Legion of the Rearguard
Deaglán de Bréadún
So that’s it then. All the prophecies of doom about Fianna Fail are coming true. Who would have thought it, five, four, even two years ago?
Few parties, in truth, could have come through our economic and fiscal crisis without serious damage. Not all the decisions FF made were necessarily bad but their top people made a very poor job of conveying and communicating them to the people.
There comes a point in a battle where “rallying the troops” begins to sound hollow, and FF reached and passed that stage some time back.
Is that the end of the Soldiers of Destiny forever and ever? Sinn Fein, having pledged itself to peaceful and democratic methods, is now a firm presence in the Dail and the two parties will be fighting more and more for market-share.
At the start of the election campaign, I wrote that FF needed to return to its roots as a “people’s party”. That was before the cheques from the developers started to come in and the young ministers in the mid-60s had themselves measured for mohair suits.
It’s going to be a helluva Dail. If we assume Labour goes into coalition with FG, then SF could theoretically align itself with left-wing “others” and Independents to form the biggest party in opposition. Stranger things have happened.
Few will envy Micheál Martin today. He had a very short lead-in time to preside over the biggest defeat in the party’s history. One thinks of De Valera’s term for the defeated element in the Civil War: “Legion of the Rearguard”.
That’s what FF are, once more. They have a huge hill to climb if they are to remain a meaningful presence in Irish politics.
On the plus side for FF, it is possible that whatever government takes over now, whether FG-Lab or FG plus friends, may find the economic problems insuperable and we could be facing another election in another couple of years.
That gives FF some time to recover. The dynamic with Sinn Fein in opposition is going to be interesting.