DID you know that Fianna Fáil and its historical rivals, Fine Gael, quietly cobbled together a ‘joint framework document’ relating to a possible government composed of the two Civil War parties? Certainly, when a senior Fianna Fáil constituency executive, Séamus Ó Néill, got wind of it, he was taken aback. As were many rank and file members.
A concerned O’Neill said this to the meeja: ‘Any arrangement with Fine Gael will bring further deterioration and the decline of Fianna Fáil.’
He continued: ‘We looked on in amazement when the supply and confidence agreement was entered into without consultation with party members. We were assured by Micheál Martin that it was the right thing to do in the national interest. The Irish people would thank us for putting the country first.
‘Result? We ended up with 38 seats; another disaster for our party under Martin’s leadership!’
He went on: ‘Micheál Martin adopted an aggressive tone towards Sinn Féin and this has continued throughout the entire election campaign, a tactic that handed seats to Sinn Féin.
Since the election he has refused to talk to that party, another bad decision.’
And then the influential party headman issued this cautionary advice: ‘Martin must not, in his quest to be Taoiseach under any circumstances neglect our party and its members to satisfy his own ambitions. If he takes a hard look at his record, he should consider stepping down and make way for a new leader who can rebuild our party.’
To which we say: That’s certainly putting matters bluntly. People have been shot for less!
And then, last weekend, we had another argy-bargy between the Blueshirts and the Soldiers of Destiny after information was leaked concerning a possible general election during the Covid-19 crisis. Again a collective burst of FF outrage at the negotiating skills of party grandees and a rejection of the Fine Gael plan as ‘bad faith, selfishness and putting party before country.’
To rub salt in the wound, the F&Fers described a Fine Gael proposal to have polling in nursing homes as ‘utterly sick.’
FG explained that its officials were merely ‘planning for all eventualities’ and that the attack on the party by Fianna Fáil fault-finders had done unwarranted damage to the ‘talks about forming a government.’
At which we pricked up our ears. The fact that discussions had taken place on the possibility of holding elections during the pandemic intensely annoyed rank and file Fianna Fáilers – largely because the proposal had not been mentioned in earlier talks. Critics also said that inter-party consultations about a general election were ‘deeply unhelpful’ at this stage.
And, to add to the mix, this possible scenario popped up: should the FF-FG “talks” collapse and, mirabile dictu, SF was able to strike a deal with FF, Martin’s resignation as leader of that party would be on the cards.
Currently, FF is trailing Sinn Féin by 13 points and Fine Gael by 21 points in the polls. In Munster,(supposedly a Soldiers of Destiny stronghold), Sinn Féin is on 26% with Fianna Fáil at 19%. As was reported earlier this month, there isn’t a single demographic area of the country where Fianna Fáil comes out on top.
Collapsed talks, however, could result in a revival of the idea of a ‘national unity’ government, a political arrangement democrats do not want, given its pong of extremism and right wing despotism.
Meanwhile, driving the anti-Mickey message is Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, John McGuinness, who bluntly said on RTÉ that he wants to see his party in government with Sinn Féin.
McGuinness is not alone. Despite Mickey’s protestations, a consensus is growing for TDs to engage politically with Sinn Féin with a view to forming a government.
‘Sinn Féin has been locked out of talks because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have decided to speak to each other rather than the third party the electorate voted for,’ said McGuinness,
who doesn’t want another general election. He’s promoting the idea of three parties, FF, FG and SF developing a programme of government that deals with the major issues that the country faces.
He went on: ‘Exclusion does not work and we encouraged reversal of that in the North. We have to be straight up with the electorate and follow their decision from polls and form a government. We must cut the nonsense. If we continue to grapple with this old style of. politics and don’t bring about reform, we have failed.’
Telling it as it is
Interesting, too, that our own local FF county councillor, Deirdre Kelly from Dunmanway, in a recent statement said she regretted that her party was no longer led by people similar to ‘De Valera, Lemass or Jack Lynch’ (Jack Lynch! Wow! That’s a good one!)
However, she was on a winner with the observation that Fianna Fáil was a ‘generic remake’ of the European social democratic parties that once flourished throughout Europe.
‘Fianna Fáil now faces its greatest challenge. It can coalesce with Fine Gael and end up being effectively wiped out at the next election. It needs to get back to the ordinary people and really listen to them. That would not be possible in a coalition agreement with Fine Gael.’
Another fine mess!
Mickey Martin is a politician well able to synthesise complex political information. He’s also a super-dooper analyst and an outstanding exponent of political thought and communication!
So we’re kinda puzzled at the shambles he’s created by trying to keep Sinn Féin kept out of government at all costs. Perhaps Mickey’s visceral hostility to Republicanism dates back to the shock he got in 1988 when Gerry Adams addressed a public meeting in Martin’s own backyard, the Ballyphehane Community Centre, and from which he may have never recovered? It raises questions about his presumed capabilities as a future Taoiseach.
Question is, does he pass muster among the rank and file with regard to leading Fianna Fáil, a onetime great party but now trapped in political inertia and irrelevancy?
Can he breathe new life into the party and give it the urgency and confidence to construct a functioning government; or has his time in the political wilderness turned him into something of a political recluse?
Cynics suggest that perhaps he spends too much time studying Fianna Fáil’s mythical navel, trying to discover the reasons for Fianna Fáil’s past greatness and its current failure to connect with the electorate.
There’s a ‘Reader’s Digest’ book in it, which we hope someday Mickey might write. If he ever embarks on such a task, we recommend that his volume of political wisdom deserves an evocative title; perhaps something in the line of ‘We had it in the bag until the Shinners came along.’ It would sell like hot cakes!