Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Builders' party' might just have a point

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Have you ever searched for an old book to check a detail, found it and then lost half an afternoon reading it? Well, this is a case in point: I write with 'Republican Days - 75 Years of Fianna Fáil' at my elbow.

Trust me, there is a link with the housing crisis and homelessness. The book's publication in 2002 coincided with the party archives being donated to UCD, and this handsome tome is a beguiling slice of Irish popular history.

But it was also remarkable that across 272 pages of text, there were more than 40 advertisements from builders, developers, engineering companies and other entities engaged in building, offered up to defray production costs.

That was three times the advertising from the next biggest category, motoring and transport.

Yep, Fianna Fáil has often been dubbed the "builders' party". Part of it was a cultural thing, a big part of it was the reality that this was more usually the party of government, and business and money goes where the political action is happening.

So, when Barry Cowen, son of Ber and brother of Brian, talks of a tax holiday, levy reductions and better financing schemes for builders, what are we looking at? Is this 'F and F' reverting to type - or a recognition that a deepening crisis requires radical moves?

This debate will run and run and we can all check our prejudices. But it was interesting that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy did not blow it out of the water - and that Barry Cowen stressed the need to avoid party politics.

Cowen may have a point.

Irish Independent

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