Fianna Fáil one year on….. February 27, 2012Posted by irishelectionliterature in Fianna Fáil, Irish Politics.
Tags: fianna fail
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.