Fianna Fáil Is Neither Centrist Nor Progressive

With all the post-election manoeuvring going on at the moment, particularly in the press and the online commentariat, there seems to be some attempt to place Fianna Fáil at the very centre of centrist politics in Ireland, a sort of Gaelic Gaullist movement with finely balanced progressive and conservative wings accurately reflecting the beliefs of the Irish citizenry as a whole. Rory Costello of the University of Limerick writing for the Irish Politics Forum seems to agree with some of this:

“Much of the discussion in the media has been about the similarity of the two biggest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. This is certainly true, but it is also the case that Fianna Fáil positioned itself to the left of Fine Gael in this election on the key issues. This is evident both in the respective focus of the two parties campaigns (Fine Gael emphasised tax cuts while Fianna Fáil prioritised spending on public services) and in their positions on the key issues (e.g. Fine Gael promised to abolish USC for everyone, while Fianna Fáil promised to scrap the tax only for low and middle income earners).

It is therefore clear that Fianna Fáil is positioned at the centre of the new Dáil in policy or ideological terms. Around one third of the seats will be to the right of Fianna Fáil (i.e. Fine Gael), and around one third to the left of Fianna Fáil (including the AAA-PBP, Sinn Féin, Greens, Social Democrats, Labour and some of the independents).”

These claims are highly debatable, as I noted under the original article. In the context of Irish politics Fine Gael is a right-wing Christian Democratic party while Fianna Fáil is a centre-right Christian Democratic party, albeit one whose institutional culture is tempered by a republican legacy from its revolutionary-era Sinn Féin past that FG abandoned at its inception. So whatever about its distant populism of yore, when FF had a small if vocal centre-left tendency which families like my own voted for, those days are long gone unless Michaél Martin is suddenly about to embrace his inner Pearse and Connolly. It remains a fact, however uncomfortable for some, that in terms of their socio-economic policies FF and FG continue to be closer to each other than to any other party in An Dáil. Take away questions about national reunification, the Irish language, the importance of the 1916 Easter Rising or “Your grandfather shot my grandfather in 1922!”, and there is very little of substance to mark them apart.

Similarly arguments that the contemporary Labour Party should be placed to the left of FF are also open to question given the last five years of enthusiastic right-wing governance by Enda Kenny and Joan Burton. The latter’s only credible claim to progressive principles is on the basis of her qualified support for the provision of abortion services in Ireland. Which of course several FG and FF TDanna share too, albeit usually in private. In truth the title of “labour” is as relevant to the modern Labour Party as Fine Gael’s sobriquet of the “United Ireland Party” is to it.

A more accurate summation of the current political landscape, aside from my own post-election analysis yesterday, can be found in Michael Taft’s opinion piece for the Broadsheet, as highlighted by the CLR:

“In the new Dail Fine Gael and Fianna Fail look set to take 94 seats. In 2011 they won 95 seats. However, this is a smaller Dáil. In percentage terms, the two conservative parties won 57.2 percent of seats in the 2011 Dail; now they won 59.5 percent.

The conservative vote didn’t fall; it just swapped between the two parties. And this doesn’t count the increase in conservative and gene-pool TDs who look to increase from six to eleven seats.

Progressive parties and independents put in a credible performance. However, the breakthrough that many were hoping for (including me) didn’t come.

Sinn Féin increased their popular vote by 3.9 percentage points with the AAA-PbP increasing by 1.5 percentage points. Combined, these two parties look set to gain 13 seats – positive but about half the Fianna Fáil increase.

The Social Democrats took three percent but couldn’t increase on their outgoing total while the Greens are back in parliament with two seats. However, the number of progressive independent TDs doesn’t appear to be increasing at time of this writing.”

He then suggests some policies that the parties of the left and centre-left would do well to take heed of if we are merely in an electoral interregnum of uncertain length.

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23 comments

  1. In order to get more votes SF should get rid of all current and former terrorists and their supporters. It’s like an anchor that’s dragging the party down. Many people who criticise them don’t even say anything about their economic policies, but attack them because of their links to the IRA.

    If the left want to get more support they should find something better than a party with a shady past.

      1. I’ve lived in Ireland long enough to be able to apply for citizenship well before the next general election. And I can already participate in local and EP elections.

        1. Good for you but irrelevant. You can leave your dictating about what others should do and who they vote for in eastern Europe. Your former masters have indoctrinated you well but we are unimpressed.

          1. I don’t dictate anything. You can vote for whatever you want – even for people who like to blow up civilians. Most Irish people however don’t want to vote for SF because of the reasons I mentioned. I’ve seen many people expressing their dislike of that party and the election result seems to be consistent with my observations. Especially hilarious were SF trolls on thejournal.ie and elsewhere who thought that we’re total idiots, said that Gerry Adams was never in the IRA and expected me to buy it.

  2. When the current batch of freedom fighters die out more will take their place as has always happened. So Janis you may sulk back to the hole which you ran from and get some help because your vote alone won’t amount to a hill of beans.

    1. What freedom fighters?
      IRA is an illegal organisation in both RoI and NI.
      And so are all those dissident republican organisations.

  3. I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. Could any of your outfit say that Janis?.

    1. The Latvians were cowards and allowed the Soviets to simply walk all over them – without so much as a shot fired in anger.
      Gleefully collaborating with the Nazi’s though to murder thousands of their own innocent fellow Latvians.
      Utterly and eternally shameful.

      And the present-day Latvian treatment of its own minorities is truly vomit-inducing.

      1. What exactly is vomit inducing? Not replacing our own language with theirs? The Irish here treat me exactly the same – I can’t just go into a govt building and demand services in Latvian.

        1. Well at least you are not murdering your fellow-Latvians like you did when collaborating with the Nazis in WW2.

          1. Every single occupied country has some people who willingly or unwillingly collaborate with the occupier. Yeah, some of us did collaborate because they hated soviets and jews, some were drafted and had no choice. But the fact is that before WW2 NO ethnic groups were persecuted in Latvia. And we had a perfect chance to turn Latvia or even the whole Baltic region into another Yugoslavia in the 90s and exterminate the “undesirables”, but we didn’t, because thankfully we didn’t let people with more guts than sense to rule the country.

            Had the Nazis invaded Ireland I’m pretty sure there would have been people who would gladly go and ethnically cleanse Northern Ireland and get rid of the Jews and travellers too. And before all that there were many Irish people who helped the British to build their empire and colonise overseas territories.

          2. And did you also forget about the Irish who volunteered to fight in the WW1 and enlisted in the British army even though there was no conscription in place?

  4. Janis, fair play to you. A great many Irish people agree with you. I don’t trust SF and am not likely ever to do so even after Adams and his ilk have retired. Much of the increase in the SF vote comes from an anti-incumbency sentiment. Because of its roots in violence this will never be the party to unify Ireland. Nor will either of the civil war parties. We need something new, and we may have a glimmer of hope now with the decline of the traditional parties. I regret that the 15% of the population from other countries living and working here do not have vote. It would help accelerate change. Likewise the obtuse refusal to grant postal ballots to emigrants. Ireland is one of only 3 EU countries to do that.

    1. On the other hand SF is one of the most enthusiastic parties for granting emigrants the right to vote, believing it would favour them. For that very same reason FG, FF and Labour oppose or are lukewarm on emigrant voting.

      The three establishment parties still control 60% of the vote so that decline is far from ensured.

    2. It’s just a matter of time before that violent past is a non-issue. More and more people at every election are seeing local SF councillors, TDs etc doing local or national service and saying I’ll give them my vote. It’s a process/policy of normalisation. As it stands, SF has taken Labour’s place as the primary left-wing(ish) party in the Dáil. I’m not sure for how long more the unions will stick with Labour – if it was a relationship built on principle they would’ve abandoned them already. I don’t think AAA etc are long-term viable as they’re quite personality based, to an outsider’s eyes anyway – maybe i’m wrong.
      I’d see two trends arising from a growing SF base in the future
      1. a dilution of the republican ethos. The large number of young SF candidates with no republican history can only mean a step away from republicanism. Not to mention their new voters, most of who have no interest in the north. This will probably see the more traditional SF types leave the party and set up a smaller Worker’s Party type organisation.
      2. a dilution of the left-wing ethos. The marriage of republican and socialist principles is a dodgy one from the start. Factor in the large amount of Irish republicans who are socially conservative by nature (take some of the xenophobia shown by SF supporters on this blog for example) and something has to give. A few big issues are hanging around to bring this issue to a head – abortion, immigration, Europe, at least. I reckon SF will shift into that left of centre vote that FF somehow cornered in years gone by and put the socialism quietly to one side.
      What does that leave? Personally I reckon we’ll get 20-30 years of good out of the party before they become the new FF.

  5. A chairde, perhaps a little bit more tolerance or forbeareance in the Comments? Our friend Jānis is entitled to his opinions and to a reasoned response, however passionate. I disagree with him many (many!) times but an alternative view is always welcome. A closed bubble of like-minded opinions benefits no one. The odd challenge to preconcieved ideas is a good thing 😉

  6. I was quite taken a back at the response on a lunch time vox pop inUCC where with the exception of a sprinkling (obviously chosen for a quirky piece of attire) left of centre pre election enthusiasts most of the responses displayed an amazing satisfaction with the “Recovery”! Allowing for a less than broad representation ,all I could dowas emit a very loud “exclamation” of wonder and hoped that no relative or friend of mine were ever at the receiving end of their skills or qualifications
    Broadcasting from the land of illusion!

    1. Indeed. As members of my own family said repeatedly throughout the last three months, “Recovery? What recovery?!” I can say, hand on heart, that I have experienced no benefit from any supposed recovery. Quite the opposite. In truth I am struggling from week-to-week and I suspect many others are feeling the same.

      1. I, on the other hand, am earning 7000 EUR more per year than I did in 2013 when I arrived here with a laptop and a few 1000s euros in savings. Maybe I’m just lucky, I don’t know.

        1. Jānis, I suspect you must be 😉 Just checked, and my annual wage in 2010 was several grand more than it was in 2015 due to changes in my work pattern. Take into account cost of living changes, new taxes, etc. and I am really struggling to get by. My department was sixteen people in 2009. It is five in 2016. I can’t tell you how many friends I have who are now living outside the country. Of the ones still here two couples are in serious arrears with their mortgages. The recession may be there for certain groups in Irish society but they are quite restrictive ones, and mostly reflected in the political and media classes.

          1. What do you mean by “changes in your work pattern” – did you work full time back then and now work less? If so then you should receive lower salary – that’s normal.
            Maybe you’re working at the wrong company. I get job offers at least once a month. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t live beyond my means so I don’t have any debts. A mortgage in my case would mean lower monthly payments, but I don’t want to settle down yet. I have no wife or kids and can easily move elsewhere if necessary.

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