Sunday 23 July 2017

Mary Lou's piece of perestroika could reshape politics for decades to come

It is looking as if 2017 could well reshape Irish politics on many fronts for a long time. Ed Brophy considers the realpolitik of the moment

Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Tom Burke

Ed Brophy

There are, said Lenin, decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks in which decades happen. When Minister of State Eoghan Murphy reminded a gathering of global financiers in Dublin Castle about this last Tuesday, he was attempting to put the pivotal events of 2016 into perspective.

Little did he realise that at the same time, an act of political perestroika that may reshape our politics for decades to come was unfolding nearby, as Sinn Fein deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, unsentimentally ditched her movement's most cherished goal - a Sinn Fein majority government. The most immediate victim of this realpolitik is chief ideologue Eoin O Broin, leading advocate of the majority strategy and now likely to be airbrushed from the official version of history.

The majority strategy was always fanciful, but it has now been put to the sword by political reality. The pivot to participation in government as a minority partner is grounded in a hard-headed assessment of the party's prospects in the Republic. O Broin's vision was predicated on the emergence of a grand coalition between FF and FG after last year's inconclusive election, leaving the field clear for Gerry Adams as leader of the Opposition. Instead, with FF tacking to the left as the minority government's conscience and surrounded by a large group of far-left smaller parties and independents, the party is being squeezed on both flanks. Something had to give.

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