IF Our Mickey does not want to go down in history as the Leader of Lost Causes, then he’ll have to get the finger out and start reassuring a very nervous FF party that the master plan he reputedly carries in his back pocket will fast-track the return of his compatriots to the corridors of power.
Because, at this moment, everything seems to suggest that Mr Martin has no plan at all, other than aimlessly shambling around the political forum, boring the pants off the ordinary people of Ireland with palaver about the country needing economic stability, and asserting that he is not the type of person who favours elections every two years!
Nonetheless, implicit in his tedious words of advice are elements of an authentic strategy (even if at times somewhat incoherent) that defines Fianna Fáil’s prospects in the womb of time, and which are firmly intertwined with the FF-FG Confidence and Supply Agreement.
The basics are the following: just around the corner and staring the comrades in the face is the fact that Mickey and his party one day intend to end the policy of propping up their Blueshirt butties in the Dáil. However, the moment for doing so hasn’t arrived and when it does – when he’s absolutely sure electoral support for FF is growing – he’ll certainly pull the plug. Oh yes!
Until then, Fianna Fáil will wait and watch, even if the party is obliged to ‘facilitate’ a FG-led government, ‘facilitate’ Taoiseach Vlad’s brass neck, and ‘facilitate’ a budget that is offensive to Soldier of Destiny flesh and blood.
But hardest of all to swallow is this: under the terms of the so called ‘Confidence and Supply Agreement’, the Soldiers of Destiny must continue to abstain on any no-confidence motion relating to the Blueshirts. That really sticks in the craw.
All of which raises this very simple question: what does Mickey get in return for the emasculation of De Valera’s gallantly proud party and its reduction to a sort of sterilised mudguard for Fine Gael? His detractors have a vulgar answer: Sweet Fanny Adams!
And, to make matters worse, Fianna Fáil has not got the expected bump in electoral approval despite the sacrifices it has been making. In fact, it is being hammered in opinion polls.
A recent Behaviour and Attitudes survey for The Sunday Times shows that support for Fianna Fáil has fallen to its lowest in two years, coming second to Sinn Féin and being swamped by Fine Gael. Adding to FF agony is an earlier Red C Sunday Business Post poll (last March) that had Mickey’s party nine points behind Fine Gael.
The polls are not an omen of glad tidings – anything but – and there’s now very little chance of Fianna Fáil precipitating a general election for fear that the results of the recent opinion polls would be replicated at the hustings. After all, what politico wants to ‘facilitate’ his/her own funeral?
At this stage, the future looks grim for an opposition party that crazily tries to ensure the worst government in Western Europe remains in power.
But the backlash already has begun. Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, chairman of the powerful Oireachtas finance committee, demands that Fianna Fáil show some backbone. He wants his party to oppose any extension of the Confidence and Supply agreement.
He said: ‘The issues are the same today as they were when this Government started. If anything, the problems for the people in this country have got worse. The Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fine Gael hasn’t worked and the people have had enough.
‘What’s required to be done is either fix it now or call a general election, but stop the dancing around … If it’s a question of continuing with the status quo, well then, I’m not in favour of that.’
Mickey, he stated, should call an emergency national conference in order to clarify the party’s future on the basis that Fine Gael has ‘handcuffed’ Fianna Fáil and because grassroots supporters are strongly opposed to any extension of the deal with Fine Gael.
In response, Martin reiterated his commitment to focussing ‘on the issues’ and on ‘delivery.’ By any standards, it was a somewhat oblique rejoinder and inevitably led to obvious questions, such as what ‘issues’ is he referring to? And what ‘delivery’ can he point to?
Answer? No one has a clue!
Eye on Poland
According to the 2016 census figures, there are 122,515 Polish people in Ireland, some 2.57% of the population. Many of them are aware of a recent speech by that country’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Konrad Szymanski, who recently stuck his proboscis into Irish economic matters.
Warsaw is the biggest beneficiary of EU goodies, but Szymanski and the ruling Law and Justice party showed its true colours at a recent EU General Affairs Council Meeting when he tried to sell Ireland down the river in the Brexit negotiations. Szymanski opened the meeting by declaring: ‘Let’s be serious. Are we going to destroy our agreement with the United Kingdom because of Ireland?’
It was an outrageous comment, made more offensive by the fact that he made no effort to correct what he said or apologise for the insult to this country. In essence, he argued that Ireland’s efforts to prevent a hard border should be sacrificed in the interest of Poland getting a good trade settlement with the United Kingdom. He has been accused of breaking EU unity on the Brexit negotiations by suggesting the Irish issue is being given too much importance.
Surprisingly, so far, none of our own MEPs has rushed to Ireland’s defence.
This lack of EU solidarity with Ireland was the first sign of a crack in in the European consensus that peace in the North must be paramount to any Brexit agreement. Certainly, the indifference that the Polish Deputy Foreign Minister showed to Ireland indicated a shocking contempt for the efforts to secure peace.
As well, he showed scant regard for the well-being of the many Polish people living here.
Szymanski’s antics were nothing new: Last November, the European Parliament overwhelmingly supported a resolution expressing concern about democracy and the rule of law in Poland where Szymanski’s government disgustingly feeds off the rise of European neo-fascism.
It’s good for Irish people to know who our international friends are. Mr Szymanski and his crew cannot be included among them.