John Drennan: Rare chance for Fianna Fail to put the country ahead of party's needs
FF's support for the fiscal treaty offers it an opportunity for some sort of redemption, writes John Drennan
Published 06/05/2012 | 05:00
The concept that Fianna Fail's support of the unloved fiscal compact offers Micheal Martin a real opportunity might appear surprising.
Even Martin, as he deals with his turbulent Galway minstrel Eamon O Cuiv, wandering around in a Celtic Twilight of euroscepticism, might not see it that way for, in the world of normal politics, oppositions generally thrive only when they exploit the Government's difficulties.
However, the unexpected hysteria in the government benches and the normal hysteria in the Sinn Fein/ United Left Alliance/Mick Wallace Independent Muppet Show offer Fianna Fail a unique opportunity to secure some form of redemption for past sins by playing the honest broker.
For many, the most astonishing feature of this referendum exercise is that it could be defeated for although the self-proclaimed 'most sophisticated electorate in Europe' have surpassed themselves regularly, a 'No' vote would represent a far more spectacular act of national immolation than merely falling for the guileful lies of a Bertie.
Should we vote 'No' with what the lawyers call 'malice aforethought', the Irish cuckoo in the EU nest would be seen by our EU 'partners' as having deliberately scuttled the rescue ship that wants us to return to civilised society at their expense.
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In fairness, our mischievous electorate's flirtation with the je ne regrette rien politics of 'No' is undoubtedly being influenced by the horror such a decision would spark among our elites and, not least of all, in that cantankerous Government of Grumpy Old Men.
But, destroying the fiscal, diplomatic and economic strategy of a government we elected, with eyes wide open to their limitations, would be an act of national nihilism where, far from merely cutting off our noses to spite our face, we would actually chop off the entire head.
Thankfully, despite the temptation to put Enda's Grumpy Old Men on the run, for once Fianna Fail has, with the exception of the Western minstrel, decided to take the road less travelled and act responsibly. Last week a reinvigorated Martin even sounded credible as he cleverly warned the key issue of the referendum was that "if Ireland is to recover, Ireland needs Europe's support".
Then we will find out very swiftly that the EU, and an IMF which is more than capable of imposing cuts on African countries that can't feed their children, will look coldly at the fiscally obese Irish Oliver Twist as we brandish a supersized public sector sponsored bowl, looking for more please.
And frankly the EU and the IMF would be right.
Nothing epitomised our national flaw more than the response when Michael Noonan dignified the debate with some hard facts about the real consequences of 'No'.
But, despite all the wails about 'scaremongering' by the 'Yes' camp, it is increasingly evident that the objectives of the 'No' alliance, which is battling to secure the support of that 40 per cent of the electorate who have lost confidence in the Government, are far more dubious.
The fate of Ireland, during and after the Cowen regime, should have taught us that if you smash a developed economy to smithereens, it is not easy to build it up again.
In fairness, at least the Socialist left is genuine in its indifference to the consequences of a referendum defeat, since its objective is to smash the capitalist system, while the Independent Muppet wing is incapable of any form of coherent analysis of its actions beyond the hope that it might be invited on to the Vincent Browne show.
In the case of Sinn Fein though, its tactics in advocating a 'No' vote is, like the political equivalent of diesel smugglers, to siphon off the support their ULA and Independent Muppet Show colleagues are securing from those voters who have already fallen into the abyss. This is to be done by masquerading as a left-wing party that represents the interests of the people of no -- or ironically too much -- property, for if you poach enough of those votes and lasso a Fianna Fail party led by some useful idiot (a tall thin man from the West comes to mind) many things are possible.
Ultimately, though, Sinn Fein's current pious face cannot disguise that, rather like Fianna Fail which consistently in its heyday put party above country, its stance is more about serving the interests of project Sinn Fein rather than the needs of the citizens.
The problem for the rest of us is that if Sinn Fein gets its way O Cuiv's claims about the similarity of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein would be validated.
Europe offers Martin and Fianna Fail a rare opportunity to campaign for something in which it actually believes.
Unlike just about everything else on which it has taken a stance, its European credentials are not compromised by Fianna Fail's disreputable past.
Though it is terribly dull, taking the responsible route does provide Fianna Fail with some benefits. Even in its current degraded state, it offers better options to the electorate than those to which Sinn Fein cannot even aspire.
Of course, were Fianna Fail to attach itself to a 'Yes' victory in the fiscal compact debate, it would be the smallest of victories, the benefits of which would be greedily usurped by the Government. But it might at last suggest that the party is witnessing the beginning of the end of its disgrace rather than the current endless night.
It would, in terms of the political reparations it still has to pay, represent a good beginning were that party and its supporters to behave responsibly, put country above party for once and see this desolate referendum across the line.
We as a nation are striking matches in the vicinity of an economic gunpowder keg.
But while after being so good for so brief a time, we are now enjoying the sensation of being bold, we might be grateful to the opposition party that guides us away from danger.
And, given its long-term affection for gunpowder, it's unlikely that the party we will be thanking would be Sinn Fein.