Johnny Fallon: FF has been a battled warship hugging the coast for the past year ... now it must make for open sea
FIANNA Fail faces an Ard Fheis that could be a defining moment in its history. A time when the party may finally begin to break with the shadows and problems that surround it and reach to rebuild anew. On the other hand historians may look back on it as the last missed opportunity, a platform the party failed to kick on from before fading into the small party obscurity. That is why so much attention is being heaped on the party before next weekend, rarely has any party faced such an intriguing juncture.
The most recent Opinion poll will have seen much rubbing of necks and puffing out of cheeks. The reaction to it will be muted. There will be those who will have rushed to Micheál Martin to point out some positives: ‘the recovery only starts this weekend’, or perhaps ‘this particular poll has a different methodology that is questionable’. And the final clutch at straws: ‘this is a good thing as it focuses attention on Sinn Fein’. Within each of these arguments is a crumb of merit, but deep down only a fool would believe that Fianna Fail could be happy with it. They would much rather be on 25pc themselves.
Such is the euphoria that Fianna Fail members can derive from an Ard Fheis that the poll is unlikely to dampen their spirits ahead of the weekend. This opportunity has been a long time coming for many of them. Fianna Fail could easily have been at this point within six months of the last general election, but they did not want to rush things or take risks. The party has taken a full year to converse with itself and lick its wounds. For many of its members this weekend marks an end to this housekeeping stuff and time for the party to look outward again. Let’s be clear, for the majority who will attend the Ard Fheis the basic survival of Fianna Fail is not their aim. For most, Fianna Fail should be attempting to restore itself as a major national party, or else be destroyed in an attempt to do so. A half life of low percentages is no future for Fianna Fail, in their eyes.