Fianna Fáil, firmly embedded in the history of the Irish state, now need to articulate its future

Oh yes, Irish Politics… This is worth noting in passing. Fianna Fail are suffering something of the same hangover that befuddled first the Tory party and latterly the British Labour Party. Being in power for so long that you lose your direction and purpose. Gary Murphy puts some bones on that in the Examiner..

Martin’s jibe that Fine Gael are too right-wing was not just some throwaway remark but had its roots in Fianna Fáil’s long history.

Fianna Fáil always viewed themselves as the real Labour party; the party of social and economic progress, the party of free secondary education, the party which copperfastened economic sovereignty by engaging with Europe when they realised self-sufficiency had had its day.

They were the party of the people who had their dinner in the middle of the day, not the party of the developers and the bankers, the party who offered people hope, who made it possible for their lives to be better, and for their children to have more opportunities than they had. The party which offered the people a safety net through social welfare when they needed it. That’s what Fianna Fáil in essence stood for.

All this changed in recent years as Martin sat at the cabinet table.

Under Ahern and his finance ministers Charlie McCreevy and Brian Cowen, Fianna Fáil discarded its careful reputation as a party that could be trusted to keep a close eye on the economic tiller to one which effectively adopted an ‘if I have it I spend it’ philosophy.

Married to this was a political hubris which was dismissive of any warning voices.

Truly Icarus in the guise of Fianna Fáil had flown too close to the sun. The result was a scarring burn not just across the party but across all of Irish society with the loss of economic sovereignty.

When the economic Armageddon came Fianna Fáil was directly in the firing line and took the consequences at the 2011 general election.

Recognising that the local elections reveal the party still has some popular local resonance, Murphy concludes:

Many might feel that there is a touch of self-delusion and hubris about Martin claiming he wants to be Taoiseach after the next general election with his party stuck at 18% in the polls, just a point higher than its 2011 general election result.

Nevertheless, there would not be much point in him being in politics if he did not want to be Taoiseach.

The reality, however, is Fianna Fáil has not captured the public imagination with any distinctive policy programme, either right or left.

Moreover, it faces its old ghosts coming back to haunt it as the recent spectre of Mary Hanafin’s local election victory and biting comments about its frontbench shows.

Martin would be denying the history of his party if he said he would be willing to enter government with Fine Gael on the right or Sinn Féin on the left.

The danger he faces, however, is that the electorate might feel that neither right nor left Fianna Fáil offers no future to them.


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