Whisper it, but Fine Gael is the new Fianna Fáil
Such an eventuality would mean that, after many decades where academics and commentators lamented the absence of “normal” left-right politics in this State, we would finally have achieved that dispensation.
Indeed we are already moving in that direction. Sinn Féin is, broadly speaking, a party of the left and, by adding other groups and individuals who could be described as socialist or radical, as well as Labour “exiles”, you come up with a majority of the non-Government TDs.
Over the last quarter-century, Irish politics has become a voyage into the unknown where nothing is predictable.
This has been the case since Charles Haughey abandoned his party’s “core value” of governing on its own, by joining forces with the Progressive Democrats. Subsequently Labour, having denounced Fianna Fáil with relish, got into bed with it. Whisper it, dear reader, but Fine Gael is the new Fianna Fáil.
Few have commented on the change in the larger party’s social composition, for example. Long-time readers of this newspaper will recall how the late John Healy used to tease the Fine Gael barristers who, he alleged, were loath to exchange the comfort and rewards of the Law Library for the slings and arrows of government office. But these days, there are more barristers in Labour ranks than in Fine Gael.
However, Fine Gael has caught the mood of the electorate better than any other party at the moment. The radicals and the protesters against budget cuts have achieved a high profile but there is a “silent majority” out there relying on Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan to bring the ship of State safely into port.
Indeed the late Shane McEntee, whose passing is such a great tragedy, accurately reflected that mood when he placed the cut in the respite care grant in the context of decreasing prices in other areas. It is hugely to be regretted that his untimely death may in some way have been precipitated by aggressive and anonymous reaction in social media to his remarks.
However, it would be a mistake to over react by seeking to introduce new controls. Social media are contributing to democratic developments in other parts of the world, famously in the Middle East but elsewhere as well. If one may borrow from Deputy Colm Keaveney’s stock of Latin phrases: festina lente – hasten slowly.
It might be smarter to train the politicians better in social media and beat the “trolls” at their own game.
Fógra:After many happy years on the staff of this newspaper, the present writer has decided to move on in the near future, and wishes to thank readers for their support over the years. Míle buíochas agus gach rath oraibh.