He sounded like he knew what he was talking about. In the mess of NAMA and Anglo, in the IMF and in the Trioka, and in the ECB, you found yourself half confident in half knowing what he was talking about half the time.
He blazed a trail in being a new age politician; a person who, after seeing the faults in the public and political realm, came from the private sector to put these wrongs to right, or at least highlight them in his capacity, with no ulterior motive or personal profit to be gained.
After some time of building up his brownie points in Dáil Éireann, he went into business with Catherine Murphy, a complete legend of a politician with a hard working red background and a very public presence of bringing to light the consummate failure that was, is, and forever will be Irish Water.
Another shareholder in the new venture was Roisin Shortall, one of the few Labour ministers who had the courage to call bullshit on the then government, walking out on James Reilly when he was doing his best gerrymandering impressions regarding Primary Care Centre locations.
While they were baptised the Social Democrats and placed themselves left of centre, Donnelly was certainly the one to keep it “centred”. But even at that, they had found a common ground to create a new political dialogue away from the predictable civil war stuff that he himself decried. He purple suited his introduction to politics.
The likeable Murphy, the honourable Shortall and the believable Donnelly, how could the Social Democrats lose to an electorate who were sick of everything to do with anything?
They didn’t win, nor did they lose, strictly speaking they drew. They must have been disappointed not to gain seats, coming very close with Gary Gannon, but identifying themselves as a new party was still an achievement.
Fast forward some months after #GE16 (as the kids called it), and Donnelly left the purple party. Irreconcilable differences. The parting was a moot point for both sides, and while far from amicable, it seemed they both said their pieces are were happy with that.
Fast forward again and we get to him joining no ordinary party, Fianna Fáil, the party that “more or less” got us into the mess, the party that repeatedly lied and said all was fine, the party that he blamed on the stagnation of the Irish political scene, the party that will beautify CJ Haughey for all time to come, ever and after, forever and ever.
Admittedly, I was very quick to scoff and laugh from my very high horse, Morality, and I made the bare minimum requirements of a joke regarding Fianna Fáil on Twitter no less. But then I stopped.
To a certain extent, some SD followers got behind them due to Donnelly’s “charisma”, not necessarily a friendly kind, but it was a confidence and accuracy he held, no doubt from his days as a consultant. Do they now feel slightly betrayed?
The man who held views we all agreed with has gone bad in our eyes. It must also be said that his elevation to Spokesperson on Brexit would have certainly ruffled feathers in the party’s backbenches. But just because he is now on the frontbench for Fianna Fáil, that doesn’t change them. Sadly though, it just kind of changes him. By joinging Fianna Fáil, he’s chosen his own destiny, and whether he wins re-election is another matter, he has to win back the minds of the cynics who finally had a little bit of hope.
This post was written by Paul McCarrick (@PaulMcCarrick), who every now and again takes time to write some great political satire, in between bouts of social commentary at paulmccarrick.wordpress.com The original title in full was “The Not So Curious Case of Stephen Donnelly in A Fianna Fail Dress. I also note that since this article was originally published Lisa Chambers has become Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on Brexit. Stephen Donnelly is currently the Fianna Fail spokesperson for Health.