FF presidential pantomime far from over - oh no, it's not


DÁIL SKETCH:Micheál Martin and co may have found an Independent, Continuity Fianna Fáil candidate but they’ve definitely lost their marbles

LOST. VICINITY Kildare Street. One set of marbles. If found, please return to Fianna Fáil, c/o Micheál Martin, Leinster House, Dublin.

We’re not holding out much hope.

What are they at? It seems Fianna Fáil has decided to take the comedic route to destruction. Redemption, sadly, appears beyond them.

Yesterday, as the latest episode of their side-splitting Road to the Áras saga unfolded, the slapstick was almost too much to bear.

Such was the absurdity of the script, even some members of the performing company found themselves corpsing on the plinth. Tragedy or comedy? By teatime, nobody could tell the difference.

Sure they have to laugh, because the alternative is grim.

But not for members of Fine Gael or Labour or Sinn Féin or any organisation other than Fianna Fáil — the tears of mirth were pooling in the turn-ups of their trousers as the day went on.

The cause of this merriment is Labhrás. Labhrás Ó Murch-who? Yup. He’s the latest great grey hope. A Fianna Fáil Senator for donkey’s years, who thinks he has what it takes to be president and just needs the imprimatur of his party to get on the ballot paper.

Only FF has decreed that they won’t be fielding a candidate. So Labhrás Ó Murch-who is looking to the party of which he is a long-time member for their blessing to run as an Independent.

Independent, Continuity Fianna Fáil, provisionally speaking.

That should go down well with the voters.

Young buck Labhrás, who has been the Big Bodhrán in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann since Victorian times, is taking the traditional route: approached by persons unknown pleading with him to stand. Honoured and humbled. Looked into heart. Churlish to refuse.

Yesterday, he made his move. This is what the nation has been waiting for. It has been said, since the start of this ridiculous presidential pantomime, that somebody would emerge from

left field at the last minute and set this contest on fire.

A person of charisma. A person with a proven track record of electoral magnetism. A star.

Say hello to Labhrás (72).

He’s a Senator, you know. You do, don’t you? He is the future. He is already making waves. And like Moses, he has parted them.

Hilariously, Fianna Fáil, hugely diminished following the general election and trying to function with a parliamentary party of just 33, is already split.

Over Labhrás.

He told Micheál Martin of his intentions yesterday. And with his trademark decisiveness, Micheál sent him away with a flea in his ear.

Labhrás – everything about him screams “zeitgeist” – ignored him and declared he would go before the parliamentary party and seek their approval anyway.

Obviously, given the leader’s attitude he was on a hiding to nothing. Which is why their meeting went on for nearly four hours, then adjourned for an hour, then resumed at 7pm as TDs and Senators took sides for and against their leader.

In the end, they couldn’t reach a decision and Ó Murch-who’s aspiration remains alive.

A mortifying state of affairs for Micheál Martin and the “progressive” wing of the party. A result for those who resent him.

In Leinster House, the situation had politicians, staff and media in fits yesterday.

Just as the FF leadership had begun to recover from the embarrassment of the Gay-Byrne-for-president fiasco, a new wave of mishaps occurred. Brian Crowley MEP, probably the party’s best hope for a decent electoral showing, withdrew his name in disgust.

Micheál Martin – apparently hellbent on bringing indecision to an art form – is showing leadership on their presidential strategy by sowing confusion. Fianna Fáil won’t be nominating a candidate, but it might support somebody else, then again, it might not, maybe.

All options are open and the parliamentary party is taking off in all directions.

The truth is, Fianna Fáil has gone feral.

In the midst of all of this, where stands David Norris? Damned if Fianna Fáil knows. They might even give him a digout yet. Just to spite the Labhrás céilí band of disgruntled old-stagers who are still miffed over the top table’s commitment to the young bloods.

The robust challenge from Labhrás and the convulsions it caused in the parliamentary party had people shaking their heads in disbelief.

It’s mad stuff. Why can’t Micheál assert his authority? Eamon Gilmore must be raging. As Tánaiste, he got his chance to take questions. He performed brilliantly, recapturing the spark that made him so popular before the election.

But his debut – he’ll be performing every Thursday morning – was totally overshadowed by the latest Fianna Fáil farce.

The party is all over the place. A laughing stock.

It looks like they’ll endorse anyone now. What odds on the dancing priest? They’ve lost their marbles.

Fianna Fáil is on the critical list.