In the News: Where did it all go wrong for Fianna Fáil?

After a poor general election and a disastrous byelection, the party’s survival is in question

Taoiseach Micheál Martin pictured at a press conference after receiving his Covid-19 vaccination. Political reporter Jennifer Bray says it would take more than a new leader to fix the deep and complicated issues facing Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Taoiseach Micheál Martin pictured at a press conference after receiving his Covid-19 vaccination. Political reporter Jennifer Bray says it would take more than a new leader to fix the deep and complicated issues facing Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

 

Next week, Fianna Fáil TDs, Senators and MEPs will gather in the town of Ballyconnell, Co Cavan to discuss the future of their political party.

This parliamentary think-in will, in large part, be forced to analyse and discuss the party’s poor results in the 2020 general election followed by a disastrous byelection in Dublin Bay South in July of this year.

Questions may also be asked regarding who Fianna Fáil actually represents in the Ireland of 2021 and whether the party, which once enjoyed a position of power that was seemingly untouchable, can actually survive into the future.

Meanwhile, the question of party leadership remains firmly on the political table with many members asking whether Micheál Martin is still the right person to lead Fianna Fáil.

The party’s electoral success of 2016 will no doubt seem like a distant memory to the participants of next week’s think in who will be focusing on survival and recovery.

So where did it all go wrong for a party that just five years ago made a stunning rise from the ashes of political ruin? What do the recent election defeats mean for Micheál Martin’s future as party leader and what does Fianna Fáil actually stand for in 2021?

Does it have a clear ideology and who does it seek to represent in Irish society?

Political reporter Jennifer Bray told the podcast it would take a lot more than a new leader to fix the deep and complicated issues facing Fianna Fáil.

“They’re trying to figure out their identity at the moment”, said Bray. “Fianna Fáil has always been a bit of a broad church and from what I can tell there’s no particular desire to steer the party down a one way track that is more affiliated with a Catholic conservative vision. In fact, there’s a really strong pull within the party to drag it more into line with what the public want whether that be social issues or taxation.”

However, Ireland should not yet write off a party like Fianna Fáil, she added. They have a massive infrastructure with a large number of councillors – a huge asset in terms of seeking out future talent for the party.

Also speaking on today’s In the News episode, Irish Times opinion writer Fintan O’Toole said Fianna Fáil had lived through two long and powerful lives in this country. The first of de Valera’s era is long gone and the second, which created a more modern Ireland while maintaining a strong alliance with the Catholic Church, has run its course, said O’Toole. This past ideology of Catholicism and nationalism is no longer relevant in the Ireland of the 2020s. There will be no third act for the party, concluded O’Toole.

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.

You can listen to the podcast here:
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