If a Bolton St lecturer had known that his caricature was going to expose the dark side of the Fianna Fail government, I'm sure he would have done this a lot sooner.
The farcical situation which is "Cowengate" just highlights the powers that be in Dail Eireann for what they truly are; a sad, deluded bunch of individuals, desperately clutching the political straws. Not only that, but it's highlighted Brian Cowen's darker political side, something which will no doubt have many of his critics tilting their chairs with smug "I told you so" grins plastered across their faces.
This isn't the first time Brian Cowen has shown his dictatorial streak. If you recall the Lisbon Treaty debacle, the whip was firmly cracked within the Party, and hell would have no fury like the punishment which would be dished out to those who did not toe the Party line. It's moves like these which have seen divisions emerge in Cabinet and a strong sense of resentment towards An Taoiseach fester in the minds of many prominent politicians in power. Unfortunately, Brian Cowen's holding all the cards in the deck, and what he says, goes - for now.
But back to Cowengate. Not only is this a gross misappropriation of Garda resources, in a time where confidence in the ability of our peacekeepers is low and the ghost of the Troubles threatens to rear its ugly head again, but it's an appalling affront to free speech and the right to freedom of expression. A prankster puts some saucy caricatures of An Taoiseach in a prominent national gallery. RTE thinks that this will be a bit of a giggle and includes it as a bit of fluff at the end of one of their news broadcasts. The artist contacts The Ray D'Arcy Show on Today FM anonymously and says "it was me what did it."
Cue howling indignation not seen since the days of Section 31. Cue RTE having to issue a grovelling apology. Cue Gardai issuing a warrant for access to the emails of The Ray D'Arcy Show to discover the identity of the artist. Cue the DPP preparing a file on the same individual, a one Conor Casby, a lecturer in DIT Bolton St, on charges of indeceny, incitement to hatred and criminal damage. Apparently, it's illegal to stick something to a wall these days. Not only that, it's also illegal to satirise politicians. I suspect the ERU are speeding towards Martyn Turner's house, demanding that he issue a public apology for all of his caricatures in The Irish Times lest he face the firing squad.
This will never come before the courts, but the very fact that the government has made a mountain out of the proverbial molehill has made us the laughing stock of the world's media. We're being compared to North Korea and even The Huffington Post, an influential American blog, is guffawing away. It's also setting a dangerous precedent. The government has shown a dangerous desire to limit the rights of free speech and freedom of expression when it suits them. Even opposition TDs are prevented from raising the issue in the Dail by the Ceann Comhairle.
Apparently, it's OK to strip us of our rights when the Taoiseach is stripped of his clothes.