Despite the electoral trauma of the last decade Fianna Fáil has clawed its way back into second place behind its historic rivals in Fine Gael, in part by an intermittent – if entirely insincere – revival of its former populist inclinations. And like any good populist it knows when to go with the crowd not against it. From The Journal:
“FIANNA FÁIL HAS said that it wants water charges abolished and the provision of water funded by general taxation.
The charges are currently suspended as an expert commission set up to determine the future of water charges begins its work.
Fianna Fáil has made its submission to the commission in which the party sets out its opinion that water charges should be abolished.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin denied that this represented a U-turn for his party.”
Really? Fianna Fáil was the government party which committed Ireland to the imposition of water taxation in the first place, at the insistence of the EU-ECB-IMF negotiators, and with the fulsome backing of its membership. Fianna Fáil was the opposition party which thwarted resistance to water taxation in the Oireachtas by supporting and defending the relevant legislation. Two awkward facts which left Michéal Martin tripping over his words in the RTÉ interview this morning. It’s not often that you can hear someone sweat on radio!
Meanwhile, in another sort of policy change, Fianna Fáil has finally girded up its republican loins and is daring to set an electoral foot across the border and into the UK-administered north-east of the country. According to the Irish Independent:
“Micheál Martin intends to be in a position to run candidates in the 2019 elections in a move that will unsettle both Sinn Féin and the SDLP.
The party has long talked about the possibility of being a political force in the North.
However, the idea was put on ice following the 2011 election drubbing in the Republic.
He notes that they are already a registered party and held their youth conference in Newry last year.”
Hmmm… Fianna Fáil entering (returning to?) electoral politics in the Six Counties has been promised so many times over the past two decades that is has become something of a running joke. Though one wonders if the proposed boundary changes in the north, with the provision of new or altered constituencies potentially strengthening nationalist representation, are shaping FF’s thinking? Would the party’s presence get out some of the non-voting nationalist electorate while also attracting the small “n” ones, at the expense of the SDLP, the soft-unionist Alliance Party and the Green Party? Not to mention, albeit to a lesser extent, Sinn Féin and the People Before Profit Alliance?
Or will it prove to be yet another false dawn?