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Alison O'Connor: FF needs to wake up and accept general rejection

LATE last year Eamon O Cuiv said he believed some people wanted to "rid" Ireland of the Catholic Church, the GAA and Fianna Fail.

His remarks certainly showed perspicacity in relation to his own party, but it has to be said the other two, unlike post-election Fianna Fail, continue to have representation in every county and constituency throughout Ireland.

There are huge swathes of the country where Fianna Fail, once a national institution, appears to have disappeared.

The party had a general rejection rather than a general election, with the voters determined to exact a vicious revenge.

The relationship between Fianna Fail and the Irish public took a long time to collapse but when it did it was spectacular.

The voters made their feelings more than clear, but various Fianna Failers are still attempting to talk their way around their party's meltdown.

It was an election drubbing that matched their worst nightmares. However, those that lost seats, those that failed to win seats, and the few that were successful, appear to remain in that collective state of denial, refusing to acknowledge what has actually happened and why.

Will it take until the first day of the new Dail convenes -- when the paltry 20 or so male deputies take their places on the opposition benches -- before they, and the wider party hierarchy, comprehend what has just happened. At that point Micheal Martin could do well to offer some group therapy support, for the psychological fallout could be massive.

Former Tipperary South TD and junior minister Martin Mansergh was complaining on Saturday that RTE commentators were using "inaccurate words" such as "wipeout" about the party's shocking result.

How else to describe the loss of up to 60 seats, and the fact there are no Fianna Fail TDs in up to 25 of our 43 constituencies? Who would ever have thought it possible?

Listening to Mansergh and others you might think that Fine Gael and Labour were simply lucky on the day, and that gracious FF would stand aside and lend them the levers of power for a short while.

Even after their pasting, Martin continued yesterday to peddle the explanation for our current economic crisis as being some combination of circumstances, bad luck, "too much political consensus" and Uncle Tom Cobley. He and other Fianna Failers have developed a way of speaking about their pivotal role in the downfall of the country where they use language to distance themselves from the scene of the crime, and ensure not to pin anything concrete on themselves.

Martin said that he was determined to rebuild the party. His job is made all the more difficult by the loss of deputies such as Darragh O'Brien in Dublin North, Thomas Byrne in Meath East and Sean Connick in Wexford, not to mention the failure to elect any number of possibly talented new deputies.

Looking at the new line-up of all male TDs, there are certainly a few who would make effective frontbench spokespeople, but practically all have the whiff of the old regime about them.

Some of them point to the success of Fine Gael in rebuilding after the 2002 General Election, but that party had far less of a fall, was left with over 10 more TDs than Fianna Fail, and had none of the toxic brand baggage with which FF remains lumbered.

The rebuilding project is also hampered by FF's debt, reported to be close to €3m -- and that was before the election. As a greatly reduced party in terms of TDs, with a much poorer share of the vote, its state funding will also be reduced significantly. Corporate donors are unlikely to be knocking at the door.

Martin said yesterday that there was only one place for his party now and "that's up".

On the contrary Micheal, Saturday may just have been the beginning of the end, or the beginning of a tortuously slow journey back to respectability.

Irish Independent