Fianna Fáil problems began years before 2011
Published 02/04/2015 | 02:30
Many people within Fianna Fáil will tell you their problems took a turn for the worse around the June 2007 General Election
In hindsight they say that winning that third election in a row was a milestone on route to the tough place in which they find themselves now. Keen students of politics will remember that the party damn nearly lost that election and things only turned very belatedly in its favour.
As that election campaign was only limbering up, this writer went to see one of the party's kingpins in the southern half of the country.
"In many ways it would be better if we lost the next one. The party structures are falling asunder and the overhaul needed can only be done by a party in opposition," the party heavy-hitter said.
The irony is that Fianna Fáil has never done opposition well. A bit like Kilkenny and Kerry supporters who don't know what to do with themselves on a given September Sunday, Fianna Fáil has always found politics without power a rather pointless carry on. For the bulk of its existence Fianna Fáil has been about getting, using and keeping power.
The party remains culturally a big organisation which finds it difficult to come to terms with its drastically reduced circumstances.
One Oireachtas member laughingly recalled some of his colleagues' attempts to find their way to Dublin West in October 2011 to campaign for the by-election following the tragic and untimely passing of Brian Lenihan Jr.
"Up to recent times there would be an abundance of state cars driven by guards who knew their way around. How the mighty have fallen!" he only half-joked at the time.
There were warnings over the previous decades about Fianna Fáil's closeness to business figures, and to builders especially, those people who put in large sums of money. The late Seamus Brennan had publicly warned that the reputational damage of the 'Galway Races tent' was not worth the party donations it yielded.
But abundant party funding also lessened the organisational benefit of voluntarism. The professionalisation of many of the party's basic services undermined the party's branch structures. This is among the many problems which urgently need addressing. In that instance all is very far from lost.
The huge throng in Kerry last week at a gutsy Fianna Fáil selection convention harks back to much better days. The resultant battle over who will and won't be added to the ticket is another positive.
But such throwbacks to better times will not be enough to haul Fianna Fáil back from the abyss. The current crop of 20 TDs were expected to adopt and promote ground work in neighbouring constituencies. But few of them have bothered to do this.