Slugger hears that tomorrow night the Taoiseach will host a £50 a head dinner for about 120 people in the hotel in Crossmaglen to celebrate the opening of a party office in the town square. This same fund raiser has been in play for a number of years and indicates the party is interested in getting more involved in politics north of the border.
However, it would be a mistake to interpret this as a sign that the party will be fighting elections in Northern Ireland any time soon. It is simply not the Fianna Fail way to go off half cocked with a few hard core enthusiasts who little hope of gaining anything much out of breaking into a political space of which party headquarters has little practical experience.
There are thought to be a number of ‘hotspots’ of interest in the party, including South Armagh, South Down, Fermanagh, and Derry. But, despite resentment amongst some in the party over Margaret Ritchie’s speech at the Labour party conference early this year there are no plans to end its long term support for the SDLP.
Indeed, despite an abiding interest at the most senior levels of the party there are few who see any value in simply moving in on the SDLP. The Fora established by the 2009 Ard Fheis have helped them gauge the level of interest and given them a reliable database to work off for the first time.
But they will also be mindful of the disastrous attempt of the Conservatives to bring mainstream British politics to Northern Ireland in the recent Westminster election. A cross jurisdictional party, as we’ve seen with Sinn Fein’s erratic performances in the south, is likely to be an even taller order…
My guess that at the very earliest, we won’t see anything happen election-wise until the mega election year of 2015 (Council/Assembly/General Election). Even then, Fianna Fail don’t do futile gestures, or at least not in elections. Generally, they play to win.
They will only make a move when have defined for themselves a clear political purpose in Northern Ireland, and more importantly when they know they can they can carry a quantifiable number of seats. That might be easier to contemplate with a northern Deputy General Secretary in place in Dublin Headquarters.
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