They haven’t gone away, you know. Reports about the death of Fianna Fáil over the past year or so have been found to be exaggerated.
Those who were dancing on the Soldiers of Destiny’s grave will have to go and dance on another one.
As I have pointed out in this column on many occasions, it is extremely difficult to predict a lot of things in politics with any degree of accuracy. I have even heard Fianna Fáil supporters say the party was finished. But last weekend’s Presidential election and the byelection in Dublin West showed there is life in the old dog still.
Fianna Fáil may only have a handful of seats in the present Dáil, and no seat at all in Dublin, but you cannot write off a party with a history like that of Fianna Fáil with one stroke of the pen. Certainly Fianna Fáil should not boast too loudly about some of that history but any organisation that has members in every parish in the state and a membership that is spread throughout all strands of society would take a long time to die.
The indications this week are that Fianna Fáil is not going to die either in either the short or long term.
I believe Seán Gallagher got the core Fianna Fáil vote, much of which left the party at the general election. And he would probably even have been elected too but for the fact that Fine Gael voters abandoned him after he was shown on television to have been a major fundraiser for Fianna Fáil despite his denials.
It may take a long time before Fianna Fáil gets back into power but the election results show the possibility of a Fianna Fáil taoiseach within the next decade is a real one. I hope that prospect does not scare the living daylights out of you.
Fianna Fáil has to change, however. The party has to break away from its image of being the party for the wealthy developer, the political chancer and the fat-cat banker.
I presume Micheál Martin knows that. He has already admitted this year that a wide gap grew up between the grass roots of the party and the leadership during their long years in power. He wants to change that, or so he says.
One thing going for him is that the chancers and their friends will no longer be flocking to join Fianna Fáil. Those people will no longer get fat in a lean Fianna Fáil, a party that no longer has any power or influence.
It has to get back to its grass roots and give them the power and influence that was taken from them over the years of the Celtic Tiger.
I knew a lot of people in Clare and elsewhere who made huge sacrifices for Fianna Fáil. They were not interested in lining their pockets or in getting jobs for themselves or for their relatives. They were real patriots who believed Fianna Fáil was a national republican movement that would unite Ireland, restore the Irish language and create an independent economy here that would be the pride of Europe and of the world.
It was not their fault Fianna Fáil reneged on all those core issues. They had no say in formulating party policy. They were treated merely as ignorant pawns that would get the vote out on election day, collecting the money that was needed to fight those elections.
Idealism was abandoned in favour of opportunism. We saw a lot of that in some of the most beautiful parts of the country where greed rather than proper planning dictated where houses could be built.
Builders were allowed to destroy the beauty of the Burren and some of the most scenic parts of Connemara, Kerry and other parts of Ireland with houses that borrowed more from Dallas and from Legoland than they did from the traditional Irish homestead. And do not get me going about what they did to our pure water supply.
I want to hear Fianna Fáil councillors speak out against the rape of the Irish countryside that was not merely tolerated but encouraged. I want to see patriotism – love of country and of its people – come back into Fianna Fáil
That is the kind of Fianna Fáil I would like to see get back into power. Fianna Fáil has no hope of getting back into power unless the gombeen is rooted out of the party and the people of little or no property come back into their own once more.
We need a society – and a government – that is more caring. Otherwise, there will be no change and we may even be worse off than we are at present.
Meanwhile, I believe the election of Michael D Higgins as President of Ireland is something we will all rejoice in. Michael D has the capacity to be the best President we ever had. I have known him since our days in St Flannan’s College together in the 1950s. Later I got to know him even better when he was a member of Seanad Éireann and in subsequent years, a member of the Dáil.
I know him as a very committed person with the highest of ideals and a passion to change society for the better.
I always felt the soul of the Labour Party was safe as long as Michael D remained a member. I now believe the soul of Ireland is safe while Michael D is President.
The office of President is only a ceremonial one and the President has no real power. But within the confines of that office, I know he will do us all proud.
Gura fada buan é.