Wednesday 16 January 2019

They can't say the ways of the Real FF haven't been tried

 

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Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

At first you felt there was something strangely poignant about the "pro-life" members of Fianna Fail taking issue with Micheal Martin's position on the Eighth Amendment.

"It's time for us to make it known that we've not gone liberal," said Bobby Aylward, the TD from Kilkenny, who felt that he was representing the views of about 70pc of party members who are "pro-life".

But they did not want to get rid of Micheal Martin, as such - though Mary Butler, the TD from Waterford, said that she was "saddened and shocked" by Martin's speech in the Dail.

Mr Aylward suggested that there should be "a coming together" of these like-minded individuals, and so there was "a coming together" in a Leinster House committee room. Just an informal gathering, and not a large one by all accounts - time was such an event would draw a capacity crowd in the biggest hall available, but these days it sounds like a get-together of some small but enthusiastic local history group in the corner booth of the local pub.

Indeed the term "a coming together" tends to be used in football when there is some sort of a collision in the penalty area, for which nobody can be blamed, and to which no sanction is applied. It happens, and the game goes on.

Although sometimes, of course, one of the parties will be cute enough to just make it look like a coming together, when in fact he knows quite well what he is doing, and is committing a professional foul.

With Fianna Fail, on any issue of this nature, it can always be a bit of both - the accidental clashing and the knowing infringement.

But still there seemed to be this poignancy about it, the sense that such people once ruled our little world, and now they must watch their own leaders on the telly, leaving them behind in the ancient ruins of that world.

So it was natural that there would be rage in it too - rage at the sight of Micheal Martin making it into The New York Times no less, with his progressive speech; a rage best expressed in a mission statement by a member of the Real Fianna Fail, attached to a petition aimed at "ordinary" Fianna Fail members who "want their party back" - whatever that means.

"We are not a left-wing party, we are not Labour lite, nor PBP for ordinary people, nor are we FG for the poor. We don't read The Irish Times. We don't care what south Dublin thinks. We are disinterested with the RTE/IT/Sindo/Newstalk liberal groupthink bubble…"

Now hold on there buddy, that's quite a bubble you're looking at there…

I mean, some of us around here like to think that we wouldn't entirely be on the same page as, say, RTE, in certain areas. Indeed, there are some in RTE who'd like to think they're not on the same page as RTE.

And Newstalk and the "IT" would perhaps be surprised to find themselves sharing that bubble too, while the assertion that Fianna Fail is not "FG for the poor" raises the question: what is wrong with being FG for the poor?

Given all the things that Fianna Fail has been, and that they might be again, if you were to offer me a Fianna Fail that was "FG for the poor" right now, I'd probably bite your arm off.

But they don't want that apparently. They want to be what they are - which is just "ordinary people" who "love Fianna Fail".

So you're really starting to feel a bit sorry for them at this stage, all alone in their own little bubble, helpless against all those in the liberal groupthink bubble, which seems to contain just about everyone in Irish public life or indeed in private life.

But then you see a line in this mini-manifesto such as, "we are tired of being told what we can and can't say", and you start to think that maybe that bubble of theirs is not so small after all.

In fact if you were to take a global view of it, they belong in one of the biggest bubbles we have ever seen, the one that contains "the forgotten men and women of America" beloved of Trump, and many self-styled victims of the liberal groupthink bubbles in other countries.

In fact those forgotten men and women of America seem to have forgotten that their guy won, and he seems to have forgotten about them - their only role now is to be mentioned on Fox when a bit of false context is needed for one of Trump's more disgraceful lines, this invisible army of people who'd be carrying on exactly like him if they were in the White House - sticking it to the American version of the RTE/IT/Sindo/Newstalk liberal groupthink bubble.

So you can hear the forgotten men and women of Fianna Fail riffing on these themes, you can sense that they may see themselves as part of some greater movement of the dispossessed.

But then you start to feel that sadness again, that normal human feeling you would have for anyone who had been at the top of the "pro-life" game, and who couldn't get arrested now, not even outside a Marie Stopes clinic.

Because that "forgotten men and women" stuff, that "tired of being told what we can and can't say" schtick, might be working in America and Britain and various unfortunate countries in Europe - but strangely enough it probably won't work here.

You see, the reason why someone can even imagine that there's an RTE/IT/Sindo/Newstalk liberal groupthink bubble in Ireland, is that we've already tried all the other stuff.

It got a great run really, the old "Catholic teaching". Not even the ordinary people who love Fianna Fail could claim that we didn't give it our very best shot. When it came to the "family values", we left nothing out there, as they say.

This country was a virtual theocracy - and now that it's gone, you'll find very few who'd want to go back in there.

Indeed the ire of Micheal Martin's enemies is understandable too, when you consider that this isn't the first time that he broke with the traditions of his tribe - with his introduction of the smoking ban, not only was he doing something that seemed terrifying modernistic at the time, and still does, he was going against everyone who owned a pub, and many of the people who drank in them too.

So when they say that "he is a nice man but he has no moral backbone", they must mean, "he is a nice man but he is not determined to enshrine the views of an unrepresentative bunch of hardcore Catholics in the Constitution of a pluralist society".

Moreover I think it was around the time when Brian Cowen was trying to explain that he wasn't drunk at all on Morning Ireland, that in an unguarded moment, Martin could be seen at some public gathering, holding an apple - yes, an apple, which he seemed for all the world to be prepared to eat, there and then.

With his smokeless pubs and his apples, the signs were there all along…

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