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Fianna Fáil no longer a national movement


Fr. Hank Tree

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Fianna Fáil no longer a national movement - Diarmaid Ferriter

Great piece by Diarmaid Ferriter in today's Times:

FF has lost its self-proclaimed status as national movement - The Irish Times - Sat, Jun 13, 2009

Here are some notable passages:

Their devotion to building up the organisation was exceptional and there was no let-up in between general elections, as the challenges of local elections kept the machine oiled. Cumann na nGaedheal, on the other hand, had a degree of indifference towards local elections in the early years and by the time it recognised the advantage of contesting them, Fianna Fáil had established control over a majority of the councils. This was something Lemass saw as a turning point, as in his words it “cemented Fianna Fáil into the political structures of the country”.
As unimportant as local government has become, you cannot neglect and understate the effect of local elections on political party power. Councillors are like a glue that hold the party organisation together on the ground. They provide a vital link between the national and local, the central command and ordinary grassroots.

Many FFers continue to write off the local election results of 2004 and 2009 as mere midterm blues (inevitable expressions of protest against the government of the day). However, it is simply not sustainable for a party to take these sorts of hits on the ground and hope to maintain national dominance. Eventually a point will come where the bottom will fall out causing the whole edifice to collapse.

The party that thrived on marshalling discontent, and promised, in the words of de Valera in 1926, to promote “a programme for the common good, not a class programme” and which crushed the Labour Party in the process, is now depicted after the recent election as an unrepresentative minority who contributed to the economic collapse by indulging the men of property.
This is an interesting passage. For the first time in 80years, the Labour party is looking more and more like what it should look like. It's pinching FF's "anti-establishment" clothing and successfully portraying itself as the champion of the ordinary common man. A perception has taken hold that FF is a party of developers and bankers and elites and Labour is mercilessly capitalising.

Any thoughts?
 
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FutureTaoiseach

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I agree with the above except on the Labour party. They failed to make the much vaunted breakthrough in the 1st pref vote. They won 3 MEPs, but one of them was because of her name while the other was a fluke dependent on transfers. If FF is no longer a national movement, then neither is the Labour party (on 15%). 4.8% in NW does not a national-movement make. I think FG are more likely to claim the mantle of "national movement" if the 37% in the exit poll on GE voting-intentions proves true. Indeed on the basis of that poll, a FG-led govt without Labour would be plausible, and I would prefer that to one including the PC-brigade in the Labour party. The much-heralded rush of the public-sector vote to Labour did not materialise to anything like the extent predicted. Labour and FF are the cancer of Irish politics, being as they are subservient to the public-sector unions, and firm believers in sacrificing the private-sector on the altar of defending the formers' privileges. It is imperative for national recovery that they remain in Opposition with FF after the next GE, where they can mate with FF and produce a new, leftwing party. And thus, the realignment of Irish politics along Left-Right lines will have come to pass - as I predicted. :)
 
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TradCat

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I think it's an accurate assessment of what happened to Fianna Fail. I would add that they abandoned real democracy in the party by turning the Ard Fheis into a TV event and letting TDs dominate local organisations.

The first Haughey government was at least as bad as this one but their vote never sank so low.

I think the party that brings back real grassroots democracy will be the long term winners in Irish politics.

FF and FG are media driven parties. Labour is dominated by the Unions. SF is centralist. The Socialist Party has a Leninist structure as has the SWP who are so clandestine they won't even run under their own name.

I'm surprised there isn't more comment about the lack of democracy in the party system.
 

Sean-Bhean bhoct

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I think it's an accurate assessment of what happened to Fianna Fail. I would add that they abandoned real democracy in the party by turning the Ard Fheis into a TV event and letting TDs dominate local organisations.

The first Haughey government was at least as bad as this one but their vote never sank so low.

I think the party that brings back real grassroots democracy will be the long term winners in Irish politics.

FF and FG are media driven parties. Labour is dominated by the Unions. SF is centralist. The Socialist Party has a Leninist structure as has the SWP who are so clandestine they won't even run under their own name.

I'm surprised there isn't more comment about the lack of democracy in the party system.
Then, by your logic, the Green Party will be the long term winners in Irish politics which is extremely difficult to imagine.
 

Arcadius

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I think the party that brings back real grassroots democracy will be the long term winners in Irish politics.
...
Too much internal democracy can prolong a party's time in the wilderness by dragging it further from the centre-ground (eg. the Tories post-Major and the current U.S. Republican Party).

I think Ferriter's article is quite significant, not least because his biography of Dev was the one Hanafin pushed on schools 2 years ago.
It can't be claimed he's biased against FF or doesn't know what he's talking about.

But, I'm not so sure about the long-term significance of these elections.
Once FF get into opposition their spokesmen will blame FG/Lab for what's happening.
It worked 25 years ago and could again.
 

An Gilladaker

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Their will be a few interesting battles with TDs and some of the FF councilors who were not
the ones the TDs wanted elected any councilor who got a strong personal vote and did not transfer back to FF are seen as a threat by the TDs
 

Econdo

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There are a number of factors that have contributed to bad Local/bye/and European elections for FF, and they where National. These elections were a referendum on the Government Parties and a lot of FF candidates and sitting Councillors suffered in the locals because of this.

I think Mount Street need to listen and I do agreed that the party needs to engage with the grassroots but the grassroots also needs to engage with the party.

Take the selection process, by convention or interview, both have had problems, Conventions engage the grassroots, but there must be better policing , the sleeping cumann must be done away with, delegates that vote at conventions should only be allowed to vote if they have attended at least 80% of CDC meetings in a year.
ONLY ACTIVE MEMBERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED VOTE AT CONVENTIONS.

I'm sure many of you have different views on this but I feel we need to bang heads and move forward.......
 

Evil Eco-Fascist

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The consistent theme seems to be the complacency of being in power and its consequences. Cumann na nGaedheal were complacent about their power base, having been in power nationally since the foundation of the state and they paid the long-term price for it. FF were energised by their period in opposition from 1926-32, as FG have now finally been. Now FF suffer the consequences of their assumptions of their own unassailable strength, in the same manner as Cumann na nGaedheal. And before that, the Home Rule Party suffered the same fate, with the growth of SF. Funny how history continues to repeat itself.
 

Destiny's Soldier

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Haven't read the assessment by D Ferriter, but in short, FF is but a franchise issued to election candidates to FF HQs liking.

The is no debate. No democracy. No new ideas or even members tolerated. You'll get invited if we like you ... or the local TD likes you.
Cumainn and Comhairles have degenerated into tribal factions mastered by competing FF TDs.
 

bradán feasa

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Oh the confused state of our language. Few of us, even the most pro partition would consider the 26 counties a nation. Most like my self see ‘all Ireland’ as a nation and the 26 counties as a state.

FF have never been a national movement as they never constituted in the 6 Ulster counties. SF on the other hand have elected political representation in 31 of the 32 counties. Come along FF, get with the programme!
 

flavirostris

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Haven't read the assessment by D Ferriter, but in short, FF is but a franchise issued to election candidates to FF HQs liking.

The is no debate. No democracy. No new ideas or even members tolerated. You'll get invited if we like you ... or the local TD likes you.
Cumainn and Comhairles have degenerated into tribal factions mastered by competing FF TDs.
How much control does the local FF TD have over candidate selection for the locals?
I think I know of at least one instance where a TD shafted a guy to get his own man selected
 

Tiernanator

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Oh the confused state of our language. Few of us, even the most pro partition would consider the 26 counties a nation. Most like my self see ‘all Ireland’ as a nation and the 26 counties as a state.

FF have never been a national movement as they never constituted in the 6 Ulster counties. SF on the other hand have elected political representation in 31 of the 32 counties. Come along FF, get with the programme!
Too right bradán feasa. While I accept the right of the people of the 26 counties to call their statelet whatever they wish it is not now and never will be the Irish nation. The Irish nation is both our national territory (Ireland)and the people who see themselves as Irish.
 

Collegebhoy

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Oh the confused state of our language. Few of us, even the most pro partition would consider the 26 counties a nation. Most like my self see ‘all Ireland’ as a nation and the 26 counties as a state.

FF have never been a national movement as they never constituted in the 6 Ulster counties. SF on the other hand have elected political representation in 31 of the 32 counties. Come along FF, get with the programme!
Totally agree Bradán
 

Rocky

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A good article. As Ferriter says the basis of FF's strength for the last 80 years has been based on local government and that is now gone and FG’s weakness for that time has been partly because of a lack of strength in local government.

It's difficult to know what will happen next. A lot of people felt FF were dead and buried after 2004, although not to the same extent as now and they did recover, so I wouldn't write them off now. However their recovery in 2007 could largely have been a flunk based on the belief that they could handle the economy better, which is now gone and could be seen in the future as the last sting of a dying wasp.

The signs are both very good for FG and Labour as well. Both parties had great local elections, although both could have done better and both parties got a lot of young councillors elected, which wasn't the case for FF. They are both doing a lot better then FF in urban areas as well and that is very important. Quite simply they are bringing in young intelligent new people, especially FG and it isn’t the same for FF.

I believe we are seeing a fundamental shift in Irish politics and I don't believe that it is simply happening because of the recession and FF's terrible governance, I think it's roots are deeper then that. As Ferriter says, FF ran the country into the ground in the late 70’s/early 80’s and their support did not collapse.

Just a few thoughts anyway. This is probably going to be time that a good history book can be written on in the future.
 

Fusilier

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Haven't read the assessment by D Ferriter, but in short, FF is but a franchise issued to election candidates to FF HQs liking.

The is no debate. No democracy. No new ideas or even members tolerated. You'll get invited if we like you ... or the local TD likes you.
Cumainn and Comhairles have degenerated into tribal factions mastered by competing FF TDs.
While I think the description of Fianna Fail as a franchise system is farily apt, you have to laugh at the use of "we". A lot of Fianna Fail supports seem to enjoy a bit too much glee from supporting the ruling party, as though they were are the heart of the party, making the decisions. The truth is they're largely viewed as election fodder. At least the Greens have a bit more firm ground when using "we".

If Fianna Fail are a franchise business, Destiny's Soldier and his like are the low paid immigrants flipping the burger buns and pouring the milk shakes.
 

seenitallb4

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There are no national political movements. They belong to a different age and the two big ones (FF & FG) were differentiated on the basis of what happened in the Civil War. Nobody gives a toss about that now, and nor should they. And why should they care about mainstream politics for that matter? The big 3 are pretty much the same- while differentiated by a few rhetorical flourishes the policy consensus is overwhelming. We had virtually identical programmes at the last GE, and it will be much of the same the next time out. Now we don't have leaders- we have managers with dodgy haricuts and buzz-words suggested by the results of polling. This is not the basis of a national movement.
 

wysiwyg

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Haven't read the assessment by D Ferriter, but in short, FF is but a franchise issued to election candidates to FF HQs liking.

The is no debate. No democracy. No new ideas or even members tolerated. You'll get invited if we like you ... or the local TD likes you.
Cumainn and Comhairles have degenerated into tribal factions mastered by competing FF TDs.
Pretty much spot on there
 

Raketemensch

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Fianna Fail probably represented a national movement in the early days of Irish democracy because the people were transitioning from foreign rule and needed some basic ideas of self-fule to get their teeth into. However that is so long ago and so utterly irrelevant today that it's not even funny. The tribal chieftain politics of FF and FG have to be consigned to the past because they get in the way of debate about policy and vision for Ireland.
 

meriwether2

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What a load of nonsense.
FF has a Cumainn in every town and village in the country, with a member in every GAA and soccer club, and a member in every housing estate in the country.

They of course are a national movement. This national movement had a bad election. This does not suddenly mean they are not national.

The writing off of FF at the moment is more down to wishful thinking than based in reality.
The simple fact opf the matter is that despite the low polls, they go into the next election with 78 odd incumbents.
In effect, 78 people dont have to seek election. 78 people have to have power ripped from their greasy paws. Thats a big distinction.
In every media org in the country, local or national, there are FF supporters. In every organisation in the country, Gardai, Army, Nurses, SIPTU, etc, there are FF members.
They will kill in the next GE, if they have to.

I think some people seem to forget this little fact, that FF are adept at self preservation like no-one else. They are the cockroach on the isalnd that goes under from the volcanic eruption.
 

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