It’s curious the British PM should get into such hot water over what to more dispassionate eyes might be seen as people at the centre of a national crisis letting off steam. But in Johnson’s case, he’s been cursed by a doggedly disgruntled former insider.
The stream of revelations (and its drip, drip, drip effect in the news media) is forcing even his own party to look again at what was only just over two years ago Johnson’s formidable vote getting skills. Some in Dublin are trying the same ‘line’ there.
In the Dáil, some opposition spokesmen tried to fan up some home fires around a breach of Covid regulations by officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs organised a photo op to mark taking a seat on the UN Security Council in June 2020.
A report by the current Secretary General Joe Hackett said no statutory rules had been broken but “a serious breach of social distancing guidance”. The whole incident lasted less than a minute. But it was too open a goal for Sinn Féin to resist:
Deputy Pearse Doherty inveighed angrily against a rule-breaking champagne party. But he (and some of his front bench colleagues were to get angrier yet when he heard the Taoiseach’s response to his request to bring the Minister to the House:
Taoiseach: I am genuinely taken aback by Deputy Doherty’s tone and attitude on this matter. He is the deputy leader of a party that invited almost 2,000 members and supporters onto the streets of Belfast and then to a political rally, in essence, in Milltown Cemetery at a time when the ordinary men and women he spoke about—–
Matt Carthy: The Taoiseach is comparing a funeral to a champagne party. Scandalous.
Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, without interruption.
Taoiseach: —–that is, everybody else on the island, were limited to 30 people at a funeral.
Matt Carthy: The Taoiseach will stand over any Fine Gael—–
Taoiseach: Sinn Féin had people lining the streets in uniform, while the ordinary men and women Deputy Doherty talked about were distraught because they could not attend the funeral of their loved ones.
Taoiseach: The point is that everybody with eyes in their head could see what happened. That funeral took place only weeks after the event Deputy Doherty is raising such a huge issue about. To the best of my knowledge, the Deputy and his organisation have never admitted that they were wrong in what they did, but they lecture everybody else. There is one law for Sinn Féin and a different law for everybody else when it comes to this.
Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputies please let the Taoiseach respond?
In today’s Irish Times, it falls to Miriam Lord to bring a proper sense of proportion:
He [An Taoiseach] was making the point that Sinn Féin politicians are quick to loudly shout the odds over the transgressions of others but they get highly affronted to the point of apoplexy when taken to task for organising and subsequently defending the carefully choreographed show-funeral of former IRA enforcer Bobby Storeyand subsequently defending the carefully choreographed show-funeral of former IRA enforcer Bobby Storey in Belfast.
A brief and disappointingly tame contravention of the Covid-19 regulations (Iveagh House is no Downing Street) bears no comparison to what was a paramilitary show of strength involving hundreds of mourners, many in black and white uniforms and many of whom were bused in for the occasion.
But how dare Micheál Martin impugn his memory.
After last week’s attack by Martin on Sinn Féin’s blocking actions on several significantly sized social housing projects in Dublin, it was his second palpable hit on the Republic’s most popular party’s leadership in less than a week.
What hurts in the British scandal is the sacrifice people made at the time (mothers giving birth without the presence and support of their partners, and yes lonely funerals). But if you’re going to throw rocks, make sure your own hands are clean first?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty