Archive for February 17th, 2010

Fine Gael: a family at peace?

17 February 2010

Contributed by Ciara Meehan

Last week was a bad week for Irish politics.  George Lee – the man who was supposed to change politics – announced that he was quitting after only nine months, while days later Green Party Senator Deirdre de Búrca accused her party of losing its way in government and resigned in protest.  The former was easily the more sensational of the declarations.  Lee’s departure brought to the fore questions about Enda Kenny’s leadership.  However, when the frontbench met Kenny’s position was never seriously in question, as his deputies united in their anger with Lee.  The parliamentary party subsequently gave their endorsement the following day.  And so it would seem that, for the time being at least, Fine Gael is a family at peace.  But, members do not need a long memory to recall the devastating affect that in-fighting and leadership heaves can have on a party.

The state of Fine Gael in the 1990s was colourfully captured by Olivia O’Leary: ‘it is a real sign of a party in freefall when it becomes a serial leader killer’.  But the tendency to blame the leadership meant that many of the fundamental, self-searching questions were never asked.

Garret FitzGerald had energised the party, but on his retirement it was suffering from an identity crisis and had ten seats less than when he took over.  His successor, Alan Dukes, was considered by many members to be aloof and his Tallaght strategy – the offer of support to the Fianna Fáil minority government for responsible economic policies – was questioned by some. Read More