Fianna Fail: First task is to exorcise the ghost of ‘boomier’ times…

Somewhere I have a video of a press conference with Brian Cowen holding forth about the latest, slightly embarrassingly honest pronouncement from the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Patrick Honohan.

It’s one thing reading Bertie-speak, or listening to it on streaming from the houses of the Oireachtas, its another being on the ground and being expected to make enough sense of it so you can tell some third party the size and import of what was said.

And Mr Cowen was a very fluent speaker.

Cowen inherited the tired and circular politics of the tail end Ahern years. There’s little doubt that the deal making ward boss of FF made a huge contribution to the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, in some part precisely because he could never be tied down exactly what he meant.

He sounded confident, authentically Irish and mostly in charge. That was good enough.

And it may be that history will judge him more kindly than his current press which from a current Fianna Fail point of view means he must sacrificed to provenance if the party has a pup’s chance of regaining even a proportion of the respect it commanded for most of the history of the state.

Micheal Martin, the man Bertie once tried to burn in that most tactical of Irish political ways by gifting him the nightmare of health reform, made it clear that Bertie’s memory is no longer held dear amongst the Fianna Fail faithful, when he accused his former Taoiseach and leader of being “out of touch with reality”.

According to this op ed in today’s Examiner (byline missing):

Micheál Martin must know that he is probably the first leader of his party who will never be Taoiseach, but this realisation frees him too. If he can convince the rearguard of a once great party that ideals outweigh privilege, that the purpose of politics is social not individual, that they can yet make their founders’ hopes a reality, then they might have some sort of a future.

Even if he manages all of that, he will have to convince a broader audience that the tribalism that once animated the differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael still has any relevance.

He, or his successor, will have to convince Ireland that we need a second conservative, middle-of-the road, middle-brow party. This may prove the highest hurdle of all and it will be a question waiting for Fine Gael when they eventually return to the opposition benches.

That’s a tough mission, not least because regenerating Fianna Fail as the Woolworths of Irish politics is possibly heading against the tide of political and human history.

And the party now has a rival Republican party it must convincingly outstrip in the next general election if it is to build any kind of bridgehead to return to power. Dumping all of its history is not an option.

Fine Gael finally found their way back to power and influence not simply because of the strong collective disgust with all the parties associated with the last government, but because it seemed to have regained a purpose and appetite for taking on difficult, arduous and possibly unthanked task of drawing the country out of a deep pool of despond.

Fianna Fail will need to rescue what remains ‘vital’ (in the sense of still being tangibly alive) of their own tradition, and renewed sense of patriotism. The four-in-the-morning mumble of Bertie-speak told us amongst other things that the project was knackered.

Anois, tá sé in am leo le filleadh ar a foinsí.

  • aquifer

    Being in government for a long boom time is dangerous. People will sit through the gassy nonsense in case you let slip what will actually get done with the extra money you have. But now?

    He is hardly going to say ‘Sorry lads heres the 70Bn and 100,000 jobs I owe you all’

  • Fianna Fáil have a future for one simple reason:

    Fine Gael are in bed with the Labour party.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    I dont think Fianna Fáil will ever get back to the 40% levels of support and wont bounce back in any way any time soon.

    But they wont die off!

    Most people in the Republic will never vote for Fine Gael, Labour are stuck where they are, destined to stay there.

    Most people will never vote Sinn Féin either, so there is always a Fianna Fáil space.

    However ….

    Worryingly for Fianna Fáil is that Sinn Féin have survived and grown despite the hostility of every media outlet and hysterical ant-Sinn Féin propaganda – some of it just made up. They of course have the completely true history of a brutal and failed long war.

    It seems to me that many Irish people will ‘forgive’ Sinn Féin before they ‘forgive’ Fianna Fáil – not good from FF’s point of view.

    In addition, under Enda Kenny, Fine Gael’s West Brit wing seem to be muzzled to an extend, again robbing FF of a potential opening for a counter attack.

  • Alias

    The present government won’t be re-elected dues to the severity of the hardship that they propose to impose on the nation in order to bail-out the eurosystem so that leaves a FF/PSF/IND coalition as the only option. In 4 years time, folks will have forgotten all about FF treason and will be complaining about FG/LAB treason. FF were punished, not executed.

  • Mick Fealty

    That is exactly what at least one FG backbench TD I’ve spoken to fears.

  • Munsterview

    Mick : “…Fine Gael finally found their way back to power and influence not simply because of the strong collective disgust with all the parties associated with the last government, but because it seemed to have regained a purpose and appetite for taking on difficult, arduous and possibly unthanked task of drawing the country out of a deep pool of despond…..”

    Ah come on Mick, you cannot be that forgetful or unappreciative of the real facts.

    1) Most of the swing voters who were attracted to Fianna Fail, swung the other way to anything but Fianna Fail.

    2) All but the core vote of Fianna Fail around the extended families of Fianna Fail candidates either stayed home , voted Sinn Fein, Independents or occasionally Labor

    3) Fine Gael in the weeks leading up to the election had a an answer for every problem and a promise to right every wrong :

    Local hospitals closing ? No problem Fine Gael would keep them open!

    Hospital Trolly Patients ? No problem Fine Gael would end that

    Not enough teachers ? No problem Fine Gael would supply more !

    The IMF squeezing Ireland ? No problem Fine Gael would regenerate the interest rates!

    Mortgage arrears repossession ? No problem Fine Gael would stand up to the Bankers.

    And so it went on ! The reality is that Fine Gael and Labor continued the policies Fianna Failed and continued the great sell out.

    In my criticisms of Fianna Fail I have always been careful to differentiate between the ordinary decent members on the ground who were the backbone of Community Associations, Credit Unions and Comhtals etc who were in Fianna Fail because they believed that what they believed that somewhere in Fianna Fail their philosophy and values still existed even if they were not expressed and the Fianna Fail opportunists that were in it for what they could get out of it and had only a ‘Me Fein’ philosophy.

    The latter came to represent the party and Martin’s problem is that time and time again during the Bertie Years, he ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds. As result both factions became suspicious of him : the opportunists are now in the main either gone or inactive and the ordinary decent element just do not trust him and are not motivated by his leadership.

    Micheal Martin is neither a visionary or an idealist, he is a ‘hedging his bets’ pragmatist. He knows that the next election is critical and anything can happen. If the Joe Duffy Southern Radio Program is a barometer of public mood then Fine Gael are now as hated as Fianna Fail were prior to the collapse.

    Michael as a political insider also know that Kenny did not have the majority support of either the Fine Gael parliamentary party or the Fine Gael organization a short six months before the election, he did not win the election Fianna fail lost it and like Kenny he will not have to win the next one either, just be there when the coalition loose it.

    After all could there have been a more unlikely candidate for Taoiseach than Kenny yet he did it ? If a week is a long time in politics, time between budgets is a century and until the next election an eternity in which anything could happen !

    Few people realize just how palatable that hatred was just prior to the election. The week before polling on in Dublin and in the vicinity of Fianna Fail election HQ I asked for directions and two different taxi drivers literally told me to F*** Off! and drove off. People that I asked in the street rounded on me and verbally abused me. Fianna Failed are not going to overcome that in in the normal way in one election, Micheal is a seasoned politician, he knows that !

    These next couple of years however will not be ‘normal times’, they will be far from it, very far from it indeed !

    Michael still have one fixated goal in mind, to be the Fianna Fail Taoiseach sitting on the review platforms for the Easter Week commemorations. Failing that there is the 9118 election and First Dail. Once it becomes obvious that this is not going to happen expect Micheal to do ‘the Nobel Thing’ and ‘having taken Fianna Failed ‘as far as he can’ etc he will move aside for another leader.

    The malaise in Fianna Failed is much deeper and much more widespread structurally, organizationally and throughout the general membership. Fianna Failure may be a dud cheque at this particular time but Republican Ireland is on the rise. We are watching a power transfer type of that from the Old Nationalist Party to Sinn Fein in the 1916 /18 period between FF and SF.

    How far that will go remains to be seen. However the potential is there and sufficiently alarming to the Establishments on these Islands that they have decided to risk the Peace Process with the strategy of taking down Adams by a discrediting tactic and damaging other Republican Leaders to attempt to styme the rise of Sinn Fein.

    To tie up with another thread the Legal sinnagans in Boston are not happening in a vacuums. Neither are they unexpected, over seventeen years ago I was present in a meeting where the secure of ” what is to stop the Brits doing etc…” that covered a scenario of such a strategy as is now underway being played out.

    There will be two reactions to this, the first political from Sinn Fein and their friends in North America, that has already started. One of the reasons that the protest is several decibels louder and more consistently strident in North America is many key players such as Nial ODowd know what understandings were reached and undertakings given to make the Cease Fire and later Peace Process possible.

    The second : well let me put it this way: there are quite a few people that already regard what is happening as a breach of undertakings and bad faith. When I am in the UK in future you will not find me strolling around any Canery Warfe type of environment !

  • Brian

    What is so bad if Sinn Fein “rises”? They are just a political party like any other. They are enjoying their trappings as esteemed members of Britain’s government. They wouldn’t want to rock the boat too much on that end, not for awhile.

  • Greenflag

    MV ,

    ‘ Failing that there is the 9118 election ‘

    I make that approx 7,107 years from now . I would’nt be that pessimistic but you could be close .

    ‘The reality is that Fine Gael and Labor continued the policies Fianna Failed and continued the great sell out.’

    Which is no different to what has happened in the UK or USA and no different to what would happen under an SF ‘government ‘ For the reality is that elected governments are ALL in the pockets of the banksters and gangsters and ‘coalition governments or power sharing ones are no different.

    When you read that the US courts have found Goldman Sachs , BOA and Citigroup guilty of deliberate fraud in the sub prime mortgage crisis which precipitated this economic tsunami worldwide and jail enough of their chief executives then you can begin to hope that maybe just maybe the political trend will begin to move away from the current plutocracy.

    ‘ When I am in the UK in future you will not find me strolling around any Canary Warfe type of environment !’

    Not a clever remark and you know it.And even if the ‘idiots’ were to commit such a crime what would it achieve ? Even less votes in Ireland .

    Whats going on in Ireland is a reassessment of people’s understanding of ‘politics’ and economics and how the state actually works in practice as opposed to in political party mythology

    The general distrust of and distaste for ‘politicians ‘ is not confined to one party or another and SF are no exception . The people KNOW that faced with the IMF and ECB there are few options for our policy makers and that applies all across the political spectrum apart from a few ideologues on the right or left . .

    In retro we probably should have done an Iceland and not bailed out the banks and ditto for the USA . The important question now is what will our plutocratic governments do as the world once again teethers on the edge of another plunge into recession and bank failures and the chances are more than 50/50 and given that ‘banks ‘ everywhere are resisting any and all reforms that would ‘cramp ‘ their decade long ‘looting ‘ of real economies – the only question may be when and not if the next crash will occur 🙁

    And then Karl Marx’s analysis may be resurrected for another look see and perhaps with a new ‘prescription ‘ for modern times it may give plutocracy and authoritarian capitalism some much needed ‘competition ‘.

  • Greenflag

    @ Alias ,

    ‘FF were punished, not executed.’

    To quote a ‘turgonism’ zombied is probably a better description of how FF are now viewed by an electorate which has become increasingly aware of how FF laid the country low for the sake of the friends of FF .As a former FF voter I will probably never vote for them again.

  • DC

    Just a quick reminder of what the last Fianna Fail government created, should anyone have forgotten already:

    The Mad Life of a Post-Bust Country

    How can citizens be forced to pay out €15 million for a shopping centre in a foreign land while seeing their own health services shut down due to budget restrictions? Such is the absurd situation the Irish face right now, a columnist deplores.

    http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/903591-mad-life-post-bust-country

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Their infrastructure is as fecked as their credibility. Each TD was like a mini-party dispensing the goodies like snuff at a wake but the actual foundations of the party have been crumbling for years.

    Where would a renewal come from? New members? Why would someone join FF if there is no prospect of serious power and they’re going to be laughed at? If they had a coherent ideology they’d have a chance but they haven’t had any for decades. They’re based on power and patronage – no power = no patronage = no new members = dwindling supoort. Their best future is as a rural based junior coalition partner but even that’s doubtful. My prediction for what it’s worth – FF won’t exist to celebrate a centenary.

  • aquifer

    ‘understandings were reached and undertakings given to make the Cease Fire and later Peace Process possible.

    The second : well let me put it this way: there are quite a few people that already regard what is happening as a breach of undertakings and bad faith. When I am in the UK in future you will not find me strolling around any Canery Warfe type of environment’

    What is being talked about here? The secret surrender agreement of democrats on the island to PIRA?

    The public deal is the real deal, everything else is stolen property or the proceeds of armed blackmail.

    We are calling your bluff.

    Any more bloody fireworks and silly talk and internment is back on the cards.

  • Charminator

    Sunday Times places Fianna Fáil on 15% – Sinn Féin are also on 15%. Truly, it doesn’t get much worse for Fianna Fáil. They have a massive uphill struggle and unlike much of the party’s existence, they’re now low on ideas and seemingly near “bankrupt” of principles (as well as cash). The party was once “the Labour Party”, as Lemass put it. It was – and many of it’s members still perceive it as being – the Republican Party. But the past decade of Martin Cullens and Charlie McCreevys (is it possible to move much further from Labour….) reveal a party far far removed from the survivors of the Black and Tans and the Civil War. The party, for the past decade or more, prostituted itself to any coalition partner that would have it: Labour, PDs, Greens, Independents, take your pick – many clearly believed the mirage of near permanent government with rotating coalition partners. But the chickens have most certainly come home to roost….

    I agree with Eddie, however, that the party will continue to exist. It certainly has a place in the political picture, but never again will the party reach the dizzying heights of its heyday when every election was fought with a hope of an overall majority.

    The party’s one true piece of luck was Labour’s decision to enter coalition with Fine Gael. The old guard, it seems, wanted one last go on the merry-go-round before taking the pension. For that, the party will pay a heavy heavy price. Had they sat it out, the very real possibility of a Labour led, Fianna Fáil supported government was on the cards, but Gilmore’s blown it, and all because the Rabbites, Howlin, and Burtons knew time was running out. Whatever about being a backbench Fine Gael TD, I most certainly would not want to be a backbench Labour Deputy!

    Fianna Fáil face a future without their old dependable heartlands – the places where, even on a not-so-good day, the people were loyal. Donegal, for one, is Sinn Féin territory now: it always was apt to be and like Newry and Mourne will only become ever deeper Sinn Féin by the year, especially with Pearse Doherty at the front. The Republican facade to Fianna Fáil is now deeply exposed, with the labour dimension long since discredited. It is, frankly, difficult to see where on the political spectrum the party can reposition itself. This is not the 1930s: today, there is little political space unoccupied. Fianna Fáil will continue to exist, and perhaps it’s polling numbers have nowhere to go but up, but will the party actually have much relevance. We could well be looking at a two-term Taoiseach, with or without Labour next time around. A long grass prediction for sure, but remember Fine Gael will not tire of reminding the Irish people that they are trying to clean up a mess which others created.

  • Micheal Martin, the man Bertie once tried to burn in that most tactical of Irish political ways by gifting him the nightmare of health reform, made it clear that Bertie’s memory is no longer held dear amongst the Fianna Fail faithful, when he accused his former Taoiseach and leader of being “out of touch with reality”.

    Talking about reality, what is the board’s opinion, at its many varied levels of displayed intelligence, of this George Carlin take on reality …… http://youtu.be/wV1lZMTCqf8

    Do you agree or disagree with what is said and is it that which is ruling and ruining your life today, with you always having to struggle or wait for what you want/need/desire/deserve, because there is no money in a world awash with money?

    Simplistic, I know, but is that not what now is being used to try and control and inhibit your every thought/move, …… until approved and lavishly funded.

  • Munsterview

    MV : ‘ When I am in the UK in future you will not find me strolling around any Canary Warfe type of environment !’

    Greenflag : ” Not a clever remark and you know it. And even if the ‘idiots’ were to commit such a crime what would it achieve ? Even less votes in Ireland ….”

    Remember the circumstances that led to the first Canary Warfe, GF ?

    Major listened to ‘spooks’ who advised him to play ‘silly buggers’ with the Peace Process as Republicans were on Ceasefire therefore he could kick as much ass as he liked without risk.

    He did just that, he started acting the maggot and kicking ass as advised, but instead kicked a detonator !

    My observation was not meant to be a ‘clever remark’ : if there is a ‘second Canary Warfe’ the people likely to do in on the Republican side will not be too concerned about ‘votes’ having seen the respect shown to those who went on line to take the majority of Mainstream Republicans into democratic peaceful politics.

    GreenFlag, In the real world, in modern politics, much of what happens what happens is behind the scenes and consequently politicians expend as much effort and often more in keeping things out of the public domain as they do in disclosing their activities.

    What of the current disclosers from Libya that The British Government furnished details of the Anti-Gadafi Dissidents to Gadafi forces even as they were publicly condemning Gadafi ?

    Republicans are dealing with the same duplicitous, two-faced, treacherous establishment types regarding Irish Affairs who continue to carry on an ongoing war to curtail and destroy Republicanism on this Island! Republicans knew they would do this but within a tolerated framework.

    If the Brits have thought it safe to throw away the rule book in their dealings with Republicans, they just may be given a reason to print another one, pronto !

    If the Brits cannot act in good faith and their former comrades in political are without sufficient importance to influence and stop ‘spook inspired actions’ then these people can either wait until these same spooks come knocking on their door or the spooks and their masters can be shown that ‘they have not gone away you know’ and a new status quo established where the old one did not work.

    It do not take an Einstein to work that one out !

    Aquifier : “….The public deal is the real deal, everything else is stolen property or the proceeds of armed blackmail…… ”

    If you want to try your hand a comedy, I respectfully suggest that your efforts may be more productive if submitted to to a site dealing with fringe events at the Edinburgh festival !

  • Mick Fealty

    What’s this to do with FF MV?

    Re your first comments:

    1) That’s implicit in what I’ve said above.

    2) If that were true then explain to me why Kathryn Reilly didn’t get that second seat in Cavan Monaghan? Given you’re suggesting the FF collapse from seventy to twenty seats was mostly because of defections to SF and independents, then surely SF should have got twice what they actually did get?

    3) They are a political party for goodness sake. Everyone was promising the earth (bar the Greens and FF, who could only credibly promise more pain) in that election, including SF.

    I think you are trying just a little too hard to negate FG and Kenny.

  • Wake up. Smell the coffee. And tell them to screw that austerity nonsense. The game is up and over. …….. http://youtu.be/evOzYj5YzDE

    New Great Game, please …… and completely different from the old rigged ponzi one, please, of course.

    Or are y’all stupid enough to accept the continuance of the status quo with its crooked practices?

    Speak up now, don’t be shy. Your voice is important in showing the world just what’s inside your head.

  • Einstein said once “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.”

  • SethS

    The problem for FF now is that the only reason for being in FF was to get access to the godies on offer from the party of gvovernment. Until now FF have either been in government or just a short time from getting back into government.

    Now they are loking at a long time in opposition, and with no goodies to distribute, and little prospect of having any any time soon, what possible incentive can anyone have to stay in FF?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d be a little careful of citing the end of the party. Lots of people speculated on the end of FG back in 02, and few thought Kenny worthy of being Taoiseach, till he actually attained Office.

    But things appear to be more fluid now. I’ll wait for the next Red C poll, but we seem to be a weird situation in which Michael D is doing well in presidential race even as labour is shrinking back to it’s normal 12-14% corridor of the last decade.

    Sinn Fein at least have made the kind of generational jump Labour seems not have made, but let’s also remember their leap in the national ratings happened relatively shortly before the #GE11 poll.

    In short, they have some good personnel but their ‘aspirational’ policies don’t yet pass muster with the property owning classes they will need to convince to make further headway.