|The outcome of the Election of 25th February, in terms of the traditional parties, is that it gives the Labour Party the opportunity to end 'Civil War politics'. It has been said often enough over the years that this is what it wants to do, because it is held back by the overlay of Civil War politics which obscures class issues. Well, the Election has given it the opportunity to attempt this under very favourable conditions.
The Labour slogan at the start of the Election campaign was Gilmore For Taoiseach!. It seemed for a moment that the old order was in melt-down under the impact of the second major crisis of capitalism that the State has had to face. But it soon became clear that the old order would not crumble so easily, and that Fine Gael was benefitting from the collapse of morale in Fianna Fail.
The appeal to the electorate was then to prevent the return of a single-party Fine Gael Government by ensuring that it would once more have to form a Coalition with Labour as its minor partner. As minor partner in a Coalition, Labour would calm down the wilder capitalist impulses of Fine Gael.
The election result has given Labour a much better opportunity of shackling Fine Gael than by becoming yet again the junior partner in a Coalition. Gilmore cannot be Taoiseach, but the position of Leader of the Opposition is his for the taking.
By taking up this position, he would not only make Fine Gael continuously dependent on Dail votes in the conduct of government, but would transform Labour from a niche party to a national party.
It would, of course, risk its niche position by doing this. But one does not get to govern a State without taking risks. And it is not possible to be niche and national simultaneously.
If Labour does not assert itself as Leader of the Opposition, and handle Fianna Fail as its junior partner, but prefers to become itself the junior partner in a Fine Gael Coalition yet again, then it gives the position of Leader of the Opposition, with all the prestige that goes with it, to Fianna Fail, and encourages the revival of the Civil War structure.
For the first time ever, the fate of Labour is in its own hands! Now we will see what's in its head.
Fianna Fail has wantonly sacrificed its position as the national party. The sacrifice has been in preparation for some time, particularly under Bertie Ahern. The suicide thrust was delivered by Micheál Martin in the television debate between the five party leaders, when he turned on Gerry Adams and berated him for "coming down here" and finding fault with us. And he followed up this with a press briefing to the effect that Bertie Ahern was of the opinion that Adams had done the Northern Bank Robbery.
Martin seems to be living in a Jack Lynch fantasy in his Cork City bailiwick in which he has sought to replace the activity of the Fianna Fail Cumann with his own personal entourage.
The attack on Adams for "coming down here" certainly lost Fianna Fail a great many votes in constituencies close to the Border, where the North is not a foreign country. And there are few parts of the Republic where the Fianna Fail leadership could burn its bridges with its Sinn Fein origins without being punished for it.
Fine Gael (in its first manifestation as Cumann na nGaedheal) cut itself adrift from its origins with a series of actions from 1922 to the early 1930s (the Immaculate Conception Massacre, the Ballyseedy Massacre, the suppression of the Collins inheritance in 1924, that attempt to suppress the democracy by means of the Oath in the mid-1920s, the draconian Emergency legislation of its last period in office (1927-32), and its turn to Fascism after losing to Fianna Fail in 1932 and 1933), but it survived as the junior party of the state. Fianna Fail grew by assimilating what Cumann na nGaedheal discarded, and it has been the dominant party of the democracy from 1932 until the 2011 Election. It now lies a poor third, not far ahead of the party that "came down here".
A correspondent for German radio, interviewed about the Election on Radio Eireann, saw the significant thing that happened in it as being the rise of Sinn Fein. In our last issue we urged a vote for Sinn Fein on the grounds that it was what would be noticed in Europe and spur the EU into a more responsible conduct.
Sinn Fein is the mobile element in the situation, and is likely to remain so if Labour opts to remain junior partner to Fine Gael. Labour is probably destined by its composition to make this choice. It is led by a Stickie element ultimately traceable to the Official IRA, which renders it irrational on the subject of Sinn Fein (the Provisionals). Labour also has a contingent from the Democratic Socialist Party formed by the late Jim Kemmy (Limerick) about twenty years ago, that held a position called "post-nationalism", which we could never quite grasp. And there is a residue of Old Labour, which itself consisted of a disabling mixture ranging from the implicit but undeveloped Syndicalism of Connolly's Union to a kind of Blueshirtism, taking in a kind of Conor Cruise O'Brienism along the way.
If Labour baulks at its first real chance, then the opportunity for a radical development of politics goes to Sinn Fein. Micheál Martin will just have to harden himself to more and more of them "coming down here" and behaving as if this were their country too.
C O N T E N T S
Must Labour Wait? Editorial
The Trouble With Fianna Fail . . . Editorial
Sacrificing The EU To Secure The Euro. Intergovernmental Rule OK! Jack Lane
Readers' Letters: Israeli Democracy Akin To Apartheid. David Morrison
Digest, Northern Reactions To Irish Elections
Editorial Digest. (Irish News; McGurk's Bar; The 'Disappeared'; Royal Wedding; Tuition Fees; Victims & Libya; Margaret 'Poppy' Ritchie)
The Irish Reaction To The Economic Crisis. Desmond Fennell
Revolting Thoughts. Seán McGouran
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Election Disaster; Social Partnership; Credit From The Banks; Economy & Politics; Bank & Sovereign Debt; The Irish Press)
Readymade Caricatures From Keane & Sons, Listowel. Jack Lane
Replies To Jeff Dudgeon:
Casement And True Belief. Brendan Clifford
The Gay Casement And Evidence From The Archives. Tim O'Sullivan
Rubbishing Sinn Fein. Seán McGouran
The Dream Of Sir John Davies. John Minahane
Strafford And The English Rebellion Of 1640. Editorial response to John Minahane
It's A Wild Life In Mesopotamia; Parliament Is Now In Session. Wilson John Haire (Poems)
Es Ahora. Julianne Herlihy (31st Dáil Election; Cork; Arabs & Revolution; Irish Seals)
De Valera And Zionism:
Legacy, From Aiken To Haughey. Philip O'Connor
Naval Warfare. Pat Walsh (Part 8)
Biteback: Fergal Keane's 'Story Of Ireland'. Manus O'Riordan (Unpublished Letter)
Civil Rights Story. Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh (Report of Review)
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (Peter Hart & TCD; Atlantic Council & Ian
Birrell; Immigration; US & Migration; S. Dakota & Justifiable Homicide; Carbon Tax; Climate Change
Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney:
The New Fianna Fail?; Martin & McGrath