It’s clear that Bertie Ahern and his cohorts had a carefully devised strategy for the trip to South Africa.
No spokespersons were to be available at home and Bertie made it abundantly clear that he would not be answering any questions whatsoever about his personal finances.
In a word, the Government decided to impose a news blackout on the matter.
RTE did, however, manage to get reaction to the attacks by Enda Kenny from some Fianna Fail backbenchers (Morning Ireland, 7th item).
Laois-Offaly TD, Sean Fleming said that the attacks on Ahern were good for the morale of the Fianna Fail troops, it would galvanise them into protecting the leader.
Another TD, probably taking his lead from Ahern’s attitude to the tribunal, said that Enda Kenny should mind his own business.
Cavan Monaghan TD, Margaret Conlon spouted the usual party line drivel.
“We are united behind the Taoiseach, we have a job of work to do, let the tribunal as speedily as possible finish their work, produce the report and let’s move on.”
In an angry and impatient tone she finished:
“People are sick of this.”
Within hours of arriving in South Africa the strategy was in tatters with Ahern accusing Kenny of being a bare faced liar.
There was a curious incident when RTEs David-Davin Power was reporting from Cape Town (Morning Ireland, 7th item). Asked about the Taoiseach’s staff back in Dublin reporting on the situation back home Power replied.
“There’s one of them listening to this programme. He’s in front of me here at Cape Town on the telephone.”
The Government has always claimed that the special media monitoring unit is simply to keep it informed of what’s happening out there among the ordinary people.
It is strongly denies that the unit is used to monitor the media, at great cost to the taxpayer, so that politicians can head off potential trouble.
So why are members of this special unit in South Africa monitoring media reports?