Fianna Fáil keeping it low-key after embarassment of previous “think-ins”
Martin confined to training manoeuvres
The real business will be conducted in private today when the party plans for its first major test under Micheál Martin’s leadership - the local and European elections next year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
A political party that has been cast into opposition is like a star international outhalf who has been dumped by a new manager. All the attention transfers to the new wearer of the No 10 and the rejected one has no choice but to sit on the sub’s bench.
Shorn of power, the only hope is the paradox of an overall win for the team and a lousy performance at the same time by the direct rival.
After the disaster of February 2011, Fianna Fáil has been doing relatively well on the training ground but it knows that there’s no sign of a first-team outing any time into the foreseeable future. And besides, it’s not championship season yet.
And the party’s annual strategy meeting of TDs and Senators – vulgarised as a “think-in” – in Waterford has shown all the signs of an off-season fixture. After the trouncing it took two and a half years ago the party has recovered a lot of ground and self-confidence although its rise has recently plateaued.
The first day of the two-day meeting, from a media perspective, was low-key bordering on a news-free zone. There was a time when all parties spent the summer months dreaming up “eye-opening initiatives” to unveil at these events. For example, in 2003 Fine Gael launched a major critique of benchmarking claiming that it would cost more than €1 billion a year at least with no reciprocation on productivity (how prescient they were).
This is the third such meeting by Fianna Fáil since the general election and all have been downplayed. In a sense you can understand why – the painful and embarrassing memories of Brian Cowen’s piteous Morning Ireland interview at this event in September 2010 are still stark.
There was little to glean yesterday. Party leader Micheál Martin believes the Seanad referendum is still “all to play for”. The party wants a budget expenditure of below €3.1 billion but will not reveal the exact figure. Three of Ireland’s best known experts in their own fields – Donal O’Donovan (ex-IMF), Colm McCarthy (economist) and David Farrell (political scientist) – gave briefings.
The real business will be conducted in private today when the party plans for its first major test under Micheál Martin’s leadership - the local and European elections next year.