Sunday 25 September 2016

Expect a lot of ire from Fianna Fail grassroots about leaks from the top echelons

Ahead of next week's Fianna Fail ard fheis, Willie O'Dea says the party faithful want to see less infighting and more confronting of opponents

Willie O'Dea

Published 19/04/2015 | 02:30

Enda Kenny promised the people back in 2011 that his election as Taoiseach would herald an era of New Politics. It hasn't.
Enda Kenny promised the people back in 2011 that his election as Taoiseach would herald an era of New Politics. It hasn't.

Next weekend, thousands of Fianna Fail delegates from across the country will gather together in the RDS for what is still one of the biggest political events on the island. While there is always a major social side to these gatherings, I strongly suspect next weekend's assembly will be one of the most serious and intensely purposeful ard fheiseanna of my political career.

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The party has had to go through a lot of political buffeting in recent weeks, though none of it, mercifully, on the scale of the battering we endured back in 2010/2011. Regrettably, much of it has been self-inflicted, courtesy of some unhelpful and frequently ill-informed comments from unattributed "senior sources".

Though I don't expect we will have a "you can have Boland, but you can't have Fianna Fail" moment, I do expect to see a lot of grassroots members expressing their anger at the recent leaks from the upper echelons of the party. They want us - all of us - taking the battle to the Government and Sinn Fein, not to each other. They want to see us talking to the country about how we can build future prosperity and a fairer society, not talking to political correspondents about personal gripes and rivalries.

They want to see us demonstrating our ambitions for our country by talking about radical policies that show that politics can and will change, not remonstrating with ourselves over internal matters.

Enda Kenny promised the people back in 2011 that his election as Taoiseach would herald an era of New Politics. It hasn't. What he has brought about is a rehash of the worst of cynical politics: broken promises and failed initiatives covered over with buckets of spin.

Enda and Joan prove, day after day, that their two parties have not learned anything from what has befallen the country over the past decade. Remember when Enda told us "Fine Gael will take on the big vested interests that have contributed to the current crisis - the bankers, the bondholders, the developers and the unions"?

Can anyone truthfully say he has attempted to do any of that? His army of press people spins about it constantly, but when it comes to substance, there is nothing to show. But even worse than not learning the lessons of the acknowledged mistakes of the past, Enda and Joan are now well along the road of repeating the worst of them.

Just as Fine Gael and Labour promised to tax less and spend more than Fianna Fail back in 1997, 2002 and 2007, they are at it once again. Since Christmas, the Fine Gael and Labour parties have been hinting loudly in interviews and selective leaks that there will be a lot of free goodies to come if the public back them again. Over the past three or four months we have seen talk about paid paternity leave, abolishing the public sector pension levy and giving tax relief to landlords who do not put up their rents.

The Government spins these things to the media, but only after they are widely reported does it quietly emerge the plans may have been dropped, denied or 'officially' dismissed as unaffordable. It is a three-card trick with blank cards.

Fianna Fail must do more, a lot more, than just point out the wasted opportunities of the current Government on one hand versus the empty rhetoric of Sinn Fein on the other. Fianna Fail needs to show it can provide the progressive alternative to both extremes.

Fianna Fail destroyed people's confidence in us. Fine Gael and Labour seized that opportunity but then recklessly squandered it by duping the public into thinking they were any better.

People do not just want a real alternative to what they have now, they need it and Fianna Fail has the responsibility and duty to provide it.

Willie O'Dea is a Fianna Fail TD for Limerick City

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