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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 13, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

    Tales of a Fortune-Teller

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    I dreamt about a visit to the fortune-teller last night. It wasn’t my love-life she was interested in, or indeed any other aspect of my personal situation. No, this was a political seer, looking to the future of the country.

    There was the usual carry-on at the start with Tarot cards and she stared long and meaningfully into her crystal ball. Moaning quietly at first, then higher and higher, the beautiful gypsy lady intoned in the best traditions of her craft: “I see a tall dark stranger coming.”

    Noting my quizzical look she explained: “Micheál Martin will be leader of Fianna Fáil by Christmas.”

    “Good heavens,” I gasped. “What about Biffo?”

     ”Social and Family Affairs,” she snapped.

     ”Oh well,” I said. “At least it’s a Cabinet post.”

    She eyed me scornfully: “Who said anything about Cabinet, clunkhead? I’m talking Opposition Front Bench here.”

    “You mean there’s going to be a general election.”

    “No, you fool,” she barked. “When Fianna Fáil lose their seat in Dublin South and fail to take Dublin Central, the Greens will jump ship and get into bed with the Blueshirts, Labour and Sinn Féin. Do the math.”

    “Fine Gael will never stomach the Provos,” I protested.

    “That is being worked on at the moment. Power doesn’t come gift-wrapped, boy.”

    “You’re right. They wouldn’t wear Democratic Left in the early ’90s . . . and then they did,” I admitted ruefully.

    Staring into her crystal ball again, she shivered slightly and tightened the knot in her headscarf as though preparing for a great storm, before turning to me again with those dark, mournful gypsy eyes:

    “I see a great shipwreck near a city on the Atlantic,” she said. Peering further into the dusky glass she said: “It is called . . . Lisbon.”

     ”Are many lives lost?” I asked tremulously.

     ”No, but a great many Eurocrat careers are sunk without trace. The name of the ship is Referendum Two.”

    Aghast, I begged for more information: “When does this happen, in the Spring or the Autumn?”

    “It does not matter, dummkopf, either way the vessel will break apart on the rocks of a vengeful public opinion.”

    In an effort to change the subject to something less unpalatable I said: “So it’s Enda for Taoiseach in a new rainbow coalition?”

    “Enda who?” she said. “Have you never heard of Leo the Lion or James the Jaguar Reilly?”

    “What about Richard Bruton?”

    “Too soft. He is the Hamlet of the Fine Gael Party.”

    “But it’s a Fine Gael Taoiseach anyway?”

    She consulted the glass again: ”I see a curly-haired fellow from the west coast who is now living on the east coast. His name begins with E … Eamon? The pair of them are rotating the job.”

    “Golly-gosh,” I said. “Er, what about Dermot Ahern?”

    “Opposition Spokesman on Finance.”

    “And Brian Lenihan?”

    “The Law Library. We have a place for him beside Michael McDowell.”

    AND NOW THE SERIOUS BIT: Joking aside, today’s Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll figures show that, barring some unheard-of political miracle, FF are in serious danger of being decimated in the local and European elections on June 5th, not to mention the by-elections in Dublin South and Dublin Central.

    Probably the most significant result of the poll is that it may well put the concept of a government of national unity off the radar. The opposition parties now know they can get into office without making a deal with Fianna Fáil

    The Greens, who are outdoing Bertie Ahern in the most skilful and most cunning of them all department, could in theory jump ship and go in with FG, Labour and SF, as the fortune-teller suggests. One to watch out for, because when the by-elections in Dublin are over there are likely to be two more non-FF TDs in the Dail than at present. This is just me speculating, but if I have my figures right, that opens up the real possibility of an anti-FF majority.

    There was a feeling up to now that Lisbon would be likely to get through because people were frightened at the economic consequences of a No vote. But there is an increasingly bitter mood out there. The revelation by a senior banker on RTE that he got €2.9m last year and would get something less than €2m this year was a seminal moment in Irish public discourse.

    The unions are being politically activated by the current crisis. The appalling sight of thousands of people losing their jobs – 2,000 yesterday alone – is sending shock-waves through public opinion and the body politic.

    Taking the long view, if Labour had been in government instead of the PDs since 1997, one wonders if there would have been a different approach to the economy with tighter regulation and more account taken of union concerns? Perhaps not: Labour were in power in Britain during those years and look at the mess they’re in.

    In any case, there is no point trying to turn the clock back. We are in a right old mess now and social disorder on a fairly serious scale may be looming.

    If I might be permitted to quote Yeats again, he summarised the current situation very well with his lines:

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity

    • Paul O' Sullivan says:

      I hope she didn’t charge what the White Witch of Cobh would, Deaglán. Because she didn’t offer any real insight, which I shall do gratuit.

      Regardless of party realignments and affiliations for the sake of power, the baseline problem will remain:

      Most of those who take public office lack the calibre to be a true national figurehead and the conviction to lead Ireland in a single meaningful direction.

      They are born from the privileged advantage of what you referred to yesterday as the political class, or grassroots politics orbiting around petty squabbling and pot-holes.

      Once, while at university I attended college-political meetings in the hopes of being inspired.

      At the first meeting the head of Young Fianna Fáil had travelled all the way from Belfast to Munster to speak. Between bashing the party’s nearest rival he spoke of the importance of the hurling pitch and the local bar.

      Single-handedly he made me see the light – if you’re anyway intelligent don’t touch Irish politics with a barge pole.

    • Deaglán says:

      Thanks Paul, but you may find that it is very hard to stay away from the hurly-burly because I suspect people are coming around to the view that politics is too important to be left to politicians. It looks like the “masses” may be about to enter the political stage again: for good or ill, only time will tell.

    • Suzy says:

      More of your political seer’s opinions please Deaglán! (If it’s possible to preorder future dreams!) Might as well have her join the rest of us as we don’t have a clue what will happen next!


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