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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 23, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

    Fine Gael – apocalypse later

    Harry McGee

    Last week when trying to put a bit of context on Fine Gael’s family war, I looked at the newspaper archives from previous heaves in the 1980s and the 1990s, and indeed the one effected in 2001. 

    The most striking thing about them was that once the matter was resolved, the talk immediately turned to unity. A lot of phrases that did the rounds in the wake of last week’s bruising encounter – “our goal now is that we have a strong united party” etc – was also the common currency of other heaves.

    The reality was that the party talked unity but the divisons that had been experienced didn’t go away. They dissenters  just went underground, licked their wounds. The bitterness festered at a low level. Eventually it reemerged.

    I happened to bump into a Fianna Fail person yesterday whose own father had been central to the heaves that had been made against Charles Haughey in the 1980s.

    He said that one of the things that suprised the Haughey loyalites was that all attempts at reconciliation and unity failed. After one of the heaves, it was advised to reach out to the other side and invite one or two of the dissidents back in the Cabinet.

    The hoped-for unity and revived loyalty didn’t occur. According to this person, it concentrated the poison in the veins of the detractors, exacerbated their disloyalty.

    In this blog, the jury is out on whether Kenny need to win by ten to be secure, or whether winning by one was enough (all Fianna Fail TDs I’ve spoken to say a win is a win and one is enough).

    The jury is also out on the wisdom of inviting the dissidents back in. There’s no guarantee that a reappointment will guarantee anything in terms of support.

    Kenny will have to bring a few back in (there’ s the Dublin question, gender balance, and a few with undeniable talent who can’t be overlooked, no matter how impetuous their behaviour).

    But it’s not going to bring unity.

    Fine Gael is going to have to face up to the reality that Kenny is the best leader they have available. There is a question mark over Richard Bruton’s wherewithal to extend himself and to show he has the necessary breadth.  Elsewhere, the others with potential are still too young, or too far off the mark just now.

    • El Leader Maximo says:

      “According to this person, it concentrated the poison in the veins of the detractors, exacerbated their disloyalty.”

      What do you mean by it in this context ?

    • Harry McGee says:

      Sorry. Should have been a bit clearer. The dissidents were brought back into the FF front bench. But it did nothing to dilute their unhappinness with Haughey. They may have been on the front bench. But they continued plotting.
      The point I was making that a reprieve for the dissenters (ie a front bench appointment) won’t transform them into Enda loyalists. I don’t think that the FGers will continue plotting, only that in the past, certain individuals (within FF) did just that.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      I had typed a reply but got an error message so here goes …

      FF and FG have completely different mentalities – hence why FG are so rubbish at winning elections and explaining their policies to the public or of controlling the media story put out about FG or to set expectations of how it wants its leader to be perceived. Who set the agenda that the public think Enda is a lightweight or that he doesn’t have a record of proven success? Did people make that up by themselves or were they guided to that opinion by the media?

      Who decided the story of that poll would be the FG result and not the continued fall of FF support?

      Previous heaves were different as they were between the Christian Democrat and Social Democrat wings of FG. While the people in this one fell into both camps on each side, the dispute was essentially between a group who consider themselves somehow a cut above the rest of Fine Gael.

      The evidence for their inflated opinion does not stand up. None of the Brutonites seemed to have learnt that Richard is far more like John than people think and those of us who were in FG when John was leader have no desire to repeat the experience. Nor did the Bruton side ever explain what they would do differently or on what evidence they felt FG should have a higher poll rating – it is not 1982 anymore so why should FG be on a higher rating so far from an election – no Irish party will ever get anything close to 50% ever again – those days are long gone and good riddance to them.

      We got into the mess we are in due to one party dominating – I don’t see any reason to replace FF dominance with FG dominance. A smaller FG with a larger Labour is a far better outcome for democracy and elections, with real opportunities for change be it FF with L or FG/L or FG/G/Sf or whatever – no one gets complacent.

      Richard failed to treat George Lee properly (as did Enda) – they couldn’t get past their own parochial thinking that Lee had to do some sort of apprenticeship before he’d be considered worthy. He should have been on the front bench with a portfolio of his choice – even Finance. The fact he wasn’t means Enda and Richard are both incapable of thinking outside the box or being radical as is the continued failure of FG reps to publish and provide actual receipts for what they claim – never mind FG revealing where it gets its money from.

      The Irish people have seen elites in the Church almost destroy the Church, elites in business/construction and farming almost destroy the economy, the professions almost destroy civil society and the public sector almost destroy the political system and then a member of the political elite, the FG elite, the farming elite and the educational elite comes forward to think he can do better without providing an ounce of evidence to support his claims, and he wonders why he failed.

      Whatever Enda does wrong – Richard or Leo or Brian or Simon or whoever are not the solution.

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