When the latest government was formed on June 27th this year – almost five months after the February general election – the new Taoiseach Micheal Martin of the Fianna Fail party, appointed Barry Cowen as the minister for agriculture. Cowen is the younger brother of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen who ran the country during the early years of the economic crash of 2008. Brian Cowen is best remembered these days for a live interview he did on Morning Ireland in September 2010 where his words were slurred thanks to how intoxicated he allegedly was. I say ‘allegedly’ just to be polite. Both the Cowen boys are from a wealthy midland farming background and attended expensive private boarding schools in their youth. That’s no surprise – the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties with their combined support of 43% of the electorate, are establishment parties where jobs are kept for the boys in wealthy families. Barry Cowan previously worked as an auctioneer and was a paid manager of a greyhound track, where he offered his support for the animal abusing Boland puppy farms. Obviously a wise choice as a minister in charge of greyhounds abused for sport.
A month into his role as minister for agriculture it emerged that Cowen had a conviction for drink-driving from September 2016 after an All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo. He comes from Offaly. He was fined €200 and was disqualified from driving for three months. He had been driving unaccompanied on a provisional license. Cowen apologized for his “serious lapse of judgement” but was sacked as Minister for Agriculture due to the ensuing controversy. He lasted less than three weeks in the job.
He was succeeded by Dara Calleary from Ballina in county Mayo, who like all rural Irish TDs is a regular attendee at funerals, regardless of whether he knew the deceased or not – Willie O’Dea was present at my own father’s funeral for some unfathomable reason. Outside of his own party Calleary was probably best known for the tantrum he threw when he was not appointed as a government minister the previous month.
Earlier this week the government failed spectacularly to communicate clearly its new safety guidelines for public gatherings in the era of Covid-19. What was indisputable however was that indoor gatherings of more than fifty people were banned.
The day after the new guidelines were issued the Oireachtas (Parliament) Golf Society held a dinner in a hotel in Clifden, county Galway. There were eighty people in attendance with ten people per table. A partition was placed in the middle of the room – so attendees could pretend that it was two meetings with forty attendees at each. In the same room though. This was a clear and obvious breach of the recently announced health updates, which had been discussed by the government in the previous days. Dara Calleary was part of those government discussions. And there he was, in attendance at the dinner. When the Examiner paper revealed his attendance at the dinner last the backlash was immediate and furious. People were outraged – having missed the funerals of loved ones thanks to lockdown. Calleary resigned his position. He lasted 37 days in the job.
Also present were senators Jerry Buttimer of Fine Gael and Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe – former Attorney General for Fine Gael – who would have approved the original health guidelines from a legal perspective, was also at the golf dinner.
Ireland’s commissioner to the EU – Phil Hogan of the Fine Gael party, was also in attendance. Mr. Hogan sounds particularly vile. During an August 2011 Oireachtas golf outing (what is is about Tories and golf?), former Fine Gael staffer Anne O’Connell, complained that Hogan made a crude sexual insult to her. It is not clear exactly what he said. She immediately complained in writing to the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Hogan issued a letter of apology a few days later saying: “I unreservedly apologise for those remarks which were totally inappropriate in a personal sense. . . It was intended in a jocose and private basis and certainly not intended as insulting.” Indeed.
Hogan is now claiming that it was the irish Hotel Federation’s fault that he attended the event. Of course he does.
As it stands there is a vacancy for the minister of agriculture. I think I am a perfect fit. I can’t be any worse than the waste of space that currently make up the government parties.