Downfall of Fianna Fáil


During the past week there was a programme on TV 3 with the title “The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fáil”. it is my intention, however, to ignore and cancel out from my mind the findings that constituted the TV3 programme and instead to give my own version of some of the events that led to the meltdown of the Party’s support in last February’s General Election. For a start, let us take a look back at the recent past before and since the election. But before that let me state my own position with regard to supporting Fianna Fáil candidates John Cregan and Thomas McEllistrim in the two last general elections. Not alone voting for them, but canvassing for them as well, prior to polling day and then going back many years earlier helping to canvass and vote for Fianna Fáil’s Michael Noonan when he was a Dáil member. All this support was given by me to the Party without having been a member of a Fianna Fáil Cumann, though having been invited to join on a number of occasions to become an official party member. But as a writer and newspaper correspondent it would have been against my basic principles to join a political party, as such membership might prevent one from a proper assessment and making fair and impartial comments on any particular political organisation.  But my main reason for supporting and canvassing for Fianna Fáil on those occasions was the quality and integrity of those candidates who were going forward and not for political reasons. Then again, of course, there was our own family connection with a well-known Dublin Fianna Fáil family who were a party dynasty up until the last election.  Naturally this factor also influenced our family’s support for Fianna Fáil in more recent elections. But after stating briefly my personal reasons for supporting Fianna Fáil in the more recent past let us go back in time as far as it is possible to remember the many negative factors about the Party that finally culminated in the disastrous wipe-out of last February. Fianna Fáil, more or less, grew up with me. My father who had returned home from previously working in New York joined the Republican Movement after coming back and even after he and my mother were married by an extraordinary coincidence on the day of the truce with England which saw the end of The War of Independence, but after that he still held on with the Republican Forces until the Civil War ended in 1923, some years before our time. But even in our earliest years we became aware that we were growing up in a republican household and it is as far back as we can ever remember the euphoria that was felt in our own home and by our republican minded neighbours (some of whom had been interred by the Free State Government during the Civil War and were still being harassed) on hearing that DeValera and Fianna Fáil had at last assumed power in 1932. These are my earliest memories of the excitement and hopes that welcomed the newly elected Fianna Fáil Government and The Eucharistic Congress of the same year in Dublin with all its great religious ceremonies added to the expectations of a new and better Ireland. However DeValera and Fianna Fáil soon turned on the Blue Shirts and declared the organisation illegal which was understandable after where Dev came from. But, as well as that, he also sought to control and harass the IRA who, a few years previously, had been a big factor in sweeping Fianna Fail into power. Many of the people who had supported DeValera during The Civil War and the election afterwards when Fianna Fáil had entered the Dáil, were furious at this turn of events and many reverted back to Sinn Féin. However, DeValera, with the support of his Party, pressed on regardless in his campaign against his former IRA comrades, who felt outraged and betrayed. The situation was further exacerbated when The Fianna Fáil Government in the early 40’s had a number of prominent Republicans executed in very doubtful circumstances, including Charlie Kerins and Maurice O’Neill from Kerry and more who died on hunger strike. In later years, as we all know, Fianna Fáil Governments continued to condemn and harass republicans , even during the years of the Northern troubles when they denied free speech on the air waves to Sinn Féin, until Michael D Higgins done away with the detestable Section 31 restriction on the air waves.  Whatever about their economic blunders which were many and varied as well, the basic tragedy for the Fianna Fáil Party is that it lost and abandoned its Republican Philosophy, as well as its republican soul; and until such time as it re-adopts these important factors it is very likely to remain in the wilderness which would certainly be a pity as this country needs a strong and viable opposition to keep the Government in order and prevent excesses. If the Fianna Fáil candidates and canvassers had been a little less critical of the Sinn Féin Party and some of them had been more tolerant about their attitude, it might have benefited Fianna Fáil who could, possibly, have got a lot of second  preference votes from those who gave their first votes to Sinn Féin which might have even put Fianna Fáil candidates over the line who lost by a small margin. Instead they should have targeted the Fine Gael and Labour Parties and asked the voters to use their discretion and alternatives.

Then, also, Micheál Martin’s ill considered and emotional outburst against Gerry Adams, on the night of the Party Leaders meeting on television, did not do himself or the Party any favours. In fact, Micheál Martin has put his foot in it a few times since becoming Leader of Fianna Fáil, the latest blunder being his proposed support for Gay Byrne as a Presidential Candidate, if he was to contest the election which, of course, he did not.  This was a very foolish move offering support to a 77 year old celebrity, who, as far as we are aware, had never been a member of the Party.  Moreover, not taking into consideration a man such as Brian Crowley who has been a Fianna Fáil MEP and popular Party member for several years and who would have a good chance of getting elected to the Áras. If Fianna Fáil is to recover Micheál Martin will have to do better within the next couple of years. Otherwise the Party will have to find a new and more dynamic Leader. Many people are already asking what might be the future of Fianna Fáil. That depends, even though it might be early days yet it is time to make a serious start in re-organising the grassroots.  First of all, as already stated, the most important road ahead for the Party is to re-discover its previous republican soul and as far as it is possible to leave the unsavoury baggage of the past behind it. It would also be very much in the interest of Fianna Fáil to forge links and understanding, if not a formal alliance with the only real Republican Party in the land which is Sinn Féin. Between them, if they set their minds to it, both parties can help to build a new and better Ireland and get us out of that stifling European-imposed morass that we now find ourselves stuck in.  One of the factors which could help a Fianna Fáil recovery will be how the Fine Gael/ Labour Coalition will be judged by the population on their performance within the next couple of years.  According to some of the recent opinion polls Fine Gael appear to be holding their own, but Labour seems to be on the downward slide.  While the TV3 programme was interesting there was little in it that we had not heard before, so we must wait for the second instalment of the programme to see if it reveals anything new. In the meantime, if we want to get a mini-view of the collapse of Fianna Fáil in the last election we need look no further than Athea. This area once used to boast of having one of the strongest and most dedicated Cumann in the country. So where was its once powerful membership hiding before the last election when only a few, some of us who were not even in Fianna Fáil, made any effort to promote or canvass for  the Fianna Fáil candidate Thomas McEllistrim. Ah, yes, we know Tom got a lot of votes in Athea Parish despite little help from the Cumann and of course linking up West Limerick with North Kerry had also a devastating effect, particularly when there was no Fianna Fáil candidate in this part of the constituency. But, as the saying goes, ‘this is all water under the bridge’ at this point in time and people will have to wait and see what develops in the future and if  the Fianna Fáil Party can make a come-back .


Autumn Wedding

The marriage took place recently at St Mary’s Church, Ballyhea, Co. Cork, of Donal O’Halloran, son of Dan and Ann O’Halloran, Abbeyfeale and Amy Byrnes, daughter of Timmy and Kathleen Byrnes, Ballyhea, Co. Cork. The ceremony with Nuptial Mass was performed by Fr Quinn assisted by Fr Downing. The Bridesmaids were Emma Byrnes, Deirdre O’Keeffe and Rose Flynn. Edmond O’Halloran was best man and the groomsmen were Dermot O’Donnell and James Fitzgibbon. The pageboy was Auriel O’Halloran. The reception was held at The Devon Inn Hotel, Templeglantine where an enjoyable time was had by all the guests. Congratulations and best wishes to the young couple who will now reside in Ballyhea, Charleville.