Micheál Martin signals his TDs to get out and hunt for SF votes…

You’d think that lagging 7 points behind Fine Gael in the latest B&A face-to-face poll would induce panic in the ranks of Fianna Fail, but I’m not picking that up. If anything, Micheál Martin looks like a man who has taken time out to carefully examine the battlefield.

I’m not sure I buy everything in Stephen Collins’ piece lauding Martin’s isolation of Sinn Fein. There’s little chance SF could “pursue a populist agenda and adopt the kind of policies that Hugo Chávez and his successors implemented in Venezuela”.

Collins sees this as a gamble:

By ruling it out, Martin has limited his room for manoeuvre in post-election negotiations, but it could help him in his ambition to restore Fianna Fáil to its position as the biggest party in the country.

Adopting a clear position on Sinn Féin should help protect Fianna Fáil from leaking support to Fine Gael during an election campaign.

The prospect of a deal with Adams or McDonald would certainly have the capacity to scare middle-class voters into the arms of Leo Varadkar, and to shore up Fine Gael’s recently acquired status as the biggest party in the country.

More importantly, even if the numbers do add up, a deal to form a government with Sinn Féin would prove a very dangerous embrace for Fianna Fáil.

Just look at how Sinn Féin gobbled up the SDLP after the Hume-Adams process – or how it is manipulating the political situation in the North, using the powersharing institutions established under the Belfast Agreement as pawns.

If it is a gamble then it is something that we are much not accustomed to see in Northern Ireland, where our parties prefer to hoard their political capital rather than spend it, never mind gamble with it.

If some FF TDs had been weakening, the Tom Oliver story provided them with a very cold reminder of what any political party would face if they ever chose to go into government with Sinn Fein.

If the next generation of Sinn Fein leaders backed the Adams line that it “would be totally and absolutely counterproductive” to seek convictions of the killers of Mr. Oliver, Martin took another opportunity to reiterate that…

…he will not do business with Sinn Féin after the next election even if Mary Lou McDonald becomes leader in the interim. “It is very clear whatever Gerry says, Mary Lou will say. It is fact,” Mr Martin said.

Some FF TDs with a large SF vote may have been seduced by the idea that if they’re nice to SF, they’ll get transfers. Experience in NI suggests the opposite is the case, and Martin’s clarity will force them now to campaign to take first rather than second preferences.

He’s also telling voters impatient for change on a range of social issues (of the type they actually seem to care about in the Republic), that voting for Sinn Fein will be a wasted vote.

Just as the river Lagan is easily jumped at the village of Finnis in a way it can’t be by the time it gets into Belfast, Martin has chosen to press his considerable advantages of scale sooner rather than later. [Hunter becomes the Hunted? – Ed] Aye, well, maybe.

After ten years of Sinn Fein in the top job, Northern Irish democracy has become a wasteland. Martin’s focus appears to be to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to the Republic.

  • ted hagan

    Stephen Collins? You’re scraping the barrel there, Mick. What else was Collins going to say that he hasn’t been saying since his PD-worshipping days?

  • Damien Mullan

    “After ten years of Sinn Fein in the top job, Northern Irish democracy has become a wasteland.”

    Doesn’t quite fit with the eulogizing of Martin McGuinness that has been a staple these past few mouths. After all, he had the top job over the past ten years. It’s a wax on wax off approach to legacy and myth making, his terrorist legacy hasn’t gone away you know, best served when sieved through the political polemics of the present.

    I don’t rate the Shinners, or Adams, nor even the late McGuinness, as regards government competence, but then again, neither do I much rate the DUP’s performance. At least we can be thankful for now that they are confined to possible executive roles in a devolved and not national government. This would be the fears of a coalition deal in the Republic that included Sinn Fein.

    Micheál Martin has indeed gambled on eating the Shinners lunch, a la 2007, its possibly the right trajectory, while for Leo Varadkar, it’s usurping the right-wing caricature that almost everyone has shrouded him in since his elevation to the Fine Gael leadership. Varadkar’s announcement tonight that his government intends to outlaw zero hours contracts, as well as to push for an increase in the entry point at which people begin to pay the upper income tax rate, are the first concrete strides into confounding his critics. These are stellar tactical moves on the road to the strategic plateau of a ‘Republic of Opportunity’. Martin is being outmaneuvered, he may have chosen long ago, both at a party strategy level and a personal conviction level, not to do business with the Shinners, but now that Varadkar premiership and vision is beginning to fill out, he has little choice but to devour what he can of Sinn Fein’s 2016 largess.

  • Damien Mullan

    Leo Varadkar is proving to be the transformational political figure that many predicted. Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, PBP, Unionism, have all been left confounded since his election as Taoiseach. Is he a right-wing ideologue, or all superficial spin, for surely he can’t be both, but could he possibly be neither.

    I happen to think he is a deeply political animal, he’s even referred to the fact that his partner’s smarts in relation to quiz’s and trivia is superior to his own knowledge, his partner is therefore intelligent, possibly intellectual, though a novice in relation to politics and politicking, as Varadkar has stated. This is as great an insight as one can possibly get to the impulse and forward motions of Varadkar, politics looms large, perhaps to the determinant of other pursuits that someone with his intelligence and intellectual capabilities would likely pursue. These are all largely subordinated to politics, its present and its past, his love of history is informative here, he knows his place, likely his end destination, if he can only get there.

    His unfortunate derision of Garrett Fitzgerald when maligning Brian Cowen, again highlights, in a slightly unfaltering and socially clumsy manner, a reading of modern Irish history, further accentuated by his juxtaposition of Brian Cowen with Sean Lemass, “You’re no Seán Lemass,…You’re a Garret Fitzgerald”. Even the most casual knowledge of modern Irish history would equip one with an understanding of what Varadkar was intimating about Cowen, that he was, to borrow the late great Brian Farrell’s wonderful descriptive analogy, a ‘Chairman’, and not a ‘Chief’. Garrett Fitzgerald’s five hour long cabinet meetings were legendary, also a symptom of a leadership style that seemed to lean heavily towards procrastination as a permanent modus operandi of government decision, or rather, indecision making.

    Varadkar clearly intends to be a Chief, both the superficial and the substance must work in a seemly hand-in-glove fashion, if he is to truly succeed.

  • 1729torus

    NI’s wasteland is the product of a spiral of mutual intercommunal escalation.

    It isn’t enough for FF TDs to decide to get votes off SF, they have to have a programme that can actually appeal to those voters. We can assume that SF voters in RoI are loyal since they’re voting for Gerry Adams, so SF will continue to grow as long as they are in opposition no matter what FF does.

    A cordon sanitaire would look transparently cynical, and be a godsend for SF in the medium term as it would force FF and FG closer together.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    FF would be mad to go into coalition with SF. The latter would simply use it as a means of achieving their long-term goal of destroying FF. Any government resulting from such a coalition would be completely unstable. SF’s tactic would be to provoke a never-ending series of ‘crises’, each one portrayed by SF and their propaganda machine as being caused by FF’s refusal to accept Venezuelan-type policies intended to help the ‘downtrodden masses’.

    As for the latest opinion poll, it’s too soon to know. Most polls recently show a swing to the centre-right and away from the left, with the combined FF/FG vote consistently close to 60%, compared with 50% at the last election. But they differ on how this (close to) 60% is divided between FF and FG. If further polls confirm an FG lead, it’s likely to be because FG Leo Varadakar is positioning himself as ‘champion of the middle-class’ and promising tax cuts. In that eventuality, FF would need to pay heed. If the electorate wanted left-wing policies, they have any number of left-wing parties to vote for. The fact that they don’t tells us something. FF need to learn from that.

  • aquifer

    Don’t let a revolutionary gun gang turn ROI into a cold Cuba?

    Sensible enough. But can he engage the young low paid casualised workforce?

    And how are the small farmers of Ireland?

    And the people at the church gates on Sunday?

    More importantly, has he read http://www.chelseagreen.com/rules-for-revolutionaries

  • Pang

    SF used to be able to say that holding together a government with the DUP in Belfast proved they were able for coalition in Dublin. They can’t say that now. As long as Gerry is around he will continue to provide tactless reminders of the Provo legacy which repels Dail voters. If Mary Lou can purge the party image when she takes over maybe they have a chance at government in the Republic.

  • 1729torus

    FF would negotiate a public agreement with SF beforehand to avoid such bad faith.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Any sign that McDonald wants to do that? She traipses along to pay respects to the statue of Sean Russell with the rest of them. Purging the party image will be no small undertaking. We’re not talking about ‘moving into politics’ here, or the IRA stopping, those have both happened and still SF is toxic. What she would need to do would be disown the party’s IRA past (and present). I can’t see it. SF is a brand doomed to be stunted by itself.

  • Pang

    I think you’re probably right. I was thinking of a Soviet-style purge when the leaders changed over, but it is unlikely. I think a lot of people in SF really believe their own propaganda.

  • Pang

    The manufactured ‘chrises’ is a big problem voters may overlook but potential coalition partners will not. The job of government is hard enough without your partners threatening to throw their toys out of the pram all the time.

  • Karl

    Thats a reasonable analysis until you think that every minority coalition partner in an Irish government has been practically destroyed in the aftermath of their ministerial cars.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is there a wing of the party, I wonder, that seeks to jettison the violent past? If there is, it’s been very quiet, even though it is the blindingly obvious thing to do from a political point of view.

    If only they could talk …

  • Pang

    Surely SF know that if the biggest economic crash in 2 generations didn’t get them into government as a senior party in Dublin that the best they can Hope for is Jnr partner. With that comes the memory of the PDs, Greens & labour being destroyed as Jnr partners. But then if they don’t aim to go into government what is the point of them running? Lots of other shrill protest lefties in the Dail already.

  • Reader

    Pang: If Mary Lou can purge the party image when she takes over maybe they have a chance at government in the Republic.
    When Mary Lou McDonald got the SF deputy leadership in 2009, I think I remember Slugger was filled with excited Shinners pointing to the bright future of a fresh young party.
    In the 8 years since then she hasn’t contested the leadership; and hasn’t Adams indicated his intention to hang on for another decade? Adams may outlast Mary Lou.

  • Pang

    If FF rule out SF as a partner then probably Martin is hoping to come in slightly bigger than FG next time & have a reverse confidence & supply arrangement, this time with FG as the silent partner.

  • Ciarán

    One could imagine such an analysis almost definitely had a predecessor in the not too distant mists of time.

    ‘We’re not talking about ‘moving into politics’ here, or the IRA stopping, those have both happened and still Fianna Fáil is toxic. What he [Dev] would need to do would be disown the party’s IRA past (and present). I can’t see it. Fianna Fáil is a brand doomed to be stunted by itself.’

    Again. Do not be naive enough to forget that FF are archetypal cute hures. Micheál explicitly refused to rule out a confidence and supply arrangement with the Shinners not two months ago.

  • Pang

    If FF are serious about taking on SF & truely have a different vision for Ireland, they should stop talking & organise in NI.

  • Karl

    SF need to remind the Irish public that the opportunity cost (never mind anything else) from the interest rates on the additional debt brought about by FFs mismanagement of the economy kills more Irish people every year via an inadequate health service than the IRA killed in 30 years.

  • Karl

    You mightnt like them but you know what they are.
    Even if they did do that, you still wouldnt trust them but you would have encouraged a political party to abandon its principles in the search of votes. I think we have enough of those parties already. Another slippery party in a grey mass of empty promises and whatever you’re having yourself passing off as policy. No thanks.

  • Pang

    I am paying that interest, so I am all for remembering the mess & who made it, but responsibility for insufficient health care that fails to save lives is totally different to planning & carrying out the death of thousands of people. SF claiming an equivalence between Provo killings and bank repossesions, hospital waiting lists & water charges reveals their moral emptiness.

  • NewSouthernMan

    Stephen Collins thinks Martin’s strategy is correct?

    Oh no, the Kiss of Death!

    Collins speaks for D4, that’s all.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I’m not convinced that what happens in the North – devolution, Direct Rule, limbo – has any influence on voters in the South. SF found that out to their shock in 2007. I remember Mitchell McLaughlin grinning like a Cheshire cat on RTÉ’s Questions & Answers, suggesting that the restoration of the Executive co-incided nicely with the forthcoming elections in the Republic. Big gains were predicted but in the event, SF went from 5 seats to 4.
    It works the other way too; the suspension of the institutions won’t be an impediment to further growth by SF in the Republic. For all Martin’s showboating on the question, I haven’t heard anyone in Dublin express surprise, disapproval or interest in the fate of the Executive in Belfast.

  • 1729torus

    Varadkar is a right-wing Republican who wants to flush out all the accumulated nonsense in RoI and remove vested interests.

  • Karl

    I dont think they will be claiming an equivalence but instead of statisticians and economists telling us how much money we lost, I would like to see the statistical outcomes for patients, the drug treatments, the quality of life measures, operations not performed, home support cuts, ancilliary services around diet, mental health support, physio and have that held up to the light against FF making electoral gain so soon after.

    Going back to the IRA for FF is lazy considering their own history and lets them off the hook, thanks to the D4 focused media, on the lives they destroyed. The IRA had an ideal that they pushed for with horrendous consequences. FF were just greedy bastards.

  • Mary Russell

    What people forget is that Sinn Féin do a huge amount of work at grass roots level. Their representatives and workers on the ground are very visible, whilst others party representatives seem quite elusive.  They will always seem to make an effort to help, whether successful or not. Whatever the abilities and politics of their  elected representatives, it is from the efforts at grass roots that Sinn Féin seem to gather a lot of their support. After all if someone helps you out, then you feel obligated, and that you owe some loyalty to that person and the party they represent.  Not everyone looks at policies, some people only consider how their daily lives were improved by whatever action, effort or advice they got.

    Other parties trying to make inroads into the Sinn Féin vote must be seen to make the same effort and put in the hard yards. It will not be easy. Alliegances and loyalities can be hard to change. People vote for different reasons, policy consideration,  to keep an opposing party out, because they or their family always voted this way, or because somewhere along the line, a member of a party helped them out of a hole. 

    Parties trying to gain what is now a Sinn Féin vote, must not only look at Sinn Féin policies but how they deal with the voter base.  To a lot of voters living in deprived areas, policies are not a consideration, the party’s past dosen’t  mean a lot, it’s the person who helped deal with bureaucracy, filled out the dreaded forms and who give advice on what to do next in a particular situation. Fianna Fáil, or indeed any party, if they are serious about gaining Sinn Féin votes, will have to make a huge effort to win the hearts and minds of that particular Sinn Féin voter. It won’t be an overnight job, Sinn Féin have had years to build up this support, it will take considerable time, effort and energy to make a dent in it.

  • Gavin Crowley

    “We can assume that SF voters in RoI are loyal since they’re voting for Gerry Adams”

    Perhaps for the bulk of them, but I would guess that about 5% of the electorate, or about a quarter of the SF vote, shares the same origin as the vote for Independents – a vote for cranks by angry people. That fraction of the vote is time-limited. It will probably outlast the next election but evaporate by the following one. That would make plateau-ing at current levels an achievement over the next 10 years.

  • Gavin Crowley

    There’s every evidence that the IRA had a dominant ‘greedy bastard’ element and ideology was often trumped by that tendency.

  • Gavin Crowley

    “After all if someone helps you out, then you feel obligated, and that you owe some loyalty to that person and the party they represent.”

    I don’t think that is in any way an automatic response. I’ve gotten help in the past and avoided voting for the helper. I don’t see it as a client-patron thing.

    As a strategy it clearly has a lot of traction, but there’s an awful lot of slippage too.

  • Mary Russell

    Many people do not feel obligated to vote for someone whose help they required, that’s fine, however many people do vote out of a sense of obligation, loyalty or indeed misplaced loyalty. That is just the reality.

  • Jeff

    Ultimately southern politicians like their counterparts in Great Britain don’t really give a fig about northern Ireland they have their own constituency problems and votes to worry about. There are no votes for them in the north

  • Easóg

    Mary, predictive text has its drawbacks but there are two ‘n’ in Sinn (Féin). Some people might get the wrong idea 🙂

  • Mary Russell

    Sorry. My bad.

  • Mary Russell

    All strategies have slippage. The impasse in the assembley at the moment is a testimont to that. Neither party will give an inch because they know that by doing so they will alienate or lose a portion of their voters. I guess you weigh the risks against the gains, sometimes it works well, sometimes it goes horribly wrong. That’s politics.

  • Nevin

    “What people forget is that Sinn Féin do a huge amount of work at grass roots level.”

    Only those who are either out of touch with real politics or who think that the electorate read manifestos, especially in Northern Ireland. I have a range of contacts across the political spectrum and it wouldn’t be unusual for a SF or DUP rep to be the first to respond to a request for assistance or even to call upon me for assistance.

    These two parties also bombard a relatively inept media with press releases and these ‘adverts’ often appear unchallenged as news stories. Their strong local presence also contributes to voter recognition and they’re probably also rewarded for being able ‘to put it up to themuns’.

    Irish governments have supported and will continue to support SF anti-unionist attrition in Northern Ireland whilst indulging in SF-bashing in the Dáil but such hypocrisy has served to weaken the UUP-SDLP spectrum.

  • Karl

    Nobody voted the IRA to run a country in the best interests of the population.
    It is disgusting that the greed and incompetence of FF outweighs, in terms of lives shortened, a 30 year campaign of bombing and killing by a proscribed organisation.

  • the rich get richer

    Plenty of Sinn Fein votes in the North . The Finners have never shown the testes /ovaries to come after these .

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Or so convinced of their PR abilities.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    “but you would (sic) have encouraged a political party to abandon its principles in the search of votes.” Hasn’t SF been repeatedly doing this since the early 80s?

    “I think we have enough of those parties already.” Thankfully, we only have the one and only SF whose slipperiness makes it a phenomenon that defies all intuition.
    When it comes to the slipperiness of … let’s say, more conventional parties their failures and deceit are interrogated in a more familiar arena.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    It’s called parish pump politics and is common knowledge.

  • Easóg

    Everything else is ceart go leor.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I think the point in your 1st paragraph is certainly worth reflecting on – a different kind of violence one could say.
    It’s also worth noting that FF front bench has largely changed whereas Adams is still head of a movement “with horrendous consequences” 40+ years later.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Tom McFeely springs to mind.

  • epg_ie

    Not a fair comment about southern politics. Every southern party does huge amounts of work at grass roots level, even the unpopular ones in single digits. The Socialist Workers / PBP / Socialists / AAA / Stop the Water Tax or whatever they are called now, probably do more Dublin grass roots activity than SF. It’s not clear that there is now a SF vote any more than there was once a Labour vote, i.e. broad and slim support massively conditional on being on everyone’s side all the time.

  • mickfealty

    Read the commenting rules yet?

  • epg_ie

    FF is the king over the (water? – er) border for northern anti-SF forces, but they still face big struggles among younger voters and city voters in their home turf, other than in Martin’s native Cork. Sure if they both go into government, SF could gobble FF up, but if they both spend the next five to ten years in opposition, the odds aren’t much better. The linked poll suggests over-55s favour FF by 23 points, while under-55s favour SF by 5 points. That’s more like a generational change in attitudes than a clash of demographics and it needs a more dramatic act of initiative to change the balance than confidence-and-supply can afford.

  • Mary Russell

    Of course all the above do trojan work. I was only addressing the question of Fianna Fáil going after the Sinn Féin vote, not other parties. Fianna Fáil too do some good work at base level, but for whatever reason, Sinn Féin just seem a lot more visible and available on the ground.

  • Karl

    I dont remember Blair being interrogated where he should have been.

  • Karl

    SF did away with the IRA. FF got rid of the Galway tent. I know which ones made the more transformative leap in changing.
    FF engaged in optics. SF engaged in decommissioning.
    Having said that, what good Adams thinks he’s doing, still knocking about is anyones guess.

  • Karl

    Did the IRA bail him out to the tune of 60 billion in public money??

  • mickfealty

    You’re spot on re how partition works NN. And yet the same piece of fancy has been paraded every year since 2007 (2011 and 2016).

    The two spaces have their own discreet political physics, which is possibly one reason why a lot of northern commentators still keep buying into the idea that there is a cross border effect.

    So there’s no direct benefit to to accrue to him or his party from this “showboating” on NI. Martin wins because he’s careful to transpose SF’s political transgressions into a southern context.

    Once grafted onto a map of southern sensitivities, he has then been able to take advantage of these cultural inadequacies on home turf, and with a home crowd.

    Along with other crises in and around the Garda Siochana, he’s been able to build a relative strong position which incorporates some previously sacrosanct Blueshirt ground.

    The ability to engage with northern Unionist audiences (as an nationalist who has not bought into that wide and pervasive of group of political psychoses affecting most) may prove useful in future.

    As a good friend and sometime blogger here on Slugger once said, “if you don’t use your political voice you lose it”. Martin’s strong counterposition to SF’s vision keeps a space open that would otherwise not exist.

    But it’s the building of a position around principles of fairness under the law and justice that gives him permission to cut SF loose in overall outline of any future campaign.

    Having said all that, the fact that SF don’t have a convincing cover story as to why they collapsed Stormont. That on the right occasion will provide a few stray votes, more at the right moment.

    Seems to me he’s trying to condition the ground, not for an argument about NI (which will never fly), but to put SF on the backfoot. Northern Ireland will have to wait.

    Men it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one

    – Charles Mackay

  • mickfealty

    That’s “the naive view that there’s going to be a reverse takeover…”? (see below: https://goo.gl/JvTr8g) I’d love to hear how you think the mechanics that works?

    I cannot comment in detail on the point you make about demographics, but that reads to me like a distinct narrowing between the two parties in that younger cohort. The time to catch (2011) and kill (2016) FF has passed.

    I’ve not made a huge song and dance about it, but the southern defections are coming in SF now, not FF. They’d need to pray for a sudden and catastrophic reversal in the country’s economic fortunes, although even that won’t cut it.

    What it might do is lessen any 2007 effect when Bertie and Enda squeezed Gerry out of the national agenda. Eyes down… 😉

  • Timothyhound

    There isn’t room in southern politics for three main parties. Thats what worries Martin. Meanwhile he’ll insist Sinn Fein are toxic and will avoid any contact with them despite also insisting that northern elected representatives must do business with each other. Fianna Fáil haven’t been one of the most successful parties in Western Europe by accident but they can see the ground narrowing and they don’t like it.

  • NewSouthernMan

    Mick, I assumed ‘play the ball not the man’ referred to fellow commenters, not authors of the articles we are commenting on.

    Stephen Collins has a long track record (in my opinion) of getting it wrong on politics in the South, particularly regarding SF. Since he publishes his opinions in a major newspaper, I assumed expressing my views on his thoughts was fair game.

  • mickfealty

    Your opinions on his views are very welcome, of course. But you should understand that this sort of crack gets very short shrift these days: https://goo.gl/NHCUKR

  • mickfealty

    Im not sure what to make of him yet. The FitzGerald remark was bizarre (and a little distasteful to slag off a predecessor in your own office in that way), and as an Exocet was probably wasted on Cowen.

  • mickfealty

    That’s a popular view inside SF, but I’m not sure how well it’s reflected in wider reality.

    Dev moved swiftly from being head of the anti State forces to taking control and reshaping the Irish state. Within 15 years he was hanging former comrades. If you are going walk a tightrope across an abyss, you are rarely advised to stop in the middle to sit down to eat your breakfast, dinner and tea.

  • Conchúr

    Varadkar isn’t a transformational figure, nor has FF or anyone else been left confounded (I honestly don’t know where you’re pulling that from). Leo is doing what Leo does, schmooze and soundbyte. Ask anyone who worked with him when he was a hospital doctor and they’ll tell you he is charming and lazy with a facility for getting others to do his own work for him. If you are looking for substance from him, you’ll be looking a long, long, time.

  • NewSouthernMan

    OK, then allow me to restate my comment:

    “I believe Stephen Collins is often wrong in his political views. I believe he is very ‘D4’, meaning his opinions are those of a typical upper middle class Dublin liberal.

    “Therefore, if Stephen Collins believes Martin’s strategy regarding SF is correct, I believe it is not good for Martin (politically, of course).”


  • mickfealty


  • NewSouthernMan

    If what I said went against the rules of your website, OK, I accept that. But please enforce the rules evenly.

    Just in this thread:

    Conchúr, about Leo Varandkar: “he is charming and lazy with a facility for getting others to do his own work for him”.

    ted hagan: “Stephen Collins? You’re scraping the barrel there, Mick. What else was Collins going to say that he hasn’t been saying since his PD-worshipping days?”.

  • Damien Mullan

    I agree. It was right that Leo Varadkar faced criticism for his disrespectful indirect attack on Garrett Fitzgerald, which happened in 2010, a year before Garrett Fitzgerald passed away. Given what Garrett Fitzgerald was up against, not least a coalition with a Labour Party, which unlike in 2011, was not as determined and aggressive on closing the fiscal hole in the public finances, as well as the cutest of cutehoor’s in Charles Haughey.

    I have to say, I really admire Garrett Fitzgerald. He brought a deep intellectual vigor to the office that had been missing since Dev’s departure.

    I happen to think the hysteria, though obviously the shock of the bank bailout which then precipitated the intervention of the Troika, was always likely to induce hyperventilation in many quarters, welling that even found its way onto the editorial page of the Irish Times, “Is this what the men and women of 1916 fought and died for”, nonetheless, and given the circumstances, the level of hardheadedness and self sacrificing determination of Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan, in crafting the plan of action in the closing months of 2010, that the Trokia would adopt with only so minor alterations, and which the Kenny government would implement, is a testament to two men who learned the lessons of the failures made in the course of their youths by the political establishment of the 1980’s.

    Just as Bertie Ahern’s reputation has begun to be rehabilitated, so too will Brian Cowen’s.

    I have to say, I am always very weary of taking at face value assessments of political legacies made in contemporary commentary, and while yes, these are important in providing the basis for future assessments, however those future assessments are made all the better by a greater cacophony of sources and materials. A case in point is the legacy of Brian Lenihan. For two years Lenihan was named the worse Finance Minister in Europe, by a reputable economics magazine, I think it might have been the Economist, this wasn’t based on the decisions that Lenihan was taking to bring the public finances under control, nor the longer term initiatives that would ultimately bare fruit in the recovery now underway, but for the mere fact that he was presiding over an economic calamity. If the same analysis was applied to the U.S. Civil War, then Ulysses S. Grant would come up a cropper as one of the worst generals during the war, given the attrition rate suffered, or applied to the Vietnam War there would be no criticism of U.S. military tactics given the rate at which they were killing the enemy. These assessments of best and worst are horrible gauges, yet they persist, they supposedly tell us about the present, but do they really, I don’t think the are an insight to the present much less the future of political leaders, or their policies for that matter. What made Lenihan a good Finance Minister, and thank god we haven’t had to wait so long to see him vindicated, was that he learned from the mistakes of the past, that the scars of the 1980’s were sufficiently raw and vivid to act as a deterrent to inaction and lethargy. While Ireland has suffered a lost decade, it compares favorably to the lost 18 or so years, beginning in the late 70’s until the mid 90’s, that was the result of the failures of a previous political generation, unwilling to invite the opprobrium of the public by doing what was necessary and right. Fianna Fail presided over the boom that then went to bust, but they also laid the foundations for the recovery too, that just cannot be denied. And Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan were both willing to sacrifice party for the long term good of the country. It may not be popular or fashionable, but that is the mark of patriotism.

  • Damien Mullan

    Jes it was the FT and not the Economist. Even worse given the reputation of the FT. I’d like to know what critical analysis these juries of Economists employ when deliberating on ‘worst’ and ‘best’ criteria.

    “Brian Lenihan has been named as Europe’s worst finance minister in a survey of economists by the Financial Times. He was ranked 19th in the survey for the second year in a row.

    Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble was named as Europe’s top finance minister in the survey.

    Britain’s George Osborne was sixth. George Papaconstantinou of Greece came eighth.

    The FT’s ‘jury’ of economists ranked the finance ministers on the basis of their political skills – for which Mr Papaconstantinou got top marks – as well as economic performance and credibility in the markets.

    Brian Lenihan was ‘overwhelmed by the crisis in Ireland’s banking system and the implosion of the country’s economic growth,’ the FT said.”


    Appears what was ‘overwhelming’ Brian Lenihan was the hard graft of putting a plan in place that has delivered Ireland the fastest growing economy in the EU for the past 3 years.

    It would be nice whenever the next biography of Brian Lenihan comes along and is reviewed by the FT, that a timely mea culpa might be forthcoming. Those assessments by the FT were an absolute disgrace, given the herculean efforts of retrenchment that Lenihan was making of public expenditure during those years. An effort that for all the political acumen of George Papaconstantinou ultimately failed to deliver for Greece.

  • mickfealty

    Ted is gone. Conchur, I agree up to a point. But you get my point?

  • NewSouthernMan

    Yes, I get your point. You’ve publicly beaten it into me, unlike other commenters on this site. But I’m a big boy.

    My goal was not to get Conchúr or ted hagan banned (as a matter of fact, I enjoy both of their posts) but I wanted to point out the inconsistency of how you apply the rules.

    So please reconsider banning them. I would feel bad if you banned then because of my post.

    I believe the goal of this website is to encourage people of all sides to express their views. A very noble goal and I commend you for it!

    But sometimes I wonder if my ‘southern’ tag makes me somewhat unwanted? I believe many northerners (of all sides) do not want someone from the ‘South’ commenting about what happens in the ‘North’.

    But since, in the long run (10 years?) we, in the South, are going to have to pick up the tab for the mess Britain will leave behind, maybe people in NI should be a little more positive/nice/less condescending?

  • mickfealty

    Ted got banned only because he knows better.

  • NewSouthernMan

    Goodbye ted hagan, we hardly knew ya!

  • Gary Thompson

    Two polls now showing a clear lead over FF by FG will definitely spook the soldiers. They are not known for their patience.
    Martins focus on SF is probably ill advised given that his real threat comes from middle Ireland and FG with a Shiny new leader. Some traditional FF voters will have noticed Leo and Simons firm hand when dealing with London’s Brexit disarray and Unionisms continued dismissals of Gaelic Irish requests. It used to be FF who could be relied on to charge the token Southern Republican horses, its somewhat unusual to see FG take up the mantle.
    Martin needs to find a message that appeals beyond political anoraks and the D4 media establishment. Your average Dub mixes in less privileged circles and its there in the heart of the capital where Martin’s real challenge lies. He is not getting through as of yet and time is not on his side.

  • Skibo

    The epitaph of Sinn Fein has been written a number of times and still the party grows.How can this be?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not writing an epitaph for it – sadly I think there will always be a market for ethnic atavism. It’s too deep-rooted in both nationalist and unionist culture. The realistic aim is for positive changes in society to leave it increasingly marginal.