I didn’t really feel any compelling temptation to buy a copy of The Irish Sun on Monday. This is despite the fact that Roscommon’s current First Citizen was at the heart of that newspaper’s lead story.
It’s not every day that the lead story on a national tabloid features Paddy Kilduff in full flow, via a secret recording, voicing his views on same-sex marriage and related matters.
But I had no interest in buying The Irish Sun because, rightly or wrongly, I didn’t think there was much to this story.
I still don’t.
Well, not on the surface, anyway.
The stuff that might be considered interesting here is actually below the surface. But it’s really only for political junkies.
We will come to that.
These being the times that are in it, I am probably obliged to make the point that I am not making light of the comments made by Cllr. Kilduff at a meeting in Strokestown almost a year ago.
I know those comments will have upset some people. But others will agree with the comments, and there will be others still who don’t care either way.
But was this Sun exclusive much of a story at all?
After all, people are entitled to their views. Paddy Kilduff is entitled to his views. And, when it comes to the subject in question, Paddy’s views have been well known for years. Including at the highest level within the Fianna Fáil hierarchy…
Paddy opposes same-sex marriage. Paddy doesn’t approve of couples of the same gender raising children. Paddy has no issue with civil partnerships and Paddy has no issue with gay or lesbian people. These are his stated views.
Many other people in Ireland hold similar views to Paddy’s. In the modern Ireland, Paddy’s view may not be the majority view, but that’s beside the point. Paddy’s entitled to air his view. He’s articulating an opinion that’s held by many other people. Indeed it’s to Paddy’s credit that, unlike a lot of other politicians, he says in public what he thinks in private. That’s one of the reasons why he has loyal supporters and why he’s popular in his native area, including amongst people of opposing political backgrounds.
The timing: Why now?
Where the ‘Sun’ story begins to get interesting – at least for political enthusiasts – is when you reflect on the timing of its publication.
Here at the Roscommon People, we’ve known for several months about Paddy’s Strokestown speech from last year. We’ve known for a long time that he was secretly recorded on the night. So too have one or more other media outlets. None of them chose to go the route of The Irish Sun and make a story of it. So be it.
The timing of the story is, of course, clearly linked to the ongoing turmoil within Fianna Fáil in Roscommon. Fianna Fáil are not only washing their dirty linen in public; they are washing it, drying it, ironing it, dirtying it again and washing it again, all the time oblivious – it would seem – to the presence of the wide-eyed spectators.
Speaking of dirt, dirty tricks are at play here. Whoever arranged the secret recording of Cllr. Kilduff in Strokestown knew that he was likely to speak out about the same-sex marriage referendum. They judged that Cllr. Kilduff was likely to say something controversial, better still (from their point of view) that he might utter words that could come back to haunt him.
Readers will have to speculate for themselves as to why the contents of the tape were not released to the media for many months.
As tensions within the party grew in the latter part of 2015, hints were dropped about what Kilduff had said in Strokestown, and about the existence of the tape.
How much, if anything, this attempt to embarrass Cllr. Kilduff had to do with the party’s chaotic search for a General Election candidate or candidates is anyone’s guess. One by one, over recent months, would-be candidates fell by the wayside as the party HQ scrambled to find a suitor of their preference.
Ultimately, a resilient Cllr. Eugene Murphy emerged victorious at the convention, a result which was not to the liking of party chiefs in Dublin. It was a career milestone for Murphy, but most seasoned observers felt there would be another twist in this tale. Murphy could pop a bottle of champagne…but would it be served with Cake?
Fast-forward to recent days. Last Saturday’s Irish Sun reported that colourful GAA personality Shane ‘Cake’ Curran would be added to the Fianna Fáil ticket in Roscommon/Galway. The story wasn’t merely speculative. It went out on a limb; Curran would be unveiled on Monday (in fact Curran hasn’t yet been added).
Two days later, the same Irish Sun ran its story on Paddy Kilduff’s opposition – voiced a year ago – to same-sex couples raising children.
With all the washing of dirty linen that’s going on in Roscommon Fianna Fáil, someone is leaking – a lot.
It is certainly interesting that the leaks on Shane Curran’s possible candidacy and Paddy Kilduff’s Strokestown speech should both make in into print in the same national newspaper within a 48-hour timeframe. (There is no suggestion that Cllr. Murphy or Mr. Curran were involved in leaking to The Sun; I don’t believe the leaks came from within their ranks; I believe they came from elsewhere).
I know Paddy Kilduff a long time, for over twenty years in fact. No one should presume that I agree with his views – in fact I may not agree with any of his views! I watch him and other politicians with interest. With Paddy Kilduff, people generally know where they stand; his private views don’t get massaged and aren’t given the politically correct treatment before they go public. When it comes to political correctness, Paddy hasn’t signed up yet.
I welcome the passing of the same-sex marriage referendum. But I don’t welcome the new trend whereby people who voice their sincerely-held views are often attacked and abused by the judges and jury on social media. Paddy is entitled to his views. His speech from a year ago isn’t the story. It’s not a story; it’s history. The dirty tricks campaign is the story.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s Cllr. Maura Hopkins must be viewing Fianna Fáil as ‘the gift that just keeps giving’…
* See updates on PAUL HEALY’S ELECTION (B)LOG throughout the campaign on www.roscommonpeople.ie