Saturday 1 October 2016

Hanafin's FF revival opens old wounds within party

Published 21/01/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil's Mary Hanafin. Photo: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil's Mary Hanafin. Photo: Arthur Carron

On a bitterly cold January evening in 2011, Brian Cowen posed outside Government Buildings with his wife Mary by his side.

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Just moments earlier, it was announced that the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party had passed a motion of confidence in the then Taoiseach.

Among those who challenged Cowen's faltering leadership were two of his own Cabinet members - Micheál Martin and Mary Hanafin.

Martin, who would later succeed Cowen as leader, quickly resigned as his Foreign Affairs Minister, telling reporters after the vote: "One has to make a stand."

Fives years on, the situation in Fianna Fáil is very different.

But one trademark of Irish politics is that 'old wounds never truly heal'.

And the sentiment behind the phrase coined by the novelist George R.R. Martin surfaced within the Fianna Fáil party this week.

The decision by Mary Cowen to launch an astonishing attack on Ms Hanafin stems from the Dún Laoghaire councillor's decision to oppose the motion of confidence in her husband, party sources say.

Defied

The two Fianna Fáil women have not properly spoken since the day Ms Hanafin sided with Mr Martin and defied their party leader.

Ms Cowen's remarks on Facebook suggest that she is bitter over Ms Hanafin's resurgence within the Fianna Fáil fold.

Ms Hanafin's growing prominence within the party, as well as her regular media appearances, appear to have struck a chord.

And Ms Cowen is by no means alone in holding those views. The party is deeply divided over Ms Hanafin's newly found role within the party.

Some, many of whom are frontbench members, wish she would just get off the pitch and stop making criticisms of modern day Fianna Fáil.

A growing number of other party members, however, including two senior TDs, privately say they agree with Ms Hanafin's position on being open about the prospect of a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition after the General Election.

Ms Cowen's intervention has made one thing clear. The party remains deeply fragmented and torn, with different dynasties still holding sway.

But with an election just weeks away, the spat between these Fianna Fáil families will only achieve one thing - playing into the hands of Fine Gael.

Irish Independent

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