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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 27, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

    Dissolution and Rebranding the Only Answer for Fianna Fail?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    It’s interesting to be in the People’s Republic of China when there is so much happening at home. Your humble scribe is here to cover the official visit of Taoiseach Enda Kenny for the purpose of promoting trade and investment.

    Curiously, at a time when you would expect a Fine Gael leader to be feasting on the discomfiture of the old enemy, Fianna Fail, there seems to be little appetite in the Kenny entourage for that type of triumphalism. Mind you, there are a number of embarrassing Fine Gael references in the Mahon Report as well.

    Maybe FG and FF are like one of those married couples who are always fighting but never get divorced because, at the end of the day, they need each other. After all, without Fiannna Fail, how would you define Fine Gael – and vice-versa?

    They were born out of the Treaty Split, as we all know. One of these days I am going to sit down and figure out just what that argument was all about. It is buried in the mists of time and even someone with a reasonable grasp of history such as the present writer still finds it hard to comprehend how old friends and comrades could turn around and start killing each other, with the resultant bitterness that lasted for decades.

    Much as I admire the work of the great Neil Jordan, he gave a misleading impression in this regard in the Michael Collins movie. Remember where Harry Boland says: “Ah, Mick, you gave up the North!” Then along comes The Wind that Shakes the Barley to perpetuate a similar misconception through the medium of newsreels – these good lefties were let down when the Other Crowd abandoned the Six Counties. (Strange that the IRA in the North mostly took the pro-Treaty side.)

    In fact the dispute was about sovereignty and whether the Treaty provided a stepping-stone to freedom or constituted a betrayal of the men and women of 1916, etc.

    As always, the old artificer, Eamon de Valera, tried to come up with a formula but it didn’t catch on. But most of those who took up arms against the Free State ended up founding Fianna Fail and taking over the same institution by political means and, indeed, confirming its status as a genuinely-independent entity, not least through the widely-supported and regrettably-necessary policy of neutrality in the second World War (It would have been nice and in retrospect very comforting to be able to take the Allied side, but small states must look to their survival based on the outlook at the time of making the decision to stay neutral.)

    The Soldiers of Destiny couldn’t overthrow the Free State by military means so they went in the back door and changed it very substantially in their own image, with “jobs for the boys” as a primary means.

    Now it’s all gone sour. There is a line in one of Kevin Boland’s books about the day the party accepted its first substantial cheque from a donor. A political Rubicon was crossed. In the Sixties there was the “Mohair Suit” brigade and Taca (Support), the fundraising organisation. The party started out on the road which led eventually to the Mahon Report and its damning confirmation of so many unsavoury disclosures.

    Bertie Ahern was Charles Haughey’s apprentice and, to employ his own kind of malapropism, “the chickens have come home to roast (stet)”.  It is a personal tragedy because there is no denying the work he did with Tony Blair on the Northern Ireland peace process. Blair is another politician whose star has dimmed but the work that the pair of them did resulted in lives being saved and the consolidation of the peace: one memory that stands out is of Eileen Paisley embracing Ahern at the opening of the Battle of the Boyne commemoration centre.

    That doesn’t make his other activities one whit more acceptable and a very clear line must be drawn. Ireland must move on at long last. Hopefully, a new type of politics is being born, without any trace of the brown envelope and “dig-out” culture.

    Is there a case for Fianna Fail or should the party shut up shop? One has to smile at the talk of “rank-and-file” members feeling betrayed by their former leaders. Anyone who joined Fianna Fail knew about the history of the party and it is a little hard to swallow this notion of  shifty, cute-hoor people leading doe-eyed purists as innocent as a reindeer in a Disney cartoon.

    Nobody will be fooled by a dissolution and rebranding. Better to soldier on (no pun intended), pick up the pieces and focus on the better elements in the party’s history: the good side of De Valera, the achievements of Sean Lemass, the revolutionary introduction of  free secondary education, etc. It won’t be easy but it’s a more honest approach than indulging in a bit of public relations flim-flam.

    After all, Sinn Fein hasn’t rebranded, nor has it disowned the IRA who did things that make Bertie Ahern look like a pussycat by comparison. And SF are likely to be the real winners in all this, at least in the short term.


    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      How can FF ever ‘move on’ when Martin and O’Dea and people like them remain involved? How can it move on when there is still massive denial?

      How can it move on when there’s no evidence it has changed, for example not one FF rep at any level publishes receipts for expenses or audited accounts of how they are funded? The fact they don’t ‘have to’ doesn’t stop them leading by example.

    • jaygee says:

      Fintan’s article in today’s edition says it all.

    • JOD says:

      How can you ”dissolve” and ”rebrand”? I’d have thought you did one or the other. Whichever the honourable thing would be, Fianna Fail won’t. It’s in their nature. Like the scorpion and the frog.
      A pile of poo by any other name would still smell like a pile of poo.

    • barbera says:

      Viva El Papa Benedicto XVI

    • Paul says:

      What do/could FF stand for? It is often remarked it’s hard to tell them apart from FG from an ideological perspective.
      What are the chances Déaglan of FF going into gov with FG?

      IT’s not too far fetched a scenario, if Labour do terribly in the next election as looks likely, FG may need more votes to make up the numbers….

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      What are the chances of Fianna Fáil being gone by 2016 with a rump submerged into Fine Gael then the ghost of Mick and Arthur really could rest in peace with Fine Gael having finally won the civil war.

    • Martin Dorgan says:

      The article is reminiscent of an obituary which in time will effect a rebirth of a party with credible intentions. The social justice that FF has embued into Irish life by way of welfare reforms is unprecedented in any country worth wealth distribution as a premise to this . Not one political party in Ireland can be said to achieve this . In speaking of Sinn Fein, woho have yet to throw off the manacles of the IRA before any semblance of trust can be afforded to them.thay have not made as much hay as they have intended in this economic climate. The episode with individuals and have been concluded with Mahon and FF can now move on to become a party dedicated to the social justice that it can always be proud of. Memories can be very short with voters especially when the current governments past ignomies are taken into account. Beimid arias.

    • barbera says:

      @ 7 — Well said Martin Dorgan. A lot more voices like this need to be heard to counteract the FG/Labour trolls that have usurped the comments forums.

    • JOD says:

      “The episode with individuals and have been concluded with Mahon and FF can now move on …” – it’s not so much what as individuals they represent but what collectively they imply. Old Shanghai Customs saying: See cockroach bang wall hundreds more behind.

    • barb.ie says:

      @9 JOD – Are you five? 0;-)


      Not a bleep out of RTÉ or the Irish Times on this…………why??

    • barb.ie says:

      And yet no moratorium on Phil Hogan’s “GAFFE” in the Irish Independent

      Is RTÉ and is the Irish Times succumbing to what appears to be an emerging fascism in the modus op of this coalition government.? Never in all my life have I witnessed such bully boy tactics as those in operation by FG’s Phil Hogan, in particular………and of course, Eamon Gilmore, re the closing of Ireland’s historic embassy to the Holy See at Rome.

    • JOD says:

      I will agree barb, governments should be afraid of the People not People afraid of the governments as might increasingly seem the case here, with half the country terrified into paying the latest IMF/ECB mandated robbery of our subsistence. The spirit of O’Duffy is alive and well in the shape of Mr Hogan it might seem. He’s only a schoolmaster though. Been a wheen of years since I was afraid of one of them. Ignore him and he’ll go away remember those who can do and those who cannot….

    • JOD says:

      Shouldn’t be so hard on school teachers my own dear mother was one and a most capable woman she remains. Do think it’s a curious thing that one profession should be singled out and privileged with an arrangement that lets them take years if not decades off work to go into politics and preserves their job for them to return to when the politics is done (moreover, that pays them the difference between their teacher’s salary and the cost of hiring a supply teacher to do their job while they’re off politicking). With all this talk about quotas in politics perhaps there should be a quota for teachers-turned-politicians? As in a maximum number rather than a minimum. Same for small town solicitors and publicans. But of course you can’t for in a democracy the only qualification you need to govern is to be elected. It’s an appalling concept of governing really. Until of course you look at all the others. Suppose there’s no better alternative until we’re all capable of governing ourselves.

    • JOD says:

      Whatch mean am i five barb??? :-/

    • barb.ie says:

      Even God gives people a “long leash” which is to say that God gives everyone time to “make their path straight” and it is up to individuals to make the best of this time. But in my opinion, and I sense it very strongly, this government is taking on the character of a wannabe all-powerful, unforgiving megalomaniac which in reality in this country is pretty ridiculous since Kenny & Hogan come across more as “Pinky and the Brain” of the American animated tv series.

      Pinky (Kenny): “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”
      The Brain (Hogan): “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”


    • JOD says:

      Pinky and the Brain one’s a genius one’s insane” well allowing there’s a difference (and it’s mostly opinion anyway) who is which??

    • Scarecrows of the Stipe says:

      @ 7 ” The episode with individuals and have been concluded with Mahon and FF can now move on ”

      Ah , will ya give over ! Concluded as in , no charges or further investigation ? Might as well give Ahern & Flynn a medal while they’re at it

      Pure money grabbing thieves is what they are . As are FG .

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