Martin pulls his punches in FF conference long on platitudes but short on inspiration

Sketch: Everyone waited for the party leader to get stuck into the Government. And waited . . .

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin delivers the leader’s address to  the party’s 75th ardfheis in Killarney. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin delivers the leader’s address to the party’s 75th ardfheis in Killarney. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 01:00

The Government is in crisis. The Cabinet appears divided.

The Taoiseach is all over the place – his carefully constructed image wilting under unwelcome scrutiny.

Happy days for Fianna Fáil, so.

Micheál Martin travelled to Kerry at the weekend with the political equivalent of an open goal in front of him.

In fairness, he didn’t miss the net. He just ran straight past it.

This was the party’s 75th ardfheis. A diamond jubilee milestone for the down-on-their- luck Soldiers of Destiny.

“Recovery for All” read their incomplete slogan . . . “Beginning with Ourselves” it should have finished.

Their conference was the last in a series of televised set- pieces from the main parties before the local and European election campaigns.

By a narrow margin, it triumphed as the dullest and most uninspiring of them all. For some unfathomable reason, Fianna Fáil decided not to make a drama out of the Coalition’s crisis.

The highlight of keynote night in the National Events Centre in Killarney came, not from anything done or said by Fianna Fáil, but from a little known Independent TD who got caught sending lewd messages to women and resigned his seat.

Eminently forgettable
Apart from the news of Patrick Nulty’s Facebook indiscretions, Saturday night in Killarney was eminently forgettable.

This, despite the Government obligingly teeing up Fianna Fáil’s ardfheis for them with a dreadful few months of messy management and depressingly old-school politics.

Yes, they had dirtied their bib while in power, but the people made them pay dearly for it. Three years down the line, Fianna Fáil has done its fair share of apologising.

Time to starting motoring a little again.

Against this backdrop, there should have been more flair and fortitude to the fightback on Saturday.

Micheál Martin managed just one sickly swipe at Alan Shatter, and not a mention of the whstleblowers he’s been loudly cherishing in the Dáil.

And what about that great punchline gifted to him by the Garda Commissioner, aided and abetted by Shatter and the Taoiseach’s unswerving support?

Want to know what is really “disgusting”?

Micheál could have given receptive TV viewers chapter and verse on Government statements and deeds that could more properly be described as “disgusting!”

But he didn’t.

Fianna Fáil has adopted a strange approach to the whistleblowing drama that is Disgusting Gate. The party is keen to attack the Minister for Justice and his Government, but is pulling its punches when it comes to the Garda Commissioner.

It is as if it has taken a decision not to say anything that might discommode the upper echelons of the force.

In the end, not much of a speech, full of platitudes and aspiration but little more.

Maybe, in the run-up, the party became paralysed with shock when they took a look at Fine Gael and Labour and saw themselves staring back.