I was struck by Chris Caldwell’s clever (if predictable) play on the second word in the title of Ireland’s traditional party of government in his article on how Fianna Fail is finished [just like the Canadian Tories, peut-être? – ed]. Not a bad summary of the electoral reality confronting many working class Fianna Fail voters:
In the grand old days before the Irish real estate boom collapsed, the ruling Fianna Fáil party used to campaign the fun way. Infamously, the party held blowout fundraisers every year in a tent at the Galway races. Bankers and property magnates would show up, caked in bling, surrounded by attractive young women and occasionally even their wives, and get drunk with their elected representatives and regulators.
Fianna Fáil held the enviable position which, in the United States, the Republican party has occupied for most of the last few decades. It was the party of the working and the middle classes, and even of about half of Ireland’s rich people—a natural ruling party of the godly, the nationalistic, and the “normal.” Its main opposition, Fine Gael, guarded the habits of the snobby “Ascendancy” that had ruled Ireland before its independence. Fine Gael was more like the Brahmin wing of the Democratic party: sissified, intellectual, irreligious, relativistic, technocratic, and called in only when the populist juggernaut of Fianna Fáil got out of control and did something spectacularly idiotic or corrupt, as it did with some regularity.
However the Fáil in question roughly equates to ‘get’ in Irish. Ar fáil, for instance, means “for hire”. Getting and spending… put me in mind of William Wordsworth’s 1807 classic:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
Despite the full propaganda of the election campaign, it was hardly the sole fault on Fianna Fáil. The subdued nature of public anger in the Republic may be a ginger testimony to that.
But the old man’s words are perhaps a fitting epilogue for the late, now unlamented, Celtic Tiger.
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