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That Fianna Fail Ard Fheis and Rumblings in Labour? March 5, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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I watched a bit of Michael Martins speech on Saturday, had intended to watch all of it but just couldn’t stick it. Yes Michael Martin gave a vague Apology, but you got the feeling he was apologising for the loss of 58 seats rather than destroying a country.
On Friday night he was introduced as the man who brought in the smoking ban. On Saturday morning I was chatting with someone about it and he was saying the only good things Fianna Fail ever did were bans, the smoking ban, smokeless coal ban and the plastic bag ban (levy).
The optics of Renewal and a new start were hardly helped by a standing ovation for Brian Cowen, the faithful milling around Bertie and countless other objectionables like Mary Hanafin, Noel Dempsey and co being lauded by the crowd.
There was of course the ultimate Irony of the Jobs Abroad Expo next door where according to a comment on thejournal.ie

2 FF delegates sang “Cheerio Cheerio” to the work Expo que after some one shouted that FF should b ashamed of themselves

Elsehwere an article in Saturdays Examiner “Labour TDs fear a “whitewash” review of the party’s patchy general election performance is being “sat on” by the leadership.”
So Labour did a report on their General Election Performance and it hasn’t seen the light of day…

“How long does it take to write the sentence: ‘We fucked up?’” one Labour TD asked.

Another revealed: “I understand the first draft was so explosive it had to be rewritten several times.” Another said: “I’m concerned about a whitewash. It would not be in the leadership’s interest to be honest about what happened.”

A fourth Labour TD said: “The campaign was a mess — the ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ line imploded — so we were on the back foot the whole way, we made all those promises in the last 10 days to try and stop Fine Gael and they have come back to haunt us now.”

Not alone that but ….

With backbench discontent growing over perceived high-handed leadership and a failure to project a distinctive Labour narrative onto a Fine Gael-dominated administration, some TDs believe Joan Burton may be positioning herself for a leadership challenge.

“It would just take eight or nine of us to stand up at the PLP [the weekly parliamentary Labour Party meeting] and tell Gilmore our confidence has run out, for him to be gone — he couldn’t survive a quarter of the party saying that,” one TD said.

Joan Burton eh? …. She seems to be upsetting the hierarchy over linking debt reduction with the Fiscal Treaty

Comments»

1. Jack Jameson - March 5, 2012

So now begins the game of picking who the eight or nine could be?

And what would be the implications for government if Gilmore were to be deposed?

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2. ivorthorne - March 5, 2012

Joan Burton? After that Vincent Browne episode? Really? She’s talks like a bitter, moany middle-aged ex-Bosco presenter.

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3. Sam - March 5, 2012

I heard that alright about some of the FF singing and mocking the que. I had 2 brothers and 3 friends there. I din’t particulary find it funny that 5 people I’m close to are leaving Ireland this year, may never come back. They drinking and swanning around the RDS like they own it.

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4. INTERNATIONAL WOMANS DAY-FREE MARIAN PRICE PROTEST | Irish Free Press - March 5, 2012

[…] That Fianna Fail Ard Fheis and Rumblings in Labour? 16:56 Mon Mar 05, 2012 | irishelectionliterature […]

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5. Oireachtas retort - March 6, 2012

Not sure about that ‘cheerio’ thing. Originated from a new twitter account on spreading divisive FF rumours all weekend afaik.

Mary Minihan I think was making cryptic comments last week about the “interesting” way Burton positioning herself behind they scenes. In public she has probably made the sharpest pre/post election change of any TD, making all the right kick the poor noises to appeal to the very people who found opposition Joan unacceptable.

She’s widening the net for some reason

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6. James Lawless - March 8, 2012

I’m not sure about that “cheerio” thing either! I think it’s BS frankly. Many of our delegates had travelled from abroad to attend and many were popping in and out of the event while they were at the Ard Fheis. The 4,000 delegates don’t live in gold encased palaces but pretty squarely in the real world!

I do hear you on some of the comments above. Those faces should begin to fade over time though. Even now do not equate relevance or influence with physical presence. Am not sure they were entirely “lauded” either.

More on this theme here:
http://jameslawless.ie/2012/03/08/seeing-the-wood-for-the-trees/

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7. CMK - March 8, 2012

James, how do you live with yourself? I mean that seriously. Anyone who remains in FF after the government from 2007-2011 can’t be treated with any degree of respect or esteem.

If you take the admittedly ludicrous proposition that from 2007-2011 the FF/GP government did its very best then its very best wrought immense economic and social destruction. Any reflective, decent, individual would, given the litany of failure by FF, conclude that if their best efforts result in disaster then maybe they should leave politics to those more capable.

From that Ard Fheis there was NO evidence, whatsoever, that FF have learned anything, or believed they did anything wrong in government. Martin’s mealy-mouthed ‘apology’ was for wrecking the FF party, not for wrecking the country. Party before country, the well being of donors before the well being of the people the FF mantra from 1926 to today.

Anyone who can seriously write, as you do in your blog:’But the Fianna Fáil party is not and never was an elite cabal but is a party of ordinary members living ordinary lives’ is either one or more of a) recently emerging from a very long persistent vegatative state; b) willfully delusional or c) an alien waiting to picked and brought back to his/her home planet and passing the time on earth as a member of Fianna Fáil.

The duty of any decent citizen is to ensure the destruction of the Fianna Fáil party and to follow that through mercilessly and remorselessly. My own personal attempt to this is a variant of the old ‘no platform for fascists’ and consists ‘no respectful conversations with members of Fianna Fáil’. The sooner your party joins the Greens in the dustbin of history the sooner this country can begin the process of constructing a decent society for everyone. And don’t give me the ‘ordinary, decent member’ crap. If you’re still willing to pound the pavements for FF after what happened during 2008-2011 you lose the respect of any right-thinking person. It’s too late now to reform FF, it’s to destroy it like it destroyed this country.

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8. James Lawless - March 8, 2012

Hi CMK,

I will respond to your points, but briefly because 1) I don’t have a lot of time and 2) I sense your mind is made up on these matters.

First of all when you say “continue to support” well frankly if I thought the current approach was a mere “continuation” of what went before there is no way I would support it. If I didn’t support the actions of the last government I would hardly advocate such continuance now that the chance has come for change. The same can be said for probably 1,000s of other members which was pretty clearly evidenced in the result of the last general election. The party, along with the general public, was crying out for change. Both now have that opportunity.

When you talk about the average FFer, I have to ask how many members do you know, how many cumann meetings have you attended, how many Ard Fheiseanna have you attended? If the answer to the above is in the negative then you are making judgment based on media images and second or third hand reports. That works for government (which gets saturation coverage in media) but you cannot judge the membership at that distance (which rarely gets a look-in). If you ask why did the membership support it the short answer is they didn’t, that’s why the party was in crisis this time last year. if you ask why didn’t they do something about it, well many of them walked with their feet, while others were constrained by a lack of internal governance – again something that is now being seriously addressed.

Similary I must ask on what are you basing your judgment of the recent Ard Fheis – how many candidates were elected, to which positions, how many new, how many old, what did any of them stand for, what motions were debated, which were passed, which were defeated, were they close, who were the speakers, who contributed from the floor, what were the organisational changes, what was the general mood, who were the star turns and who did what when. If you can answer those questions then great, lets have an informed discussion but if you are basing your views on some fairly skewed media coverage then sure you can comment but let’s not pretend it is a comprehensive or fair or informed analysis.

You ask what category the members were in during that time and offer options of a, b and c, I will add a fourth option d, the correct one in my view, = Disillusioned and disenfranchised. The latter is being addressed through structural change and the former is taking care of itself now the party is out of government and out from under the previous regime and there is a huge interest amongst the grass-roots now which was distinctly (and understandably) lacking in recent years. The desire is there to retake their own party and they are delighted to be at the reins.

Finally when you suggest “maybe they should leave politics to those more capable” I absolutely agree and I know many such capable people within the Fianna Fáil party. One of the travesties of the past few years, from an internal perspective, was that the party didn’t even use the resources available to it from its own ranks. Again all that is changing and not before time. By the way I am not so arrogant to suggest there are not capable people in all parties as there are and I know many of them.

I get that you hate FF. Perhaps you are suffering personally in the recession. You wouldn’t be alone in that. As mentioned, many friends and delegates at the Ard Fheis had themselves returned home for the weekend from forced new pastures overseas. My household has suffered. We all have. We also have a duty to progress solutions where we can and work within democratic strucures to drive change. That’s what I am currently engaged in.

Best regards,

James

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RosencrantzisDead - March 8, 2012

If you ask why did the membership support it the short answer is they didn’t, that’s why the party was in crisis this time last year.

How do you square that with this statement from your own website:

Ensure leadership statements & directives communicated to and understood by members. Many policy decisions in the recent crisis were not understood by members who subsequently did not have a sense of ownership and found them difficult to justify or defend. Whilst this applies in the main to economic decisions another recent example would be the blasphemy bill which was controversial yet not properly understood by many.

This paragraph states that members did not support party policy during the last government because they did not understand it. That is a quite some distance away from not supporting it because they feel it is wrong.

Equally, your comment, and some of the motions proposed at the Ard Fheis, reveals something about the current thinking in FF: the media and poor communication are to blame rather than a flawed ethic or a lack of substance on the part of the party. “If only,” one can hear a member moan -over a pint of Bass in Fagans -, “the media were more professional and fair then the country would vote for us in their droves.” Such thinking is not indicative of a party that wants to change.

Finally, arguments that one cannot properly appraise FF without attending the Ard Fheis or going to the local cumann are weak at best, misleading at worst. This was the same argument about Brian Cowen (and Bertie): that they were brilliant, but only when nobody, except the party faithful, was around to see.

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9. sonofstan - March 8, 2012

I get that you hate FF. Perhaps you are suffering personally in the recession. You wouldn’t be alone in that.

I hate FF. I am suffering personally in the recession. The two are not causally linked – I hated FF just as much before.

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10. James Lawless - March 8, 2012

@sonofstan well at least you’re consistent!

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Chet Carter - March 8, 2012

@ James, are you on the Gombeen or Cute Hoor wing of the Fianna Fail Party?

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11. Peader - March 8, 2012

“My name is James Lawless, I’m 31 and I live in Sallins, Co. Kildare… By day I’m a Systems Architect but by night I’m a Fianna Fáil activist, continually working to better county and country.”

One word – Muck-savage

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WorldbyStorm - March 8, 2012

Small point, please don’t bring in personal information on people’s families into comments. I don’t think it’s fair game.

Muck savage isn’t a term I’m fond of, not least because my own father’s family comes originally from a point in rural Meath.

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Chet Carter - March 8, 2012

Agreed. I believe CLR can only gain if people like James get involved. They will slowly learn the error of their ways. And if being a 100% Dub is required for taking part that also rules me out.

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12. James Lawless - March 8, 2012

@Peader, Well thanks for the personalised character assassination ! By the way am I the only person in this discussion not using an alias? Where’s your blog, what’s your background and what are your beliefs?

@Chet Carter That appears to be a leading question!

@RosencrantzisDead You make some good points. I think a lot of commentators, web posters in the main, but also some of the lazier journalists look at figures from the previous cabinet for example and think that’s FF, right there, simple as that. Whilst I don’t like to personalise, a very good example of the current mood is illustrated by the fact that one of that grouping (last cabinet) was forced to withdraw from an internal election at the Ard Fheis due to a likely humiliation when the delegates went to vote. (I don’t mean O’Cuiv by the way, he would have done very well and very possibly topped the poll). For people to pronounce that FF hasn’t changed or that the members are “all the same” without ever actually speaking to those members or attending a party event is just uninformed and leads to a flawed analysis. In terms of the communications piece the Blasphemy Bill is a very good example of things going wrong. I remember being asked at the time what is this about, what is going on here. The majority of members and indeed the public had no idea and it was quite easy to paint a stereotypical picture of some kind of reactionary, conservative element attempting to hark back to a more censorious time. The reality was that this was a constitutional anomaly that required either an amendment or legislation to sort it out. And so it was done. It’s actually quite hard to satisfy the offence of blasphemy. You’d have to go out of your way to deliberately outrage a “significant number of adherents of a recognised religion”. Muttering under your breath when you stub your toe doesn’t count. Anyway I know that (as winner of the constitutional law prize at kings inns, Peader’s jibes notwithstanding) but the majority of people wouldn’t have been aware of that and I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up from party communications, had I not known otherwise. It is possible there were similar explanations that could have accompanied other measures at the time but they were short in supply. NAMA for example could have been explained a lot better and certainly had two sides to it. Some other issues are indefensible such as the confusion surrounding the IMF and the attitude of some Ministers before and at that time. The guarantee is highly contentious obviously, it seems wrong in retrospect but who is to know, we cannot rewrite history. I don’t like the way it was made but that’s maybe a side issue. I had hoped it may have been possible to unpick it later on but Timothy Geithner and others put paid to that. I always envisaged it as a temporary measure but even Noonan it now seems is considering extending it again and effectively the policies have not changed in that department. Anyway the plain fact is that mistakes were made in the last administration and a huge price was paid by the party. In some cases members did not understand it (as above) and in other cases members understood it quite well and thought it was wrong – it was a bit of both I would say. The figures speak for themselves. I also talked about ownership which ties back to my point about governance and internal democracy. If members had been enabled debate and have some control over these approaches, I would like to think, at least, that we might have had a different outcome.

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Wendy Lyon - March 8, 2012

The reality was that this was a constitutional anomaly that required either an amendment or legislation to sort it out. And so it was done.

*cough cough* X case *cough cough*

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James Lawless - March 8, 2012

Very true! I’ll let you explain that one though 🙂

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Wendy Lyon - March 8, 2012

What it shows is that even if blasphemy was a constitutional anomaly, there really wasn’t any need to “sort it out”. The true motivation for the law has yet to be explained.

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WorldbyStorm - March 8, 2012

A dog whistle to the Iona Institute crew. No?

Or, I should add, worse again than Iona.

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James Lawless - March 8, 2012

@WBS I can understand why you might think that. I don’t think it really altered the issue though – the “crime” was always there constitutionally, it had just never been legislated for. I do agree, it seems an odd one though in terms of timing and priorities. I suppose the point in terms of the original argument was that here was a provision which had a plausible explanation (as outlined above) and yet this wasn’t communicated which led to further and unnecessary confusion all round.

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Wendy Lyon - March 8, 2012

It’s not that it wasn’t communicated, James, it’s just that nobody bought it.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 9, 2012

Thank you for your reply, James.

The difficulty, I suppose, is that I cannot agree it is a case of optics or simply mistakes. The policies that lead to some of those ‘mistakes’ or difficult decisions were deeply and intrinsically flawed. A focus on simply putting a better gloss on things does not imply a desire to change but simply to seem like one has changed.

Of course, I am not exactly the sort of person who would have been a potential swing vote for FF.

On a side note, the argument that it was necessary to draft and bring into force a blasphemy law is a bit thin. Corway was decided in 1999 and the anomaly persisted for almost a decade before the government experienced a flowering of constitutional piety. Nor can the offence be divorced from the then Minister for Justice, a notorious social conservative. Also, the implication is that a constitutional anomaly can only be solved in one way; this is untrue as the government could have held a referendum to delete that part of Art. 40.6.1, as was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in the early 90s and the Constitutional Review Group.

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James Lawless - March 9, 2012

I think if there were flaws in policy, it was actually 02-07 that saw the bulk of them more so than from 08-11. The latter was corrective action. The latter were communicated very poorly however which helped sink the ship, at least from an internal perspective. The former (02-07) probably didn’t need so much explanation, even if bad policy, the public loved it. The communications issue still existed however, at least internally.

Yes Corway is an example of the “constitutional crime”. I did say there could have been an amendment as an alternative to legislation. Again I stress I am not particuarly interested in arguing the rights or wrongs of this decision but highlighting an incident where an explanation could have been proffered but wasn’t. There may have been some presentation of that argument on the airwaves (I don’t recall it I have to say) but certainly there was no such communication at party level and many members were stumped at the logic behind it. Whether it was right or wrong, there could at least have been better attempts to explain it.

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Oireachtas retort - March 9, 2012

James the problem with communication was the country knew exactly what was going on not the opposite.

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RosencrantzisDead - March 9, 2012

I did say there could have been an amendment as an alternative to legislation.

I re-read your comment and you did say that. My apologies.

Wendy’s and Oireachtas Retort’s point is worth repeating: would any sensible person taking into account, timing, personalities, and the choice of creating an offence rather than passing a relatively straight-forward amendment agree that this was constitutionally necessary and completely understandable? I do not think so.

And if the party has swept away the old guard, including the authors of this vexed offence, why defend it? A complete rejection of what went on before is the best signifier of a changed party.

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Dr.Nightdub - March 9, 2012

Re 02-07: James, are you really saying that, to take one example, the bank guarantee was more of a bad PR disaster than a game-changing economic fuck-up that’s left us all irretrievably up the creek? That’s how it comes across. Optics versus reality and you’re worrying does your bum look big in this…

In the general scheme of things, worrying about blasphemy, or holding it up as an example of anything at all, simply ignores the fact that we’re all going to hell on a much, much broader scale – thanks to your lot.

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James Lawless - March 9, 2012

I really have no strong views on the blasphemy offence one way or the other! This point stems from a criticism I made of previous party approach in that it is an instance I am aware of where at least an attempt could have been made to supply an explanation and this was not done. There was no explanation of this given to members – good, bad or indifferent. Plausible, inconsistent or plainly incredible. None full stop. Any explanation would have been better than no explanation.

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James Lawless - March 9, 2012

@Dr Nightclub I have referenced the guarantee previously in this discussion, I refer you to my earlier comments there. The banking crisis undoubtedly holed the ship below the water line, the crisis in the public finances could have been addresses through a series of difficult budgets, pretty much as per usual cycle. The guarantee, as you say, was the game changer.

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13. James Lawless - March 8, 2012

@RosencrantzisDead Sorry, a last point on the suggested “member drinking Bass in Fagans”. There was only ever one guy who drank Bass in Fagans in the first place and him and Fagans are both pretty far outside party circles these days.

I understand these are stereotypes but they are very outdated ones and that is what I mean about a more informed view of the party today. The party in 2012 is a different entity to that of 2006, say.

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maddurdu - March 8, 2012

Is that so?

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James Lawless - March 9, 2012

Er, yes it is so. Your video shows a former officer holder wondering amongst the crowd, mingling with what looks to be a few old buddies and then departing. From what I gather he spent about an hour in the foyer area on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t notice myself. As a member of the party he is entitled to attend but that’s about the size of it.

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14. Jack Jameson - March 8, 2012

Respect at least to James Lawless for venturing into our lions’ den to make his case (that should not be mistaken for respect for FF, of course).

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Chet Carter - March 8, 2012

I agree, his input is more than welcome as all dialogue is informative. When he calls for the expulsion of Bertie Aherne and Brian Cowen from Fianna Fail for their criminal incompetence I will even take him seriously.

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sonofstan - March 8, 2012

Maybe it’s part of an FF ‘brass neck’ training progamme to prepare young guns for canvassing in the tough years ahead.

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15. James Lawless - March 8, 2012

LOL, Lions’ Den is right. I’ve always liked CLP. I stumbled on it at one of the Blog Awards. Cheers Jack 🙂

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16. Dr.Nightdub - March 8, 2012

@ James – your comment at #10 is basically saying “It wasn’t us guv, it was them in Mount St / Leinster House.”

For the time being, I’ll take that suggestion at face value and also the implied impact at the last election of thousands of disgruntled FF, well, grunts, not taking to the streets to carry the party message to the electorate. Hence the hiding FF got.

The implication of that is that it was the impact of the same thousands of then-happy and still-gruntled grunts that returned FF to government in 2007. That government, the one that you’re now trying to distance yourself from, basically ran on a platform of “more of the same, keep the Celtic Tiger purring.” You were all more than happy to do the donkey work for them in 2007, you all basked in the victory (unless those were all hired actors in the RDS count centre wearing FF rosettes), you were all mighty happy with yourselves.

That same government were the ones that oversaw the start of the current economic mayhem and now that the electorate has given them payback, you want to distance yourselves from them? Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. If we’re gonna have austerity for the next X years, then I reckon the very least we’re entitled to is electoral vengeance on FF – all of it, from top to bottom, for the same X number of years. The former higher-ups have waltzed into the sunset with their pensions so we can’t get at them but as long as you call yourselves FF, you’ll do.

Even St Pater dropped the persistent denials after three goes – you’ve had three posts in the thread so I reckon the cock is crowing about now. Not to mention the bell tolling…

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James Lawless - March 8, 2012

Well obviously I understand the basic premise. The grass roots first became disconnected before 2007 actually. One difficulty during the ‘good times’ was the growth of franchise politics with individuals creating operations effectively outside the party. Many of the people returning to the party now had actually left a long time before the crash. The boom tide just covered up cracks in the organisation. A lot of the reforms now being implemented were conceived up to a decade ago but resisted under the (perhaps plausible at the time) point that they weren’t necessary. I fully understand that if I was say to be on a doorstep seeking election in a years time some people may blame me for the deeds of others, long gone. They won’t all though. And that’s party politics, you’ve got to take the good with the bad (in terms of prior perceptions and default reactions, for better or worse).

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James Lawless - March 8, 2012

The other point @DrNightclub , and its been pored over so many times at this stage, but remains true is that over 90% of the political establishment supported such policies at the time (2007) and over 90% of the people voted for them in the shape of FF, FG and Lab. It’s to be expected to an extent from the two centrist parties but Lab excelled themselves under Rabbitte in their zeal for auction politics. Even the shinners had some kind of free-for-all, constantly revolving economic policies at that time IIRC. None of which makes it correct of course but does perhaps help to explain it. I always liked Seamus Brennan’s line about auction politics (and the perils of engaging in it) and often wish he had been heeded at the time.

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Dr.Nightdub - March 8, 2012

I s’pose “They’re all as bad as each other” is so commonplace now that there is a certain novelty value in hearing “We’re all as bad as each other” but I’m still not sensing the moral high ground…

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James Lawless - March 8, 2012

Ah it’s a bit early for the moral high ground, sure the sackloth and ashes are hardly worn in yet.

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17. Oireachtas retort - March 9, 2012

It must be difficult for those who have invested years and built part of their social circle around a lie.

No doubt it was easier when things were good. You could make your excuses by pointing to the achievements. What’s dodgy planning and a few backhanders when the economy is doing so well. Feck the cribbers and moaners, it’s economic competence not cheap credit. Still the decent ordinary plain people of Ireland grassroots weren’t quite welcome in the tent but they would still defend it’s right to be there.

Anything that could remotely called a success will or has already been wiped out by NAMA. Wasn’t much stirring there either. They defended the right of NAMA to be there too, only show in town. Wasn’t till December 2010 the grassroots awoke. The Troika were here and all of a sudden it became clear Fianna Fáil were in trouble.

“This is a call out to all Fianna Fail’s grass roots members… Let’s not allow the party to slip any further. It’s time to stand up and be counted. Reclaim our Party Now”

The IMF had just arrived in Ireland and the first stir of the financial crisis was a call to protect Fianna Fáil.

The rest of us can worry about renewing the country.

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