Fianna Fáil Árdfheis: New party objectives include defending democracy and climate action

‘We’re a big state party’: TD James Lawless says Fianna Fáil is centre left party

Fianna Fáil has voted in a new statement of aims and objectives for only the third time since it was founded in 1926.

The new document was adopted by the árdfheis, being held in Dublin on Saturday, following a unanimous vote.

A commission of party members rewrote the terms of the aims and objectives, chaired by TD James Lawless, who is honorary secretary of the party and brought the new document before the árdfheis.

The Kildare North TD said new elements needed to be introduced to reflect how politics has changed. He pointed to the inclusion of an objective to defend Irish democracy for the first time, which was partially in response to evolving security threats.

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“Look at the Nord Stream cable intersection this week, look at the Russian activity off our shores in the Atlantic last year, and look at the cyberattack on the HSE. Forty per cent of the EU’s data is housed in Ireland, we have a really important economic asset, that is our data.”

He also said there were threats from electoral interference and disinformation. The document also includes aims and objectives on climate action and biodiversity, which he said was now enshrined in the goals of the party.

“I think it’s quite something that will go through a Fianna Fáil Árdfheis.”

He said that Fianna Fáil was a “big state party”.

“We’re not a party that says, well, we’ll give you back your tax dollars and you can spend it how you please,” which was a difference between it and Fine Gael. “We’re a big state party,” he said, adding that it was “not hard” to draw out differences between the two, with Fianna Fáil being centre left and Fine Gael centre right in his view.

On the question of governing with Sinn Féin, he said he would consider going into government with any party with an electoral mandate if Fianna Fáil were the “majority party”. He said he “wouldn’t have any automatic no” but that Sinn Féin would have to change some of its policy and acknowledge the “constitutional entity which is the state”.

“I think they are a populist party, I think they’re a party that preaches propaganda and whips up hysteria at times for electoral benefit — that’s not compatible with defending our democracy,” he said.

Mr Lawless said it was a “reboot and a rebrand” of the party which “in a sense was standing on the shoulders of giants” as he felt Fianna Fáil was the party of Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet “in the Jacobite tradition”.

He also referenced The Rights of Man by the political philosopher Thomas Paine and the idea of pooled sovereignty under a state “Leviathan” as described by Thomas Hobbes.

The brightly coloured document outlining the new aims and objectives outlines how Fianna Fáil believes in “rewarding enterprise”, “building the future” and “community and meitheal”.

He conceded it was possibly the first time Hobbes had been referenced from the stage at a Fianna Fáil Árdfheis.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times