Politics' great survivors losing faith in themselves
CHALLenges: Former Taoisigh Jack Lynch, left, and Charles Haughey, right, with Des O'MalleyThe Fianna Fail of old rode out the Arms Crisis and losing power-- but the party's fighting spirit is gone, says Kevin Rafter
FIANNA Fail has always been good with adversity. Forty years ago, the party survived revelations of ministerial involvement in an illegal gun-running operation. Jack Lynch sacked ministers and stood firm as calls for intervention in the emerging crisis in the North threatened his leadership and his party's place in the government.
Fianna Fail rallied in defence of its leader as the best means of self-preservation. "You can have Neil Blaney, but you can't have Fianna Fail," Paddy Hillery thundered from the podium at a party ard fheis. Fianna Fail narrowly lost power in 1973 but came storming back four years later to win a historic overall majority.
A tribal instinct deep in the Fianna Fail DNA bred self-preservation. The party always came first. The same Fianna Fail gene was evident in Eighties amid the internal civil war generated by Charlie Haughey's controversial leadership. Heaves led to splits -- and the exit of Des O'Malley, Mary Harney and others -- but the majority attitude was influenced by the best survival option.