McGuinness for President? Not after Gay's strike
The Gospel according to Gaybo. That's how most of Middle Ireland sees it. And putting the boot into Martin McGuinness on TV3's Midweek programme this week has left Sinn Fein fuming.
Gay has never made a secret of his hatred of Sinn Fein, the Provisional IRA and everything they've stood for. But this is the first time he's been so blunt and potentially electorally damaging to them.
His first strike came early and almost camouflaged. Calling Sinn Fein's vice president "McGuinness" and not using his first name, as in "Martin McGuinness". It's a common journalistic ploy; the villain in the story gets called only by his second name, the hero or victim by both names.
Strike 2. "He'd be an extremely strong contender." Ah. Talking him up. Common technique among candidates in a tight constituency. Warning. Warning, Middle Ireland. If you think he hasn't a hope and you might, out of sheer devilment, give him your number 3, be careful, those transfers mount up.
This guy's got a chance, warns Gay. Underestimate him at your peril.
Strike 3. Seem to compliment him. Call him a "personable fellow, a smart talker and a clever operator". Genius. Gay is telling the viewers, 'I'm actually objective about this guy. I'm not so blinded by bias and bigotry that I can't see the positives of this man. I'm the reasonable person here.'
Strike 4. Gay says he doesn't want him to apologise for being in the IRA. He knows an apology makes no difference to the families of victims and calling for an apology would make him sound petty, given that McGuinness has been open about having been a member.
Strike 5. Ask a question of the audience, "Do the Irish people want him to be head of the armed forces?" That got you thinking, didn't it? Now you're wondering about the optics of a self-confessed former IRA member being head of the army, one of the hallmarks of which has been co-operation with the State and the armed forces in Britain; the mortal enemy of Sinn Fein and the IRA.
Strike 6. Compliment the viewers. "I've always had a great respect for the Irish people and their common sense and they usually manage to come to the right conclusion." Who wants to back the wrong horse? Gay is suggesting that only stupid people would come to the conclusion that McGuinness should be in the Aras.
Strike 7. The killer blow. "They lie. They lie all the time. They lie consistently. And they don't mind lying and they've rehearsed their lies because they've been trained to lie and that's what they do all the time. They use weasel words."
Now while many believe that lying and politicians go hand in hand, Gay has just officially called a presidential candidate and a political party vice president "a liar".'
Now everyone's wondering what exactly he's lying about. His role in the IRA? What he did exactly when he was in the IRA? Whether or not you can believe anything he says at all. And who wants a president you don't believe?
McGuinness could have asked Gay, 'I'm sorry. Did my back hurt your knife?'
Game, set and match to Gay Byrne.