Saturday 14 December 2019

FF performance proves that resilience is greatest political virtue

Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher. Photo: Tom Burke
Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher. Photo: Tom Burke

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

IN A strange way, this was an election Fianna Fail won, or at least survived by stealth and quite possibly by accident.

Nothing epitomised this strange alchemy more than the strange battle of Blackrock where by a curious mixture of chaos theory and incompetence FF have managed to secure two council seats where there was previously only one. Elections are, however, painted in bright sweeping colours and FF's top strategic imperative was to avoid being annihilated by Sinn Fein.

As it happens, Sinn Fein in this election has feasted on the Labour Party to the point where the feared political wolf of a Green Party meltdown is no longer outside the house.

It is, instead, in the Labour bedroom dining on the already cooling political corpses of Labour's Grumpy Old Men. In contrast, though, Sinn Fein has found the Fianna Fail dinosaur has been a far tougher nut to crack to such an extent that Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher may be the man who will foil Sinn Fein's dream of a Troika of EU candidates.

That is not to say it has been a perfect performance by Fianna Fail.

Sharp comparisons are being made with Enda Kenny who took FG within two years back to a position of some strength after their own meltdown of 2004.

The Fine Gael leader's success in that regard was seen as representing a key turning point in convincing his own party let alone the public that Fine Gael had a future.

However, FF can argue that, when compared to FG in 2004, the playing field is skewed to their disadvantage. The biggest threat to FG's survival in 2002 was Labour and that, frankly, isn't operating on a similar level to Sinn Fein.

And whilst the worst that could be said of FG in 2002 is that the voters slaughtered them with indifference, FF was annihilated with malice aforethought in 2011.

The FF leader's friends set the bar low for Micheal Martin noting that a similar vote to the council disaster of 2009, where FF was wiped off the electoral map of our municipal authorities, and two European seats were seen as being sufficient to the day would be enough.

In the end though, FF roused themselves from the floor of 2011 they struggled to even meet those modest thresholds.

This was a scenario that was not entirely of their own making for the dramas that accompanied SF meant that FF throughout the elections, despite being the lead opposition party, were peripheral practitioners until they managed to conjure up a couple of melodramas of their own.

The Mary Hanafin/Kate Feeney furore, where ironically both these council candidates secured a higher public profile than the party's EU candidate Mary Fitzpatrick, typified the stuttering strategically uncertain performance of the leadership.

Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons chided the ambitious Richard Rich over his willingness to lose his soul for something as minor as Wales.

Micheal's gambit where the attempt to divorce FF from its past was sacrificed for a council seat in Dun Laoghaire had a familiar ring to it. Even without the debacle of Dun Laoghaire there was no shortage of ghosts from the past as a pair of political jack in the boxes called Bertie and Hanafin popped out to offer most unwelcome views about Micheal's capacities.

It is, however, a tribute to the ongoing resilience of the party that despite the relatively disastrous nature of the campaign the party survived.

And given their new status as the chief bulwark against Sinn Fein, it is possible that it may yet thrive for, as the careers of Bertie and Enda Kenny prove, resilience is really the greatest Irish political virtue.

Sunday Independent

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