THE PARTY MAY BE in a state of disarray on the national front but Wexford Fianna Fáil still turned out in large numbers on Friday night to honour a man who has never failed them at General Election time. Extra tables had to be produced at the Riverside Park hotel as supporters came to toast three decades of John Browne in Leinster House.
'He represents the soul of what Fianna Fáil is all about,' declared party leader Micheál Martin who came to Enniscorthy to lead the tributes to the veteran politician. Deputy Browne's wife Judy and their children James, Caitriona and Judy junior were among those shared the thirtieth anniversary cake.
' The Fianna Fáil heart still beats and the organisation in Wexford is still strong,' declared John Browne in response to the words of praise from former TD Michael Ahern and former councillor Peter Byrne. However, he accepted that the party is now on the ropes after he came perilously close to losing the seat he first won in 1982. Micheál Martin pointed out that the Enniscorthy stalwart increased his vote in each of the eight Dáil elections he contested, until the trauma of last year's poll.
The attendance included several former Oireachtas colleagues, including MEP Liam Aylward and ex-senator Donie Cassidy along with public representatives past and present, constituency activists and supporters. Among the 400 was independent councillor Padge Reck from Wexford, while FG rival Paul Kehoe sent regards, which were read out by compere Barbara Anne Murphy.
Amidst all the talk of politics and plans to renew the battered FF brand, the man at the centre of the celebrations confessed that politics comes third in his life behind family and the Rapparees/starlights.
'A party for the people which puts the people before personal gain – Fianna Fáil was always that,' he mused, dropping a hint that he may retire at the next General Election: 'It is up to those who follow to regroup and re-build the organisation.'