When is a party Ard Chomhairle not a sinister and shadowy body acting purely in its own interests, dictating decisions to elected representatives while bestowing patronage on unelected figures? Why, when it’s the National Executive of Fine Gael of course! Here is Miriam Lord writing in the Irish Times on the pseudo-democratic election to that most pseudo-democratic of Irish institutions, Seanad Éireann:
[Fine Gael’s] …much awaited top-pick of 13 favoured ones to contest the Seanad elections emerged from headquarters on Thursday night, along with the groundbreaking news that the party had selected the same number of women candidates as candidates called John. Three of each. A stunning achievement.
The members of the parliamentary party can claim no responsibility for bringing about this ceiling-shattering list. Instead, it was an inside job for what are known as the “inside” nominations.
Leader Leo Varadkar, general secretary Tom Curran and the members of the National Executive can take full credit for cranking up the effort to future-proof and gender-proof the old party.
When we say they can claim no responsibility, that’s not strictly true. TDs and Senators were given blank nomination forms at this week’s parliamentary party meeting. They had to sign them and hand them back. The National Executive then decided which candidates to select, filling in names on the pre-signed documents.
Each candidate needs the backing of four Oireachtas members. On their current strength, this allows Fine Gael 13 runners. But the TDs and Senators have no say when it comes to whose name they will endorse. They could be signing the nomination papers for an axe-murderer, for all they know about it.
The list is compiled very carefully, with an eye to winning future Dáil seats.
Lord is more agitated by the lack of gender balance in the FG nominations, and that of the other main parties, than the machinations of a party leadership issuing instructions to its elected officials on how they should vote on matters of public import. Like ensuring that a handpicked list of favoured individuals who were recently rejected by the voters at the ballot box are nominated for election to the upper house of our national legislature.
If this was Sinn Féin acting alone in such a manner the press would have a field day, the newspapers replete with outraged headlines and affronted talking heads filling the television screens. However because this is viewed as politics as normal in the Oireachtas and among the cosy Blueshirt-Greenshirt establishment no real objections are being raised in the news media beyond some otherwise legitimate complaints about the reduced presence of female candidates selected for the Seanad contests.
It would be slightly unfair to claim that Irish journalists are simply mouthpieces for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (and Labour when it had any influence). But only “slightly” unfair.