Saying “Fianna Fáil is having an identity crisis” is not exactly some new or earth-shattering take. It’s pretty well established at this point to anyone who’s remotely clued-in to Irish politics.
Not only have the media themselves written endless articles making that exact point, but even Fianna Fáil backbenchers have identified their own party’s lack of discernible purpose as an issue.
— Shane Beatty (@ShaneBeattyNews) July 16, 2022
And what could make an identity crisis worse than going into coalition with opponents who are supposed to be your party’s sworn political enemies?
As reported by the Irish Examiner:
“The Taoiseach has said he is not ruling out a coalition with Sinn Féin at the next election, but said he does not anticipate Mary Lou McDonald becoming Taoiseach.…”I’m not saying I’m ruling it out. I’m not saying it’s an issue that becomes a breaking point in the future,” he said.”
Note that while he says he would not anticipate Mary Lou becoming Taoiseach, that’s almost certainly what would happen in reality, with Fianna Fáil being a junior coalition partner to their once-hated foes.
Fianna Fáil backbenchers have already said they feel they are being dominated and “lost in government” with Fine Gael.
If they think this is bad, just wait until they’re in with Sinn Féin. They’ll get absolutely manhandled. And it’s not unrealistic either, considering Mary Lou has said in the past she’d be open to a coalition as well. The feeling is apparently mutual.
— Pat Leahy (@PatLeahyIT) June 5, 2018
Now, that aside, just stop and think about this coalition idea for a moment.
Almost since the foundation of the state, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were arch-enemies and antagonists to one another. They were black and white. Yin and yang. Dogs and cats.
In fact, mere days before the last general election in 2020, the idea of the two parties going into coalition was utterly unthinkable. Martin dubbed the very notion of it “Jekyll and Hyde behaviour,” ruling out the suggestion utterly.
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 23, 2020
Until very shortly after the election, that is, when he changed his tune and decided to go into coalition with them anyway.
And now, with Sinn Féin on the rise, we hear that he’d be at least open to the idea of going in with them as well.
This starts to paint the picture of Fianna Fáil being an unprincipled band of political mercenaries who will form a government with anyone and everyone necessary to stay in power. Socialists or corporatists, europhiles or eurosceptics, leftwing or rightwing – it doesn’t matter. They have no discernable ideology or philosophy, and will seemingly do anything to get ahead.
Some in Fianna Fáil would probably be offended by that, and contest it. But that’s what it looks like.
I mean, think about it; what is Fianna Fáil’s niche even supposed to be? What target audience are they trying to appeal to?
Say what you will about Fine Gael, but love them or hate them, their niche in the political ecosystem is obvious; they’re the party of middle-class liberal urbanites who love the EU. They want to reach out to cosmopolitan types who think of themselves as European first and Irish second, if at all. That’s their target demographic. And they do a good job of holding onto that base.
That’s obviously not to say that everyone who votes Fine Gael fits into that demographic, of course – but that’s the core constituency they’re aiming for.
Same goes for Sinn Féin; they try to appeal to posh Socialists and blue collar nationalist patriotic types who are concerned about Irish Unity. Fair enough.
Even the smaller parties, while they may not have many seats, at least know who they are.
People Before Profit are radical-Left Marxists and chronically anti-government. So if you’re a Commie who hates Leo and private corporations, then you probably like PBP.
The Greens are basically upper-middle class hippies on bikes. Aontú are social conservatives and interested in social justice. Etcetera, etcetera. Almost everyone in the Irish political scene knows who they are, and more importantly, who they’re trying to appeal to.
Almost everyone – except Fianna Fáil.
At one stage they would have been a kind of conservative farmer’s party, of course. But those days are long, long gone. Nobody could describe the party of trans school lessons and abortions as conservative, and their climate policies are anything but farmer friendly. Now they blow around in the political wind more than a kite in a hurricane.
Arguably this lack of clear philosophy goes back over a decade, with Fianna Fáil identifying Bertie Ahern as a “genuine socialist” in 2005 (like that was a good thing) and being mocked mercilessly for it. They didn’t know what they wanted to be back then, and it seems they still don’t.
Despite many of the backbenchers identifying the problem, it seems Fianna Fáil’s leadership is wedded to the party’s political nihilism, and is happy to sail aimlessly into a future of pointless confusion and ultimate destruction.