The timing of Brian Cowen’s resignation as leader of Fianna Fáil may yet prove to be his most effective revenge on those who plotted against him.
Politics moves rapidly at times of change and already four possible candidates to replace Cowen have put themselves forward. Martin, Lenihan, Hanafin and O’Cuiv will be nominated on Monday and the new leader will likely be elected as early as Wednesday.
It is a measure of the ‘presidential’ nature of democracy in the twenty first century that the leader is the cipher for a party which reaches far beyond those elected to office. And yet it is only from that small group that the leader is chosen.
This is where the seed of Cowen’s revenge will be sown. Leaving aside O’Cuiv with whom he would have no argument and who anyway is quoted at longer odds by bookmakers than Sean Connick, the three most likely winners can all be considered to have undermined Cowen in his darkest days.
The new leader will be elected by a cadre of generational politicians most of whom will shortly leave the political arena, either by choice or at the hand of the electorate.
The parliamentary party which the new leader will address in April will be smaller, younger and keen to distance itself from the sins of the present government.
Dara Calleary, as well as possible new players like Maria Corrigan or Mary Fitzpatrick, will have little loyalty to their new leader. They will have had little input to his or her succession and the new Dáil will likely see many internal manoeuvrings as the opposition seeks to renew itself.
Cowen himself, if he stands for election, may well be one of fewer than 30 or even 20 returned Fianna Fáil TD’s and the part he may play behind the scenes in assisting the new generation could yet be his ultimate revenge on those who he feels have acted against him.