Four letters in August from Gerry’s Postbox
Thank you for your recent letter.
I agree with you that a General Election is close, likely this Autumn or next Spring. Like you, I believe the Irish electorate is unlikely to give any one political party an overall majority, in which case a coalition government is inevitable.
I agree with you too that our party, Fianna Fáil is the natural coalition partner for yours, sharing not a little of common history (after all, our party’s founders were members of your party before they left it. Our principal founder had been President of your party!).
However, there are a number of factors operating against such a partnership, not least is which we have to remain top dogs in any coalition and some of our people are not sure that you wouldn’t be nibbling at our heels, trying to get into the top position for yourselves. I am only telling you what some people think, you understand.
Then there’s the spoils of power. Again, we have powerful supporters who are not happy to share the loot, if I can put in those terms, just as a joke, ha, ha, ha. And they say that some of your people are hungry.
So, for the moment, Gerry a chara, the answer has to be no, go raibh maith agat. But in future, who knows? A week is a long time in politics, they say – but months?
You will understand I’m sure why this letter is in printed text and why I cannot sign it.
All the best for now.
Thank you for your recent letter.
I agree with you that a General Election is close. Like you, I also believe the bloody Irish electorate is once again (!) unlikely to give any one political party an overall majority — so a coalition government is inevitable.
Despite our historical difference I agree with you too that Fine Gael is the natural coalition partner for yours, sharing not a little of history (leaving aside that little misunderstanding 1922-1923).
However, I can foresee a number of difficulties in contemplating such a partnership. Some of your people hate our party and the feeling is reciprocated from within our party too, by some at least. But in the end we understand real politics. Haven’t we teamed up with Labour a couple of times? Hasn’t yours with the Unionists?
To be honest, Gerry, and I’m only telling you what some have been saying, joining up with your party would be easier if you were not the President of it. Painful as it is to tell you, they’d be a lot happier with Mary Lou, who has not a whiff of gunpowder around her, if you know what I mean.
So, for the moment, Gerry a chara, the answer has to be at most “maybe”, thanks. But as time goes on, who knows?
I regret but am sure you will understand why this letter is printed text and why I cannot sign it.
All the best for now.
I trust this letter finds you well.
It seems that a General Election is close, likely this Autumn or next Spring. The likely outcome will be that no one political party gets an overall majority, in which case a coalition government is inevitable.
I want to take you back to your suggestion in the past that your party should team up with Labour and some independents to form a Government. At the time I thought the idea interesting but I knew my colleagues would not go for it. They have a history of hating your party for all kinds of reasons, mostly to do with the IRA.
But now that you’ve disbanded that bunch they hate you even more for trying to move into our patch – social democracy. I know, there’s no pleasing some people, is there? As you know yourself. And anyway, as I tell them, your party has no real feet in the trade unions, does it? So social democracy as a political project remains safely with us (except to an extent in Dublin, where FF have a foothold in that section of the people, God knows why).
Anyway now that our party faces an almost total Dáil wipeout in the next election, even those hard-liners in our party might be willing to consider an alliance for government. Twenty-three Dáil seats is a respectable number to bring to the table and you might even gain a couple more in the election.
You might be saying to yourselves that your party has nothing to gain from an alliance with ours, with our parliamentary representation so reduced and other factors (electorate resentment about things we did and didn’t do while in government, etc.). But we bring respectability to your party and we wouldn’t be pressurising you to step aside for Mary Lou.
Most crucially perhaps, we have trade union support to offer. Let’s face it, there are some hard times ahead and having union leaders on your side (or at least under control) could be a very important factor for success.
And whereas our party can rise and fail and rise and fail again, it might be that yours has only one crack at power before the electorate decide to go back to established parties. In Northern Ireland, for decades now you only really had the Unionists as opposition, and most of your support base would never vote for them. But here, in the Republic (if you don’t mind my using the term, ha, ha), you’d be up against parties that your kind of people have voted in for generations, or at least from time to time.
I know an astute manoeuverer such as yourself will understand what I am saying.
At least think about it.
I mean no disrespect but this letter in printed text has to remain unsigned — I’m sure you understand why.
All the best for now.
As we expected, your floating the notion that we might be willing to go into coalition government as the minority partner (despite our previous statements that we would not) raised some condemnations from inside and outside the Party, along with some stirrings of unease among a number of our supporters.
On the debit side, it seems we are going to lose a handful of long-term members but these have been critical for some time and we’re better off without them. As to the critics outside, many of them former members, they condemn virtually anything we do and we only need worry about what they say to the extent that it might concern our members. But look how many things our members have accepted already, despite the critics! No, I think we’re safe on this one.
On the plus side, the media mostly absorbed the interview with interest and, on the whole, neutral comment. And it must have set Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael thinking (and even Labour, though you’d wonder why they think we’d want to join with a bunch of losers like them).
As to the bulk of our members, it seems some were still reeling from our expressed interest in a coalition government with the Blueshirts (must get out of the habit of calling them that, lol) and perhaps a little shell-shocked so that this latest suggested change has aroused little emotion.
As we discussed, playing it as a thought of yours only that would still have to be discussed in the Party and ultimately decided democratically at the Ard-Fheis was the right way to go about it and when it comes to the AF we should have little difficulty in getting it through. Yes, the ‘suggestion’ might expose you to criticism from what’s left of the left-wingers in the Party but, on the other hand, it makes you more acceptable to the media and less vulnerable to being asked to move aside in favour of you-know-who (and that rhymes with her name, ha, ha). We still need to keep an eye on that one; it would be dangerous to underestimate her, as poor Pearse found out when she shot down his rising star. Still, that did us a favour too didn’t it? He was aiming a bit too high for his own good (and for ours).
With regard to the main points of our election platform you listed in the interview, the Water Charge referendum and improving the Health Service are of course very popular points and we could hardly have gone ahead without them. Of course the reality is that the Health Service is beyond fixing without the kind of change brought about by a revolution and we’re not in that game at all. But we’ll do something with it if we get in – we’ll be looking for a second term in coalition, after all.
The Water Charge referendum will be a difficult one but we might well get the EEC to declare it illegal. We don’t want our hands tied in future on a useful money-raising resource. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
As to Brexit, it seems most of the electorate here in the 26 Counties doesn’t care about it. Still, we’ll plough ahead with it and at least it’s not attracting any criticism.
We could have put forward a radical housing program, which would have been really popular but no coalition partner would go for it and worse, the property developers would hate us. And we need them as friends.
As agreed, no names so no signature either, a chara.
Our Party’s day will come.