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So, what’s the worst that can happen? Ahern and Fianna Fáil. September 16, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Fianna Fáil, Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics.

Reading about the current events down the Tribunal in the Sunday Business Post is illuminating. Sure, Bertie Ahern had a rough day on Friday. Those jeers outside can’t be good – to put it mildly. Whether they’re quite up there with Haughey is a different matter. And… protestations notwithstanding, this constant batting too and fro about just how much was lodged or purchased while somewhat esoteric may well have a cumulative effect.

As Vincent Browne notes:

The investigations of the Planning Tribunal into all of this have been impressive, but the laboriousness of the procedure in public sessions, the long-winded questions – sometimes going on for over a minute at a time – and the sheer tediousness of it all may dull the reaction to its findings.

And yet, it doesn’t really matter which is one of the reasons – I suspect – there has been much less concentration on it on blogs than might have been expected previously. If things turn really nasty, and there is little reason to believe they will at this point, then no doubt some sort of sacrifice will be required, our hero may have to fall on his sword. And…er…that’s it really.

Because that really is it. In the run up to the election it did matter, or at least somewhat. The opposition could take comfort in Ahern’s woes. Fianna Fáil could do little but wonder how they would impact upon the poll. But thats all history now. The coalition is locked tight. One in all in. Everyone signed up at the beginning. They knew the score. Talking to some Green Party people in recent months it is clear that they’re settled in. If they’re not leaving, who then? And despite the best efforts of the Irish Times (with multiple page reports from the Tribunal), there is a sense that all this is yesterday’s story.

Pat Leahy in the SBP points to:

… [with] another five years of government stretching before them, the mood among government TDs is pretty buoyant, despite their leader’s troubles. In truth, the processes of adjusting to the departure of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern started a long time ago, probably before his definitive statement in the wake of the general election.

I’d take very slight issue with how he characterises the processes ahead:

Brian Cowen, the Minister for Finance, will be taking over as party leader anyway, they reason. Later probably, but no big deal if it’s sooner. Politics is not a sentimental profession.

Nonetheless, the question of Ahern’s departure from office – its timing, its consequences and the manner of it – will be a huge issue on the Irish political landscape in the coming few years.

Ahern has dominated Irish politics for a decade and, although Fianna Fail insiders confirm that power is already flowing to his nominated successor – this process would appear to be a law of politics – his departure will deprive the state’s largest party of a phenomenon of modern electoral politics.

I think the political landscape is already determined. And … whisper it quietly… perhaps both FF TDs and their coalition partners might actually prefer the rather more technocratic, and apparently emollient, style of Brian Cowen. A safe pair of hands to guide them to a successful election in 2012.

So much better than a situation where as Leahy argues there is considerable cognitive dissonance between entirely contradictory views held by the political class and the general public over the current events.

In a curious way all those valedictory party political broadcasts in the run up to the 2007 Election provided the eulogies. Weren’t many of Ahern’s dearest friends in world politics dragged in? And now, well now it is just a question of waiting until he departs the stage.

No doubt he, and we, would prefer that it might be otherwise, but as Leahy notes:

If there’s a tide in the affairs of men, that tide ebbs and flows more dramatically in the world of politics. Last May, with a stunning third election victory on the back of a robust economy and peace in the North and against the expectations of many of his closest colleagues, Bertie Ahern reached his high water mark.

As involuntary spectators we have no say in the matter. For many of us watching, who support the left, our ship has sailed and we have to hope that there is better news in 2012. The internal affairs of Fianna Fáil are a different country. And that lends a certain distance. Still, interesting to contemplate just how this might be playing out had the numbers turned out tighter and had the Green Party not been in government. Perhaps we might have seen a more 1994 like situation in those circumstances.

In any case, the timing is difficult. The opposition is preoccupied. Fine Gael is – finally – undergoing a period of introspection about its ‘nearly but not quite’ result. Labour, with the new guy at the helm is just settling in and Sinn Féin is busily otherwise engaged.

But in establishing this particular coalition – unlikely as it appears to be – may well have been Ahern’s last political masterstroke, if only because it is so well built that it can outlast its creator.


1. franklittle - September 17, 2007

‘And despite the best efforts of the Irish Times…’

They have certainly been giving it their best shot. Bought the paper on Saturday and not only was I graced with four pages of news coverage but the front page of the Weekend supplement, along with space inside, was devoted to it as well. I think the Times is locked in the ‘one more push’ school of thought. They believe this is the silver bullet to get Fianna Fáil and bring down Ahern and all it needs is to keep pushing and pushing and eventually the scales will fall from the eyes of the people and we will be duly grateful to the Times editorial staff and Madam.

To be honest, I think most people made their minds up when the story first broke last year and at this stage are only vaguely interested in what might come out of the Tribunals.

‘Talking to some Green Party people in recent months it is clear that they’re settled in. If they’re not leaving, who then?’

I don’t think anything that happens might force the Greens out of government, but it might add to pot that is stirring within that party. The Greens have not really been tested by government yet. They haven’t had to troop in the Government lobbies voting against legislation and motions they had supported last year. They haven’t quite yet switch on the EU Constitution and McKenna is signalling some kind of internal fight on the subject.

If a number of other things start to stir up the internal workings of the Green party, revelations about Fianna Fáil corruption might exacerbate those difficulties, but alone it won’t create them.


2. WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2007

I thought the IT coverage was excessive and remarkably poorly presented. For all the seeming confusion the situation is very simple and boils down to a number of salient facts which could easily have been noted.

I agree, it could cause internal problems for the Greens, but probably not enough to cause major dissension in the ranks. And again, where are they going to go? I suspect everyone wants Ahern off the pitch at this stage.


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