Fine Gael – apocalypse later
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.