Mick Mullholland’s Political Notebook - Where’s the Money?

The polls are showing that the Yes side is gaining in the referendum debate. All the indications are that it will be carried, perhaps by a comfortable majority.

The polls are showing that the Yes side is gaining in the referendum debate. All the indications are that it will be carried, perhaps by a comfortable majority.

But precedent shows that there can be no complacency. Voters are in an angry, exasperated and volatile mood.

Matters could change between now and polling on May 31.

The fundamental weakness on the No side is that they cannot come up with a sustainable explanation as to where we will get the money for a second bailout if we vote No.

Privately, among those close to the process, there is a belief that we may well need that second bailout.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and his Ministers cannot publicly say that the grim day will come.

Conceding that we need a second bailout would mean damaging the Irish economy. It would also be putting what could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy on the agenda.

That’s politics. Real politics.

So here we are battling the economic war and getting by on the kindness of European strangers, who also want to see the colour of their money.

Essentially, Europe owes us nothing.

If their banks were profligate in the past, they were so when greed and opportunism was rampant among a certain class in Ireland.

There was gross incompetence, too, on the part of some politicians, those in the higher echelons of the public service, not to mention some of those infamous bankers.

That is the background against which we fight the economic war.

Let us not blame others for the folly of some Irish men and women who ran this country and ran it into the ground.

The argument that our horrendous bank debt should be linked to the referendum is palpable nonsense.

This treaty is about fiscal responsibility and the availability of more money if we require it.

And, yes, that money would be used to pay the nurses and the gardai, as well as those on social welfare and so on.

We are no longer the island of saints and scholars, spreading the grey wing across an inferior Europe.

We are on our knees. Insolvent. Our economic sovereignty is gone, perhaps never to return in any meaningful way. And we are in that sorry state because our betters let us down.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail is showing an improvement in the polls and having a good campaign.

That turbulent political priest, Eamon O’Cuiv, has been silenced by party leader Micheal Martin in what is essentially a sideshow for many people.

Mr O’Cuiv had the media waiting for him all day on last Tuesday as he spoke about having to make a momentous decision.

The speculation was that the grandson of the founder of Fianna Fail, Eamon de Valera, was about to leave the party.

Would he sit in the Dail as an Independent?

Or would he join Sinn Fein, given that his views are very much in harmony with that party?

In fact, his press conference in the plinth outside the Dail was a damp squib. Having wrestled with his conscience, he won.

It is hard not to take with a grain of salt his assertion that he had spent the weekend in mental turmoil as he contemplated his future.

The fact is that Mr O Cuiv, throughout his long period as a Minister, never had a crisis of conscience that would have led to a loss of the handsome salary, the State car and the driver and all the other perks.

So why now, when Fianna Fail is on its knees and attempting to walk in political terms again?

There is a school of thought within the party which says that Mr O’Cuiv thinks he will be able to challenge Mr Martin for the leadership if there is a No vote.

If he believes that, he is delusional. Mr O’Cuiv is yesterday’s man within Fianna Fail.

He sometimes evokes an Ireland that is long gone.

Self-sufficient, wary of Europe, Gaelic and so on.

It might have been the dream his grandfather advocated in the more innocent Ireland of 1943 in that famous “happy maidens” radio broadcast.

Now we are in a very different place.

Mr O’Cuiv has yielded a rich harvest of publicity through his public posturing on the referendum.

But he has also damaged his credibility.

He walked to the edge of the political cliff and stood back in the interests of his own career.

Outside of Fianna Fail, he knew he would become a totally irrelevant figure.

Mr Martin’s first test of his leadership will be the European and local elections in 2014.

And if, at any time, there is a demand for his head, his replacement will come from among the younger members of the parliamentary party without the baggage of government.

Mr O’Cuiv is going nowhere in terms of the leadership.

He is, for many within Fianna Fail, an irritating presence as the party plots its recovery.