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Eilis O'Hanlon: We have made a decision -- we are all Fianna Fail now!

Sorry, Fianna Fail. That's the message which really needs to go out after the EU referendum result. Sorry, two Brians, while we're at it.

For years, we've blamed Cowen and Lenihan and their fellow Soldiers of Destiny for trapping the country in a fiscal straitjacket, first with the 2008 bank guarantee, then by agreeing to an EU/IMF bailout on the most unfavourable of terms only weeks before crawling from office in shame.

Now we've apparently decided that they were right all along. Given the first opportunity to vote directly on Ireland's relationship with Europe since the bank debt hit the fan, half of us couldn't be bothered voting at all, and, of those who did make the effort, six out of 10 decided that, yes, it was best to carry on with what Fianna Fail had set in train and Fine Gael/Labour continued to enforce so dutifully afterwards.

And we didn't do this in the heat of the moment, under pressure, the minutes ticking down, as then minister for finance Brian Lenihan did on the infamous night of the bank guarantee; nor with the full pressure of the European elites breathing down our necks, which FF felt when putting the country into the hands of the troika in November 2010. Unlike the two Brians, the Irish people had ample time to weigh carefully all the arguments, but still came to the same conclusion: It has to be Europe's way, not Ireland's way. No panicked leap in the dark this time. Instead, a carefully considered determination to follow the same path that we have mercilessly demonised Fianna Fail for mapping out.

So let that be an end to it. Let's draw a line, and resolve to have no more Fianna Fail-bashing. No more "everything was the previous lot's fault". We are all Fianna Fail now. For a while, we may have convinced ourselves that we weren't, but the brush with self-actualisation proved too scary, so back we went to doing exactly as we are told.


Of course, there's a calculated pretence at hand that this was some sort of deeply nuanced vote, which shows the maturity and pragmatism of the Irish people. It's just a pity that the political elite didn't have enough faith in our maturity during the campaign to engage the brain with ideas rather than freeze the blood with terror. They used fear, they used blackmail, they even tried slander, by implying that everyone advocating a 'No' vote was some kind of loony left bogeyman or closet Provo intent on sabotaging the system from within. They were angry with the people, and the people felt nagged and bullied in return. That's not the way

to engage with people that you regard as mature and pragmatic. The compliments only came out after the vote was won. The fine words were metaphoric pats on the head to well-behaved boys and girls, and every bit as patronising as the actual ones which EU leaders planted on Enda's head at a recent summit.

Continuing to lie to us now that ministers will use the 'Yes' vote as leverage on alleviating the crippling burden of bank debt weighing down the country is more insulting still. Clearly, they didn't hear that nice German chap on RTE's election coverage, who admitted that Angela Merkel was in no mood for granting concessions to anyone, and, even if she was, Spain and Greece are far ahead of us in the queue.

What's worse is a complacent Government's clear intention to take the 'Yes' vote as a ringing endorsement of its handling, not only of this, but of everything so far. Simon Coveney was careful to avoid triumphalism, acknowledging the strength of the 'No' side's arguments and promising to respond appropriately. His colleagues, smug with victory, were less restrained, even claiming boasting points for getting an EU referendum through first go when Fianna Fail had to run the last two a second time before the "right" result.

These are people who practically wear cultural insecurity as a badge of honour. In fact, they remind me a little of Danielle in Dublin Housewives, announcing how she feels more European than Irish, because the Continentals are so sophisticated, darling, they drink aperitifs on the terrace and everything. How could we possibly know what's good for us without the benign guidance of people with homes on the Cote D'Azur?

The fact that this referendum passed first time is less a sign of confidence and maturity than of depression and desperation. Listen to the vox pops on radio and TV. People voted 'Yes' without enthusiasm, because they felt they had no choice. That much was evident from last week's Sunday Independent poll too. What that poll -- now proven to be so accurate in its 60/40 prediction of the final result -- showed was that two-thirds of Irish people are dissatisfied with the Government; 55 per cent are dissatisfied with Enda Kenny; 53 per cent are worried about paying household bills; 65 per cent are worried about what will happen to their standard of living; 45 per cent are worried about having a job. This is the country from which the Government has managed to extract a 'Yes' vote. Not an assured, happy place, but an anxious and browbeaten one.

A country, more troublingly, where only 22 per cent of those surveyed agreed strongly with the idea that the Government has a plan to renegotiate bank debt.

If that's what the Taoiseach considers an endorsement, it's hard to imagine what he would call a rejection. It took the most unpopular government ever to propel Kenny to power; that's how bad things had to get before the Irish people dared put him within a sniff of high office. Even then, he couldn't get across the finishing line on his own. In a way, that's exactly what the Irish people have done again. They took one look at Enda Kenny and thought: Do we really trust this man to be up to the job of handling the fallout from a 'No' vote? To go back to Europe and stand up for us? To have sufficient political imagination to steer a lonely course through fiscal rocks and political tempests?

The prospect was evidently more terrifying even than perpetual servitude. Best just leave it to the euro elite to run the show. They're not Irish, they're not democratic, very often they barely seem human.

But, by God, at least they're not Enda.

Sunday Independent