Fianna Fáil: Doomsday is not here

Michael Martin is a capable, hardworking politician. Martin is not a complacent politician. He knew despite May’s good local election results that a significant job of work was still to be done. He has not risen to such lofty political heights because he is a man prone to fits of panic.

His party’s members are. Throughout Saturday morning scores of Fianna Fáil party activists and workers phones received a similar message ‘Roscommon SL -we are f**cked- no future?!’.

Indeed, anyone monitoring social media on Saturday or Sunday would have been forgiven for thinking that the party had been beaten into last place in both bye-elections.

Saturday was a bad day for Fianna Fáil. Dublin South-West showed the party is isolated from working class Dublin and has not regained the trust of middle class Dubliners. Roscommon- South Leitrim illustrated that the party’s once vice like grip on its political heartland, never mind Ireland, has slipped.

Both results highlights the party need to formulate and articulate policy positions on Ireland’s relationship with the European Union, water charges, social housing, welfare and youth unemployment. The party’s tried and trusted ‘sure aren’t the blueshirts worse’ style of opposition politics will not work in the future.

Micheal Martin to his credit has tried to take a more principled approach to opposition but his hard work has been undermined by a weak front bench and a lack of policies. Martin and his TD’s have been too quick to buy into the Government’s line.

I challenge any TD, from any party, to go into Ballyfermot, Ballina or Bandon and campaign on this great economic recovery. They wouldn’t get very far. The economy may be recovering but it’s not being felt by the electorate. Fianna Fáil needs to stop using the language of the Government.

Despite this there are some positives for Fianna Fáil.

Sloppy Fine Gael

Despite being in government when the EU/IMF left town Fine Gael are not ‘flavour of the month’ with electorate. The party had a poor local election masked only by holding its own in the European Elections. Last week’s bye-elections results offers further evidence of the electorate’s unease with Fine Gael.

Likewise the Garda Ombudsman and McNulty scandals prove that Fine Gael is more than capable of making unforced errors. These unforced errors have ensured that the party has lost some its sheen with the electorate and should offer some hope of a 50/50 election 2015/16 to Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Fein

Dublin South-West should have been a straight forward win for Sinn Fein. The failure to take the seat was a body blow for the party. It showed the polls were overstating their support and new challengers were emerging for their anti –establishment crown.

The party was skewered by Paul Murphy on water charges. Murphy challenged Sinn Fein relentlessly and succeeded in convincing voters that Sinn Fein was soft on water charges. The party’s inability to clarify the water charges issue over the last week is more worrying for them and raises serious doubts about Adams’ leadership.

A good minor team

There are parallels between Fianna Fáil now and the Galway hurling team of ten years ago. Like Galway of yore, Fianna Fáil is reasonably competitive but the real talent is hidden in its youthful minors. Jason O’Mahony (read his blog- it’s excellent) highlights ‘Averil Power, Paul McAuliffe, James Lawless and Malcolm Byrne’ as thoughtful legislators. I would add Councillor Naoise Ó Cearúil and General Election hopeful Paul Anthony Ward to the list of ones to watch.

Political Pragmatism

A willingness to do business with any party or cohort of individuals kept Fianna Fáil in Government during the last twenty years. This pragmatism means the party is likely to return to Government in the foreseeable future. Micheal Martin may well rule out Sinn Fein but if the numbers are there after the general election then Fianna Fáil will sit down with Adams and co.

Likewise, it is not impossible to imagine Fianna Fáil and Labour, numbers providing, sitting down to a deal. Labour seem to be Martin’s favoured option but Fianna Fáil’s inherent pragmatism means Sinn Fein and even Fine Gael can’t be ruled out.

It may sound laughable but some political parties are terrified of power. Fianna Fáil exists to be in Government. It is their raison d’etre. This is a quality that attracts many people to the party. This lust for power is regularly disparaged by many but young guns such as James Lawless and Paul Anthony Ward want to use this power to implement legislative and societal change.

Fianna Fáil is not afraid of Government and this offers them a wide pool of candidates and a route back to power.

The positives are encouraging but equally the negatives are glaring and need to be addressed. The party needs to raise its political performance levels. Their response to Tuesday’s budget was laughable when compared to Sinn Fein.

The party’s PR and online machine is virtually non-existent. The party pushed Michael McGrath’s budget response via social media but it was an unedited thirty minute clip with no link to the party’s alternative budget at the end.

Do they really expect people to sit through a thirty minute video of Michael McGrath in the Dáil? Surely they employ someone who could have condensed his key points into a two or three minute clip.

Equally, the party is doomed to a long spell in opposition if it continues to mimic the language of the Government. Populist opposition is bad but nor is casual acquiescence good for politics or the Irish people.

This problem is further exacerbated by policies that point to nothing more than a ‘diet’ Fine Gael Government if they are returned to power. Fianna Fáil needs to define itself to succeed and it needs to do so urgently.

This does not mean a swing to the left or right but they need to develop a policy platform that shows where they want to take Ireland. They have the youth. They have the leader. They are running out of time.

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  • NMS

    But Fear a’Phortaigh why should anyone vote for FF? What do they represent, which is not already represented? If you are a centre right or even hold a more right wing view on economic policies, you can vote for Fine Gael or a distinct liberal group of independent Teachtaí such as Shane Ross or Stephen Donnelly. There is also the clear choice represented by Lucinda Creighton and the Reform Alliance.

    Parties such as Fianna Fáil and the French Gaullists have had their day. Catch all parties with a nationalist tinge have all but disappeared. Look at the Unionist Party, Fianna Fáil’s mirror image in UKNI.

    Social Democracy is dead, because the economic conditions that created it have been swept away. Low or no economic growth, higher social costs and a massive surplus of labour, leaves the distributionist policies of such parties a thing of the past. The mob left is already well represented.

    Their Budget document was again a document bereft of a central theme. There is still a gap for a party which is socially conservative, but they need to get there before Lucinda does. They also need to decide what type of economic policies they want. As was clear from the recent MRBI poll, the Irish want less State involvement and lower taxes, except of course in their own home area.

    However, the idea of Fianna Fáil being the master of its own destiny is fanciful.

  • $33309652

    Ok.
    This article gives me a perfect platform to air my views.
    This website has an ongoing and persistent “get Sinn Fein” policy pursued at any cost.
    Now. For the most part I avoid party politics.
    But this website seems to think Sinn Fein are the most dangerous party in ALL of Ireland.
    I believe this is a true and accurate assesment of those who run this site.
    Now, this article is about Fianna Failure.
    I would like to nominate these So-and-So’s as the MOST dangerous party in Ireland.
    And my case for the prosecution is A) Jack Lynch in his giveaway budget of the 1970’s which included among other things as Axeing Car Tax and taking farmers OUT of the PAYE system, thus making the 1980’s in Ireland a state where PAYE workers paid 50% tax for second World services and of course Mass emigration.
    And B) Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen. bankrupting the Country and leading to Mass emigration.

    If this was any real World situation Fianna Failure would be toast and would be Pariahs..
    But on Slugger O’Toole they are shorn up as a Bulwark against Sinn Fein.
    Nice.
    Well when I say nice I mean repulsive, actually.
    Of course Slugger’s second favourite British Newspaper the “Oirish” Independent pursues a similar line.
    so, My message to Slugger is If you want to be taken serious, it’s about time you recognised the real enemy to Ireland is Fianna Failure.
    I rest my case.