Thursday 19 April 2018

They're back - but Fianna Fáil can't get FG off their minds

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

What good is a Fianna Fáil think-in if all they can think about is Fine Gael?

It's hardly the way these things are supposed to work. But then that's the luxury of being in Opposition - if that's how you can describe them.

Even Micheál wasn't sure.

"We're not in Opposition. I mean, we're not in Government," he corrected himself very pointedly, beaming from ear to ear, in answer to a question about their potential power to veto anything they don't like in the forthcoming Budget.

Micheál was coy about the veto - it just didn't seem nice to talk about it.

"We're not about exercising vetoes in an arrogant manner," he protested just a fraction too much.

But given that Fine Gael were grumbling furiously about the impossibility of getting a Budget through under the circumstances only last week at their own think in - during which they, in turn, thought mostly about Fianna Fáil - we can only assume that such a vetoing possibility certainly exists.

It's a dangling Sword of Damocles but it remains tethered - with a cockeyed nail and a rusty chain.

"Those people would need to cop on," insisted Michéal of those who claim that Fianna Fáil are just waiting for their moment to collapse a government barely a wet week old.

They're only getting started, baby.

In the meantime, after the most tumultuous of times, it was clear the Soldiers of Destiny were enjoying the strange serenity which comes with enjoying a considerable, if somewhat surrendered, form of power.

Asked if there would be any rows brewing about anything at all during this two day think-in, Barry Cowen smacked his lips with satisfaction.

"There's no heat in our house," he declared.

And the newbies were enjoying this remarkable positivity. "I always knew we hadn't gone away," said Margaret Murphy O'Mahony from Cork South-West, conceding that it was the first post-bounce party think in.

"The strong beating heart of Fianna Fáil was always there," she added.

"But we're not revelling," she cautiously added.

Having located a useful, nay vital, humility bone, the former party of the developers in the Galway Tent seem determined to keep it polished.

The agenda for their parliamentary party think-in was brimming with thoughtful new social responsibility - homelessness, Twitter policies, education and Brexit - with double helpings of Brexit again today.

But the underlying theme was their still unbridled joy at their own Lazarus-like come-back and their non-stop brooding over the odd little Love/Hate relationship they have going with Fine Gael. The event at the Seven Oaks Hotel in Carlow kicked off with something billed as a 'Jacket Off your Back' photo opportunity, which we interpreted as being some kind of inadvisable faux-casual 1980s style jacket slung over the shoulder look for the group photo.

Everyone knows politicians can't do casual. It just looks ferociously awkward.

In fact Jacket Off Your Back turned out to be an entirely worthy Carlow charity which collects clothes for the homeless.

Things were going so smoothly that the schedule was lagging a full hour behind because "everyone was being given a chance to talk," beamed the party members. Meanwhile towards evening, Meath East TD Thomas Byrne dispatched a tweet noting that the Twitter pep talk had worked because: "#FFthinkin now trending..."

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor - gifted the think-in on her patch having been one of the successes of the election - rushed into the press room asking if she could see out the windows. "Someone told me there were protesters," she said in alarm. "They were having me on," she breathed in relief. As it turned out there were a few.

Irish Independent

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