O’Herlihy says Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should come together
Broadcaster speaks of 'clean sweep idea' at Béal na Bláth commemoration
Broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy giving the oration at the annual Michael Collins commemorations in Beal na Blath.Photograph: Provision.
The coming together of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in some form would be the kind of dramatic “clean sweep idea” that inspired Michael Collins and his generation of politicians, the broadcaster and political strategist Bill O’Herlihy has contended at the annual Béal na Bláth commemoration.
In his address, Mr O’Herlihy argued that the divisions of the Civil War had become a damaging anachronism and also spoke of the “disturbing and retrograde” scenario that might arise if a Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin coalition were to become a possibility. In that sense, he made the argument of the need for a “sea-change” but one that would have much to offer. He asserted that in contradistinction to Sinn Féin, only Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had the “proven trust of the people of this Republic over the past eighty years.”
He also suggested the difference between the parties was negligible. “Does it make any sense to have the major political parties tussling for power where, for so long, the width of a sheet of tissue paper scarcely separated their policies? How much more progress, how much more reform would be possible if senseless old historical divisions were eliminated from our politics?”.
Mr O’Herlihy, best known as a sports presenter, has also been a lifelong activist and strategist for Fine Gael and was the late taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s media adviser during the 1970s. His speech to about 500 people, including relatives of Mr Collins and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, focused in its early stages on Michael Collin’s early involvement with the GAA in London.
He noted that he was described as an “effective midfielder” and said he suspected “his temper would have seen him capture a few red cards if they had been invented at the time”. However, Mr O’Herlihy said that the events from 1916 to the civil war were the “preoccupations of yesteryear”.
“There can only be so many rematches, there comes a time when old fights can no longer teach us any more lessons.” He said in Ireland there was the paradox of having the two best-supported political parties at loggerheads for generations over passions played out eighty years ago. “The vast majority of the people of Ireland have lost any real contact with that quarrel.”
Mr O’Herlihy said Mr Collins had a vision of an Ireland where with growing prosperity, each received what each contributed. He said that even in the best economic times, Ireland had never come close to achieving that. Setting out the need for a clean sweep idea, he also said that the distortion of political language must stop.
In words very supportive of Desmond O’Malley’s ‘I stand by the Republic’, he said the word republic should not mean something dark or threatening but that people would stand for a republic of equality, fair dealing, that had no time for “strokes, vested interests and political chicanery”.