Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Opinion poll figures prove there’s life in the old Fianna Fáil dog yetOctober 24, 2012 - 8:16am
The late great journalist Con Houlihan was once drinking with other scribblers from the Irish Press in Mulligan's of Poolbeg Street when the conversation turned to a former colleague.
This particular fellow had quit journalism some time beforehand to become a novelist, playwright and screenwriter but little had been heard from his since.
“Whatever became of yer man?” asked one of those present. “Did he go to Hollywood or what?”
Quick as a flash, talking from behind the massive crúb of his hand which he used as a mask, Houlihan replied in his high-pitched Kerry accent: “He's in Dublin, Dublin. Forgotten but not gone.”
For a lot of the 18 months since the last general election you could have said the same of Fianna Fáil. In the early days of 2011 – as we surveyed the wreckage – you looked at its motley crew of 20 male TDs and its leader (who bore original sin) and thought something unoriginal like 'dead men walking'.
That said, I thought, and still do, that Noel Whelan's claim that Fianna Fáil was dead and gone was not conceivable. Every generation one of the two established parties have had set-backs – until then it was usually been Fine Gael – and people started to say stuff like it's the end of civil war politics and finally Irish politics is going to align itself along the left and right divide.
Problem with that is that there is no party with more than one Dail seat that's on the left wing side of the divide. Labour certainly isn't. It has become like the Normans – níos Gaelaí na na Gaeil féin.
And as for Sinn Féin, they are left only as long as they are left out of government. Once they go in to power (and that's not too far away) just watch how quickly that pendulum will swing!
There were a number of factors behind my own belief that Fianna Fail's demise was not permanent in nature. The party had the biggest organisation in the country, and a loyalty that was so deep-seated it was almost cult-like.
The self-made famine engineered by right-wing laissez faire merchants like Charlie McCreevy, Mary Harney, Michael McDowell, and the two yes men, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen was a grievous act. It estranged even the most loyal and Fianna Fail lost not only its floating supporters but many of its core support too.
And so in descending order, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein all benefited with Phil Hogan's plea to FF supporters to allow FG borrow their vote being particularly effective.
In the aftermath Fianna Fáil has concentrated on rebuilding the party, recruiting young members and candidates and pitching itself as an opposition party that is constructive, and somewhat contrite. It could not have been anything else and for the first year, it found it hard to raise its head above the parapet.
A few things have gone in the party's favour of late. Micheal Martin has gone down relatively well as leader and people no longer associate him so closely with the ancien regime.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.