herald

Saturday 20 October 2018

Calamity Coughlan

BLUNDER: After mixing up Darwin and Einstein, how long can we carry on with our laughing stock Tanaiste?

Let's give Mary Coughlan her due.

At a time when much of the country is feeling deeply depressed, she can usually be relied upon to give us all a good laugh.

The only problem for the Tanaiste is that more often than not, the joke is entirely at her expense.

Even by Calamity Coughlan's usual standards, her latest gaffe is a bit of a jaw-dropper.

Speaking about the Government's new Smart Economy initiative to an audience of entrepreneurs, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment decided to show off her own smarts by making a reference to the survival of the fittest.

She announced that the IDA would be marketing Ireland as the innovation island -- "like Einstein explaining his theory of evolution".

The only problem with this, as every school child knows, is that the theory of evolution was first advanced by a certain Charles Darwin -- who's actually just been enjoying a new bout of publicity in the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Albert Einstein came along 70 years later and came up with something called the theory of relativity, not a bad achievement in itself but absolutely nothing to do with survival of the fittest.

Eyebrows

Mixing the two up may not be a hanging offence, but it's yet another ominous warning that this Tanaiste will remain a millstone around the Government's neck as long as Brian Cowen keeps her in place.

Earlier this week, Coughlan raised eyebrows yet again when she gave a radio interview in Irish and referred to the Green Party not as "An Comhaontas Glas" but as "na glasrai" -- or, as bearla, the vegetables.

This would be a perfectly natural mistake for most of us to make, but coming from a fluent Gaelgoir like herself it seemed downright odd.

It brings to mind a famous Spitting Image sketch in which Margaret Thatcher goes out to a restaurant with her cabinet, orders a raw steak and and is then asked, "What about the vegetables?".

Maggie replies, "Oh, they'll have the same as me."

Mary Coughlan, it's fair to say, is no Margaret Thatcher.

The more obvious comparison is with Sarah Palin, whose cringe-inducing interviews turned her into a global laughing stock during last year's US presidential election, when she ran as John McCain's running mate.

Dumb

Given that Palin believes God created the world in seven days and evolution should not be taught in schools, however, the Darwin blunder is presumably one that even she would never have made.

In fact, the international politician that Coughlan most closely resembles these days is Dan Quayle -- the original dumb blond who served as US vice president under the first George Bush from 1989 to 1993.

Constantly looking like a deer caught in the headlights, he embarrassed his boss with quotes such as: "If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure" and once told a high school student to put an 'e' at the end of 'potato'.

Bush eventually lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, partly because the public were terrified by the thought of another four years with Quayle a heartbeat away from the nuclear button.

Rest easy -- no matter what happens to Brian Cowen, Coughlan is not likely to become Taoiseach any time soon.

The fact remains, however, that she is officially the second most powerful person in this Government.

Lovely

Even one of her former junior ministers, John McGuinness, has stated bluntly that she's in the wrong job.

And at this stage, practically everyone in the country must agree with him.

Reshuffling Coughlan back to her old ministry in agriculture, where most people think she actually did pretty well, should be a no-brainer for Cowen.

The short-term embarrassment would be tiny, the long-term benefits huge.

Unfortunately, this Taoiseach is apparently incapable of admitting he's ever made a mistake -- which means the Lovely Girl is likely to continue amusing the nation for some time to come.

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