Gerard O'Regan: A speech with courage and energy – that Micheal Martin didn't deliver
THE following is political fantasy. It is all made up. But it is a possible speech Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin might have made to the party ard fheis last week – if he was not restrained by the realities of political life.
Good evening everybody,
I'll dispense with the standard cupla focal at the outset, on the grounds it's typical of the tokenism and hypocrisy, which has done so much damage to the Irish language over the decades.
We all know the language is in its death throes. If we were really patriotic, given the pedigree of this party in particular, we would try and do something about it before it's too late. That would require energy, courage, and, above all else, imagination.
Unfortunately, there are no votes in it, so we will just let things be.
Let us instead concentrate on the central challenge facing us all in Fianna Fail –that is getting back into government.
I would like to make it clear that despite the bounce we got in the recent opinion polls, Fianna Fail remains on a very sticky wicket. All sorts of unknown hassles lie ahead of us before the next election.
The biggest problem we have, is that while the great unwashed out there have very short memories, they can just as easily start having what might be described as flashbacks. We don't exactly want to recall those times when Brian Cowen and Mary Coughlan were guiding the destiny of the Irish nation – or when Bertie had us transfixed with stories of all that cash he was winning on the horses.
I have to be dead careful going forward as party leader, because having spent so many years in power with them, I am very much of that Brian, Mary and Bertie era.
Others who were also at the heart of things, like poor Mary Hanafin, got their comeuppance at the polls last time out, but I managed to sneak through.
The ould Cork factor probably helped, coupled with the fact that I do look slim, trim and brimful of energy. If I might say so, I definitely have the aura of a man who can herald a new era for the party. It's in all our interests to build on that.
Anyway, getting back to more current issues, let us remember the next election will be won and lost on the economy. That's hardly rocket science.
But the argument over how much euro the punter has in his pocket will determine everything.
As you know, the key thing in opposition is not to really have any policies – just play it smart in trying to mess up the crowd who are in. Our current approach to the property tax is a classic shimmy of this kind.
In any case my own head is frazzled with this austerity thing. And I doubt if there is anybody in Fianna Fail who at this stage has one original idea on the topic.
Mind you, the same goes for the current shower who are in office. They can huff and puff all they like, but at the end of the day, they can only hope the thing will kind of fix itself.
Sad to say but the bottom line is that it has always been thus for Ireland. If things get better abroad it will improve things for us. In the meantime emigration – as it was in de Valera's time – is the safety valve.
We can all waffle on about austerity, but there is no getting away from the fact that as a country we are still spending more every month than we are bringing in.
As Angela Merkel would say, for the Irish to be borrowing on an ongoing basis to make up this monthly deficit is hardly austere – nor is it cutting our cloth according to measure.
To really fix things on that front, we would need to start reducing social welfare payments, or taking more money off public servants. Not exactly vote-getting strategies. Much better to talk about cash we can raise from pension funds to create much-needed stimulus for job creation, etc, etc, etc.
One other important matter is the fact some pundits suggest after the next election we may need Sinn Fein to make up the numbers to get me elected as Taoiseach.
Needless to say the official line is that coalition between Fianna Fail and the Gerry Adams crowd is an absolute non-runner.
However, if the people vote for such a result – and if the country is without a government – we may have to make a decision in the national interest.
Isn't that what the Labour Party does all the time – wrestle with their collective conscience – and then go into coalition with anybody who will have them?
In any case, who knows, but if the numbers fall a certain way, we might even be in government with the Labour boys next time out.
When all the votes are counted it could come down to a choice for Fianna Fail between Adams and Co or the Gilmore Clan. I'll leave you to luxuriate in that thought at the end of these ard fheis musings.