Irish Times
1 Mar 2012

CONNEMARA SENT a rocket to the heart of Europe yesterday.

Shockwaves coursed through the Élysée Palace. President Sarkozy summoned his senior ministers for a crisis meeting. Carla was quite beside herself – changing into black Dior to convey the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile in Berlin, a distraught Angela Merkel made straight for the Bundestag. She was close to tears as an official assisted her from her car.

“How could this have happened? It’s a tragedy,” she said, in German.

It was teatime in Leinster House when the news that shocked a continent broke.

Éamon Ó Cuív, aka Young Dev, had resigned as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil on foot of a helping boot from his boss.

A seismic development for Europe, Ireland and Micheál Martin, who had finally made a tough decision with the minimum of dithering and foostering.

Given that his troublesome deputy was openly defying party policy on the European fiscal treaty, it mightn’t have been the most difficult call for him to make.

But it was done quickly and without recourse to a consultants’ report and that was enough for Martin’s supporters to cast him last night as Fianna Fáil’s new Man-of-Steel, marching with a new air of confidence into this evening’s Ard Fheis.

So what now for Éamon Ó Cuív? Today, the fate of Young Dev lies in Enda Kenny’s hands. It’s an onerous responsibility for any man to have to shoulder. But what the Taoiseach has to do – and Éamon was quite clear about this – is go to Angela and Nicolas and tell them Ireland will not accept the fiscal treaty unless there is something in it for our cash-strapped economy.

A few little baubles like a debt write-down and assurances on preserving our corporation tax. Then, and only then, will Éamon even think about considering recommending the treaty.

And sure then he might, or he might not. He wasn’t saying.

So will he be voting with Fianna Fáil in favour of a referendum when the Bill comes before the Dáil? “Oh yes, I’m 100 per cent in favour of a referendum on this issue,” he stressed last evening.

Which means he will still remain in the parliamentary party, the only FF backbencher in the Dáil (they are so few in number that everyone has a portfolio of sorts).

His stated intention to vote

for the referendum seemed to contradict what Martin had to say later. The party leader seemed of the view that Ó Cuív would vote against the party in the next Dáil vote, thus forcing his expulsion.

But Young Dev, speaking on the plinth after he stepped down from the front bench, was speaking very much as a committed and active member of his party.

He had “to make a stand” on one issue about “a firm personal belief I have”. When the Government made the surprise announcement on Tuesday that a referendum was going to be held, Martin said immediately that Fianna Fáil would back the treaty without precondition.

This was a bit too previous for Ó Cuív. He said yesterday: “there is no way that we can accept the proposal put before us unless certain fundamental issues are dealt with first for this country.”

As he sees it, it’s up to Kenny to get these issues resolved in Brussels before Ireland signs up for anything.

The quid quo pro.

Perhaps Éamon thinks his resignation will spur the Taoiseach into massive action with our European paymasters.

“It’s a regrettable situation that we are in,” sighed Martin last night, thinking of those terrible moments in the afternoon when he had to relieve Young Dev of his stripes. But “he didn’t resist at all”. (By all accounts, principally his own, Ó Cuív resisted with

such ferocity that he had already parcelled up the resignation and tied it up with a bow in readiness for the handover.) “I believe it is a parting of the ways,” sniffed De Valera’s grandson.

So is this the end? Not really. Young Dev was infuriatingly vague about his intentions. He won’t say whether he’ll be voting Yes or No in the referendum.

“You cross bridges when you come to them.” So for the foreseeable future, he will remain the loneliest backbencher in Ireland, eyes burning into Micheál’s shoulderblades as he agonises over septic tanks and the European question.

In fact, if Ó Cuív is particularly angry about an issue and speaks out at a parliamentary party meeting, it will amount to a total Fianna Fáil backbench revolt.

Ó Cuív even found the time before Micheál’s gentle nudge to speak from the back of a lorry on the scandal of the septic tank charge. Decades on from the turbulent foundation of the state, the Soldiers of Destiny now find themselves caught up in a new civil war. And now, Young Dev finds himself in the same position of his granddaddy: on the anti-treaty side.

Sinn Féin are so relieved to be out of the headlines that they can’t stop smiling. Off the hook on the inkgate printer saga. A good result for Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

Anything else would be a mis-cartridge of justice.