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Fianna Fáil one year on….. February 27, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Fianna Fáil, Irish Politics.
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A year on from the General Election and a week before their Ard Fheis is a good time to wonder about the fortunes of Fianna Fail.
In the past year Fianna Fail have been a ‘constructive opposition’ , which is hardly surprising given the current government are continuing on with their policies. In today’s Indo there’s a big headline “FF Tells ‘Cautious’ Martin: time to shape up” with a few TDs complaining that they have given the government an easy time, they don’t know what Fianna Fail stand for and that some TDs aren’t pulling their weight.
One thing mentioned was that there is a bunch of only 8 or so TDs available for media appearances. I presume these were Sean Fleming, Michael McGrath, Billy Kelliher, Niall Collins, Willie O’Dea, Eamon O’Cuiv, Dara Calleary and Sean O Fearghail. Collins, Calleary, McGrath and O’Dea aren’t too bad but they’re not brilliant either.
Due to Fianna Fails period in government they are in effect fighting with one arm tied behind their back. The simple answer of we’ve got to cut back this or that because of the mess you left us with, is one that is hard to argue with. It remains to be seen how long that line will be effective but personally I think it will last a long long time.
Then of course there are other reminders of the past…. there must have been horror in Mount Street last week as John O’Donoghue and later Noel O’Flynn broke their silence and offered to come to the rescue of the party. That’s before we even get to the Moriarty Tribunal findings. There’s talk that decisive action against those found guilty is needed by the party and that certain people should be expelled from the party if they are found guilty of wrongdoing. That’s fair enough and I’d be happy to see it. However it would look like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. How many crooked Fianna Fail politicians from Charlie Haughey down actually were expelled from the party? (Ray Burke? , Liam Lawlor? Colm McGrath?…)

This Ard Fheis is a time for the members to speak, I gather too that it is to be “member led”. I’ve been looking at some Fianna Fail Blogs and various Facebook pages to try and gauge the mood and see what might be in store.
There’s still some “If it wasn’t for Lehmans Brothers we’d be grand” being bandied about and of course there is also a look back to the past achievements of the party. From those past achievements Fianna Fail people hope to look to the future.
A good example would be the Legion of The Rearguard site, “a site created for the grassroots of Fianna Fáil by the grassroots of Fianna Fáil“. The most recent post there “The Fianna Fáil That We Would Have” gives a good insight into what some of the grassroots are thinking. It outlines a list of previous achievements and more. It begins with the following paragraph and takes off from there

The People have judged Fianna Fáil in the recent general election: having found our policies wanting, they have acted accordingly. The extreme economic difficulties that Ireland has suffered over the last four years have their origin during the 14 years of uninterrupted Fianna Fáil lead government and just as the organisation rightly took credit for the Peace Process and Ireland’s unprecedented prosperity which has kept 1.85 million people at work even during recession: Fianna Fáil has taken responsibility for its part in the present crises, has apologised for these failings, and has been doled its electoral punishment.

I don’t think its as simple as that, the apology may have been given but I don’t think it has be accepted yet. The effects of “its part in the present crises” will be felt for a long long time.
There are some internal elections taking place at The Ard Fheis. Looking at some of the candidates leaflets there are some common themes. A bigger say for the party membership is one but many of the others mentioned look to the parties past. Its heritage and tradition. Nearly all of them mention regaining the electorates “trust”.
There are other clues “Fianna Fail needs to be issues driven” , mentions of support for septic tank protests, being against cuts in education.

Two of the major issues though and ones that can’t be remedied in the near future are the lack of women TDs and lack of seats in Dublin. For an insight into the memberships ideas of Dublin its worthwhile checking out the “Fianna Fail Dublin City Focus” Youtube Channel where there is an introduction video by Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick and replies are being uploaded by members.
Darragh O’Brien and Averil Power may get the odd bit of airtime but the lack of Dublin TDs means in the Dail they have nobody directly appealing to Dublin voters, no Dub that Dubs can relate to like (cough) Bertie.
If you have a party that has mainly rural TDs, then rural issues will naturally seem more important. Rural issues will be the ones heard in clinics, raised at local meetings and so on. It’s no coincidence that the Septic Tank charge was reduced as it was one thing Fianna Fail were in a position to oppose and benefit from. Fianna Fail haven’t opposed the Household Tax , in part its a legacy from their own time in office but also when a Property Tax comes in, it will be Dubliners that will have to pay the vast majority of it. If they had TDs in Dublin I’m sure some of them would be kicking up hell at the prospect of their constituents having to fork out anything from 600 to 1,000 a year.
The lack of Dublin TDs also means that there is a lack of choice when it comes to panelists on various TV shows. The performance of David McGuinness in the Dublin West by-election shows that there should be a future for Fianna Fail in Dublin, but its a sign of the times where Fianna Fail are thrilled to have come in second in a by-election for a Fianna Fail seat.

The Sunday Times poll at the weekend saw a rise in support for Sinn Fein among younger women voters, in Mary Lou McDonald they have a role model and regularly when she speaks in the Dail Sandra McLellan is sitting beside her. Fianna Fails lack of women TDs is hurting them, yes they have some female senators and Averil Power does get a bit of airtime on Television she is a Senator and the Seanad or indeed some of her TV performances do not get the same coverage as The Dail does.

We go back though to where does the party stand?
Can it still be the catch all party? … if not who are they battling with?
Is it with Sinn Fein and Labour or with Fine Gael?
What areas can they produce policy in that would be taken seriously by voters?

We’ll know a little more after next weekend.

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Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - February 27, 2012

I think the point about an apology is an interesting one. Firstly, has one really been given? If so it sank without trace. Secondly, does anyone care and would it change anything? For the 17-18 per cent who still vote for them presumably not. For the rest probably not.

Quite an hill for them to climb.

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2. Oireachtas retort - February 27, 2012

To put personal opinions aside and look from a purely political angle I think there is a self-made cul de sac down every road they turn. They should forget about government past and in the future and wake up to being in opposition. But what can really do there that doesn’t stink of hypocrisy, opportunism or both.

The rest of the opposition have the sleeves up out marching most weekends. SF and most of the tech group are involved in campaigns everywhere. With probably the exception of O’Cuiv, the plp are likely to be chased down the road if they were to appear at any local cuts protests or joining the Ballyhea march for example. Not that they wouldn’t have the neck of course.

What they do have over the rest of the opposition is (you would hope) an intimate knowledge of the inside workings of government that would enable them to hit the gov where it hurts.

Would they is another question given they agree on almost everything and what good is weakening the government when they have no alternative and the real opposition are ones who would benefit the most?

..a cul de sac

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WorldbyStorm - February 27, 2012

Great point re the PLP being chased down the road. It would be interesting if people have any reports of seeing FF PLP or even local reps showing their head anywhere recently at any events whatsoever…

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Tomboktu - February 27, 2012

“PLP”? Um… did you mean PFFP?

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WorldbyStorm - February 27, 2012

Oops… I did indeed. To be honest it’s more about reading about the UK LP as the ILP.

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Oireachtas retort - February 27, 2012

whoops, yeah

Hard to tell the difference these days

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3. Laurence Ginnell - February 28, 2012

The idea of an apology is a complete redherring. It suggests, like the media have been trying in to inculcate, that the economic crash had something to do with the ‘moral’ failing of people (at times the ”few bad apples” at the top or at other times the general populace who ”all partied”.) It takes away from the fact that the reason people are angry at FF is not because of their moral failure (or any other failure) but because of their success. That is, FF’s succes in representing and defending the class interests of the oligarchy at the expense of the ‘nation’ and in pursuit of its own power.

That FF site and post is a complete and utter joke. Some emotionally incontinent rhetoric, a parade of the dead generations (come on even James Connolly!), some de Valeraisms (we don’t need to explain what we are about we just need to look into our hearts), maudlin self pity verging on parody (as if that gombeen and the men and women in the Four Courts defending the Republic have anything in common, even if it was accepted that both were republicans). I think the intellectual redundancy of it simply points out that FF are finished. The only thing that can save them is FG messing up on some unimaginagble scale.

What FF need to do is stop lying to themsleves.

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irishelectionliterature - February 28, 2012

Agree re website article but I thought it illustrated very well what a lot of FF people like to think of themselves …. as a national movement with a great history…. one that got wiped away for many the day they Guaranteed the Banks and when the IMF came to town.
Whats worse is that these are the Ogra generation with these views.

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4. Rebooting Fianna Fáil… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 1, 2012

[...] has dealt with the first anniversary of Fianna Fáil’s decapitation earlier in the week, so I’m taking a very slightly different [...]

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