on Thursday's "Liveline", and I have never heard anything like it before. According to Roche, now Minister of State for Europe (and as such responsible for the Lisbon Treaty), Brian Cowen must be God, Jesus and Superman all rolled into one. Well, this might explain his size...
But in all his haste to win the crown of chief sycophant, Roche exposed himself as a man at war with the English language. According to Joe Duffy the press release was "littered with spelling mistakes". Well, this must be even more embarrassing for Roche than his idiotic performance as the leader of the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in Beijing last month. (For details see my entry from March 18th)
We are not talking about some cleaner or butcher here, who might get away with little literacy. We are talking about a senior FF politician, whose responsibility for Europe means among other things the reading and assessing of new EU documents, many of which will become Irish Law. It is worrying to realise that a man with such limited command of the English language is also the minister for the Lisbon Treaty. Has he actually read it? And if so, did he understand it? It seems rather doubtful.
We should also never forget that Dick Roche is the man primarily responsible for the destruction of the Hill of Tara and the M 3 motorway through the Skryne Valley.
His last act as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was in fact the signing of orders for the building contractors, in order to prevent his successor John Gormley from stopping the project. Such devious and ruthless behaviour is even in FF quite rare.
Having been demoted from cabinet to junior status last year, Roche is desperate to get back into a top job. His sycophantic litany of Brian Cowen's virtues, skills and personality would - if set to music - make probably a reasonable ballad. It's really a pity that Eurosong 2008 is over. Otherwise we might be sending a real Dick to Eurovision, instead of a stuffed turkey.
The Emerald Islander
P.S. If I were Brian Cowen, Roche's behaviour would be enough for me to remove him from ministerial responsibility for good.