Fianna Fail: agreeing to differ?
The portion of Micheal Martin’s speech dealing with Fianna Fail’s position on the fiscal treaty referendum was received in silence by the 600 or so delegates in the Shelbourne Hall at the RDS.
Until that point, Mr Martin’s address had been punctuated by applause – often warm. Delegates clapped enthusiastically when he touched on the party’s proposed response to the Mahon Tribunal, transparency on fundraising and opposition to the abolition of the Seanad.
But when he delivered his battle cry that Fianna Fail “must stand by its principles and core traditions” on Europe: nothing. He said the fiscal treaty reflected the policy Fianna Fail promoted. It was part of a series of measures required to return growth here and throughout Europe.
“Ireland must and I believe will get a significant reduction in the cost of the promissory note,” he said. The mention of the late Brian Lenihan brought back the applause. Mr Martin’s tribute to his predecessor Brian Cowen also got a positive response.
At the beginning of his address, Mr Martin appeared to be stressing the party would be making a virtue of not stage managing the event. “This will be a very different Ard Fheis from the type of highly-scripted party conferences which have dominated Irish politics for decades.”
It was surprising, however, that the five people sitting behind him on the stage as he delivered his address were all men: Noel Whelan; John Waters; Timmy Dooley; Denis Bradley and Andy Pollock. I don’t think it’s unfair to say the majority of the 600-strong crowd was middle-aged or above. But this is Friday night; Saturday night has always been the “big night”.
Eamon O Cuiv spoke to reporters ahead of Mr Martin’s speech. He reiterated his position on the fiscal treaty referendum, which led to his effective sacking as deputy leader of the party earlier this week. Asked what portion of delegates agreed with his position on the referendum, Mr O Cuiv said he had not canvassed opinion. “We’re all agreed on one thing. We all love Fianna Fail; we’ll all work for Fianna Fail and we’re all for Fianna Fail,” he said. “And if we have policy differences I think it’s a very healthy thing within a strong political party that we can have those differences and agree to differ on policy.”