THE MEDIA CONTROVERSY about the Taoiseach's house and money eventually died down.
On Tuesday, 15 May 2007, Taoiseach BARTHOLOMEW AHERN received another accolade - in Britain. He was the first Taoiseach to address both Houses of Parliament - feted for his part in bringing a political solution to Northern Ireland and received astonishing and embarrassing praise from the departing Prime Minister ANTHONY BLAIR. "I have met many great world figures over the past decade but I've never met a bigger one than Bertie Ahern.” said Mr Blair. Rival ENDA KENNY who had also been invited had to sit through both speech and flattery. Bartholomew also received a standing ovation. Bartholomew failed to give credit to his own predecessors, Albert Reynolds and Charles Haughey or to Enda's predecessors, Garret Fitzgerald and John Bruton, nor to Enda himself, nor to Labour leaders including Pat Rabbitte neither did he mention JOHN HUME, SEAMUS MALLON or MARK DURKIN of the SDLP or DAVID TRIMBLE or the late DAVID IRVINE of the Unionist side. All of these had played significant roles in the Peace Process, some of them more significant than the final act played by Bartholomew. Nor was there any mention of Sinn Féin's GERARD ADAMS, MARTIN MCGUINNESS or the REV IAN PAISLEY. Even his most ardent admirers believed that Bartholomew had overscored by taking too much credit to himself.
IF THIS WAS A MISTAKE, it was followed immediately by an own goal by his backroom team who launched a piece of propaganda for TV featuring BLAIR, CLINTON and GEORGE MITCHELL singing the praises of Bartholomew in what all of them knew was an election advertisement. This was only a month after Angela Merkel had sent a letter to Enda Kenny hoping for his success. Enda read out the letter at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. But Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming had expressed his fury with Ms Merkel for interfering in the elections of a 'sovereign country'. "The Irish people have a very deep rooted sense of not being told what to do by foreign powers. I hope that if Enda Kenny has any understanding of the Irish people, he will ask her to withdraw that letter." Mr Fleming did not protest about his own leader using foreign powers in his advertisement
Apart from Bartholomew turning to foreign powers for his support, there is still an enormous anger at Anthony Blair for the invasion of Iraq and against William Clinton for the years of sanctions against Iraq over which he presided and which caused the deaths of a half a million children there.
THERE WERE TWO DEBATES during the course of the third week. In the first, PATRICK RABBITTE (Labour), MICHAEL McDOWELL (PDs), GERARD ADAMS (Sinn Féin) and TREVOR SARGENT (Greens) had a lively debate. My own scoring afterwards was Rabbitte 7, McDowell 6, Sargent 6, Adams 5. The marking comprises marks for both substance and shadow.
A PUBLIC SQUABBLE on TV between Green Party President JOHN GORMLEY and PD leader TANAISTE MICHAEL MCDOWELL as the latter unveiled a new poster on his favourite lamp post caught the imagination of the public and of journalists and was quickly dubbed the "Wrangle in the Triangle"
THE LEADERS debate between BARTOLOMEW AHERN and ENDA KENNY was less lively. National Television RTE's MIRIAM O'CALLAGHAN hosted it in such a way that the Taoiseach had much more talking time than Enda Kenny had. My marking: Ahern 5, Kenny 5 (making allowance for the unfair hosting by O'Callaghan/ Not making allowance for the unfairness, I would have scored Ahern 5.5, Kenny 4.5.
(After the election, it transpired that O'Callaghan had a brother running as a Fianna Fáil candidate).
The nurses were partially appeased and cancelled a planned escalation of their industrial action.
ON FRIDAY NIGHT'S LATE LATE SHOW there was another glaringly biased offering by host PAT KENNY (definitely no relation of Enda's) who fielded a two-to-one team of Owen Harris and John Waters (FOR Fianna Fáil) versus the lone Eamon Dunphy (AGAINST Fianna Fáil). Harris indulged himself in a high-pitched rant against imagined plotters who had invisible knives out for Bartholomew; and delivered an "eloquent Dempsey" panageric of the man who was above all reproach, "a man from a working class background, from the north city area", firing carefully prepared epithets of scorn and derision at a few notable journalists who had not fallen in adoration of Bartholomew over the years. Waters, fresh from his failure as a composer at the Eurovision song contest, prophesied that voters would slink in and vote for Bartholomew anyway and confound the pundits. Dunphy, sandwiched between the two, had to be content with a few counter punches: "I'm also a man from a working class background and from the north city area, but that doesn't mean I should be Taoiseach".
THE WEEK CONCLUDED with a poll (taken on Friday and Saturday) showing a remarkable upsurge in support for the Government main party. The bias of two TV programmes appeared to have taken their toll.