John Drennan: FF is a political ghost estate and must be demolished
There are people out there who could reignite hope in the wake of the party's demise
Published 25/03/2012 | 05:00
IN the wake of the Mahon report, the most patriotic thing Fianna Fail can now do is turn its face to the wall, pay off its creditors and announce its immediate disbandment.
Unfortunately, like the shop assistant in the Monty Python parrot sketch, the party will probably take a lot of convincing.
Last week, however, Fianna Fail experienced the political version of the day where Dorian Gray tipped up to the attic to see the portrait of his real self.
In the wake of the planning tribunal, five of the seven Fianna Fail Taoisigh are tainted, for, though the sins of Albert and Jack Lynch may be ones of omission, they share the same dock as de Valera, that silent thief of the shares of the simple Irish Press shareholders, Haughey and Ahern.
And that is before we get to the spectacle of two 'corrupt' Ministers for Justice (Burke and Flynn) or the squalid fate of Mr Cowen, whose dyspeptic frailties (we are being kind) destroyed the state.
In truth, we are being even kinder to Jack Lynch for the slide away from the idealism of a Lemass who gambled with his life twice in the GPO and the Four Courts for the Republic can be traced to that point in the Arms Crisis where Lynch attempted to tiptoe away from the treason of his ministers until his collar was felt by Liam Cosgrave.
From that moment, Fianna Fail became the equivalent of Joyce's old sow that devoured her own farrow for, given a choice between Haughey and 'standing for the Republic', it then, and consistently ever after, chose party -- and pocket -- over country until the latter was devoured.
Even up to the recent Ard Fheis, new, reinvented, pious moral Fianna Fail was lying to itself about a possible future. Well, the lying game's over now.
The electorate may not have hung the permanent sick note of Irish politics on a meat-hook but Mahon certainly did, and in its wake no sane people would even consider taking it down.
Some will argue Fianna Fail should be kept to save us from the 'threat' posed by SF/FF Nua. But, outside of noting this is as ferocious as a gust of wind from a 'Gilmore gale', Fianna Fail cannot fulfil that role because protesters against the current government won't switch to its doppelganger.
Instead, asking these destitute derelicts to play the same political role as the worthless son who is only fit to stand in the gap and stop the cattle from going into the corn will only degrade the quality of our political life even further.
This means that the only appropriate pound of flesh Fianna Fail can provide in payment for its sins is to declare its own extinction and clear the field so that a real party can rebuild the Republic.
Lest any old ghosts be tempted to race out doing pre-emptive laps of honour, no-one is looking for a reprise of the Progressive Democrats.
While the pragmatic Irish voters do not like ideological nags, they are, however, enthusiasts for parties that convey a clear sense of direction and of radicalism.
And a gap is swiftly emerging in the market for a party that is able to represent the interests of the 'pragmatic doers' (yes we know, it seem to be impossible to escape those PDs) in our state.
The space has emerged because Fine Gael has, with alarming speed, colonised Fianna Fail's historic role of 'looking after' dominant insiders.
Labour, meanwhile, has retreated back to its public sector worker comfort blanket whilst Sinn Fein/FF Nua is seeking to colonise those whom Vincent Browne believes to be the disadvantaged sector of Irish society.
Increasingly, though, vast sectors of our society, such as those who are newly unemployed but desire to be self employed, those who wish to remain employed, and those public sector workers who want to be gainfully employed, feel as though they have no-one to represent them.
If any party is to successfully challenge the politically amoral union of Sinn Fein with the Michael Wallace wing of the independents, the complacent centre of Fine Gael and an uncertain Labour Party, it will need critical mass within the Dail and high-profile outside candidates.
These, however, may be coming, for in Leinster House we suspect figures such as Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly are not alone amongst the independents in realising they are engaged in an exercise in futility. Outside of the Dail, perhaps the two best icons any party seeking to represent the 'pragmatic doers' within this state are the very different figures of Ivan Yates and Sean Gallagher.
The spectacle, in particular, of Yates, essentially being forced to leave productive work to go abroad for a year to go bankrupt so he can regain his life epitomises the banking-driven economic madness that is keeping the domestic economy in the basket case that the Tiger thrust it into so roughly.
Michael McDowell's capacity to secure the attention of the voters and his ability to terrify Fine Gael with the rigour of his thinking means he is a necessity, while the organisational abilities and hard-edged vision Declan Ganley possesses is another political asset that is going to waste.
Radicalism could be provided, meanwhile, by the contrasting figures of Eddie Hobbs and David McWilliams and while it is unlikely, alas, that George Lee could be persuaded back into politics, we are sure there are other Georges out there who might if elected, even stay in the Dail.
Any party that plans to represent the real 'pragmatic doers' of the state might even be radical enough to head-hunt a few women. It would indeed be nice to see figures such as Ann Marie Hourihane, Maura Derrane or the ICA bootcamp ladies become involved in the Irish political scene.
Of course, when it comes to who may form the nucleus of this new party the sin that dare not yet name its name is
the critical mass of Fianna Fail TDs and senators who still have ambitions to be of some use to the world.
Political traditionalists such as Sean Fleming and Willie O'Dea might find it a leap too far to abandon the old name, but Michael McGrath, Niall Collins, John McGuinness, Dara Calleary, Billy Kelleher, the fellow from Donegal with the un-pronounceable name, Eamon O Cuiv and Timmy Dooley would, in tandem with the independents, provide such a party with a real presence in the Dail.
That might not be the end of the new recruits -- for within Fine Gael, three years of affable, unthreatening Enda is a long time if you are an ideological ambitious TD.
We won't name names just yet... but you know who you are.
The one clear thing emerging from the current amorphous Dail is that Ireland needs an opposition that is Euro-sceptic rather than Euro-stupid, which is not afraid of the public sector, but also not inclined to attack the public sector's very existence and which is capable also of attracting those who used to think Labour, vote Fianna Fail and are now thinking of voting for SF.
The poor old political ghost estate that is Fianna Fail, with its relics such as Micheal of the basset eyes are, to borrow a phrase from Biffo, neither 'qualified nor able' for such a task.
They should therefore, like de Valera and the defeated civil war Republicans, step down, surrender, lay down their arms and clear the political stage for the living.