So the Fine Gael train seems to be hitting the buffers again. There's one theory that all is going to plan; that the rival presidential candidates, having written off Gay Mitchell, will engage in mutual hari-kiri, leaving the Mitchell innards within.
And then suddenly, bam, he's back, scattering whatever entrails remain: next, he's nodding presidentially as his metaphoric coach-and-four takes him to the old Vice-Regal Lodge.
But even if Dublin votes for him in preference to some culchie, he's unlikely to be president. Why? Because Fine Gael really doesn't know what it is, or what it wants. It largely accepts the gospel as written by Fianna Fail, that party of bamboozling boozers, frauds and terrorist-appeasers, which declares that Fine Gael is not authentically Irish. Which is pretty good, considering that Fianna Fail was founded by one man whose ancestors were (allegedly) from Spain, namely Señor de Valera, and another, Monsieur Lemass, whose ancestors were Huguenots. Actually, the only authentically "Irish" person left is probably some naked wet Hobbit huddling under a stone in Inishmaan.
Nowadays, we like to have what we call "narratives", and frankly Fine Gael's is pretty wretched. It pretends to be THE constitutional party, even as it lauds Michael Collins, the man who shot men in their beds beside their screaming wives. Now, no one ever said: I'm voting for Fianna Fail, the party that likes to see fair play, and which believes in the rule of law and decency, honour and justice. Fianna Fail always nakedly played for the greed & voodoo market, and it seems that the Shinners are now trying to create Fianna Fail Mark Two. So why doesn't Fine Gael dispense with all the historic baggage from 1916-23, in a competition which it will never win against the "republican" parties, and accept that its roots, its decencies and its moral power lie in far older and worthier traditions than the bloody folklore and fictions of fenianism?
Firstly, Fine Gael should start by slowly renaming itself. Look at what the murderers of the Official IRA did. Having slaughtered Senator Jack Barnhill and Ranger Best (Google them) and the innocent gardeners and canteen women of Aldershot, they became Sinn Fein the Workers Party, and then the Workers Party, and then Democratic Left, and then after a bit of foreplay under the sheets, they became -- WOW! -- the Labour Party.
Fine Gael could do something similar, once it has decided to ditch the ridiculous name, Fine Gael the Republican Party. Firstly, all those Lucinda, Simons, Marks and Garrets are as much family of the Gael as they are the family of Dayaks. Secondly, to call themselves "republican", in the Irish lexicon anyway, is rather like saying "Sister Stan, the Playboy Bunny". The best way for the party to rename itself is to copy the example of the butchers of Aldershot (who even managed to put themselves into government) by appending a slogan to the party name, which in time takes over the whole. Thus, Fine Gael: the Constitutional & Democratic Party can, by careful mutation, become The Constitutional Democrats.
And as for a narrative -- just look at the glorious riches that exist in Irish law-abiding history. Edmund Burke, a philosophical giant and opponent of revolutionary bloodshed. Arthur Wellesley, having defeated Napoleonic despotism in the field, went on to legally emancipate the Catholics of Ireland and Britain. He's ours: to be shared, no doubt, but unquestionably a son of Ireland. Even more unquestionably, Daniel O'Connell, the founding father of mass democracy, and an ardent opponent of both violence and slavery. Most political parties can claim to be descended from the Land League: but the CDs must also lay claim to being the heirs to the Irish Parliamentary Party, which won Home Rule.
Paradoxically, Parnell should best be left out of the Constitutional Democrats' golden thread: it took an Eiffel Tower of an ego to think that one could openly live with another man's wife, while at the same time being the leader of a major political party. It would be difficult today, never mind in Victoria's time. Moreover, Parnell negotiated with terrorists, which is something that CDs only ever do when arranging their surrender.
The CDs will not do a tribal war dance at Bael na mBlath or Bodenstown. They will not "celebrate" the Rising. They will stand four-square behind the rule of law. Their children will learn politeness, punctuality, the piano and Chinese.
The CDs must accept that around 25-30pc of the population will never vote for them. These are the congenital Sneaking-Regarders, the people who are guided through life by a green compass in their kitbag and a wristwatch that never tells the right time. There's only thing that one can do with this sociopathic strain in Irish life -- the one that thinks it entertainingly eccentric to be late for appointments, which regards planning permissions as lawful currency, and which sees the IRA as the slightly wayward but nonetheless amusing wing of the family -- and that is to keep it firmly from power of any kind. Which leaves the 70pc or so Completely Decent sector for the CDs to play for. Even Karl Rove would happily settle for that demographic.