Monday, March 2, 2009

Eye of the storm

The Board wrote in defence of Taoiseach Brian Cowen here quite recently. It was a defence based on character, intelligence and the man's clear duty to public service. It is a defence he has been forced to revisit in the wake of his and his party's performance at their Ard Fheis.

Brian Cowen still posseses those qualities, of course. But the problem here is his party.

Noel Dempsey's bombastic and brutally honest speech aside, the Ard Fheis was self-serving, aggrandising and very difficult to watch.

The party of government have clearly decided that at a time when their popular support is at a record low, they will stay true to their core, indulge one another and hold the line.

Not. Good. Enough.

One immediately thought of Lindsey Graham's speech to the Republican Party convention in the US last year, in which he brazenly declared that his party "are on the way to victory" over Barack Obama. Very rarely do we get to see politicians loudly declare just out of touch they and their parties are.

The Fianna Fail pantomime - in which Bertie Ahern (a man who posterity will judge as a reckless, manipulative and painfully populist leader) received a prolonged standing ovation - will do little to restore its battered reputation.

When an electorate is so dead set against you, your policies, your culture of cronyism and how you have steered this country into a ravine, the only choice a party has is to offer up its cheek.

The entire FF party are not to blame for the banking crisis, of course. Minister Dempsey's declaration that they are not all "guilty by association" does ring true.

But the Irish voters are not willing to compromise. Fianna Fail stood with open arms to receive the joy of the boom. It now has to take all the anger of the bust. If you want to deflect blame, a brash display of assumed authority under the FF banner isn't the way to do it.

It is no coincidence that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is the most popular politician in the country today. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Party hold all three arms of the US government. It is no coincidence that laissez-faire leaders, from Sarkozy to Kostas Karamanlis, are without popular support.

Western democracy is moving to the left.

If Fianna Fail is left holding three local councils across the country after June 5, we will all be very surprised.

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