Ambitious FFers need to keep an eye on the main chance
Published 04/04/2015 | 02:30
Some cynics call it "rat-like cunning", but it can never be underestimated in the political game.
One way or another, ambitious Fianna Fáil frontliners need to keep an eye out for the main chance these days, as the party stays stuck at a crossroads without a signpost in sight.
Biding one's time is all very well. But in politics the opportunity to land one of the bigger prizes is often more about timing than anything else.
Low-key jitters have hit FF with a vengeance this past week. The morose mutterings of Éamon Ó Cuív, and those flinty stares from John McGuinness, remind Micheál Martin of the brooding sense of uncertainty which stalks his party.
The biggest problem seems to be that the harder both Deputy Martin and FF try to make their mark, the less thanks they get from an often confused, disgruntled and volatile electorate.
So should some of his frontbenchers and more ambitious types think the unthinkable - and try and position themselves for a Cabinet seat in a possible Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition after the general election?
Of course, even contemplating such a get-together is a shock to the political sensibilities of many; it would have been simply unimaginable even some months ago.
But there is a time and tide in the flow of things, and all sorts of forces are conflating which may force the two main parties into some sort of political arrangement, no matter how unpalatable it may seem to some.
We will, of course, have to wait and see how the general election pans out - and when the dust has settled the numbers as always will tell the only really true story.
The core problem for Micheál Martin is that the old party mantra of more or less being all things to all people simply doesn't work any more.
In its heyday there were three great pillars underpinning what were hailed Fianna Fáil "core values".
The first is that it would try might and main to bring back the sundered fourth green field and deliver a united Ireland.
Secondly, it would always be the party of the so-called common man, as well as the small farmer, the social welfare recipient, and generally speaking those whose fortunes were less than flush. It would be the antidote to the old Cumann na nGaedheal, Fine Gael, and Blueshirt inclination, to favour the better-off and the well-heeled.
And thirdly, in recent decades Fianna Fáil - in addition to its traditional power base - also began to cater for the affluent and big business. From the Haughey era onwards, party chiefs sipped champagne with the rich and famous and those on the make, whether it be in some swish Dublin hotels or in the infamous Galway tent.
For a time, FF did indeed try to be all things to all people. But the illusion simply could not last. That three-way support base has been fractured to such an extent that things can never be quite the same again.
And there is also a secret we have known for a good while now: there is hardly a scintilla of difference between the two main political parties.
How many rows are manufactured just to try and carve out some distance between them both? But it's really just Tweedledum and Tweedledee at play.
All too often a spokesman from one party or another harrumphs about something - while trying to work up some pseudo indignation for the gallery.
Even when it comes to the fourth green field - allowing perhaps for a few malcontents in FF - the two parties are essentially singing from the same hymn sheet.
Yet in the real world of modern day Irish politics, they both share a common purpose in trying to keep Sinn Féin at bay.
It just may be time for some of the those aching with power lust in Fianna Fáil to think the unthinkable.
If the party can't hold its line in the middle ground should it contemplate some kind of deal with the old enemy?
The lines from a certain WB Yeats once more come to mind:"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."