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.

  • It’s not the first time I’ve heard this being suggested, and to be honest there is a lot the two parties have in common. At the Conservative end of things I don’t think anyone in Great Britain would care enough about the past to make a difference, but the link-up with the UUP is another matter. However even without this, what the two parties don’t have in common would make such a link-up difficult to sell.

    The Conservative grassroots dream of an ideologically consistent grouping of Eurosceptic Conservative UK-style parties (and don’t realise there just aren’t enough of those around), and taking on a party considered pro European (particularly one trying to get Lisbon ratified in spite of the Irish No vote) would be a major step away from this, one that I don’t think the grassroots would be at all happy with (especially as the way EP posts are allocated would probably mean Fianna Fáil having a bit of the Conservatives’ nominal entitlement – see http://timrollpickering.blogspot.com/2009/03/posts-in-european-parliament-in.html ). Expecting the Conservative grassroots to make informed, pragmatic judgements about actions in the European Parliament (or “be conservative about this”) is next to impossible.

    There’s also the possibility that more progressive elements of the Conservatives would be dubious if a party sought to enter to the new group in part because of the position on abortion of members in their otherwise preferred alternative group. Of course since many such have so far tried to ignore or wish away the problems of being with the Kaczyński twins they may be able to look the other way on this one.

  • JD

    Of course the truth is that the most appropriate home for Fianna Fail would be the EEP alongside Fine Gael – however they cannot campaign together at European elections.

    So Fianna Fail’s options are the UEN or New Tory group to the EPP’s right – socially conservative enough but not pro EU enough. Alternatively slightly to the left of the EPP in the Liberal Group – pro EU enough but too socially liberal.

    Would Fianna Fail support and independent ELDR candidate along with Alliance for the EP elections in Northern Ireland????

  • I don’t agree that the Tories are “suspicious of ideology”. In reality, FF is a Centrist party while the Tories are a centre-right party. I can’t see the Tories presiding over the kind of vast public-sector sector waste and ownership of the economy still seen in the Republic. I also disagree that they belong in the same group. FF has embraced the Eurofederalist agenda as embodied by Lisbon, while the Tories want to tear up the Treaty with a UK referendum where a no vote is guaranteed.

  • George

    Regarding Fianna Fáil and the grouping in Europe, should it really matter? Ireland was the number one benefactor per capita when FF were hanging out with the Gaullists.

    This smacks of FF losing faith in their ability to be Irish and deliver. They feel the need to be European, probably because they want to cede so much sovereignty that being Irish won’t matter any more.

    Christ I sound like Dave here but on this I agree with him, the Irish body politik has completely sold out to Europe. They are in awe of it.

    More importantly, for those interested, the fada is on the a and not the e in Seán.