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Saturday 19 January 2019

Jim O'Callaghan: The difficult steps Micheal must take for FF's survival

Fianna Fail now faces its greatest challenge. It can either fade away or change and rebuild.

To achieve the latter, a number of difficult steps and admissions are needed. The most difficult admission is that Fianna Fail has lost the trust of the Irish people for a variety of reasons, many of which date back to the period from 2001-2007.

First, it allowed and encouraged a property bubble to develop in our economy.

The bursting of that bubble, which exposed the banks' reckless lending, has imposed an enormous financial burden on the public finances.

Second, Fianna Fail assumed that the increased tax revenues from the property bubble could be sustained and were a legitimate basis for increasing enormously public expenditure.

Third, when the bubble burst, Fianna Fail was seen to burden the Irish people with the cost of cleaning up this mess through cutting social welfare payments and increasing taxes.

Fourth, the arrival of the IMF/EU, although necessary to sustain public expenditure, was an abandonment of economic sovereignty that occurred on Fianna Fail's watch.

In order to regain trust, Fianna Fail will have to perform responsibly and honestly in opposition. We have a number of advantages that will assist in that process.

Micheal Martin is a popular leader who is trusted and liked by the Irish people. He will lead by putting the country's interests first. Even though the election was a disaster, Fianna Fail will still be the largest opposition party.

The abysmal performance was also caused by underlying problems in its organisation and discipline which were masked by the electoral success it achieved over the past 20 years. The organisation is weak at present, particularly in Dublin where it has a small and ageing membership. Part of the reason for this is that TDs became too powerful in Fianna Fail.

Individual TDs took over constituencies and turned them in to their own personal fiefdoms where new members, let alone new candidates, were discouraged.

The danger of allowing this to occur, as we saw in some constituencies last Saturday, is that when the dominant TD moves on or retires, the local organisation is weak and party support collapses.

The first organisational challenge facing Micheal Martin is the impending Seanad election. It is vital that Fianna Fail elects Senators who will win Dail seats at the next General Election. Enda Kenny did this very effectively in 2002. There is no female Fianna Fail TD at present. Fianna Fail needs to get articulate women elected to the Seanad.

As Dublin is a problem for the party, we should seek to get Mary Fitzpatrick, Averil Power and Mary Hanafin elected as Senators. Dublin city councillors Deirdre Heney and Julia Carmichael would also make excellent Senators.

Fianna Fail must recognise that it cannot make any mistakes in the process of changing and rebuilding. Many people today ridicule De Valera's politics and what he stood for. He did, however, have a vision for this country. We need to establish a modern version of that vision.



Wrong

We need a vision of a united and independent Ireland which today means improving the relationship between Nationalists and Unionists on this island. Fianna Fail is still best placed to achieve this objective.

In recent times, Fianna Fail became attracted to soft touch regulation and a belief that the market, left to its own devices, would improve everyone's standard of living.

This has been proven to be totally wrong. Fianna Fail became too supportive of those with money and what they thought was best for the economy.

If we wish to survive we need to get back to the ordinary people of Ireland. We need to speak for them. It can still be done but it will take time and great effort.

Cllr Jim O'Callaghan is a Fianna Fail member of Dublin City Council

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