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This state is being held to a deal that is unsustainable

PART of the fallout of the current crisis is a marked hostility to Irish party politics on the part of the liberal-economic right and the journalistic left. Ideologically divergent but united on the commendable principle of 'never again', they fleetingly attempted a conjuncture in the run-up to the general election under a 'civil society' aegis.

Their emergence remains a significant and potentially creative development. It is not without anomalies of its own: only in Ireland is the idea of 'civil society' in the manner that it has come into currency so coloured by a disdain for party politics. That is an aversion its proponents will have to conquer.

It is likewise a challenge for Irish political parties to accommodate the desire for a more publicly accessible and intellectually open practice of politics in the State. That challenge presents itself particularly for Fine Gael, whose leader was the first -- I think rightly -- to advocate the abolition of the Senate, the notional constitutional embodiment of a civil society concept. Making alternative provision for an enhanced civil society input is not straightforward, as acres of earnest, but not terribly instructive, newsprint commentary over the last two-and-a-half years attest.

It is difficult to see what realistic alternative there is to the painstaking incre- mental course the new Government is pursuing. We cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that the past and current responsibility is, or has become, primarily our own. We have not been kindly treated, for reasons that are in some degree understandable.

The attack on the Irish corporation-tax regime is a clear and indefensible violation of the principles on which the European Union was established, a point that has so far attracted dismayingly little comment outside Ireland. The European Central Bank has continued to act beyond its actual if not institutional competence.

The Irish State is being held to the terms of a bailout deal that is unlikely to be sustainable in the medium term, if not sooner.

Our fight has to remain within, rather than against, the European Union. That fight may be desperate, but things do change, and rapidly, on multiple fronts. The first demarche has to be to show that we are cognisant of the scale of the errors of former government policy and of the banking system, and to initiate the restoration of a shockingly tarnished reputation as a member of the European Union. We are better keeping our souls in patience and letting things play out for now, not least to the conclusion next year of the French presidential electoral cycle.

The Irish political model, if it veered horribly off course from 1997, has been characterised by creative pragmatism and very substantial achievement. In this crisis we needn't junk, but renovate, the model. If it is a time for modest, undemonstrative patriotic virtues, there is nothing un-Parnellite about that.

As we struggle to prevail over our calamitous current circumstances, something curious is happening. While Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail struggles to rise above its immediate past, Sinn Fein is

headed in the other direction.

All of the energies of Sinn Fein are directed to re-enacting the electoral achievement of Fianna Fail from that party's establishment in 1926. Sinn Fein strategists are interested in one subject to the exclusion of all others in its southern theatre of operations: how did Fianna Fail achieve and hold hegemonic status in Ireland from 1932? Sinn Fein's younger zealots tirelessly interrogate lecturers to learn the secret of Fianna Fail's success. They scour libraries for the grail. Long unread texts are pillaged, thumb-printed and underlined. This is not, of course, disinterested historical enquiry, nor does it reflect a praiseworthy interest in the processes of Irish democracy.

Having somehow been allowed appropriate the resonant name of Sinn Fein (and that is certainly a fault to be imputed historically to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail), the party that is now of that name is cheerfully putting together a manual based on the past organisational accomplishments of Fianna Fail, a party it spends a disproportionate amount of its energies ferociously denouncing.

It is characteristic of Sinn Fein, as a party that cannot afford to have a sense of humour, that its partisans are untroubled by the least revisionist intimation. Having seized a name, it now covets a destiny. Sinn Fein seeks to insert itself into the past trajectory of Fianna Fail.

The new dawn breaks mindlessly on groundhog day for the Republic.

Frank Callanan is a barrister and historian

Sunday Independent