THIS may be a decisive week for Fianna Fáíl leader Micheál Martin. It may prove an even more significant week for a party once almost blasé about power but now fighting to avoid irrelevance and suicide by implosion.
Reports of rifts over the the marriage referendum and a poor door-to-door campaign ahead of Friday’s Carlow/Kilkenny by-election hardly augers well for the rump of a once-dominant, all-pervasive tradition. That fewer than half of the parliamentary party turned up at a meeting last Monday to support candidate Bobby Alward is hardly reminiscent of the discipline that once made the Fianna Fáil machine so very formidable. That party activists refused to raise the marriage equality vote during the by-election canvass because they thought it might damage their candidate suggests a party falling between two stools — the past and the future.
Just like the British parties licking their wounds after their general election humiliation, Fianna Fáil activists who suggest that a change in leadership might put them in a better position to fight the election they should think twice.
Micheál Martin has been, by a distance, their best Dáil performer. Indeed, he has been one of the best in this parliament. They should remember the words of party sage Willie O’Dea: “When I look around the parliamentary party table I don’t see a messiah and when I look in the mirror I don’t see one either” — an assessment that’s hard to argue with.
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