THE BLUEBLOUSE EU candidate in the Midlands-North-West (MNW), Maria Walsh, proved she is no wilting Tralee Rose with a retaliatory broadside against her running mate, Máiréad McGuinness, following the MEP’s recent incursion into her territory. But while Maria showed adept skills in the dark arts of political PR, she has also revealed that Fine Gael is still intent on joining the incipient EU army.
Instead of the usual whining to party HQ from wounded candidates who feel injured by black ops from their ‘partners’ on the same ticket, Maria threatened a shock-and-awe counter-attack against Máiréad for crossing the red lines of demarcation laid down by peace-keeping forces at FG head office.
In doing so, the Defence Forces Reserve member made Sinn Féin’s Danny Morrison (he once said republicans would seize power with a ballot box in one hand and an Armalite in the other) look like a wimp. Maria instead quipped, “I have a crown and sash from the Rose of Tralee in one hand and in the other hand my marksmanship is 37 out of 40 shots with a Steyr rifle.” Presumably, Walsh is too young to recall Morrison’s unnerving threat.
This war story from the western front was splashed across the front page and inside the Sunday Independent last weekend in a good example of Maria’s professional talents – she is a media and events consultant with experience in advertising. The Sindo story made McGuinness look like a bounder playing rough with her rival, while Maria was presented as the plucky newcomer who would not let the head girl push her around.
McGuinness had indeed been making incursions into her ‘ally’s’ territory and, apart from details outlined in the Sindo, the MEP had made several visits to Sligo, Galway and Mayo, deep in the western part of MNW, designated as Walsh’s territory. However, Máiréad did so in the weeks before the election race began and so, technically, did not cross over any laid-down division, even though she knew well that HQ would make such a separation.
An uneasy truce was called within 24 hours and the two smiled sweetly to each other across the peace line, with Máiréad referring to “my very able running mate”. Walsh said she was only being flippant when talking of guns (but she still insisted she was a good shot).
Walsh’s militarist language is definitely not culled from Provo propaganda, but she does have a military agenda as well as a hardline political message, as befits the ‘civil war party’.
Announcing her candidacy, Maria showed a steely side, suggesting that nurses, then in dispute, were well paid and had previously signed up to a pay deal. She also sounded a little blasé about the homeless and was quoted as saying, “The homeless crisis is universal and not just Ireland… I think the homeless crisis was not just created in the last three or four years and not just under the Fine Gael government.”
However, Walsh’s most interesting comment was that she favoured further EU integration of Ireland’s defence forces – in other words, membership of what every politician in the EU knows is the creation of an EU army. Walsh told the Indo that there were some “amazing things” in a paper by outgoing MEP Brian Hayes on the integration of the Irish military into EU military operations. (That paper was actually from FG’s four MEPs, including McGuinness).
Maria did not point out that this paper was not official party policy, although Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney undoubtedly sanctioned its release to test public opinion.
Walsh’s remarks were made in February, a month before her party sent Senator Neale Richmond to Brussels to persuade FG’s partners in the European People’s Party to drop the demand for an EU army in its EU election manifesto. This was because the reaction to the four MEPs’ paper was decidedly hostile (see The Phoenix, 5/4/19).
Nevertheless, the top brass appears not to have lost its enthusiasm for Maria and presumably her militarist message. The Reserve Defence Forces Ireland recently retweeted her message, “The more women in reserve army, the better.”