AS Blueshirts and Soldiers of Destiny slug it out in their attempt to form a government, we – the punters – are knackered, having had to endure months of a morale-sapping Dáil version of the Queensberry rules.
‘For Gawd’s sake,’ we cry, ‘Why don’t you lot just throw in the towel and form a government. We’re sick of your bickering and blathering about a majority-this and a minority-that and now, in round 143, you’re off again in another bruising battle.’
In other words, we’re punch drunk from a rope-a-dope political strategy that’s been concocted by super-ambitious, place seeking, cynical politicos. As the months roll on, and more incomprehensible offers of marriage (otherwise known as proposals for government) assail us, the penny has dropped that to understand properly what the buckos are saying we need a profound knowledge of synchronic linguistics. Yes, synchronic linguistics, because in the absence of such a vital aid, how can we comprehend Mickey’s speech at the Liam Lynch commemoration about forming a government?
According to his latest contribution to political theory, he was up for a FG minority administration that was supported by Fianna Fáil. The proposal, of course, was premised on the understanding that, in turn, FG would support a FF minority outfit!
Civil War again!
At least that’s what we think he said because the speech was classic Mickey Martin, peppered with allusions to ‘space,’ which seemed to refer to a rotating minority government of indeterminate composition.
So, after months of political claptrap, is it any wonder our brains are reeling? On the other hand, our predicament fades into insignificane when compared to the reeling of Mickey’s and the buckos’ brains as they twist and turn, revolve and rotate in a whirligig of phony principles.
Incredibly, the politicos seem to have forgotten that the plain people of Ireland (e.g. the man in Dinty’s) are pee-d off at their antics! Exasperated, the punters are asking a simple question: why can’t the principal contenders find a compromise that would provide a working arrangement between their conflicting interests?
After all, FF and FG are the quintessential Tweedle Dums and Tweedle Dees of Irish politics. Nothing ideological separates those uninspiring people from one another.
Then, to add spice to the mish-mash, there’s the recurrent theme that nobody wants to mention and which every now and then floats to the surface like a congealed lump of slush: the Civil War! Up it popped again last week.
Nonsense, declares our intelligent reader in Dinty’s. The Civil War ended ninety-three years ago. Totally forgotten!
Politics of memory
Not quite, we say, if the recent frolics of FG spindoctors are anything to go by. They’ve been enjoying a field day with their description of Kenny’s offer to Mickey as a ‘partnership government between two Civil War adversaries.’ The unofficial Fine Gael organ, the Indo/Sindo, described the proposed agreement as ‘the end of Civil War politics’.
Kenny enthusiastically declared that the partnership settlement would finish off civil war antagonism, which would be ‘the best thing for our country now.’ It was as if he had just spotted Dan Breen stashing his deadly parabellum MG 14 in the loft!
But for F&Fers with an historical perspective, the thought of Free State victors rubbing defeated anti-Free State noses in the muck rankles – hence the involuntary shudder whenever Mickey throws smoochy eyes at Dame Inda in his effort to lure him into a FF political arrangement.
Because any merger with Fine Gael calls into question the historic identity of Fianna Fáil. It sends bundles of deeply lodged, sensitive republican neurons to the brain where they emotionally present themselves as Civil War reminiscences.
Historians call it the ‘politics of memory.’
Mickey, however, does not seem to appreciate the role of memory in the FF psyche. At the Liam Lynch commemoration, he said Fianna Fáil was not ‘a civil war party’ and that those who had founded Fianna Fáil were people ‘who were very specifically committed to moving on from the civil war.’
He did not agree with the assertion that his party would reject power sharing because, according to Mickey, the notion that the divisions between FF and FG were a result of civil war politics was ‘superficial’ and ‘bad history.’
Such a point of view excluded any engagement with ‘substantive points’ and ‘dramatic changes in patterns of political support.’ (We have no idea what he meant, but it sounded great as a metaphorical punch to the collective head of FF mountainy men!).
However, the significance of his speech was that it made no reference whatsoever to Liam Lynch, an outstanding Republican leader shot by the Free State army, and in whose memory hundreds of Fianna Fáil supporters had gathered.
His disinclination to mention Liam Lynch at the Liam Lynch commemoration was bizarre, considering that five years ago a prominent Sindo columnist was shouted at and spat upon when he used the event to deliver a diatribe against republicanism.
But Mickey ignored Liam Lynch, and got away with it. He gave the impression that he was rewriting history, and the message would be that people should not seek a link between modern Fianna Fáil and the Civil War.
It smacked of ‘Mickey-Revisionism’ on a grand scale and, sadly, was most unlikely to enhance his popularity among the real Soldiers of Destiny.
Which raises this question: should Fianna Fáil be ashamed of the fact that its origins are rooted in violent opposition to the Free State? Or, for that matter, should modern Fine Gael airbrush from history the horrific deeds that the founders of the party did in the Civil War?
Ballyseedy, for instance; where the ‘National Army,’ acting on the authority of the Free State government, blew to smithereens eight republican soldiers who opposed the Treaty. For days afterwards, so he story goes, the birds were eating human flesh off the trees. It was a war crime as bad as any committed by the Wehrmacht during WW2.
Ballyseedy, of course, was merely one act of barbarity in a particularly brutal war. The Free State executed prisoners on the flimsiest of charges.
Many were shot without trial and more than 12,000 men and women were imprisoned. President WT Cosgrave remarked that he would not hesitate to ‘exterminate’ 10,000 republicans so that that Free State could survive.
The ferocity of the repression was in breach of several articles of The Hague Convention of 1907, the equivalent of the Geneva Convention at the time. Should that also be forgotten?
It is beyond doubt that the Civil War had a malign effect on Irish political life and. ironically, to judge by the difficulties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have in forming a government it seems it may still be poisoning the relationship between Ireland’s two biggest parties.