Can Brian Cowen hear the Fat Lady singing ?

On the face of it Brian Cowen has pre-empted yet another heave, but it would seem that this is the beginning of the end and because of a number of factors that I will outline  why I believe that his demise may now be sooner than later.

The Fianna Fail parliamentary party is clearly divided on the leadership issue into two main camps : one group, and that includes most of those loyal to Brian Cowen believe that it would be nothing short of political suicide to become embroiled in a leadership struggle so close to the election. They feel that this would be seen by the public as FF pre-occupied with themselves rather than the country.

The other group are equally adamant that to go to the people in a general election under the present leadership with nothing to put before the public but excuses for the past and claims of damage limitations for a situation that FF are clearly now identified with and blamed for causing, would equally be political suicide.

As Noel Whelan said on RTE on Friday evening, everyone expected them to return the New Year with a new narrative, but it is the same old  leadership story.

The downward spiral continues and again to quote Wheelan, there is no floor to how low FF seat losses can go.

Last Oct / Nov I could not see this bottom going under twenty five seats with the election last stand pushing them into low thirties. On current figures and circumstances I cannot now see the party holding twenty seats in a best case scenario. Current support would indicate around fifteen seats but that could easly fall to ten to twelve.

Inside Fianna Failed it is really now a case of bald men fighting over a comb!

This really is unknown territory in Irish Party politics; many former heavyweights have retired rather than face the electoral firing squad.

Some of the big names remaining have no cast iron certainty of a return to the next Dail. That includes the three front runners for potential leadership, Micheal Martin, Mary Hannifin and Brian Lenihan.

Not very inspiring choices. This time last year Brian Lenihan could still walk on water : now he can barely hold his head above water; Mary Hanifan is seen as a kingmaker, a number two rather than a Maggie Thatcher and Brian Lenihan is now dependent in the extend Lenihan clan calling in favours.

Brian still has some standing inside the Dublin 4 / Law Library, set. He can claim that he was not at the Cabinet Table when the financial mess was allowed to happen. Martin was at the table during all this period, an unpleasant fact not referred to by Martin when talking about the past, but no doubt, some of Lenihans camp will soon remind him of the fact come contest time!

Basically there is little political difference between the Lenihan mindset and their Fine Gale Bruton opposites who are equally unenamoured with Dame Enda.

There is however a pressing reality for all three  in the Fianna Fail leadership contention: if they do not move now they will probably have missed the leadership bus.

Fianna Failed as a party have an extradionary capacity for disassociation, ‘That was then and this is now’ was the mantra of Haughey towards the Lynch / O’Donnoghue era, it was the mantra of the Renyols leadership against the Haughey/McSharry/Flynn et al and it became the mantra of the Bertie eta against the Reynols era.

Naturally it has become the current mantra of Cowen’s leadership against ‘The Bertie Era’! However it no longer cuts any ice with the general public. Last week when Pat Kenny introduced the Fianna Failed spokesperson he was laughed at by the TV studio audience, nothing personal, it was just what he represented no longer had a shred of credibility or relevance!

While the public are hopping mad at the situation Fianna Failure brought about, so also are a younger generation of back benchers who see the Old Guard as having wrecked politics for them. All had good career prospects the last election, now they will be lucky to be re-elected and then only to years of Back Bench Opposition drudgery, without any influence.

No longer just ten years from a backside on a victory count supporters shoulder to hind quarters in a government car!

Martin and Co have to move now, if they do not jump now, post the election devastation, the leadership could and probably will jump a generation.  Martin and Co are then yesterdays news, always assuming they are re-elected of course.

Then there is the Brian Cowen factor : whatever the perception of Brian to the general public, and however much sections of the party may view him as an electoral liability, all agree that first, last and foremost, Brian is Fianna Fail through and through. The man do genuinely put the party before himself and if he feels that he has lost the support of the party, or that it would be better for the party that he went, then after consultation, he will go if that is the consensus.

It would seem that the balance is on the side of departure. No heave will then be required, if go he must for the party, go he will!

This weekend will tell it all : either the moves for change of  leadership will come the start of the week or the hatches will be battened down on the Fianna Failed ship to ride out the coming electoral storm. All the indications as of now are that the would be leaders for the reasons given, must and will publicly move.

The dream ticket is for a muscle flexing by all three followed by Mary and Michael clinically installed  as Leader and Deputy Leader in a quick,clean excercise.

I am not as keyed into active politics as I once was but I still have more than a few contacts here and there. As one remarked  in a call this evening, “only them bastards at the top know what else is there and the Greens are only one more disclosure from walking!”

That sums sums up the reality for all and indicates how unstable Government really
is. A week, next week will indeed be a long time  in politics for the Irish public in the Twenty Six Counties!

Post script:

This was written Thursday evening; this Friday afternoon Labour pulled a great PR and political stroke. Gilmore with the whole Dail Party lined up behind him on the Dail forecourt, announced that he was putting down a notice of no confidence in the government. Anybody knowing anything about Fianna Fail will appreciate that this will cause ranks to close and FF and the Greens to sort out immediate accommodations.

Dame Enda almost immediately pointed out the obvious, that this was likely to unify Fianna Failure just as they were desintragating. But of course that is exactly what it was about, Gilmore wants Cowen there for the election……..and this Government continuing for a weeks yet.

Cowen and Fianna Failure are history, Labour now needs a few more weeks for the Enda factor and the FG foot shooting capacity to kick in. Labour in their view can only go up and FG down!

One can only think of Haughey’s remark when Labour elected the late (and limited)  Frank Cluskey as Leader ….. he let out a low whistle and went…..” Jeezes, there’s confidence for you ” !


    Good article. Is there an Irish equivalent of which could provide a scientific and a more psephilogical prediction based on constituency opinion polls?
    Anyhow, as much as I’d love to see FF vanish into history, Ireland at the end of the day is like Italy but with shite weather. We love crooks and “patriots” and FF will top the poll.

  • lover not a fighter

    I think the Fat Man has being doing to much drinking and singing not to mention the questionable types (dodgy bankers are there any other type) that he socialise’s with and provides Socialism for (dodgy bankers again I am afraid).

  • The Word

    Not even a grain of irony in your goodself’s words about FF corruption, given your eternal role as “a senior bondholder” in Sinn Fein.

    At least Brian Cowen went onto the golf course to open doors at the bank. He didn’t put a gun to a teller’s parents’ heads.

    The sheer hypocrisy of Sinn Fein has to be seen to be believed. It might be the case that the lights won’t be on your party in the upcoming Dail election. More’s a pity.

    A few extra seats for Ireland’s favourite (right wing) communists at a time when the basis of capitalism has collapsed is much deserved but really pathetic when you think about it.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Munster, what is your current guess of a date for an election? and I know I dosn’t always have to relate to up here, and I should be patient, but 2 elections is probably a mixed bag for SF, presuming a good show in an early southern election will be a morale boost, but also a drain on resources?
    As a Unionist I can’t see much to mourn in the apparent terminal decline of FF, but such mythical beasts are harder to destroy than people think. Who ever wins has a massive task, those suggesting a “second Republic” might not be that far of the mark.

  • pippakin


    Brian Cowen would have to be stone deaf not to hear the fat lady singing.

  • Munsterview

    Drumlin R.

    No prediction : two scenarios here 1) and currently the more, likely is a change of leaders, that leader may not get a parliamentary endorsement from the Greens and others on his own side so an early election inside of four weeks, no one in the government side is under any illusions as to what is waiting for them out there.

    2) If Cowen decides not to go, then Martin, Lenihan or Hanifan will have to resign government and challenge. That will lead to an immediate head count on either side and if the challenge do not have a majority support, Cowen would be probably too damaged to continue anyway. Now that Martin has been named and promoted by Noel Flynn he will have to say if he is a contender or not.

    Mary will probably be the one that will break ranks and act as staking horse for Martin to start the process; informed sources claim that they have a pact for some time now.

    While the Government want the budget passed, the younger FF element in the backbenchers do not want that on their CV on the doorsteps and want that poison chalice left to the incoming Government.

    Election ? 15, 16 or 17th of February if there is a change of FF leader ( mid week to exclude as many college students and others away from home ). If not they will try to brass neck it until after St Patricks day and milk the festival for all the PR they can.

  • Munsterview

    ORWELLSPEN (profile) : ” We love crooks and “patriots” and FF will top the poll “.

    Not this time, we will have to look to the collapse of a similar party in Canada some years ago to get anything like the electoral wipeout that is about to happen to Fianna Failed or in Irish terms back to the wipeout the old Nationalist Party got from Sinn Fein in the 1918 election.

  • While not under-rating the excellent and pertinent comments above (I’m sure you all read the same political commentators as I do — Stephen Collins in today’s Irish Times is concurring with much of Munsterview here), a word of moderation à la mode d’Obama.

    Both Ireland and Britain went into 2010 with scorned, abused government leaders. According to the cyberspatial flak one was “insane”, the other was “Biffo”. One has already gone down with the ship. Surely decency should allow both are essentially decent, honourable men, overwhelmed by the circumstances around them, and neither overly-blessed with communication skills. If you prefer a glossy PR merchant, there’s one enstooled in Downing Street for your panting doe-eyed adulation.

    Enoch Powell’s comment on Joseph Chamberlain is well known: All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.

    So let it be with Cowen, as with all the petty Caesars before and to come. It usually takes a decade or two (and further disappointments) for the good to emerge from the interment of the bones.

    Perhaps, in due course, we may remember Belloc’s Jim and the lion:

    His Father, who was self-controlled,
    Bade all the children round attend
    To James’s miserable end,
    And always keep a-hold of Nurse
    For fear of finding something worse.

  • joeCanuck

    MV mentions Canada. For those not aware, the governing conservative part went from a comfortable majority in parliament, maybe 170 seats out of 300, to the grand total of 2.

  • George

    I really don’t know how much credence should given to the ideas put forward here.

    Firstly, Noel O’Flynn is fighting for his life to be elected in four-seater Cork Central. Only one from FF has a chance and it’s him or Kelleher.

    Secondly, it was SF that brought up the idea of a no confidence motion although as it was in the technical group so March is the earliest date this could be tabled. The fact that Labour has jumped on this bandwagon has more to do with SF eating into their vote in recent opinion polls than stiffing Cowen and FF.

    Thirdly, the idea that Lenihan (rumours just last week that he wouldn’t even stand for re-election), Hanafin (like Gerry Adams trying to get elected in a constituency where she doesn’t live) or Martin (who has just buried his daughter and hasn’t been preoccupied in recent months) could take over from Cowen and hang on to the leadership after FF returns its worst ever election result is naive in the extreme.

    The leadership of FF will skip a generation by the time of the election after next. That is already a given in my view. The only question is whether there will be a caretaker leader to lead the party into its worst ever election result in the coming two months or not. My personal view is that there will be and Cowen will step down (and won’t run for re-election) but that whoever it is they will be gone by the time the subsequent election comes around.

    As for Labour only going up, that is simply wishful thinking. They have set their stall out as the party replacing FF as the representatives of one of the main causes of the bust – the unions and their bankrupting “social partnership” for 15% of the workforce model.

    They have lost the radical left vote, the disillusioned, the disenfranchised and the angry. They do have the public servants though. Because of that, many will vote FG instead.

  • George

    Cork North Central.

  • pippakin

    Cowen may or may not be the villain but the only question at the moment is not if but when he goes.

    A vote of no confidence is rarely a bad idea especially when it backs up the lack of confidence the entire country has in FF. FF and the Greens voting against will not surprise anyone and nor will it do them any good since it will visibly reinforce the gulf between FF/G and the rest of the country.

    The election was always likely to be March and that still seems the case.

  • Mark

    Didn’t know that Joe , you just never know what people are thinking .

    I must say I like Cowan and I agree with MV that he has the party’s best interest at heart . Not like some of the other snakes in there . Cowan had so much goodwill starting off .It’s a shame although Munster , John of slugger thinks they may brazen it out until after summer .

  • wee buns

    MV well observed, and written, indeed amazing that BiffO has lasted as long as this!
    Despite no hard evidence of dealz done over golf/caviar…..despite no evidence of any vested intrest the governemnt has in bailing out the bankers….the dots CAN NOT BUT JOIN.

  • John Ó Néill

    In terms of election dates – there will be a statutory 3-4 week lead in after the general election is called – meaning the earliest is now mid-February. If they finish dragging the budgetary legislation through that, on it’s own, will take four weeks, if not more (which is why a lot of people are suggesting late March for an election). If Cowen either goes or is pushed, by the time FF straggle through a leadership contest etc (with Cowen in situ as a caretaker Taoiseach) it would be about 12 weeks before an election. Considering the Greens are touting various bits of vanity legislation that they have belatedly realised they need to get passed, like a Corporate Donations Bill, a Climate Change Bill and a directly elected for Dublin mayor (banning stag hunting somehow outranked all these in terms of priority), I suspect that even twelve weeks remains optimistic. So, flailing around in the lower reaches of the polls with neither coalition partner wanting to face the electorate, they could contrive to push through to the summer recess of the Dáil and survive until the autumn.

    There are a raft of FF selection conventions this weekend – since none of the apparent alternative leaders wanted to front a putsch – they may have opted to go for the mid-February date and get it over with. Rumours this evening are that Cowen will go tomorrow but whether that means an immediate election or twelve weeks to get a new FF leader in place is unclear.

  • wee buns

    In terms of being unnconnected to the locality:
    Hanafin, when she came to our doors, was asked about unemployment.
    The man next door. Mark, has been vigourously seeking work stacking supermarket shelves. No joy upon no joy. He puts this to Hanafin.
    Mary suggested upgrading his skills.
    He reveals that he is a qualified comercial airline pilot.

  • Munsterview

    john O : I may have one advantage over you in my assessment, a direct knowledge of one of the factors that is scaring the bejazus out of all Fianna Failed, the unabaiting anger of the people. In the words of Pearse ” beware the risen people ” ! FF certainly are.

    The people may not be out in the cross roads with pikes yet but be in no doubt they are roused and angry. That is feeding into FF grassroots and through them through the structures to the back-room boys. The mood inside Fianna Failure is now as that describe in the poem, ‘play the game’ the Colonel is down, the square is broke and they know that the last assault will sweep most of what troops are left in the field, away !

    George : first : agreed, second : sticking to my conclusions in that one !

    Third, yes Michael Martin has had personal problems but tragically these were ongoing for quite some time. Politics takes no prisoners, Micheal is from Cork and he is also well aware of the political career of Peter Barry, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs and the best Taoiseach that Fine Gael never had.

    Cork politics are still haunted by that non event and that lesson is not lost in Micheal. This is destiny week for him, in the words of ‘Dixie’ it is oner more last spin on the merry-go-round ! Either that or leave the carnival and go home. I have been physically close to Micheal on a lot of significant political occasions over the years and I have seen how he reacted.

    This weekend Martin must either ‘go for it’ forget politics at the top tier. If the Micheal I know is still there he will meet destiny for himself and the party. he is too much of a political animal to do otherwise !

    To-night Shane Ross declared that he would run for the Dail and that he was prepared to associate with any technical group for speaking rights. In regard to Irelands obligations to bondholders and sovereign debt he is on a parallel track to Sinn Fein. He is the first of what will be a raft of what I expect to be other high quality independent minded candidates.

    Most of these candidates, like Ross will come from centre right, Fine Gael support base. These candidates especially in the Dublin area will eat into the FG base. Labor is under threat from the left, but not to the same extent, their voters tend to have an ideological bent, many voters considering Fine Gael are doing so only on the basis that they, FG, are not Fianna Failed ! Most are not enamored with Dame Enda, Shatter and the Valkyrie either.

    If they get better they will go for it. Ross was a black swan already the calculators are out and his probable victory factored in. He is but the first of such candidates that will cause all parties to re-caliber predictions. That is my reasoning for assuming that FG can only go down while I expect Labor to firm up.

    Now can anybody tell me what we did to piss off the Chinese to the extent that we did ?

  • John Ó Néill

    MV, I don’t know have the same experience of many of the main players. I have been resident (on and off) in the Republic for the last fifteen years or so, though and there is a definite difference in mood this time. I think FF are in serious serious trouble as are the Greens – neither has any reason to go to the polls. While I’m still cautious in pronouncing the patient as dead, I don’t know if the theory that, in an election, FF will get a major bounce is true and, if the senior TDs retiring is anything to go by, they know it it too.

    Apparently David McWilliams is being touted to run in Dun Laoghaire as well – another candidate FG would have liked but who turned them down.

  • Cynic2

    Whatever the Irish people feel about FF and what it has done to the State they want to elect people who will restore its reputation and fortunes.

    They will not elect a gang of cop killing, smuggling, counterfeiting, robbing murderers.

    They will not elect a party who have no rational economic or social policies and whose lack of any credibility would make our economic problems worse.

    They will not put into Government a party so closely linked with terrorism that it would damage Ireland’s standing in the international community and deter inward investment

    They will not elect a party led by an amnesiac culchie who has shown time and time again he has little understanding of the Republic , its people or its problems and who is belatedly trying to prove he’s ‘really’ Irish by moving to Louth.

    Expect perhaps 1 to 2 more seats – if that – from a protest vote

  • Cynic2

    Oh yes…. and we wish you all the best with Gerry in the Dail. When he turns up (perhaps not that often) he will be entertaining


    What FFer (excuse my language) would want to replace Cowen at this juncture? Best to wait till they go over the top of the trench and see who’s survived the machine guns of the ballot box and appoint a new general from the walking wounded. I fear the next Dail will be a pot pourri of oddballs, placard waivers, malcontents and other sub Weimer/4th republic types incapable of running a country. FF did not ruin the economy; it was the international system that failed. Was FF running Greece or Iceland? I want Ff to vanish because they are a clientelist anachronism but they did not singularly ruin the country. To say so is to indulge in the naive two tone language of student politicking.

  • Greenflag

    @ Mark,

    ‘I agree with MV that he has the party’s best interest at heart . ‘

    True but it’s not the ‘party’ that matters -it’s the country and Cowen now looks like a blind koala bear clinging to a eucalyptus tree in a force 10 gale .

    @ Orwell ,

    ‘FF did not ruin the economy; it was the international system that failed.’

    They were asleep at the wheel and while they had no control over ‘international events ‘ they could have done a lot more to damp down the speculative building boom . But of course that would not have endeared them to their ‘property developer’ supporters .

    They were left holding the parcel as the ‘economic bomb ‘ went off . Call it bad luck , karma or whatever you want but the ‘electorate ‘ needs a scapegoat and FF fits the bill to a tee.

    Politics is rarely a forgiving endeavour to those who are bypassed by the march of events .

    I expect Shane Ross will be elected in Dublin South ( I hope so ) and hopefully David McWilliams will enter the hustings . As for prima donna George Lee will he have another go ?

    I expect Biffo to be history tomorrow if not sooner .

  • Mark


    I agree with you about country before party. I just hope people don’t get to personal in their criticism of him .

  • Greenflag @ 1:57 pm:

    While I’m sure your main thrust is sound, I’d go harder on the reasons FF are in trouble, with worse to come in March (or whenever).

    I suspect most of the electorate are bothered less about the state of the economy than the state of each individual wallet. There is a difference, even if commentators equate the two. Anyway, it’s more self-flattering to spout about the national budget than to admit “I’m hard up”.

    I’m sure we all cast an eye over Garret Fitz’s piece in the Irish Times, Light at end of the tunnel for next coalition. It made the usual Fitzer’s points about things already looking up: he kindly enumerated half a dozen. He reckons that the opposition will not be making much of them; and we can safely assume that FF won’t be able to sell them.

    So, if the first strike against FF is that the escalator clause in their social contract with Joe and Fidelma O’Citizen has been revoked, their more serious problem is to “detox the brand”. That is going to need a decade to sanitise, if ever. The over-close bond between the FF hierarchs and their commercial buddies stinks: which is why Cowen’s golf round is so obnoxious (if not terminal).

  • Munsterview

    cynic2 : “They will not put into Government a party so closely linked with terrorism that it would damage Ireland’s standing in the international community and deter inward investment….”

    I will have to be restrained in my reply lest Mick publicly rap me over the knuckles again for being patronizing. I will be charitable and put your comments down to wishful thinking arising from your own prejudices regarding Sinn Fein.

    From the late sixties to a few years into the turn of this century I have publicly fronted for Sinn Fein at all levels. Even when not acting in a political capacity, because of my high profile my politics were generally known in the cultural circles I mixed with.

    Where possible before canvassing an area, we found out who the committed FF,FG and Lab supporters were and to better utilize time resources we did not generally chat these households up, but dropped some election literature through the door.

    Only once and once only in all these years did a householder collect the material from his letter box, call me back and insist that I take back the material. That was a Fine Gael house!
    I never had a door slammed in my face, been abused at a door about my politics, or had anyone at an open door refuse election literature. In fairness to Fine Gael supporters, I have been told on a few occasions that ” this is a Fine Gael house here, we will not vote SF but I have just made the tea, will you have a cup ? ” and I did !

    Dick Spring was Deupty Leader and a very successful high profile Minister and he had delivered the goods in spaded to his own constituency especially around the Tralee area. The fine aqua-dome is a case in point and a constant reminder of his ‘largesse’

    The people of Tralee knew what Dick Spring was, they had a choice of candidates for the last seat in the constituency, a man just out of jail for gun running with nothing to give to the constituency other than a promise to work for a better future, or a man just out of Government that had a proven capacity to bring home the bacon.

    Remind me again, who did the Kerry voters elect, the former political prisoner and ex gun runner or the former Minister just out of Government. If you, ‘The Word’ and others like you reflect on that simple fact, with a dispassionate assessment, rather than a personal instinctive emotional, juvenile reaction, you come to some appreciation of real politics and the voting public.

    The Fianna Failure Back Room boys have that appreciation : that is why The Minister For Injustice showed Gerry Adams a clean pair of heels, that is why Bertie put himself before the party, he knew also that he was a humilating election ‘gonner’. This also explains the sudden preoccupation with health, family and business concerns among retiring Fianna Failure.

    However no point in going on, as my old neighbors used to say in my home childhood farming community, ‘ nothing you can do about thunder but listen to it’ !

    The Word : ” given your eternal role as “a senior bondholder” in Sinn Fein…..”

    Yes indeed I am and they are maturing nicely, are they not ? Long wait for the dividends but it was worth it. Missed out on an associated company however, I had retired when they apparently hit a twenty million plus jackpot. If rumors can be believed it was a sterling result for all concerned !

  • Mark


    I agree with you about country before party. I just hope people don’t get too personal in their criticism of him .

  • Greenflag

    @ malcolm redfellow ,

    ‘I suspect most of the electorate are bothered less about the state of the economy than the state of each individual wallet. There is a difference, even if commentators equate the two. ‘

    Most ? I’d have said a large section especially those in the bottom half of income earners . But unlike during the years of the ‘tiger economy’ there is now a much bigger section of the electorate genuinely concerned about the state of the economy and the connections they now see albeit in hindsight between the actions of government in the past decade and where they have now delivered the country .

    For FF this election is a watershed . Some in the media have commented on this election being the equivalent of the 1918 election for the old Home Rule party of John Redmond .While I would’nt discount that possibility entirely I think much will depend on how Brian Cowen is removed and the ensuing ‘unity’ within FF as the dust settles .

    Fitzer’s comments are always worth a read and he does strike a ‘note ‘ when commenting on the dangers of ‘indiscipline ‘ if the governing coalition is too large . FF voters those old enough to remember recall the fiscal responsibility of Sean Lemass’es government with his one seat majority while recalling the near anarchy and indiscipline and fractiousness during Jack Lynch’s 20 seat majority era .

    While it’s hard to look beyond a week the best for FF imo is to say their farewells to Mr Cowen and to try and resurrect themselves under a new leader quickly. Leaving Cowen at the helm runs the risk of the party taking such a hiding that it’s existence could be compromised .

    Never was a political party so well placed as FG to take over the mantle of the alternative ruling party . But they are missing a leader _they have no Fitzgerald or Cosgrave or even a Dillon . Labour have become the party of the public sector and the unions and thus will be seen by a large section of the population as a potential future juggernaut against which a major recovery of the private sector will have to push against . SF will advance to maybe a dozen seats while the Green’s by too close association with FF face electoral ruin. I can’t see SF becoming the major centre left party of constitutional nationalism in the way that FF moved into that role . They are still carrying too much northern ‘baggage’ for most of the Republic’s voters at least with the upcoming election.

    It will be interesting to see if Mr Cowan’s expected demist will create some waves on the international bond markets or might even impact the Dow Jones 😉 If it does’nt I’d read that as a good omen and some confirmation of Fitzer’s insight along with Intel’s 500 million investment announced this week and of course those rising dairy exports etc.

  • Greenflag

    @Mark ,

    ‘I just hope people don’t get too personal in their criticism of him’

    I don’t think they will . Anybody in his position right now would imo be in a similar bind . He might even hold onto the ‘family ‘ seat in Offaly if he chooses to remain in politics unlike many of his senior party colleagues who have chosen this time to eh ‘retire’ rather than be humiliated by the electorate . Had they stayed the election result count might have become known as the ‘Night of the Long Knives’

    As it stands it’ll be a bloody enough affair anyway -in a metaphorical sense of course 😉


  • Munsterview

    Malcom : ” The over-close bond between the FF hierarchs and their commercial buddies stinks: which is why Cowen’s golf round is so obnoxious (if not terminal). ”

    This will have to be a lenghty post, since you have raised some matters that are vital to the ongoing debate about democracy and accountability !

    In my twenties while on the Ard-Comhairle of SF, I met a wide cross section of what could be concerned patriotic people of all parties, many who were participants in the historical events from the 1918 election onwards and some even from the rising itself.

    Two things have always pre-occupied me, one the actual real reality of these times as seen through the eyes of the people who made history and secondly where did it all go wrong ?

    You would be amazed at the number of elderly people I discussed the second aspect with that never really thought that out in any detached, analytical way despite a lifetime of activity, jail and sacrifice for Republican politics.

    My discussions were not all with Republicans either, whenever I operated in a certain county I stayed with a family where the man of my fathers generation had been a high ranking Blueshirt at the heavy end of things all during the thirties. He had long renounced violence but was dyed in the wool FG. I was asked by the family to give the funeral oration which I did. Politics can make unlikely friendships : my trails crossed with the former attorney general, John Kelly, we became life long friends from the encounter.

    Bear in mind also that my extended family had been involved in resistance politics for four hundred and fifty years by last year so the historical narrative that I grew up with was that of an insider while outside the fold. In the latter quarter of the 19th, cent almost all my great grandfathers first, second and other cousins were IRB.

    That is a bond, not a barrier that transcends all politics on this island, irrespective of what the contemporary political party of the descendants of those IRB are. They IRB continued to operate and had serious clashes with the Irish State long after they had apparently disappeared from participation in public life.

    To give but one example, the IRB actually sponsored and financed Fr Flannagan of Boy Town fame to come to Ireland and attempt to shame the Fianna Failure government of the day into action to stop[ the sexual and other abuse of children in State Institutions. They also organized public high profile events across the States to expose what was happening. In fact it caused the final rupture between Devs Fianna Failure and the IRB here at home and abroad.

    It did force a rethink and the curbing of excesses in these institutions because representations were also made directly to the Vatican at that time. You will search very hard in contemporary history of the period to find any such reference. ( pencilled in for a coming essay subject)

    The scenario for our current problems, in general terms go something like this.

    1) Taking the beginning of the last quarter of the 19th, cent as a starting point, there were two parallel governments in Ireland, the unchanging ‘Permanent Government’ of the Crown based in Dublin Castle that looked after Crown business first and all else in a descending hierarchal priority and the emerging democratic Catholic/ Nationalist elected bodies who were seizing and controlling local power over local bodies. The former tried to check and stymie the latter at every opportunity by all means fair or foul, save where it suited Crown interests.

    2) The IRB / Sinn fein set out to build a parallel organization by infiltration and recruiting of key people that were as sick of corruption as most Irish people now are. Post 1917 the went public with this parallel organization and post the 1918 election the First Dail began to build a parallel government to the IRB blueprint that had even its own Republican police, courts and judges.

    3) By 1922 the Crown Permanent Government was severely damaged and the civil aspects of governance such as Crown courts and Police had all but ceased to function. The ‘Civil War’ or what Republicans regards as The Second defense of the Republic, was also a counter revolution that restored the old administrative status quo with all its problems.

    4) The old system of governance had been the Lord Lieutenant and his cronies throughout Ireland associating with elite’s in the senior levels of the permanent government and the top levels of the Irish Parliamentary Party. This continued, the new Free State Cuman Na Gael leadership took over from the old Nationalist party and continued as before. The name over the shop door was now in Irish, there were different people behind the counter, but the same goods were for sale and the same unseen people ran the boardroom.

    5) The establishment opposed Republicans with the same type of visceral hatred and attitude as is now displays against SF by the TUV. When Dev took power in 1932 he sacked half the army, reduced their service pensions, recruited his own armed police ‘ Special Branch’ from the Ira Officer core ( killing two birds with the one stone) and he brought the ‘Permanent Government’ to heel as much as he could. He froze out the Lord Lieutenant part of the administrative and ceremonial arm and let it wither on the vine.

    6) Government by cronyism continued post 1949 and the republic, the old structures sans the Lord Lieutenant continued with the same attitude to the general populace. The Lemass era and the IDA produced a first layer of new industrialists. Reynolds, Larry Goodman, The McCartan brothers etc were now also part of and emerging oligarchy.

    Their philosophy was summed up by Lemass ” A rising tide lifts all boats” Look after the top elections and produce a few jobs on the ground for the rank and file party supporters.

    7) As our recent few years of debacle have shown, we still have a governance for the oligarchy by cronyism with all our elected representatives just making up numbers for the voting lobbies.

    Nothing has changed, nothing can change or nothing will change until the system of Permanent Governance is replaced by a proper representative democracy. I have not included Roman Catholic Church influence here, they have gone after the Officer Class, how many judges are members of Opus Dei for example ? How many fine young women have been recruited at University and brainwashed into giving up their education, becoming mere housekeepers and facilitators for a privileged clerical and lay Roman Catholic, well heeled elite ?

    In the foregoing I have painted with broad brush strokes but Fianna Failure did not arise in isolation. FF serves certain corrupt forces in this state and a certain ‘status quo’ There people who want to preserve that status quo, powerful, well financed and other resourced forces. If fianna Failure cannot protect and service their interests, ie if looks for definite of going into terminal decline below a twenty seat threshold, then look for a new party with a new song singing the anthem that all sick of corruption wants to hear . However it will still be the same old music.

  • Greenflag

    @ MV,

    ‘where did it all go wrong ?’

    A bit too much overblown MV . It did’nt ‘all ‘ go wrong . Ireland despite some recent and earlier setbacks is still a far better country for the majority of it’s people than it ever was under pre independence British Government rule .

    What exactly do you mean by a proper representative democracy and how exactly would that differ from what we have today ?

    You don’t have to be a political or rocket scientist to figure out that the status quo establishment will resist economic or social change which would weaken their position . That’s no different in Ireland than anywhere else in the world . It’s the haves versus the have nots . In the Weimar Republic it was the former ‘haves ‘ versus the have nothings i.e the emisserated lower middle classes (brown shirts) versus the communists . German Communists iirc could command the support of some 30% of the electorate . SF is a long way from winning 30% of the vote on this island even if they have come close in NI .

  • Cynic2


    “I will be charitable and put your comments down to wishful thinking arising from your own prejudices regarding Sinn Fein.”

    Aww come on. I will tell Mick that I am not offended and can take it. I wasn’t restrained and nor should you be. But the answer on which of us is right will be decided by the Irish people.

    In terms of my bias against SF that simply comes from their History and behaviour, nothing else.

    I personally recognise that I have an Irish Character as well and a Northern Ireland one. I think the aspiration to a United Ireland is a completely valid one and am happy to consider it on its merits. I am areligous and have no bias at all against anyone on those grounds.

    As for SF specifically I judge it and its leadership by its deeds. So too have the Irish people in the Republic in the past. In the North its somewhat different. If anything that saddens me that people will vote for people who made a career and sometimes a fortune of killing their fellow Irishmen and Women. But I recognise that that’s their democratic choice.

    So in that context, as you “have publicly fronted for Sinn Fein at all levels” answer me this. Did all the murders and crime never give you pause for thought? About the moral justification of what they were doing?

    You also say that in all that time canvassing only once did an elector hand back your material. Well, you know how SF’s vote in the Republic has been and how strongly we Irish feel about these things. So don’t you find that a bit strange? Have you ever reflected that they may have had other concerns about not handing it back openly?

    As for my ‘wishful thinking’ – as I said above – that’s down the Irish people. But I think the wishful bit is yours.

  • Cynic2

    “Ireland despite some recent and earlier setbacks is still a far better country for the majority of it’s people than it ever was under pre independence British Government rule”
    Surely that’s not a fair yardstick after almost 100 years of development. Until recently the average Irishman outside Dublin may have been just as well or badly off as his religious counterpart in the hated North. Over the last 20 years however the South shot ahead and that has more to do with good exploitation of its place in the EU than anything else

  • Munsterview


    Cowen is staying and fighting for his position. He is tabling a notice of confidence in himself at next Tueday’s party meeting. He is allowing a secret ballot.

    It is now piss or get off the pot time for Micheal Martin.

  • Munsterview

    cynic2 : So in that context, as you “have publicly fronted for Sinn Fein at all levels” answer me this. Did all the murders and crime never give you pause for thought? About the moral justification of what they were doing? ”

    There is no ‘they’ involved, the Republican Movement was and is a coherent whole!

    When acting in a Sinn Fein capacity, especially at Ard Comhairle level, I personally had and accept the same moral responsibility for actions carried out by Republicans as the Active Service Vols that carried out the acts of war concerned.

    I stood with them then and I stand with them now !

    That do not mean that I aprooved of each and every act or that I and others did not dispute and take issue with operational aspects of that War. However as in all wars, in most of these things, the then Leadership and the objectors were acting after the events when operations had gone wrong.

    This was another reason why those committed to the primacy of politics pushed the ceasfire and peaceful means only, while moral considerations were parmount, another significant factor was those attempting to advance politics were always only ‘one operation gone wrong’ away from yet another PR disaster.

    I have regularly stated my position on these issues here, Like all in the Southern Command area, because of the sensitivies of what is involved, I leave all such comment to the Republican spokes persons in the Northern Command area.

    The fact that not one single Catholic / National poster contradicted or took issue with my reference to the late Gordon Wilson and his daughter when I referred to the Harte family tragedy earlier in the week, is an indication that all victims of the Counter Insurgency Aspects of the Low Intensity War / Conflict are remembered in our community.

    I have also reguralry posted here that there cannot be any understanding of the deaths in the North in the recent conflict unless these deaths are examined in the context of the Counter Insurgency Operatios of The Low Insurgency War / Conflict.

    The World academic community acknowledge that reality and examine Northern Conflict events in that context. It took almost a full four decades of time and hundreds of millions of pounds spend before the British admitted what the world already knew, that these Bloody Sunday killings were deliberate State murder.

    The British State machine also have the answer as to the how and the why of the majority of those killed in the Northern Low Intensity War. When they come clean, others involved in that conflict may also disclose the facts of the situation, in as much as it can now be done with the passage of half a century from some of these events.

  • Munsterview

    UPDATE :

    Michael Martin is to hold a press conference within the next fifteen / twenty minutes. It is now all over or the game is afoot !

  • joeCanuck

    the Republican Movement was and is a coherent whole!

    I find that hard to accept. Was it ever thus? From the civil war to even in most recent times, we had the Provos and the Officials and now a bunch of so called dissidents.

  • Greenflag

    @ cynic,

    ‘Surely that’s not a fair yardstick after almost 100 years of development. ‘

    More than fair I’d say . Contrast 1the 20 years 1800 through 1922 with the 90 years 1922 to 2010 and the vast majority of Irish people are far better off , better educated and more confident of their future today (despite the present malaise) than they ever were under the second conquest 1550 through 1800 or 1800 through 1920 .I’ll admit a small area around Belfast could make a claim from benefiting from the Union post 1800 but they are hardly representative of the entire economic experience of the whole island .

  • Munsterview


    Rte News 8 pm : Micheal Martin announced that he will offer Brian Cowen his resignation as he will not support him in the vote of confidence motion.

    As yet no announcement that he will run for leader !

  • Greenflag


    ‘the Republican Movement was and is a coherent whole!’

    If it is then it’s as holy or unholy as Swiss Cheese 😉

    ‘Propionibacter Shermani is one of the three types of bacteria used to make Swiss cheese, and it’s responsible for the cheese’s distinctive holes. Once P. Shermani is added to the cheese mixture and warmed, bubbles of carbon dioxide form. These bubbles become holes in the final product’

  • joeCanuck


    I saw a programme on cheese recently. Those holes in the Swiss cheese were initially viewed as a defect and they tried hard to eliminate them before turning it into a symbol. .

  • Munsterview


    I stand corrected : that should have been Mainstream Republican Movement. ( and no doubt I will get an argument on that too !)

  • Greenflag

    @ MV ,

    Presumably Martin will now wait to hear from ‘others ‘ between now and Tuesday as to their intentions in the confidence vote . . Only when he thinks he has enough support will he lay down the gauntlet . High noon time Tuesday then – In this world there are two kinds of people -those with loaded guns and those who dig 😉

  • Greenflag

    @ joe canuck ,

    They call them (the holes ) eyes . Why I’ve no idea but perhaps it’s because you can see through them 😉 .

    I wonder if FG have ever considered Alan Shatter as leader -They could do a lot worse imo . He could be just the candidate to replicate Fitzgerald’s electoral success .

  • Cynic2

    “I stood with them then and I stand with them now !”

    Then you stand on the blood of Irish people. A great election platform. I wish you well in convincing the Irish People that is what they now need

  • The Word

    “In this world there are two kinds of people -those with loaded guns and those who dig”

    Such cynicism. You should be ashamed of yourself. And, of course, it’s not even true in your world, I can assure you.

  • Mark

    Greenflag ,

    The kenny factor will have a large bearing on the way the election goes .

    Anyone remember the Kinnock factor ?


    One cannot have a Taoiseach whose name is Shatter any more than he can be called Crapper. Sorry. It would be too obvious for lampoonists.
    We have such little control over out fiscal affairs that the election will be merely choosing a butler for the burned down mansion. Who will object if we have the ballot paper in one hand and an IMF bail out in the other

  • John Ó Néill

    Just watched Cowen on The Week In Politics on RTE followed by a brief interview with Martin. The disconnect between the narrative being put forward by both and the general opinion that can be read in any paper or heard on any radio or tv show is startling. Bizarrely absent this evening are the Greens who made a fairly terse statement just saying they look forward to an early and definitive resolution. Martin [supposedly] has the numbers on his side, but what happens next is hard to predict – the Greens claim they won’t support a new Taoiseach, FF claim they won’t have a caretaker Taoiseach who is not party leader (although they did before), there are the SF/Indos and Labour Motions of No Confidence that could be debated as well. Its hard to believe that a Martin win won’t trigger an election that will see many, if not the majority, of those voting losing their seats (which may be enough for Cowen to hold on). But even if Cowen wins his motion of confidence in himself, there is no guarantee that some other story isn’t ready to drop (the Anglo boys haven’t gone away, you know), but at this rate you’d have to wonder what it would take for Cowen to actually go.

  • wee buns

    not only have the Anglo Boys not gone away, nor have he ECB boys. Really damning article on FF not acting quickly enough in saturday’s Irish Times ; as well as scare mongering on default, and apparantly the impossibility of subsequent governments impacting on the IMF deal.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s aways pretty distressing to watch vicious bloodletting in any political partry. Reminders of once the closest of friends indulging in an honourable or dishonourabe civil war.

  • Greenflag

    @ the word ,

    “In this world there are two kinds of people -those with loaded guns and those who dig”

    Try and not take things too literally . Here are some translations . ‘There are those with power and those without’;
    ‘There are those who are ‘saved’ and those who are not ‘:
    ‘There are the haves and the have nots ‘

    And no the world and universe was not created in 6 days no matter what it says in Genesis .

  • Greenflag


    ‘It would be too obvious for lampoonists.’
    So ? Even lampoonists have to earn a living .How about Shatter shatters the opposition . ?

    @ mark ,

    I’m not sure there is a Kenny factor other than it will tend to dampen the extent of the FF loss and enhance maybe the number of seats Labour and high profile independents win.

    Kinnock in the end lost the 1992 General Election although it was close ; the Tory majority was cut to 21 – because the Tories had ousted Thatcher and installed Jon Major as their new leader . Even though Kinnock had led in all the opinion polls against Thatcher the combination of a new Tory leader and the media lambasting of Kinnock in the run up to the election did him in.

    The question facing FF is not who will lead them to defeat in the coming election but who can lead them to a lesser defeat . It seems to me that the race for the succession among FF heavyweights is now, on with some preferring Cowan leading the party to defeat and biding their time for their tilt at the leadership – Martin is pointing out the danger to the party’s electoral future if they go into this election with Cowen leading -and imo he’s got it right .As for Tuesday’s high noon stand off -It would not be the first time that ambitious FF politicians put their own interests above the party or the country . When they chose Jack Lynch it was as a ‘stop gap ‘ between the George Colley and Blaney/Haughey factions which of course never went away .