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Has Bertie's Begging Bowl Exposed The Emptiness Of The Opposition?
After nearly a fortnight of political turmoil, which Bertie really wishes would have died down by now, today seems to be the D-day on which all of his future will be decided. After his Nixon-esque interview on Six-One, the FF strategists were surely hoping that his personal life being laid bare for the cynical public, as well as his stated intention to pay back the "loans", were enough to silence the hounds. However the Manchester payment, by some group of businessmen, for some vague reason or other, is going to cause him enormous damage, and it remains difficult to see how he could come out on the other side of all this with his image as a simple man of the people intact. Surely even FF are going to be wondering if sticking with their leader is worth it. In the last general election, his face was the face of Fianna Fail, adorning the posters on the lamposts, with the slogan 'A Lot Done, More To Do'. They face losing the next election if Bertie is still at the helm and is the brand of FF.
But by the end of play today - if McDowell does pull the plug and Bertie gets the chop in an internal putsch, and we're all watching a leadership contest, or maybe even a general election nine months sooner than expected - will whatever happens make the slightest bit of difference? I find it hard to believe so. I dont think that any replacement for Bertie will be any less susceptible to corruption. Fianna Fail has always been the friend of the builder, developer, businessman, and whoever else is interested in getting access to the tent at the Galway Races - for the right price.
The party is completely devoid of any political ideology whatsoever, occupying a bland populist space somewhere between centre and centre-right, with the odd bit of rhetoric about social democratic values post-Inchydoney but not doing a fucking thing about it, and not exactly sure of how green it is either but willing to play that card whenever Sinn Fein threaten some of its marginal seats. Ahern's laughable claim to be a socialist at the helm of FF shows just how muddled and directionless the electorial giant really is at its core. This is the party that gave rise and shelter to Liam Lawlor, Ray Burke, Beverly Cooper-Flynn, Ivor Callely, Charlie Haughey, Ned O'Keeffe, Frank Dunlop, John Ellis, Padraig Flynn. These are just the people that got caught out. Who knows what else is happening at the moment.
So whats the alternative then? The Mullingar Accord, linking Labour with Fine Gael, is the one being pushed on the public at the moment, with the two muppets at the helm claiming its the only viable option. Enda Kenny's billboards, which no matter which way I go I cant escape from, strike me as particularly vacuous and inane. The man is like a washed out version of the Tories David Cameron. Kenny has no substance and even less style. FG are like their counterparts across the floor, ideologically dead and their only platform is to get the other lot out. This is the party that has given us the likes of Michael Lowry and Anne Devitt. You cant help but feel that FG would definitely have a lot more corrupt members - if they ever stayed in power for the same amount of time as FF.
Happy to help this right wing shower on their way is the ex-Stickie Pat Rabbitte. Hard to believe that at some point in the past a chunk of the Labour front bench were actually Marxists. Never mind the fact that FG are possibly even more right wing and conservative than FF, Rabbitte and the other Labour Party people have shown themselves to be total careerists by abandoning their ideals for the sake of a slice of power. A slide to the right and a sweeping under the carpet of eventual coalition-destroying policy clashes such as abortion, homosexual marriages, and the US Military in Shannon; Labour have tried to make themselves into a New Labour a la Tony Blair, but without the same success in the polls.
Neither of these options strike me as attractive. I think I'm perfectly happy to occupy a neither/nor position. What is it I'm looking for, I hear you ask. Well, all of Irish parliamentary politics (bar one or two members, you can probably guess who if you're reading this site) strikes me as incredibly childish and stupid. Trying to explain the divide between FF and FG to foreigners just shows up how the public have bought into this false opposition between one right wing party and another - and constantly given them 75% of the vote, year in, year out. Labour are all the more pathetic for buying into this, as are the Greens and Sinn Fein who never rule out going into coalition with anybody. FF and FG are mirror images of each other, yet for decades the public, more the fools, believe that somehow a civil war is enough to divide them for eternity. Labour as pawn brokers in any hung Dail could have sat it out and let the two big boys cobble together their seats, thus opening up the paradigm of a left/right divide in Ireland, like any other mature European country, yet every time they've hopped into bed with the right wing with the thirst for power. And so we'll hobble along again until the next election when nothing ever changes. Where is the real opposition to all this?