Leo Varadkar, in fairness, walked in. Michael McGrath, who is not known for being a politician who dabbles in cutting and poking quibbles, made a mark yesterday.
Angry that the leader of the Fine Gael was gossiping in public, the Minister of Public Expenses slapped the new Taoiseach. Boy, was it a haymaker. Off for the count.
And Fianna Fáil has a contender for the leadership who is not afraid to stand up to her coalition partners.
Frankly, McGrath’s interview style is often napping. But he’s shown he’s quite capable of mixing it up if he wants to.
Varadkar has commented on the resignation of Paschal Donohoe as finance minister, which has cost Ireland a senior position at the helm of EU politics.
Donohoe will step down from his role in December’s Taoiseach swap, while McGrath is going in the opposite direction.
The influential post of President of the Eurogroup, Chairman of the Finance Ministers of the countries using the euro, will then be vacated. It’s bad for Ireland, so it’s worth the government thinking carefully about this move.
Varadkar thinks the way to get the point across is megaphone diplomacy, saying he will tell his coalition partners how to suck balls and that that is “probably the most important position that an Irish man or woman can hold.” Irish woman currently holds in the world”.
“I don’t think there’s a country in Europe that wouldn’t want to get this role from us if it were possible,” he says. And he’s right, but his audience isn’t the general public.
Micheál Martin, who has been in politics since Varadkar wore diapers, is no moron – contrary to what the Fine Gael leader might think.
He knows the importance of the Eurogroup. But Fianna Fáil has a deal with Fine Gael and is sticking to it – Taoiseach swaps with Treasury Secretary.
The problem is that the Tánaiste has decided to go public with his dishonest negotiations, making it a partisan affair and enlisting the support of Fianna Fáil’s side.
Not for Leo Varadkar the nuances and subtleties of handling matters discreetly. It’s about appealing to the Fine Gael base and showing that you stand up to the old enemy.
He openly admits that he has not discussed it with his coalition partners, even saying without irony that these things should not be discussed publicly – before he repeatedly takes a stand.
After messing up a sensitive issue and getting Fianna Fáil to deal with the Treasury, Fine Gael suggests that Europe should accommodate Donohoe because he couldn’t convince his own government, or that McGrath should have the job, though let Donohoe go to the meetings in Europe
There are a few problems.
It is nonsense to compare Donohoe’s situation to that of a previous incumbent, Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Juncker served as the first President of the Eurogroup for nine years, from 2004 to 2013.
During his 18-year tenure as Prime Minister, he was also Treasury Secretary or Treasury Secretary, and before that he had been Treasury Secretary for six years.
He was part of the European furniture. When Juncker was finance minister, his finance minister, Luc Freiden, also sat at the Eurogroup table.
But Juncker was also a fixer and was retained as he was trusted by all sides. He was even persuaded to stay in the role, fearing it was going to Germany whose tough stance would upset the balance.
The EU bent the rules to make Juncker easier, but it was the exception, not the rule, that Fine Gael exploits and suggests it can be repeated.
Again, the path to such a result does not lead through the public airwaves. But then again, Varadkar doesn’t care about anyone but himself, so he doesn’t mind if he keeps dwindling Donohoe’s chances by the day.
Also, McGrath will either become Secretary of the Treasury or not. The role involves legal responsibilities in the areas of financial administration, fiscal policy, monetary affairs and regulation.
Fine Gael cannot choose which parts McGrath should keep, suggesting he can be finance minister at home but not abroad.
Clearly fed up with Varadkar’s acting, McGrath decided to point out the reality and chide him for repeatedly raising the matter publicly. “It has now been broadcast publicly on several occasions and has yet to be addressed at the Taoiseach.
“I think this is a far better way of dealing with a very important issue for our country,” he told RTÉ In this week.
The Cork South-Central TD also made it clear that meetings in Brussels, Luxembourg and Frankfurt could only have one finance minister, eliminating any division of labour.
“It would also raise a number of important questions, for example who would represent Ireland at the Ecofin, which is of course finance ministers from across the European Union, and it would also raise questions about who would respond in Dáil Éireann on matters with a European one Economic policy, capital markets, banking union and so on.
“And it sounds like a department of the Treasury Department that we wouldn’t agree with,” he said.
Having not received the tip, Fine Gael has now been firmly told to back off.
But then Varadkar always prefers creating a dispute to finding a solution.
The spit highlights how the passing of the office of Taoiseach will cause trouble as the Fine Gael leader seems so intent on forging his own path rather than putting the interests of the coalition first.
And if Micheál Martin’s critics claim he’s been too tame in dealing with Varadkar’s testy antics in recent years, McGrath has clearly indicated he’ll take a very different approach.
Fianna Fáil’s backbenchers are looking for their next leader, with Darragh O’Brien and Michael McGrath leading the way.
McGrath just confirmed his leadership skills.
Next week he will deliver a budget, then he will become a financier. His hat is in the ring.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/in-landing-a-haymaker-on-leo-varadkar-michael-mcgrath-has-thrown-his-hat-in-the-ring-for-fianna-fail-leadership-41998761.html By landing a Haymaker on Leo Varadkar, Michael McGrath threw his hat in the ring for Fianna Fáil’s lead