It’s petty settling these old scores incognito Chris

My column on the Chris Andrews Twittergate fiasco from today’s (Mon August 13th 2012) Evening Herald

Anonymous Tweets

I am not exactly sure how I feel about Chris Andrews today. I have known him personally for over 25 years. We are near contemporaries. I have campaigned alongside him and, on a couple of occasions, for him. He managed to so something I repeatedly failed to do: to get elected.

In his case that meant serving as a Dublin City Councillor and a TD for the Dublin South East constituency. His defeat in the great Fianna Fáil wipeout of February 2011 was not a reflection on his work as a local representative.

He came closer than many to hanging on in a constituency that has not be traditional FF territory. His work rate meant that the tide which engulfed him was not nearly as severe as that which washed away so many others.

For these reasons I feel sorry to see him exit politics.

But there is another side too. Like many of his friends and supporters I am deeply angered by the report in yesterday’s Sunday Independent of his antics in setting up a fake twitter account to attack Fianna Fáil.

This anger is twofold. It is an anger at his actions and his attempts to glorify them by presenting himself now as some victim, but it is also an anger at his betrayal of the trust of supporters and colleagues, like me.

No matter how much he may seek to convince himself otherwise, Chris is no victim.

He is no principled dissenter or critic being silenced out by an intolerant leadership. His actions were petty and self serving. He hid behind a fake account (@brianfornerFF) and sniped at perceived political rivals in the hope of bringing them down and advancing himself.

I engaged with his fake persona on Twitter a few times, mistakenly believing it what that of a disillusioned young member. After a few exchanges I quickly realised that it was nothing of the sort, though I never suspected it was Chris.

There was nothing noble or admirable in his comments, Most were just bitchy and sneering rants at colleagues. The only “political” thread in his exchanges with me was his expressed disdain for political dynasties, a little ironic now given the source.

The comical point in all of this is that the real Chris Andrews and I were exchanging messages on twitter at the same time as the fake tweets.

I, like others, had become an audiences for Chris’s one man performance of his own “Philadelphia Here I Come”. Unlike Friel’s “Gar Public” and “Gar Private” his were not the inner and outer voices of the same person, one expanding upon and setting the context for the utterances of the other.

Quite the opposite. While “official Chris” publicly expressed support and praise for the party “Continuity Chris” was lashing out at those seeking to reform and rebuild. He did occasionally take pot shots at the leadership and senior figures, but his targets were mainly local.

It was all a game, and a pointless one at that.

There was no great point of principle at stake here. His attacks and indeed his departure was not about the party’s stand on the Fiscal Treaty Referendum, no more than it was about its support of Gay marriage or a reformed Seanad.

This was about high politics or the future, it was about low politics and the past. It was about settling old scores and doing it out of sight, hidden behind a screen.

It was about the worst of the old politics, which makes his parting shot, his suggestion that dissent and criticism is not tolerated in FF, all the more galling.

Because of his age, his location and indeed his background Chris was uniquely placed to play a part in crafting and determining whatever future Fianna Fáil may have. The pity is that he rejected that opportunity – it did not reject him. This is what makes me both sad and angry.

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