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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 2, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

    Fianna Fail: agreeing to differ?

    Mary Minihan

    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.”

    • In fairness Mary, I think you’re clutching at straws here, and, perhaps deliberately, missing the main point.

      Last year’s general election was described as a ‘seismic shift’ in Irish politics. Fianna Fáil were dead and buried. And now? More attention than ever before. Why? Because the government have spectacularly failed to deliver on any of their promises.

      By dint of their smug self-confidence, FG and Labour have squandered the political goodwill of the people and made it pretty easy for FF to mount a comeback – which is now inevitable, and which will be considerable.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Yep we’ll have five hard years and FF will saill back in on the Showtime boat a-giving away more of our birthrights for more messes of ECB dead-tree pottage. And so what was bought in blood will be sold for paper. And thus on HIstory’s tv channel do we see endless repeats of tragedy and farce. The old Greeks said that the young Greeks ever twenty years had to have a war because each generation forgets the true horror and has to relearn it for themselves or as I’m sure Plato might say remember it for themselves or something.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      I think people should be under no illusion about the challenge facing FF and they shouldn’t delude themselves that FF faces the same problem FG faced in 2002 and look how FG went on to win a landslide sessmic election in 2011 (or so FG keep saying).

      In 2002 people didn’t vote against FG or not vote for them because they hated FG or wanted to punish FG and when the results came in people felt guilty that so many good TDs lost their seats so there was that feeling of guilt which went along way to getitng those who supported FG off their hands and to get get involved and those who were not members but who were supporters learnt thel esson that you have to go and actually vote to make a difference.

      Whereas people are very angry with FF and rightly so because the mess we are in is directly the fault of FF and its corruption – not even a genuine unintended policy mistake. A deliberation policy of gutting regulation and any sense of accountability allowed such an abject failure of polciy making, not to mention the infection of the civil service with a party bias that rendered it incapable and unwilling to challenge ministers.

      Of course the mention of Cowen got warm applause at the FF Ard Fheis as the people attending are still in denial about the task facing them and the first step involves admitting their mistakes.

      There are people who claim love or hate are the strongest emotions but they are wrong because denial is the strongest emotion by far. Denial about our own failings, our career, our disappointments, our relationships and we all know that when we have finally faced up to some issued we’ve been in denial about we wonder why we didn’t do it years ago.

      A party can’t be led by someone like Martin, who himsefl was at the heart of the process oc cronyism that led to the sorry state we are in now and who never once challenged it, and also claim it’s New FF because making a break with the past means Martin admitting his role and that makes him unsuitable to be leader – if he’s the William Hague or Iain Duncan Smith or Michael Howard remains to be seen.

      The Tories in the UK are back in office but as a coalition and it’s not the Tories who are going to be permanent party of power it’s the Lib Dems as they’ll hold the balance of power each time. So what faces FF, having had it’s coalition moment in 1989 is perhaps facing up to being back in government someday but as the junior partner and without holding the balance of power.

      But perhaps if Martin does take action to change the culture and DNA of his party he’ll have gone some way to redeeming some of his mistakes. I don’t see him doing it though. He’s still in denial.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Changing culture’s one thing bit harder tho’ to change your DNA no? Scorpions. Frogs. They can’t do it. FF are in trouble because they can’t think other than in an FF way alright. What does the well frog know of the ocean or the summer insect know of the ice?

    • Scarecrows Of The Stipe says:

      Talk is cheap

    • JOD says:

      Not when yer talkin Fianna Fail. That’s cost us 180 billion.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @6 and yet despite that most Irish people are still too lazy to make the effort to educate themselves properly about the new EU treaty we’ll soon be asked to vote on because it’s ‘boring’

      A simple google search will bring up simple and direct factual explanations of it without any biase one way or the other and leave it up to people to then make their own mind up.

      Not once have I heard anyone on the yes side being asked to explain why, if austerity is working we would need access to a second bailout via this treaty or where is the money from another bailout going to – is it going to go to the banks again?

      This treaty is to make sure we can access the funds needed for a 2nd bailout but it also imposes a requirement that the day to day deficit is a max of 3% and that debt is 60% of GDP or we get ‘punished’. Our debt is now over €200billion and our GDP is about €210billion so give or take we need to reduce the debt to about €120billion and if we vote yes we hand over control of our budgetry policy – to whom isn’t clear yet but to ‘the EU’.

    • Serenity says:

      Olivia O’Leary gave a really thoughtful look on this on Tuesday’s Drivetime, accessible by podcast, worth listening to

      Did the FF attendees notice what was also happening at the RDS that same weekend? Did they care? Nope.

      FF are in denial. They have a lot more to be apologizing for than MM has done publically within the ears of the media. It’s not enough. Where Bertie is given a rousing reception he should be openly and publically shunned.

      The half arsed apology from FF is exactly what you expect from FF, a greasy slippery party that thinks a half arsed apology that isn’t really an apology nor even an open acknowledgment of such utter incompetence, is to be seen and believed to be an apology thinks Ireland is made up of fools (and they are right because the same people voted them in knowing who and what they were like and what the vote had cost).

      For FF to rise from its own fate, MM cannot be the leader as he is in too deep with the whole smarmy FF self serving self rewarding elite of politics, such as the rest of familiar names and faces of FF.

      There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors attached to this…. what does FF not want the media to be talking about? The issue of O’Cuiv is a smokescreen for something a la Bertie and whatever goes with it. Distract tactics always worked to steer the attention to something else for a brief while to keep the media talking. And the media, it seems, are buying into it.

      We should be asking ourselves how is it that Bertie can swagger back in to Ireland unchallenged by the authorities here or even, the anger of what should be a lynch mob known as a public who should have him in stocks?

      Agree to differ? Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors….

    • JOD says:

      ” Where Bertie is given a rousing reception he should be openly and publically shunned” – what’s surprising about Bertie’s reception? Wasn’t Yeats right when he said ”all that was sung all that was said in Ireland is a lie / Bred from the contagion of the throng…” and when he talked about Paudeen and Biddy a-fumbling in their greasy tills and adding ha’pence to the pence and prayer to shivering prayer til they had dried the marrow from the bone (Proverbs 17:22) and didn’t Michael Davitt identify the two curses of Ireland as strong drink and moral cowardice?
      How many times in this country has anyone really stood up against the consensus and screamed STOP! THIS IS WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS! ???
      Well. Exactly.
      And that’s why Fianna Fail will resurge. And that’s why it’ll all happen again and again and again and again.
      Because 1000 years ago a noble race had to turn peasant to survive.

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