Took the exotic line that ‘change’ was a just a buzz-word, essentially designed to cover a variety of different situations
FIANNA Fáil’s Micheál Martin has had a charmed political life. He took his party into a general election only to emerge as a ‘baten bird’ with electoral results so disappointing that they would induce the average Joe Soap to throw his hat at the political stuff and become a pop pundit on CUH Hospital Radio.
But our Mickey wasn’t fazed! Although Fianna Fáil came out of the election just one seat ahead of Sinn Féin, which out-polled the Soldiers of Destiny in first preference votes, his determination to hang on as leader in spite of dungeon, fire and sword, was most impressive.
Fact is, there was no clamour for Martin to resign as leader, despite not having anticipated the resurgence of Sinn Féin which, F&Fers admitted, had ‘changed the political landscape.’
For that matter, no one at all in Fianna Fáil seemed to notice in recent years the accuracy of Sinn Féin’s assessment of the ‘political landscape’ – nor could FF offer a convincing explanation as to why this was so.
Indeed, Fianna Fáil took the exotic line that ‘change’ was a just a buzz-word, essentially designed to cover a variety of different situations, just as ‘indigestion’ is a catch-all term for any kind of nasty pain in the gut.
Grunts of dissent
Certainly the tone of voice that Martin used in responding to the new scenario (the emergence of Sinn Féin) was very calm, low-pitched, and rather like the voice people use before the lodgers wake up in the morning.
He gave the impression that whereas Sinn Féin’s electoral successes plunged Fine Gael into a collective state of fright, Fianna Fáil preferred to remain aloof from such incidents of trivial importance.
Some analysts suggested the time had come for FF and FG to amalgamate in order to counteract the rise of the Republicans but, to complicate matters, in the background another sound could be heard: it was like a distant babbling brook, or the wind rustling through the leaves of trees deep in the forest!
FF cynics observed that the sound was similar to blood forcing its way through brain valves damaged by the election, but if one listened really carefully one could discern the sound of abnormally surly voices uttering, wait for it, crotchety grunts of dissent at Martin’s governance of the party.
Yes, and also dissent at the possibility that down the line there might be a mongrel intermixing of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to counteract the rise of Sinn Féin. (The awesome fact is that one in three voters under 35 now has a voice in Sinn Féin with which to express exasperation at the way the country is run).
But, political analysts argue that a formal alliance between FF and FG would merely shovel into the same bag two reactionary parties with similar policies and aspirations. Ultimately this would lead to the morphing of Fine Gael into Fianna Fáil or vice versa and, eventually, one of them would disappear from the political scene.
Should Martin resign?
Long-in-the-tooth F&Fers know that correct political behaviour and plain speaking at this important juncture in the life of the party is terribly important. If Mickey is to avoid problems – such as demands for his resignation – there must be no petulant outbursts regarding Sinn Féin even though that party’s parliamentary influence sticks in his craw.
And then there’s the humdinger of a question that simply will not go away: after a dreadful election, which saw Martin flop as No 1, should he resign as leader for the good of the party?
Leeside politicos are staying dumb on the ‘time’s up for Mickey’ topic, but not so a Cavan county councillor, one John Paul Feeley. He’s a shrewd, discerning, on-the-ball politico and close ally of parliamentary party chairman, Brendan Smith. Quite openly, he says what other Fianna Fáilers have been uttering through clenched teeth: Mickey must go!
Bold, brave and undaunted (like young Brennan on the moor), here is what Cllr Feeley said to the plain people of Ireland: ‘I am baffled that Micheál Martin is still leader of Fianna Fáil after the result that we’ve had. We’ve been roundly rejected by the people in this election. The party has had its overall share of the vote reduced and the number of TDs reduced at a time that the government is unpopular.’
He goes on: ‘The Fianna Fáil leader wasn’t elected until the sixth count in Cork South Central while the Sinn Féin candidate, Donnachadh Ó Laoghaire topped the poll in Martin’s own constituency.
‘That has to demand that questions be asked; not just of the leader but of the strategists that we allegedly have. We have the same secretary general since before 2011, when we had a meltdown … we’ve done nothing really to rebuild Fianna Fáil’ … and the Fianna Fáil front bench has been ‘largely anonymous.’
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!
The election was important for the following reasons: the delightful wham to the gob that the electorate gave Fine Gael for that party’s non-performance in health and housing. It cheered us up no end!
And, secondly, for the remarkable kick in the goolies the voters delivered to Fianna Fáil for the arrogance it showed at the time of the banking collapse – memories of which haven’t gone away, you know.
The lesson the election had for the Establishment parties? That the Irish electorate takes its time in forgiving and forgetting.
Roll on the General Election Mark Two!
With the British media, ‘you pays your money and takes your choice.’ In other words, when you buy the Daily Mail you accept the risk that the news it contains can sharply differ from reality and that the story can be the product of a demented brain.
The front page of the ‘Oirish’ edition on February 15th, 2020 is a case in point. It extolled Mary Lou McDonald’s political skills, describing her as a ‘Woman on a mission,’ who was ‘clever and down-to-earth and who brought Sinn Féin to within touching distance of the Taoiseach’s office.’
The heading for the British front page version of the same story on the same day was the following: ‘Is the IRA about to seize power?’ Absolutely nothing on that topic was published in the Irish version of the newspaper!