Many voices are rushing to tell Fianna Fail what direction it needs to go. Mark Beegan is a Public Relations Consultant and Fianna Fáil activist. He specialises in political communication and media relations. He argues that simple ideological analysis is not enough and is not what Fianna Fail was ever about.
Senator Power’s bombshell has brought forward a debate long needed in Irish politics. Where does Fianna Fáil stand and for whom?
John McGuirk and Pat Leahy have both argued Fianna Fáil must define itself ideologically. Both believe the party should pick an ideological side and stick to it. I profoundly disagree with this analysis. Surely there’s more to politics than aspiring to divide parties and voters ideologically? Ireland deserves better than political parties slicing and dicing the electorate along such narrow lines. Neither Fianna Fáil nor the Irish people will do well out of such an approach.
Ireland needs a radical centrist alternative to the clapped out ideologies of left and right. The new Fianna Fáil must offer to build a strong economy and a decent society- not one or the other. Fianna Fáil’s offer to the electorate in 2016 must include policy measures to address childcare costs, education, housing and the homeless crisis.
We need also to tackle the bureaucracy stifling SME’s and businesses across Ireland. We must stand on the side of business and job creators- not in their way. No sectional party can possibly address both because immediately the ideologues will argue that the responsible economy is the job of the right-wing party and a decent society the job of the left-wing party. Fianna Fáil in the future must offer the pro-business radicalism that allowed the IFSC to flourish. Equally, it must find the radicalism of free second-level education, the Succession Act, the Adoption Act, the Criminal Justice Act and other radical societal reforms from our past.
Fianna Fáil’s ideological diversity is a sign of our strength. It is a sign that FF reaches every parish and every social class in this country. I am a conservative. I’ve knocked on thousands of doors for Fianna Fáil. I’ve canvassed with liberal Fianna Fáilers and not so liberal ones. I don’t care whether they are liberal or conservative. I work with them because they believe in public service, a strong economy, a decent society and improving their communities all of which are more important than ideology.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems in Fianna Fáil. There are. We have become too cautious and staid. John McGuirk correctly identifies how reform has focused on trivial issues such as leadership structures and internal party mechanisms. This is a major problem for the party and it must be resolved. The solution, however, won’t be found by veering over to the right or left.
The solution lies in rebuilding our movement around a radical centrist offer that appeals to and reaches voters from Blackrock to Ballyhaunis. Fianna Fáil should be looking to broaden our appeal not reduce it to mere ideologues. We must appeal to the real world not political pundits who have longed for the tribal drama of a left-right split in Irish politics. If political commentators think Irish people lay awake at night worrying about whether Micheal Martin is or isn’t right or left-wing then they really are stuck in the Leinster House bubble. A world exists away from the Dáil. It’s called the real world.
I joined Fianna Fáil because it promoted economic development that believes in developing the resources and wealth of Ireland to their full potential, while making them serve the needs of the people. I joined the party because it is rooted in the communities of Ireland. A party of the radical centre can become that party again.
I welcome the debate because discussion leads to ideas and ideas lead to change. A Fianna Fáil committed to both economic development and social progress has a bright future. A Fianna Fáil that defines itself by narrow ideologies with no relevance to people’s lives faces extinction. Let’s look outward and offer the electorate a better future not the ideological fights of the 1980’s.