OH dear! Another balls-up from the Grand Auld Duke of Cork, Mickey Martin! And no, we’re not using the ‘balls-up’ expression in a coarse fashion and certainly not with any implication of a testicular association.
We’re referring to the Fianna Fáil announcement that the party intended contesting an election in the Six Counties – only it wasn’t, and then it was. A right mess, in other words!
And, amazingly, the FF procedure for dealing with the debacle was not too dissimilar to that taken by Haulbowline matelots in the days of the wooden sailing ships.
When faced with imminent danger, the jolly jack tars would hoist large, brightly painted wooden balls up into the ship’s rigging. The different colours indicated either requests for assistance or warnings such as: ‘For God’s sake stay clear; we’ve got an outbreak of mental derangement among the ship’s officers and old wounds are opening up.’
Which is, more or less, the current state of affairs among our Soldier / Sailors of Destiny as painful events threaten the Good Ship ‘Fianna Fáil’ under the inexpert command of Capt’n Mick.
Such as last week’s incident. On that occasion, Capt’n Mick told a mutinous crew that no decision had been made ‘on whether or not the Fianna Fáil party would contest elections in the North.’
Curiously, a few hours earlier, former senior minister, Éamon Ó Cuív (grandson of the party’s founder, Éamon de Valera) and Senator Mark Daly had publicly introduced Sorcha McAnespy as Fianna Fáil’s first-ever candidate to contest a council election in the Six Counties.
Fianna Fáil MP
But another version of the story immediately circulated. It was that Fianna Fáil had not selected any candidate. Result? Confusion. Even the politically dim-witted realised that a debacle was on the way, and it was attributed to Capt’n Mick and chums who, they felt, were muddying the waters.
For instance, after the Press Association published news of the happy event, along with a charming pic of Ó CuÍv and Daly flanking Sorcha, party headquarters issued a statement to the effect that no decision had been made on contesting elections in the North.
Consequently no candidate had been selected. In other words, they were telling us it was all an optical illusion!
As the Irish Mirror accurately put it, ‘Fianna Fáil announces its first ever candidate for North election and then denies it has done so.’
Reports then circulated that Capt’n Mick was ‘fuming’ over the support Young Dev and Daly gave to Ms McAnespy, a former Sinn Féin councillor.
Ms McAnespy claimed that Sinn Fein’s belittling of women drove her out of that party but, ironically, it seems she’s jumped from the pan to the fire! Fianna Fáil is currently discussing
how to ‘sanction’ her and her political pals, Ó Cuív and Daly, for ‘bringing Fianna Fáil into disrepute.’
Replacing the SDLP
For an improbable plot, exaggerated characters and slapstick elements, not even John B Keane could have invented such a story, particularly since Fianna Fáil is up to its oxters secretly wheeling and dealing with what’s left of the SDLP. The two arch-conservative parties are examining the possibility of the F&Fers replacing the SDLP in the North and concocting a right wing counterbalance to Sinn Féin.
The Belfast Telegraph earlier this year reported that 80% of SDLP members supported the idea of the party leaving the stage to make way for Fianna Fáil and, already, speculation is rife that the inter-relationship between FF and the SDLP is at an advanced stage.
If so, there’s method in the FF madness. Under Capt’n Mick’s command, the party looks exhausted in the Dáil: a mudguard for the Blueshirts, battered in the polls, no longer having a republican card to play and fearful of being eclipsed by Sinn Féin.
Worse of all, it will never form a government or even muster an effective opposition.
Yet, in a Machiavellian way, a slim chance of resurrection exists should Fianna Fáil don the discarded skin of the SDLP and launch a political campaign up North, even if that meant digging out the old slogans about a ‘united Ireland’.
Because making an impact in the North would be the realisation of a dream that goes back to Fianna Fáil’s establishment in 1926.
If current negotiations are successful with the remnants of the SDLP, Fianna Fáil could be remodelled as a 32-county party, organised throughout the island, and made ready to fight elections in both jurisdictions – just as Sinn Féin does.
What a feather in Mickey’s cap that would be as he safely engages in dogfights with Republicans, firing emotional and patriotic appeals to SF supporters to sway them to his side.
And, unlike the historical arguments put forward by Jack Lynch, Haughey and Reynolds – that extending Fianna Fáil across the Border would fragment the Nationalist vote – the penny finally has dropped that little damage would be done to Fianna Fáil if a dagger had to be stuck, accidentally or otherwise, in the SDLP’s back.
It’s also believed that Mickey intended to launch McAnespy’s electoral campaign with a bit of splash, using it to inform the world of his stunning Northern electoral strategy and his fruitful discussions with the SDLP.
But, when things seemed to be going swimmingly, Messrs Ó Cuív and Daly came out of the woodwork to steal his thunder and, lest we forget, his photo-shoot! The special moment was lost in political disorder and the best-laid plan was banjaxed. Everything turned into farce!
And now for something different. Well, kinda! Mickey’s recent comments in the event of Fianna Fáil candidates being elected to the British House of Commons are interesting. He said the Irish MPs would take their seats even if that meant swearing allegiance to the reigning British monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and promising to ‘be faithful to her heirs and successors.’
Last September, he told reporters ‘there were no circumstances under which Fianna Fáil candidates would not take their seats.’
In other words, Soldier of Destiny MPs would be true and loyal servants of the Crown as well as being typical politicians of many promises. For their part, Sinn Féin MPs refuse to take their seats in Westminster because of the oath.
Said Paul Maskey MP: ‘We are not British MPs, we are Irish MPs, and we believe the interests of the Irish people can only be served by democratic institutions on the island of Ireland. Sinn Féin goes to the electorate seeking a mandate for that position.
We are elected as MPs who do not take their seats at Westminster.’
Which is why the Six Counties electorate continues to vote for people who promise the least – on the basis that such politicians generally are the least disappointing!