Fianna Fail’s European dilemma…

Stephen King in his Examiner column joins a few dots regarding that announcement by Brian Cowen that his party would be joining the pro European ELDR group. According to King, some of the party’s veterans are cutting up rough on the decision, even as the party may have no other viable place to go to…

So what’s wrong with the Liberals? Quite a lot, according to veteran MEPs Brian Crowley and Séan Ó Neachtain. There’s quite a few pro-abortionists in their ranks and most European liberal parties tend to appeal to metropolitan types who don’t like subsidising farmers to produce the unproductive. They might add that the ELDR believes the EU has a role to play in global security.

By their friends shall ye know them but all European parties are, to some extent, marriages of convenience. The real question is do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? Some might see advantages in Ireland’s three main parties being represented in Brussels’ three main (respectable) groups. Besides, ELDR membership would free up some money to pay for the next referendum campaign — something the UEN has so far failed to deliver. But that would be to neglect the perks: as co-chair of the UEN, Crowley enjoys access to the parliament’s absurdly grandiosely named Conference of Presidents — and a chauffeur-driven car.

Nice to see the EU being frugal in these hard times, eh? Crowley’s argument is that the UEN has enabled Fianna Fáil to punch above its weight — just four MEPs since 2004 and who knows how many after June? “The UEN has worked well for Ireland… partly because I’m the leader,” he says modestly.

And:

WHERE Crowley is on strong ground is when he says no one can predict the future. Who really knows how many representatives of the Lithuanian Peasants will be returned, let alone how the Polish Samoobrona party will fare.

But in recent interviews, the Munster MEP does seem to be ignoring one unpleasant fact for Fianna Fáilers — the Tories. Their national party has promised — against many of their MEPs’ better judgement — to leave the EPP who are too Eurofederalist for their grassroots’ taste. They’ll almost certainly be the largest delegation to the parliament so they will be well placed to form the backbone of a new group.

Such a group would, almost certainly, attract other present members of the UEN, notably the Poles. The centre-right Czechs have promised to go where the Conservatives follow. Some Belgians and non-fascist Italians are sniffing around, too.

The Tories and FF might have more in common than they both realise. Both consider themselves natural parties of government and both are instinctively suspicious of ideology. Trouble is the Tories want to be with Europe but are not of it, to use Churchill’s phrase.

And then there’s the issue of the North. Everyone’s for the Agreement these days but there’s about a century’s worth of bad blood between the two parties. It would be a brave Fianna Fáiler who made the case for a Tory link-up. It’s probably a peace process too far.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty