A tentative answer to the question: “what does Fianna Fail stand for?”

So miles away from the talk of pacts and sectarian games last Friday, East Galway Colm Keaveney, the former Irish Labour Party Chair who has been one of the few movers across to the Fianna Fail whip in the Dail, had an interesting grilling from NewsTalk’s Sean Moncrieff in Galway:

It takes a while to get started but this section in particular caught caught my ear, not least because it has been one of the few lucid public attempts by someone actually inside the party to answer the question of what Fianna Fail stands for:

Colm Keaveney: I have had meetings where I have had the Financial Times flung in my face asking me “What are you trying to do, cause a run in the markets”. But what about the run on parents, what about the run on the lunchbox. You know the human story was lost. I discovered that we were a government of technocrats, technocratically taking decisions without any consideration for the next generation that were going to inherit the society.

Sean Moncreith: [Reading from a listener] “Hard to get past Colm Keaveney joining Fianna Fail”. Given all you’ve said about all that bad stuff being associated with Fianna Fail.

CK: Yeah, I was post being kicked out by the Labour party and I found my voting track record being consistent with Fianna Fail in Opposition. And for your listeners I want them to bear in mind that there was a 3.2 million Euro mental health facility, never opened, at Ballinasloe a 22 bedded unit. The only ligature free unit in this country was never opened so that vulnerable people suffering from incidents of mental ill health were to present themselves at GUH at an accident and emergency unit, a major no no in regards to mental health.

And I needed to be involved in a political party, that were going to respect my views on mental health and the party of Fianna Fail have a very proud record in the area of mental health and mental health investment. And I asked Micheal Martin would he take me on board, and he positively considered it and I think both of us get on very well in that respect.

SM: At this juncture what does Fianna Fail stand for? One could be forgiven for thinking “I don’t know” is the answer.

CK No listen, you know I wake up in Dublin and when I was a young student I remember north inner city of Dublin as being just like Harlem. There was no public transport system, there was significant long term unemployment, depression. A heroin problem that made every other capital city fade into insignificance. It was a dark place, and I think we forget very quickly a lot of the good things.

SM: You mean the redevelopment of the inner city of Dublin?

CK: I’m talking about the investment into infrastructure, into education and giving people the opportunity to succeed in life.

SM: But sure didn’t that happen because Tony Gregory put a gun to Charlie Haughey’s head?

CK: No, it’s far more advanced than that because I’m now talking about other parts and other urban settings. You come and look at Galway and see how far Galway has advanced, and many aspects of it are good. But in terms of ideology, for me simply Fianna Fail didn’t look down its nose at people wanting to get on in life. It gave an opportunity to people who weren’t a monied class. It gave an opportunity for people to get on in terms of personal development, career, you had a right to get into college and it gave an opportunity for ordinary people to get on.

SM: And you’re talking about Fianna Fail here?

CK: The only political party to analysis on Fianna Fail was the Communist Party of Ireland. Fianna Fail were the envy of every other party in Ireland because they had the support of working people. And to be fair yes, it was contaminated by the Progressive Democrats over a ten or fifteen year period.

SM: Ah, Colm come on, have you had a glass of the Prosecco already?

CK: Fianna Fail traditionally, and many people would say this, were the real Labour party in this country.

SM: They were traditionally the party of working class people.

CK: But what is social democracy in this country? It is about giving people an opportunity, it’s about equality, it’s about education, it’s about giving people the right to the best based on their own circumstances. We now have a political party and a political government which is protecting the elite, and that needs to be challenged.

SM: And Fianna Fail never did that? Fianna Fail didn’t construct a large tent not two miles from here?

CK: Yeah, I am not saying that every decision Fianna Fail made in the past was perfect, but that the only political…

SM: Yeah but that wasn’t a decision, that was a culture, endemic in that party at that time.

CK: Listen there are political parties in the Irish mainstream who go internationally funding to New York, who host dinners, we can’t get accountability and transparency on that money

SM: Ah we’re not talking about Fianna Fail now, let’s get back to Fianna Fail?

CK: There are certain decisions in the past that Fianna Fail have had the humility to say they have made mistakes in, unlike other political parties.

SM: Sure they had no option, they were eviscerated at the polls.

CK: And you know politics is about the future, and I appreciate that a lot of people, particularly the government, want to keep a focus on the past, but I’m elected for tomorrow, I’m elected for the next generation. I’m not elected to analyse the past, I don’t close the door on the past. I’m learning from the past. We have to move on in this country, and we have give people a chance to go and challenge the orthodoxy of national politics.

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  • Guest

    At this point the question is relevant for every single political party in the world. Alas I think the answer is most clearly captured in Stross’s piece.

    There’s a fork in the road coming and there will either be direct democracy or revolution. As you can see from the actions/legislation of Western govts in the last 14 years they are tooling up for the latter.

    But in answer to your question FF, like practically every other party, are in it for the power, prestige and money. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. Labour going into coalition with FG is even more egregious as they screw over their alleged constituency. Although the comeuppance in the next election will be delicious.

  • Robin Keogh

    FF tripped up over there own insatiable desire not just for power but also privilage. It is quite true they were for a time the party of the working man as a counter balance to the elitist tendancies of FG. FF became a catch all party by default, as they were switching their policy focus towards a neo liberal economic ideal they brought many of the workers with them until those workers were startled awake by the economic catastrophe. Now FF are fighting a losing battle to win them back as SF and other left leaning parties have hoovered them up. The problem for the part now is that they have little to challenge the coalition on as this government have pretty much implimented the troika agreements that FF had negotiated and signed up to just before they left office. Fundamentally the financial crises showed clearly for the first time that very little seperates FF and FG politically, economically and socially. All that FF can really do is hope that the electorate might start to see them as a fresher bunch of roses to replace the current wilting batch on the fireplace. However, with MM in charge this is unlikely to work as he was in cabinet during the crises. It is clear that FF are positioning themselves slightly left of centre in the hope of attracting dissafected individuals while at the same time keeping their hand on the shoulder of the business classes. The problem is the workers are not intereted as of yet and the business classes can get what they need from FG/Labour. Simply put, the catch all position is unlikely to work this time.

  • barnshee

    ” every other party, are in it for the power, prestige and money. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.”

    Surely not what a thing to say

  • mickfealty


    “…there will either be direct democracy or revolution”

    That’s a bona fide Paddy Power proof prediction is it? How would we know when to pay you out in the former scenario.

    And to quote Gerry, Ireland is not Greece.

    PS, thanks for the Stross link!!

  • steve white

    power at all costs

  • mickfealty

    No reference in that speechifying to the OP there Robin

  • Robin Keogh

    I eould have thought it was obvious mate… what does FF stand for? Workers and the business classes…….

  • Guest


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  • steve white

    you seem to have missed the last 15 years

  • siphonophorest


  • Steve Larson

    There are two key problems in FF at the moment.

    1. For all who agree with Keaveney, there are countless other camps who do not. FF has members that could fit in to different parties across the spectrum from PD right to SF left. This is what Keaveney stands for, it reflects some, there is no cohesive definition even within the party of what FF stands for.

    2. Social climbers. The party did not do enough to clear out the CV builders and networkers. The Nat. exec. and Comm. has degraded in to a back slapping forum and way of leveraging each other up. Rebuilding the party is secondary. This is being shown up as conventions start coming up and its causing a lot of bad blood and probably will lead to people splitting off.

  • Niall Noígíallach

    Mick, why is it when I use the word that begins with the letter “b” and rhymes with rigot when trying to post on this site the comment is sent for moderation, even though no foul or abusive language is contained within my posts?

  • terence patrick hewett

    Hugh Leonards’ play “Silent Song” said more than all the smallness of political discourse.

  • mickfealty

    It is possible that someone choosing to use that word is NOT engaging in hate speech. The same with the use of s.cum and v.ermin.

    But in my experience in the field the vast majority of those that do are doing just this. I’m all ears as to how you’ve used it on a thread about Fianna Fáil.

    It’s a discouragement to those who seek to make easy capital out of playing the man rather than the ball. It you think it’s important to make the point, you can get round it with the judicious use of punctuation marks.

  • mickfealty

    You should take *nothing* for granted here mate. 🙂

  • Robin Keogh

    Sorry luv x

  • Notable absence of Irish republicanism during Keaveney’s discussion with the interviewer on what Fianna Fáil, the self-declared republican party, stands for.