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John Drennan: FF's old pretenders -- royalty and rogues

The Fianna Fail hierarchy might have wanted to look to the future but the faithful and the media were only interested in the past.

And the past was everywhere as the 'old guard', starting with Bertie Ahern, re-appeared at the party's annual celebration of itself.

Of course, Micheal Martin wanted to talk about 'policy' and his plans to exorcise all those old toxins of high living, supercilious arrogance and inclusive gombeenism where everyone, including the dog, got a bit of his own tail.

With a wish list like that who could blame us if, like some living version of the waxworks museum, we were only interested in the return of the royalty and rogues of Fianna Fail's Old Pretenders.

It was tough on Micheal, the eternally worried quiet child, who wants to be praised by teacher, but in life the bad lads always win -- and Bertie is now the designated FF bad lad.

Bertie Ahern arrived to a mixed reaction, some enthusiasts of the old guard, others who turned on their heels and didn't want to meet with him. Mary Coughlan, possibly the most tragi-comic Marie Antoinette Irish politics ever produced hovered around cautiously, outside the RDS, as former Ministers such as Noel Dempsey, Dermot Ahern, Pat Carey and Mary Hanafin mingled with the party faithful.

Brian Cowen arrived without fanfare at the evening session and chatted with party stalwarts in advance of Mr Martin's address.

Some thought the Ard Fheis might be about Eamon 'Dev Og' O Cuiv.

But any notions of relevance Dev Og might have had fizzled out quicker than a bottle of cheap champagne.

Meanwhile, back in the land of normality, the omens were not good for nice Micheal.

In Fianna Fail, the times may be changing to such an extent, that the party passed the optimistic suggestion that in future delegates, should have a say on whether they should enter government.

Those who were attending were told of the availability of herbal tea and salad to go whilst lectures were also available on issues such as 'What is Facebook' and 'The Political Uses of the Twitter Machine'.

That wasn't the worst of it either, for FF are also embracing ethics, new ideas, the democratisation of the party and all that jazz.

It's what losers do.

Sunday Independent