EPIC FÁIL

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Political parties fall all the time but they seldom fall this far:

Ireland’s most dominant political party, Fianna Fáil, is on the road to a historic and devastating defeat in the republic’s general election.

Just months after accepting an EU/IMF bailout, the government is likely to finish in fourth place behind a resurgent Labour party and a slew of independent candidates.

The scale of Fianna Fáil’s losses is so great that a number of high-profile ministers, including finance minister Brian Lenihan, who negotiated the bailout, are in danger of losing their seats. His outgoing ministerial colleague Mary Hanafin also faces the possibility of being unseated in her Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown constituency.

Hopefully, the MCJ’s Ireland bureau chief will be along to explain what this election means for Ireland.  For my part, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to use that title for a post.

41 Comments to EPIC FÁIL

Katherine
February 27, 2011

Thanks for putting this up, Christopher. I also want to know if our Irish friend’s hopes are in ashes, since the one party she said she couldn’t vote for appears to have won the most seats. I have no way of judging what Fine Gael’s platform may be. Wikipedia says they were “right wing” in the old days, which means “left wing” or soft socialist in modern terms, I assume, unless their primary idea is Irish nationalism. I’d think that would be a Sinn Fein characteristic, though. I await Fuinseoig’s elucidation.

Fuinseoig
February 27, 2011

What it means for Ireland?

Short story: we’re up to our necks in debt, having had to go cap in hand to the EU for a bailout, because our Finance Minister committed us to propping up our banks.

The new guys who are coming in (Fine Gael and Labour, most probably, although they’re still playing the Stupid Politician Tricks of being all coy and “Oh, we couldn’t possibly say what kind of government will be formed until all the results are in”, when the dogs in the street know full well that they’ll get into bed together “all in the national interest”) are making noises about defaulting, but I doubt it. We’ve made agreements, our hands are pretty much tied to austerity measures for the next five years (at least) to get the economy back on the road and if we do default, what does that mean? Just that our international credit rating tanks, we won’t be able to borrow a red cent (and we’ve discovered that we need to borrow money) and we’ll piss off the EU so the next time we need a dig out, the Germans (who are basically the only ones with the deep pockets and who are pretty much keeping Europe afloat) will tell us where to go and what we can do.

Apart from that (the EU, which means the Germans, owns our national and collective backsides for the foreseeable future), what does it mean? Emigration is up once again; all the kids are heading off to Australia. Fianna Fáil are dead in the water for the time being: it’ll take them the life-span of the new government to begin to recover, and the in-fighting, back-stabbing, and blame-allocating are going to be entertaining (in a black humour way) to observe, but that’s about all.

The new Dáil and the Coalition Government are going to be some kind of balancing act. A lot of Independents got elected this time around; most of them are single-issue candidates who will all be agitating for local issues (e.g. keeping the district hospital open, getting roads tarred, all that) but some are ex-FF and ex-FG members who were canny enough to see which way the wind was blowing, resigned from their respective parties, and ran on their own names and reputations as local ‘fixers’ and got in. Which will make it interesting when the inevitable tensions pop up; FG is (now that the Progressive Democrats have self-destructed) the most right-ward leaning of our parties and has campaigned on a pro-business, no tax increase platform, while their partner, Labour (even after it’s back-pedalled and softened its message so as to appeal to the middle-classes and not frighten the voters) will be expected to look after the left-inclination, which includes the social welfare scheme, hospitals, and generally public spending.

There is going to be conflict when the majority partner (FG) wants to cut taxes (which it basically can’t) so will settle for cutting public spending instead, while Labour will agitate for the poor/unemployed. In this, the Independents and what way they might vote on issues and how they can be bribed to go along are going to be very important.

As to my personal feelings – I expected FG to win so the results are pretty much as everyone in the country expected. No way in hell could FF get anywhere. They’ve imploded, which you can see from how many sitting TDs (our public representatives) were not returned (scroll way down the page here):

http://www.rte.ie/news/election2011/results/index.html

But, unlike the PDs, FF can come back from this. They were always the largest party in the State and peoople (like myself) have a tribal loyalty that will be assuaged if signs of some kind of decent leadership comes up.

Sinn Féin did very respectably for themselves; Gerry Adams got in on the first count when running in Louth, so this means he will now be (have been, that is) a member of three different parliaments: the UK Parliament (where, as a matter of principle, SF MPs never took their seats – this goes all the way back to Countess Constance Markievicz, the first woman to be elected to the British Parliament, in the 1918 General Election), the Northern Ireland Assembly and now the Dáil. SF are gradually, slowly, becoming a mainstream democratic party (even if they still retain the leftist roots) and the evolution of Irish politics may be about to get even more interesting, as FF under Micheál Martin (the new party leader) are making noises about setting up in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Sinn Féin guys (as in Gerry Adams) are getting involved in the Republic. It could be the first time since before Partition that we have genuine all-island participation.

To sum up: for the first time in my voting life, I put the FF candidate in our constituency dead last on the ballot paper (16th of 16). He was the only FF candidate running in the entire county and the sitting TD, yet he still lost his seat. That tells you all you need to know about the state of the party nationwide.

And now Enda Kenny will be Taoiseach, to which my reaction is as follows: “Oh, God. Oh, God, oh God, oh God. Ohhhhh, GOD!!!!”

It’s not so much that he’s a Blueshirt, it’s that he’s – Inda!

http://www.rte.ie/news/election2011/enda_kenny_profile.html

And if you can hear it, this sketch about Enda on the satirical comedy radio sketch on RTÉ pretty much sums up the view of his capabilities as a statesman:

http://www.rte.ie/podcasts/2011/pc/pod-v-31011102m46snobnation.mp3

HV Observer
February 27, 2011

The greatest electoral crash in a Western country was the Canadian Federal election of 1993, where the Progressive Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Kim Campbell, went from 169 seats to 2 seats.

It wasn’t so much her fault; the previous Prime Minister, Brian Mulrooney, had made the PC “brand” deeply unpopular with the Canadian electorate. Mulrooney had resigned some months before, and had left Campbell holding the bag. She even lost her own riding in Vancouver Centre.

J.M. Heinrichs
February 27, 2011

Mr Kenny: “- He is a Bruce Springsteen fan”
… how could he possibly fail?

Cheers

Mithrax
February 27, 2011

Few notes about Kim Cambpell’s failure:

She was left holding the bag, but her electoral campaign was a nightmare. They could have done a LOT better, but to summarize: “Look at me! I’m the First female Prime Minister of Canada!”

“What are your party policies?”

“Look at me! I’m the first female Prime Minister of Canada!”

“How are you going to get the economy on track?”

“Isn’t that Chretien fellow awful? He slurs his words!”

(Jean Chretien had a problem with the side of his mouth that gave him limited muscle control).

Sure, she was doomed to fail, but her own stupidity led her to lose as bad as she did.

Katherine
February 27, 2011

So, Fuinseoig, you think Enda is incompetent? An empty suit? What? The link didn’t really tell me, except that he’s been in politics most of his adult life following his father’s death. A professional politician with little to no outside experience sounds like a bad thing, depending on the politics. A business-leaning party paired with Labour sounds like an odd partnership, perhaps not likely to produce much in the way of positive policy. But as you point out with Germany in charge for the near future you don’t really have a lot of choices anyhow. I hope it works out better than feared. If Ireland actually does the austerity program you may come out of it sooner rather than later, unlike the U.S. if we can’t get our politicians to face reality.

Dale Matson
February 27, 2011

Fuinseoig,
(“….getting roads tarred, all that)
If they get the roads widened I might come back and spend some tourist dollars visiting my dad’s relatives again. Our tiny rental car was kissed on both sides by the hedge rows and there is no point putting up “Road Narrows” signs on roads that are already only one lane wide.

John
February 27, 2011

I predict a similar outcome for the new Republican/Tea party coalition. They were good as an opposition party but they do not know how to rule.

The Editor
February 27, 2011

We’ll see, won’t we, John? The Republicans control only one house of the Congress so “ruling” is not a possibility any time soon. But if they act as though the last two years never happened then yeah, there will be LOTS of third-party candidacies in 2012.

trespinos
February 27, 2011

Thanks for that comedy radio sketch, Fuinseoig. That was a hoot. They mocked his inability to pronounce a Portuguese name, but I see he had no pity on English speakers when it came to naming his kids. His parents were kind enough to name him Enda, and he’s named his children Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise? Hmmmm.

LaVallette
February 28, 2011

So the devil continues to reap his end of the Faustian agreement with the Irish Republic.

Don Janousek
February 28, 2011

John: “Rule?” “Rule?” We don’t have “rulers” in this country, Bub – This is a constitutional republic where we have “elected representatives.” Got rid of all that “ruler” stuff with all that noise in 1776. Perhaps one of your union thug “educators” mentioned that.

Barry Oh! and his marxist goons want to “rule,” but it ain’t gonna happen, Bub.

If you want to see folks who want to “rule,” check out the smelly, unemployed union national socialists who have been laying on the floor in the Wisconsin capitol building for the last couple of weeks. They think they were destined to “rule.” That ain’t gonna happen either, Bub.

Robb
February 28, 2011

None of the problems that now beset Erie would have occurred had they not banned smoking in pubs.

Ed the Roman
February 28, 2011

“None of the problems that now beset Erie …”

Let’s leave Pennsylvania out of this.

John
February 28, 2011

I think I need to remind the Editor that we have State Governors and legislatures plus local government elected officials who also rescind and pass laws.
This is where most of the bad decisions are being made now

sybil marshall
February 28, 2011

If it gets so bad in Ireland that many people have to leave, please send Daire Nolan here! ;-) Seriously, we could indeed be next. Locally we will be working hard to keep GOP shirt-tails aflame (and to just plain, way overdue, retire Lugar, now that more people are finally paying attention). So we have some understanding of what Ireland is going through. Many thoughts and prayers.

Katherine
February 28, 2011

Good decisions, you mean, John. Except where elected Democrats are acting extra-legally to prevent legislatures from enacting any laws.

Fuinseoig
February 28, 2011

Katherine, I can’t (er, make that I shouldn’t) comment on the capability of politicians, since it’s pretty much my opinion that the entire shower since Dev (God be good to the man) were a bunch of venal idiots.

We need a statesman, because we’re going to be dealing with Europe (where “dealing” means “grovelling on our knees in floods of tears begging them not to throw us out on the side of the road, we’ll pay back the loan honest, but can we get an extension and easier terms?”).

Enda does not strike me as that kind of statesman; that was partly the point of the comic skit about him not knowing who “the foreign lad with the big schnoz” was. He’s also, as I’ve said, rather thin-skinned for someone who’s been in politics so long; he refused to go on TV for a leaders’ debate between the 3 major party leaders (FF, FG and Labour) but held out for a 5-way debate. Most people read that as him being afraid he’d be pinned down on policy specifics or any rifts between him and Eamonn Gilmore (leader of Labour and his coalition partner to be) would be exploited by Micheál Martin (leader of FF) before the election.

Though we ended up having about four leaders’ debates on the various TV stations, and as you can see, it didn’t hurt Enda at all.

He also made some very candid remarks about a former politician of his party who criticised him and said he should stand down; Enda retorted by saying Gemma Hussey should ‘keep her comments to herself.’, ‘She is out of politics and should stay out of it,’ ‘she had her day’ and should remember the times he helped her when she was a senior minister.

Now, that’s the kind of thing you say in private but when a tv reporter sticks a microphone under your nose, you waffle about ‘great servant of the party, distinguished former Minister, entitled to her say, however times have changed and I feel that I (etc. etc. etc.)’. Otherwise, you sound like you can’t take the heat, and that’s not a good trait in someone going for head of the government who’s going to have to deal with a lot of pressure both internally (holding the coalition together and dealing with public dissatisfaction) and externally (dealing with our economy and keeping the EU and IMF happy that the change of government can get things back on track).

Ah, to hell with it, I’ll come clean; as I said, I’m tribal FF and he’s a Blueshirt. Of course I haven’t a good word to throw to him ;-)

Fuinseoig
February 28, 2011

trespinos, he’s from Mayo, he’s supposed to speak the cupla focáil, and as a teacher (however briefly) this naming of his kids was a nod to the public pieties regarding the language.

Aoibhinn is a girl’s name, and pronounced roughly “eve-een”. Ferdia and Naoise are boys’ names, from heroes of the Ulster “Red Branch Cycle” of Irish mythology. Ferdia is pronounced pretty much as “Fer-dee-ah” and Naoise is “Nah-shah”.

Enda is, of course, “End-ah” and is named after a 6th century Irish saint, St. Enda (Anglicisation of Éanna, Éinne) of Aran.

Other Irish saints’ names turned into English are Laserian, Flannan, Fachanan, Munchin, Carthage (of my own diocese), Jarlath, Nathy, Canice, Eunan and Otteran (again, of my own diocese).

Just in case anyone is looking for a name for a new baby?

:-)

Fuinseoig
February 28, 2011

Dale, I don’t know when you last visited, but during the good times there was a ferocious amount of road-building done.

Not that we don’t still have local roads and boreens, but we do have nice new wide (relatively) roads.

Except that now the local councils don’t have the money to maintain them, so the potholes are equally ferocious, but sure, why would you want to be speeding along like a maniac getting to places on time for, anyway?

:-)

Katherine
February 28, 2011

That does help me understand it, Fuinseoig. I have my own prejudices; it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for a national Democrat, given the history of the party’s candidates trying to destroy our constitutional government. For the latest, see Wisconsin/Indiana/Ohio. However, leaving my prejudices aside, I agree that nations need statesmen with information, leadership characteristics and spines. The thin-skinned ought to be in some other line of work.

Allen Lewis
February 28, 2011

So should community “organizers.”

William Tighe
February 28, 2011

There is also an obscure St. Elbhis (El-vis), although I can hardly believe that is where the late (Southern Baptist) Elvis Presley dervied his Christian name.

William Tighe
February 28, 2011

I remember driving around Ireland for a fortnight in 1980 with a friend, and we devised the conceit of a “Ministry of Dangerous Roads and Bridges” the purpose of which was to promote the same.

Martial Artist
February 28, 2011

Katherine,

You are correct about the Democrats, but you ought not overlook the Republicans contribution to the destruction of our constitutional government, as well. If you want to put everything in perspective I would highly recommend the book Who Killed the Constitution?: The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush by historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr. & attorney Kevin R. C. Gutzman. It is a well written, and very well documented, account of the damage that has been done to our constitution, and despite the subtitle, contains outrages from as early as Chief Justices John Marshall and Roger Taney. For lovers of the Constitution and its Federal (as opposed to national) model of governance, it will be either depressing, maddening or some of both. There is a very great deal of, and about, history that we were never taught in school, including colleges and universities.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Mark Windsor
February 28, 2011

“I predict a similar outcome for the new Republican/Tea party coalition. They were good as an opposition party but they do not know how to rule.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but the idea of “rule” in the U.S. just gives me the willies. Can we say, “They were good as an opposition party, but do they know how to govern?” It just seems to make a big difference since 2008….

Katherine
February 28, 2011

Keith, I am not naive enough to think that Republicans are without blame. It’s just that as a general rule they’re less awful than the Democrats. I am supporting (to the extent I can) efforts to bring the Republicans back to heel. I’ve given up on the other guys entirely. I’m also not inclined to vote for third parties unless they have some rational chance of winning for the purely practical reason that it’s better to see the less-awful people elected rather than the more-awful.

John
February 28, 2011

I used the word “rule” deliberately.
The art of government is reasonably compromise when there is no consensus.
From my perspective there is no compromise in today’s right wing politicians.

Katherine
February 28, 2011

Re: Gerry Adams winning a seat. He now represents a district where his alleged murder victim, a widowed mother of ten, was buried.

John, did you see any compromise when Congress bent its own rules to pass the health care bill without any Republican votes? At least Republicans showed up to vote against it. Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate don’t have that level of civic responsibility.

Don Janousek
February 28, 2011

John: But there is “comprimise” on the left? “I won.” – Chicago Jesus

Smurf Breath
February 28, 2011

I love the way John backs up his opinions with detailed argumentation, instead of just throwing around vague, slanted assertions.

Smurf Breath
February 28, 2011

John, do you even know why you believe what you believe? Are you being kept prisoner somewhere with nothing to read but the Huffington Post? May you escape from your conditioners soon, so that you can contemplate what goes on in the real world.

Anne B.
February 28, 2011

Fuinseoig, thanks for the tutorial – not only on Irish politics, but on the names. Especially Naoise; I couldn’t help reading that as Noisy.

The only Enda I’ve known is an Irish-American woman, and it was her middle name – she was Mary Enda. No stranger than Mary Flannery O’Connor, I suppose. And there’s a Jarlath Avenue in Chicago whose name always puzzled me, so thanks again for the enlightenment.

And as long as we’re talking pronunciation, how DO you pronounce Fianna Fail and Fine Gael? I want to say Fee-anna Fail and Fee-na Gail. Is that even close? Please advise.

Fuinseoig
March 1, 2011

Anne, you’re fairly close. Ironically (in view of the election results), ‘Fianna Fáil’ comes out as “Fee-han Fall”.

‘Fine Gael’ is “Finn-ah Gale (like the strong wind)”, though even some Irish people pronounce it as spelled (i.e., “fine” as in “fine day”).

Fianna Fáil approximates to “Soldiers of Destiny”, as the Fianna were a legendary group of Irish warriors under the leadership of Fionn Mac Cumhail (or Anglicé Finn McCool, as some of you may know him as), and Fál is a historic/poetic name for Ireland, e.g. Inis Fáil (Island of Fál or, as in many emigrant ballads, Inisfall), and the Stone of Destiny, the Lia Fáil which was the coronation stone of the Kings of Tara and allegedly was taken over to Scotland where it became the Stone of Scone.

“Fine Gael” means approximately “Family or Tribe of the Irish”, from ‘fine’ which means “kin or family” and which had a definition in Irish Brehon law as to clan membership (‘derbfine’ or ‘certain-kin’ constituted all the descendants in the paternal line from a common great-grandfather, ‘gelfine’ or ‘bright-kin’ all the descendants in the male line from a common grandfather and so on). As you can see, the founders of the parties were harkening back to the Celtic Twilight (which, in the 1920s, wasn’t so long past) and the Gaelic Revival, and deliberately associating themselves with Irish mythology and casting themselves as successors to the heroes of the legends.

It would be like an English political party naming itself “The Round Table” or “Arthur’s Guard”, deliberately evoking the Arthurian overtones.

Fuinseoig
March 1, 2011

Argh. Obviously, my subconscious is rejecting the FF destruction. It should be “Fee-nah”, not “Fee-han” in the above. “Feehan” is a family surname. Don’t know where that one came from :-)

Fuinseoig
March 1, 2011

Sorry, Christopher, for turning this into “The Irish History Blog” but one last word. The evocation of the Fianna was not just as a band of warriors or standing army, but as I said, with deliberate overtones referring back to the mythology.

This Wikipedia article is pretty good; I remember learning this bit myself in primary school (all those many years ago!):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fianna

“Membership was subject to rigorous tests. In one such test the applicant would stand in a waist-deep hole armed with a shield while nine warriors threw spears at him; if he was wounded, he failed. In another his hair would be braided, and he would be pursued through the forest; he would fail if he was caught, if a branch cracked under his feet, or if the braids in his hair were disturbed. He would have to be able to leap over a branch the height of his forehead, pass under one as low as his knee, and pull a thorn from his foot without slowing down. He also needed to be a skilled poet.”

(Yes, this is what passed for history lessons when I was ten and eleven years old.)

Anne B.
March 1, 2011

Thanks, Fuinseiog (and thanks, Christopher, for indulging us on this topic.) It’s good to know that the joke in Christopher’s title works no matter how you pronounce it ;-)

sybil marshall
March 1, 2011

Fuinseoig– am loving the history lesson. It’s dangerous out there (sources) for a Celtophile now, due to the pop-Celtic/eco-crap wave. So it’s always good to hear whatever we can from someone who *can* be trusted.

Maureen
March 1, 2011

Well, that’s the sort of fine romantic history/legend that kids should be learning in elementary school. Time enough to learn all the pros and cons historical argument stuff later on, when they know the stories of history in their bones. And anyway, they’re going to need it for Irish lit, surely.

Thanks for the St. Carthage thing. Explains a lot about the dedication page of “the Irish Augustine”. (And man, what a horrible medieval pun on Carthage!)

sybil marshall
March 1, 2011

Yes, thanks Chris!

Fuinseoig
March 2, 2011

sybil, thank you very much. I don’t know how trustworthy a source I am, but at least I have the oldromantic codswallop instead of the new New Pseudo-Celt thing.

Anne, yes, Christopher’s joke works even better when you realise it’s pronounced “fall” :-)

Maureen, you should have heard our history lessons in Fifth Class. A classroom full of eleven year old girls (single-sex school from age seven upwards as the boys were funnelled out to the Christian Brothers) and Sr. Joseph telling us that she was not going to be teaching us out of the textbook, instead she would be telling us the lessons and we would have to remember them and not take notes.

Then she told us great stuff like the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 between Brian Boru and the Vikings of Dublin (okay, teeny bit more complicated politically than that, but for eleven year olds enough to start off with Irish versus Vikings) on Good Friday, and how Brian (being too old and feeble by now to participate in the battle) remained in his tent praying, and how he was killed by a fleeing Viking with a battle-axe, and how in turn when Brian’s guard (the Dál gCáis or Dalcassians) caught up with him, they tied him to a tree…

… using his own intestines for rope.

Is it any wonder I grew to lovehistory?

;-)

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