McParland to become Fianna Fail’s new Deputy General Secretary…

Now here’s a little adjunct to the NI Water affair, but before our resident conspiracy theorists go off on another one, so far as we can tell it is an adjunct. Pat Parland, who is currently head of their Communications team and sits on that controversial board will be leaving NI Water at the end of August to take up a position as Director of Communications (and Deputy General Secretary) at Fianna Fail in Dublin.

Hmmm some might say, from the frying pan straight into the fire… In fact the Fianna Fail post has been open since Gene McKenna stepped down in February. In the meantime they have been struggling to get the right person for the post.

As Miriam Lord noted back in May, those that did apply in the first were for the most part, party hacks,who were given what one FF TD described as “PFO letters” (erm, that would be ‘Please Eff Off’) for their trouble… She also reports that Martin Whelan of the Construction Industry Federation gave the party the same sort of brush off when he was approached.

McParland, a native of Armagh and one time member of the SDLP, is taking on another difficult role in which he must deal with at least as much trouble happening inside the party as there is on the outside.

For instance, a recent internal party report by Chris Flood and Gerry Collins highlights the degree to which party Cummain now barely exist in reality, particularly in urban areas of Dublin and Cork, where Labour are promising to take great swathes of votes from FF.

When he takes up the post in September, McParland will work as deputy to the party’s General Secretary, Seán Dorgan. Dorgan is thought to be a gifted pollster, but poorly skilled in communication. And there is a greater gap between the party’s national organisation and cabinet, not least because of a profound disconnect between Brian Cowan’s government handlers at the Government Information Service and those of Party Headquarters than at any point in recent political history.

Add to that the party’s debt problem:

It was widely reported in March that Fianna Fáil is €3.6m in debt. The main cause of the debt has been the number of elections and referendum campaigns the party has had to fund in recent years.

Since the 2007 general election, the party has had to fight two referendums on the Lisbon Treaty, the 2009 local and Euro elections, and the Dublin South and Central by-elections. The second Lisbon campaign alone cost €450,000.

Even leaving aside the scale of the national crisis (which the polls unambivalently suggest people wholeheartedly blame the Government for), you can see why Fianna Fail have had such deep rooted problems.

It is understood that McParland was head-hunted by the party rather than the other way round. Still he has his work cut out for him, not least since the party will, almost certainly, sustain its worst electoral performance in generations. That being so, there will almost certainly be a cull of the current leadership afterwards.

McParland needs to have effected a substantive change in the weather by the time of the next election. As one party spokesman told the Tribune recently:

“There is a huge level of inactivity but it is not just the fault of the local organisation. Ministers have not been on the ground enough to explain what is going on.”

In that respect McParland’s task is a relatively simple one (though from easy to achieve): reconnect the top of the party to the base (before it’s too late). And it’s clearly Labour’s concomitant task (thus Mr Gilmore’s call against a pact with FF this morning) to drive an irreplaceable political wedge between them first.

It remains to be seen how effective this new northern broom will be at sweeping out Fianna Fail’s bare and dusty cupboard…

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  • SDLP Watcher

    A further attachment of the failing SDLP to Fianna Fáil? Given McParlands past association with Tom Kelly’s Stakeholder Media group?

  • “‘I joke that the Parades Commission was becoming too popular and that’s why I left,’ says McParland. ‘It has done a brilliant job of taking the heat out of parades. I like being in difficult spots, and there’s no spot more difficult than now at NI Water.'”

    No, he’s not talking about the past few weeks. PR Week UK, 05 June 2009, 00:00am – “Pouring oil on troubled water”.

  • HeinzGuderian

    As I always say…………….Indeed !! 🙂

  • As invited, a conspiracy theorist notes:

    Them Free Staters … Eirgrid owns the electric supply grid;and the ESB is taking over NI Electricity.

    And for the next trick?

    [What do I know, living here in London? The airports are owned by a Spanish company. The trains and London tube involve DBahn, who now also owns Arriva buses. The electric supplier is courtesy of Électricité de France. An Australian bank provides water…

    Wonderful thing, this privatization.]

  • sdelaneys

    And Brian Cowen is opening a Fianna Fail office in Crossmaglen tomorrow evening and attending a function in the local hotel afterwards.
    What a quare old world we live in. Matt Baggot first and now Brian, dare we hope that old queen Liz will want to visit Cross? Is there something in the water of Lough Ross do you think, that is attracting them all?

  • Eamon Donnelly

    I heard McParland was a member of FF before he was ever a member of the SDLP. He was a member of the Trinity FF Cumann when studying there, and when went north joined the SDLP (I suspect as FF had a good relationship with the SDLP when the SDLP was still a nationalist party). Apparently McParland aided the setting up of the QUB FF cumann, and had let his SDLP membership lapse a number of years ago. I suspect FF are building towards the future.

  • TKmaxx

    Pat’s decision to join FF as Deputy General Secretary is a personal decision but one consistent with his personal political views. I admire him for that. It will be a difficult job but he knows that. As for his time in Stakeholder he did a good job and a professional one. He was in FF before the SDLP. Personally i cant abide hurlers in the ditch who have nt the balls to sign off their comments and hide behind made up names. But then the world is full of you!

  • Charminator

    McParland’s hardly the sort of ‘building towards the future’ that’s needed, if they’re serious about electoral success in the North. The likes of him have been singularly unsuccessful in reconnecting the SDLP with the Nationalist people of the North, never mind trying to pitch a new product to them with SF on the rampage. If it’s for his Northern credentials – as Eamon Donnelly – seeks to suggest, this is a regressive move. I’d say instead thats an incidental of no consequence to the FF top brass. They seem to be building some sort of Northern strategy – why else open any offices! The climate’s certainly right: the SDLP’s been dying for years and hastening the final exit can be no bad thing now. Under Ritchie, the party seems to detest SF more than the Unionists and that’s simply not what the Nationalist people want or vote for (see Fermanagh South Tyrone). Declan O’Loan was probably closer to the mark – but not full-blown merger with Sinn Fein. There’s clearly a thirst out there for some sort of new dynamic though.

    Sdelanys – Ach, sure wasn’t the PSNI Chief Constable going to visit Cross sometime anyway!! Though, there does seem to be a hive of FF activity in South Armagh – they must obviously have a decent enough membership base there I imagine.

  • TKmaxx @12:31 AM:

    Personally i cant abide hurlers in the ditch who have nt the balls to sign off their comments and hide behind made up names

    How true! How very true! So no self-contradiction there.

    On the main issue, FF need a miracle. How’s Mr McParland as a water-walker or with bread-and-fishes?

    And, no: recruiting in South Armagh doesn’t solve their main problem. Ditching Cowen might make a difference, though: just a bit.

    There is nothing so potent as an idea whose time has come, and the current idea is furious anger at those who dumped on us and made the present mess. That’ll take a “generation” (i.e. a decade in politics) to wash off. A bit quicker if some of the well-fed faces from yesteryear weren’t seen everywhere.

    That last bit of this post comes to you, courtesy of Simon Smith and his dancing bear.

  • Mick Fealty

    But, lads, this is not about us. It is about the party’s future in the south, not the north. That they’ve head hunted an northern guy for what has to be the toughest job in the party’s history makes a ‘north south bridge’ possible, but not probable.

    You can accuse FF of a lot of things, but political pyschosis is not one of them. I don’t want to exaggerate, but if Pat can turn this one round then he’s made for life. I’m pretty sure he’s delighted to have the opportunity.

  • Another Eamon

    the assertion above that this person was involved in establishment of any part of the Party organisation in NI is simply wrong!