Wednesday 17 July 2019

O'Herlihy to call for FG-FF alliance at Beal na mBlath

Bridging controversial political divide will form part of RTE presenter's oration in Cork

BLUE BLOOD: Despite his Fine Gael pedigree, Bill O'Herlihy voted for his fellow Corkman and Fianna Fail Taoiseach Jack Lynch, who he thought was 'terrific'. Photo: Gerry Mooney
BLUE BLOOD: Despite his Fine Gael pedigree, Bill O'Herlihy voted for his fellow Corkman and Fianna Fail Taoiseach Jack Lynch, who he thought was 'terrific'. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

Television personality and Fine Gael supporter Bill O'Herlihy will call on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to consider the formation of a political alliance in an oration at the 91st annual Michael Collins commemoration at Beal na mBlath in west Cork later this month.

Highly regarded as the presenter of RTE soccer coverage, Mr O'Herlihy, who was media adviser to the former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, said: "I will be making reference to that at Beal na mBlath."

Last week, the former Fianna Fail minister Mary O'Rourke provoked a debate when she raised the issue of an alliance between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at the next general election.

In an address at the William Carleton Summer School in Co Tyrone, Mrs O'Rourke said that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should bridge the political divide and "give serious thought" to the formation of a "political coalition".

She cited what she called "one of the most generous and non-tribal" orations ever given at Beal na mBlath by her nephew, the late finance minister Brian Lenihan, in 2010.

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In that speech, Mr Lenihan said: "The differences between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael today are no longer defined by the Civil War, nor have they been for many years. It would be absurd if they were.

"This period of our history is gradually moving out of living memory. We ask and expect those in Northern Ireland to live and work together, despite the carnage and grief of a much more recent and much more protracted conflict."

Yesterday, Mr O'Herlihy was reluctant to disclose any further detail of his intended oration on August 25, but he said: "I found Mary O'Rourke's comments very interesting."

Earlier this year, Mr O'Herlihy, whose grandfather was a National League TD who then proceeded to Cumann na nGaedheal and on to Fine Gael, said he would "love to see" Fine Gael and Fianna Fail "get together".

In an interview with the Examiner newspaper in February, Mr O'Herlihy said: "Fine Gael and Labour have worked extremely well together over the years in a number of administrations and are doing so currently. But there's something to be said for the development of a proper left-right politics.

"I would love to see a situation where Fine Gael and Fianna Fail got together. I'm not sure either party would be the slightest bit interested. It would be anathema to many.

"But having said all that, I think they're natural allies in many ways because their politics, if not their behaviour, are very similar. . . and then left-right politics would develop in a much more realistic way in this country."

In that interview, Mr O'Herlihy also revealed that he had voted for Jack Lynch, the former Fianna Fail leader from Cork, and had been asked to run for office by Mr Lynch.

"I thought Jack Lynch was terrific," he said.

In Tyrone last week, Mrs O'Rourke anticipated that many would dismiss her "political alliance" suggestion as "summer school speak" or the "wild rantings of somebody who has left the political system."

She added: "It is very easy to dismiss my thoughts in that cavalier fashion."

But, said Mrs O'Rourke, people had "long forgotten the bone of contention" between the parties since the Civil War.

She added: "I put the thought out there, conscious that I can do so, coming, as I am, from a lifetime of observing the tribal political theatre that is Dail Eireann; as someone who has reflected in historical terms long and hard on the thoughts I am putting forward today and coming, as I am, from a mixed political pedigree."

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