Just like Theresa May! Comedy of errors as Micheal Martin replaces Varadkar, says expert
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And Ray Bassett has further suggested the crisis was of sufficient magnitude it was impossible to rule out a second Irish general election of 2020. Taoiseach Mr Martin – who took over from Leo Vardakar last month – sacked Mr Cowen last night after he refused to provide further public statements on his 2016 drink-driving offence.
Mr Cowen, who was in office for just 17 days, denies an allegation contained within a police file that he tried to avoid a checkpoint in 2016 and said he would not discuss the matter further.
Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath justified Mr Martin’s decision by saying it was “not politically sustainable for Barry Cowen not to come in and deal with this head-on”.
However, Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, predicted the crisis would prove politically damaging for Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin, who replaced Fine Gael leader Mr Varadkar in accordance with a three-way coalition deal between Ireland’s two main parties and the Greens.
The Martin Government bears an uncanny resemblance to the Theresa May administration, where nothing seemed to be going right
Mr Bassett told Express.co.uk: “The Martin Government bears an uncanny resemblance to the Theresa May administration, where nothing seemed to be going right.
“The political world in Dublin is in shock after the sacking of Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen.
“There is no tradition in Ireland of drastically sacking senior Ministers, especially if they have only been 17 days in the job.
“The period in office of Micheal Martin has been dogged from the beginning, first by the alienation of his Deputy Leader (whom he failed to appoint as a full Cabinet Minister) and other senior party figures, with his unusual and generally regarded ill-advised Ministerial appointments.”
Moreover, his decison had important ramifications strategically, Mr Bassett warned.
He explained: “This sacking is a bigger issue within the Fianna Fail because Cowen and his family (especially his brother Brian) have a great deal of influence.
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“Major questions are being raised about the Taoiseach’s judgement.”
Regarding the sudden nature of the announcement, Mr Bassett said: “There was a clear contradiction between the Taoiseach’s stout defence of Cowen earlier in the day and the sudden and brutal sacking later that evening.
“Martin, in his previous Ministerial career, had the well-deserved reputation of being indecisive but now appears to have acted very suddenly and in a peremptory manner on this occasion.”
The nature of the coalition deal, which will see Mr Varadkar return as Taoiseach in 2022, was also likely to be a factor, Mr Bassett suggested.
He added: “He has only two years in office as Taoiseach and has given the impression of somebody under immense pressure to hurriedly stamp his authority on the office.
“In his rush to get control, he has alienated another powerful faction within his party.”
Meanwhile the future of the fragile coalition is far from certain, especially with Catherine Martin currently challenging Eamon Ryan for the leadership of the Greens.
Mr Bassett, whose book, Ireland and the EU Post Brexit, is published next week, said: “The Government is clearly unstable at the moment, and with a leadership election underway in the Green Party (a coalition partner), nothing can be ruled out, including the possibility of another election, though the odds are against that at the moment.
“Martin is due to travel to Brussels later this week for the European Council leaving behind a divided party, including some wounded senior figures.
“A leadership challenge to Martin may be on some people’s mind.”
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