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Anne Harris: We blame FF for collapse but want to see it in strong opposition again

I come from a big family, the size of which was always explained in terms of a family culture of baby worship. Those years of baby study can come in very handy by way of explaining the behaviour of politicians.



Take, for example, the way a baby in possession of a substantial muffin will, on dropping a crumb, fling aside the bun in order to chase the crumb -- under foot, under table, under chair -- until, often bruised and sometimes bloodied, it is satisfied that crumb retribution has been exhausted. Amusing, if it wasn't so dangerous -- in creche or in Cabinet.

The Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown Lansdowne poll shows how many political muffins have been abandoned in the recent past of Irish politics.

Like the Vatican Embassy, which most people believe will be closed for political reasons, something of which most people disapprove.

The fate of Fianna Fail is undoubtedly the most serious. Successive polls have shown a slippage to the benefit of Sinn Fein. But our poll shows a more important thread. Despite a clear-sighted judgement about their part in our woes, over a third of you would like to see a resurgence of Fianna Fail.

This is a recognition that the survival of Fianna Fail is essential to the survival of the centre in Irish politics.

Today, on the weekend of the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes, writes in this paper on the need for a good Opposition. We salute his statesmanlike stand.

A massive almost two-thirds of you do not want to see Sinn Fein in Government.

It is time we in the media stopped hailing Sinn Fein's parliamentary pyrotechnics and started instead to examine their economic policies, the implementation of which would make this austerity seem like a golden age of prosperity.

It's true that the bubble happened on Fianna Fail's and the Green Party's watch. Thus, they are responsible. But could any politician seriously put one hand on heart and the other hand on the Bible and swear that they would have done things differently?

Who among them, do you honestly believe, gazing on a country of multiple cosy homestead ownership, near-full employment and three foreign holidays a year, would have shouted "Stop".

The extraordinary events following the announcement of the referendum on the fiscal compact bear out that politics never ceases to be something of an infantile disorder.

In a nutshell, when Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, in an interview with the Financial Times, remarked that a restructuring of the promissory notes to cover the cost of winding down Anglo Irish bank (a debt easing) might be helpful to the referendum vote, all hell broke loose.

Our Taoiseach was appalled. "The Irish people will not be bribed," he declared in Europe. The Tanaiste was appalled. "The Irish Constitution is not for sale," he thundered in the Dail.

"Bribed", as the kids would say, is such a strong word. And when a mid-term Government reaches for epic phrases invoking "our Constitution" it's always a sign of anxiety. We will leave aside the little hostage to fortune -- that it all inevitably evokes a paraphrasing of Humbert Wolfe's remark about the British media: there is little point in bribing them, given what they will do for nothing.

Of course, things are at a delicate stage with Europe and the Troika. They always are. But the time for diplomatic delicacies is long gone. Europe needs a Yes vote from Ireland as much as Enda Kenny does. Yes. Enda Kenny needs a Yes vote. For his own future.

Newspapers in Europe pointed out during the week that any European prime minister presiding over a defeat in this referendum would be expected to call an immediate General Election .

Accordingly any other prime minister might have found Joan Burton's remarks instructive.

She said something should be given to the people of Ireland in exchange for a Yes vote. A very significant number of Irish people agree with her, clearly stating that their vote "depends."

Depends on what?

Given that nearly two-thirds think the terms of the bailout should be renegotiated, but only a little over a quarter think the Government will do it -- no prizes for guessing what it depends on. Add that to the fact that, according to the poll, Joan Burton is the third-best performer in Government and you might have to acknowledge that she might know something.

That she might, as is supposed to happen in this Republic of ours, represent the people who elected her, especially those who have lost jobs, houses and hope in the austerity.

This is not bribery it's barter -- which is just a plain name for what Adam Smith identified as the most fair form of Government -- enlightened mutual self-interest.

Europe makes no secret of the fact that it needs a Yes vote from us. Because for reasons entirely to do with the fiscal crisis, this small country would pack a powerful propaganda punch and could indeed change the course of history for the European project.

It seems hard to believe now that it all started out so joyously: free markets mean free people. But we are still free. And nothing underscores that more than this plebiscite -- the purest exercise in democracy. We are entitled to do with it what we will.

And to look for what we need.

Sunday Independent