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Author Topic: Future of Fianna Fail  (Read 1529 times)
politicus
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« on: April 12, 2012, 04:23:30 pm »
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Any thoughts about the future of Fianna Fail? The party seems to me to be a typical "party of power" like the Mexican PRI.  A broad tent nationalistic populist party without a coherent ideology whose only real raison d'etre is to be an instrument of power for the establishment. Can they survive being reduced to a relatively small party?
Seen from my outsider perspective Ireland only needs one centre-right party: Christian democratic, pro-business and moderate enough not to frighten centrists and that role is already taken by Fine Gael. In addition there might be room for a rural/periphery party like the "Center" parties in the Nordic countries, but I don't see FF fitting the bill for that role either.
The party actually seems pretty redundant in modern Ireland.
How do you see their future? Is de Valeras old party on its way out, or will it bounce back?
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 05:44:30 pm by politicus »Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 04:30:02 pm »
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Don't underestimate the Irish electorate.
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 04:55:17 pm »
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I certainly hope they fade into oblivion.
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 07:10:24 pm »
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Seen from my outsider perspective Ireland only needs one centre-right party: Christian democratic, pro-business and moderate enough not to frighten centrists and that role is already taken by Fine Gael.

The one thing that could be unequivocally said in Fianna Fáil's favour over the last eighty years was that by occupying a dominant position in the centre, it prevented Fine Gael from gaining power on its own (and Fine Gael in its 1930s incarnation absolutely needed to be kept out of power).

Having to share power with Labour (even if it were by far the larger party) forced Fine Gael towards moderation. I'm actually quite fearful about what the future holds for this country, given that we're probably looking at another decade of falling living standards.
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2012, 07:16:37 pm »
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What are, as of today, the actual policy differences between FF and FG ? From a non-Irish perspective, they don't seem much different.
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2012, 07:42:24 pm »
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What are, as of today, the actual policy differences between FF and FG ? From a non-Irish perspective, they don't seem much different.

The former worships de Valera, while the latter worships Michael Collins. That's all you need to know.
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2012, 07:45:24 pm »
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Fianna Fáil has traditionally been the more economically leftish of the two (although "left" is a very relative term in this context): friendlier towards trade unions, more supportive of state-owned industries, constructing more of what we have of a welfare society (public housing, free post-primary education, increases in pensions and other welfare benefits). Fine Gael has been traditionally more authoritarian on law and order and on (non-church or bedroom related) civil liberties issues. FG briefly moved to the left both economically and socially under Garret FitzGerald in the early 1980s but has since drifted back towards its right-wing roots (although not as far to the right as its initial 1930s desire for a wetter, colder version of Salazar's Portugal).

Fianna Fáil would originally been the party of the smaller farmers (mainly along the west coast) and the urban working and lower middle classes; Fine Gael was the party of the larger farmers (mainly in the east and south) and of the better-off middle classes. As time went on, and Fianna Fáil became the near-permanent government, it attracted "new money" and those anxious to attach themselves to potential opportunities, whether financial or patronage.

I suspect a comparison in tone that might work for continental Europeans would be of Fianna Fáil with the Chiraquien Gaullist party (including the fondness for funny money) and Fine Gael with the post-Thatcher British Conservative Party (except for replacing Europhobia with a fairly servile version of Europhilia).

EDIT: I see Xahar has written a much more concise and to-the-point version of this post.
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2012, 07:45:33 pm »
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There isn't much in the way of ideological separation, but Fine Gael is generally considered more economically liberal than Fianna Fáil; the actual differences are minimized in government because Fine Gael has never been in government without Labour.

EDIT: I see ObserverIE has written a more detailed post. Ignore this, then.
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2012, 07:49:55 pm »
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What are, as of today, the actual policy differences between FF and FG ? From a non-Irish perspective, they don't seem much different.

The former worships de Valera, while the latter worships Michael Collins. That's all you need to know.

The historical and symbolic things are important (THIS is Ireland, remember?) but as ObserverIE and others will no doubt tell you, FG's base is much more to the "right" (as far as that term has any meaning in the Irish context) but more small-town patrician than FF's.

<Has just read ObserverIE last post> Ah yes, but the desire to turn Ireland into a damper, anglophone (hell, sometimes not even that) version of Portugal was hardly the desire of just elements of Fine Gael in the 1930s. Ever read copies of Studies or the Irish ecclestical review? They are.... ummm... enlightening.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 07:56:07 pm »
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On the difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael I would go slightly further than ObserverIE and note that FF has always had a type of ideology that here would be described as "populist", as the Irish people are not people particularly noted for their attachment to ideas (but we are hardly alone in this) this has meant FF's stated-ideology-of-power can change according to fashion and can often do so (or rather now, did so) without anyone really noticing much of a change.

Unlike ObserverIE though, I don't think there is much room for an ideological right-wing party in the present context. The failure of the various anti-immigrant groups or hardline Catholics (excluding who have won eurovision song contests and even those have not done so well recently) to form one and take at least one seat at any level shows that there are certain things that haven't managed to take root in the Irish context.

But with living standards falling as they are and no end in sight, who knows really....
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2012, 08:05:48 pm »
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Seen from my outsider perspective Ireland only needs one centre-right party: Christian democratic, pro-business and moderate enough not to frighten centrists and that role is already taken by Fine Gael.
The one thing that could be unequivocally said in Fianna Fáil's favour over the last eighty years was that by occupying a dominant position in the centre, it prevented Fine Gael from gaining power on its own (and Fine Gael in its 1930s incarnation absolutely needed to be kept out of power).
Sure, but that's history. In its present incarnation FG seems to be a fairly moderate party - not more right wing than the German CDU.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 08:07:38 pm by politicus »Logged

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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2012, 08:08:29 pm »
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Ah yes, but the desire to turn Ireland into a damper, anglophone (hell, sometimes not even that) version of Portugal was hardly the desire of just elements of Fine Gael in the 1930s. Ever read copies of Studies or the Irish ecclestical review? They are.... ummm... enlightening.

The Jesuits (publishers of Studies) would always have been more Fine Gael's type of religious order, of course. I'm sure there was a good deal of cross-fertilisation at the time.

De Valera, for all the opprobrium cast on him (or at least on a caricature of him) these days, kept us as a democratic and (relatively) pluralist state all through the 1930s when the fashionable trends in Europe were for the abandonment of democracy and the elevation of the strongman.
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2012, 08:12:11 pm »
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Ah yes, but the desire to turn Ireland into a damper, anglophone (hell, sometimes not even that) version of Portugal was hardly the desire of just elements of Fine Gael in the 1930s. Ever read copies of Studies or the Irish ecclestical review? They are.... ummm... enlightening.

The Jesuits (publishers of Studies) would always have been more Fine Gael's type of religious order, of course. I'm sure there was a good deal of cross-fertilisation at the time.

De Valera, for all the opprobrium cast on him (or at least on a caricature of him) these days, kept us as a democratic and (relatively) pluralist state all through the 1930s when the fashionable trends in Europe were for the abandonment of democracy and the elevation of the strongman.

Our luck in that regard was that De Valera was the closest thing he had to a strong man (O'Duffy? No). Oh, and the absence of any real socialist or liberal 'threat'.
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2012, 08:16:17 pm »
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Unlike ObserverIE though, I don't think there is much room for an ideological right-wing party in the present context. The failure of the various anti-immigrant groups or hardline Catholics (excluding who have won eurovision song contests and even those have not done so well recently) to form one and take at least one seat at any level shows that there are certain things that haven't managed to take root in the Irish context.

But with living standards falling as they are and no end in sight, who knows really....

Hardline Catholics have always been irrelevant in elections if all they were offering was hardline Catholicism, even in the 1980s and 1990s (see Nora Bennis, the Christian Solidarity Party, etc.). Anti-immigrant groups were hampered by being led by obvious cranks (see Áine Ní Chonaill).

I would be much more worried about the likes of Declan Ganley and other hard-right slash-and-burners if things get desperate enough, with an enthusiastic group of media cheerleaders (NewsTalk, Independent Newspapers, etc.)
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2012, 08:17:21 pm »
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Seen from my outsider perspective Ireland only needs one centre-right party: Christian democratic, pro-business and moderate enough not to frighten centrists and that role is already taken by Fine Gael.
The one thing that could be unequivocally said in Fianna Fáil's favour over the last eighty years was that by occupying a dominant position in the centre, it prevented Fine Gael from gaining power on its own (and Fine Gael in its 1930s incarnation absolutely needed to be kept out of power).
Sure, but that's history. In its present incarnation FG seems to be a fairly moderate party - not more right wing than the German CDU.

[sarcasm]That may be because it's simply carrying out the orders of the German CDU.[/sarcasm]
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2012, 08:20:31 pm »
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Unlike ObserverIE though, I don't think there is much room for an ideological right-wing party in the present context. The failure of the various anti-immigrant groups or hardline Catholics (excluding who have won eurovision song contests and even those have not done so well recently) to form one and take at least one seat at any level shows that there are certain things that haven't managed to take root in the Irish context.

But with living standards falling as they are and no end in sight, who knows really....

Hardline Catholics have always been irrelevant in elections if all they were offering was hardline Catholicism, even in the 1980s and 1990s (see Nora Bennis, the Christian Solidarity Party, etc.). Anti-immigrant groups were hampered by being led by obvious cranks (see Áine Ní Chonaill).

I would be much more worried about the likes of Declan Ganley and other hard-right slash-and-burners if things get desperate enough, with an enthusiastic group of media cheerleaders (NewsTalk, Independent Newspapers, etc.)

That's quite possible, but I don't see that coming from Ganley but more likely from some ex-FF/FG type who claims to speak for "de peeple". Perhaps someone whose major talent would be the ability to say the word "entrepreneur" a lot. This would a bit different though from a classical right-wing party, more a league of militant bourgeoise consumerists, that minority who are confused and believe firmly The Sunday Independent is actually a newspaper (such people actually existed or at least so I'm told).
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2012, 08:23:02 pm »
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Ah yes, but the desire to turn Ireland into a damper, anglophone (hell, sometimes not even that) version of Portugal was hardly the desire of just elements of Fine Gael in the 1930s. Ever read copies of Studies or the Irish ecclestical review? They are.... ummm... enlightening.

The Jesuits (publishers of Studies) would always have been more Fine Gael's type of religious order, of course. I'm sure there was a good deal of cross-fertilisation at the time.

De Valera, for all the opprobrium cast on him (or at least on a caricature of him) these days, kept us as a democratic and (relatively) pluralist state all through the 1930s when the fashionable trends in Europe were for the abandonment of democracy and the elevation of the strongman.

Our luck in that regard was that De Valera was the closest thing he had to a strong man (O'Duffy? No). Oh, and the absence of any real socialist or liberal 'threat'.

Plenty of supposedly more responsible and respectable Fine Gaelers (Ernest Blythe, John A. Costello, Desmond FitzGerald) would have been perfectly happy to be in that junta if only they'd gotten the chance.

If De Valera or Fianna Fáil had been inclined towards authoritarianism in the 30s, they had the parliamentary majority from 1933 through to 1938 to implement it. They didn't.
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« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2012, 08:26:59 pm »
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Ah yes, but the desire to turn Ireland into a damper, anglophone (hell, sometimes not even that) version of Portugal was hardly the desire of just elements of Fine Gael in the 1930s. Ever read copies of Studies or the Irish ecclestical review? They are.... ummm... enlightening.

The Jesuits (publishers of Studies) would always have been more Fine Gael's type of religious order, of course. I'm sure there was a good deal of cross-fertilisation at the time.

De Valera, for all the opprobrium cast on him (or at least on a caricature of him) these days, kept us as a democratic and (relatively) pluralist state all through the 1930s when the fashionable trends in Europe were for the abandonment of democracy and the elevation of the strongman.

Our luck in that regard was that De Valera was the closest thing he had to a strong man (O'Duffy? No). Oh, and the absence of any real socialist or liberal 'threat'.

Plenty of supposedly more responsible and respectable Fine Gaelers (Ernest Blythe, John A. Costello, Desmond FitzGerald) would have been perfectly happy to be in that junta if only they'd gotten the chance.

If De Valera or Fianna Fáil had been inclined towards authoritarianism in the 30s, they had the parliamentary majority from 1933 through to 1938 to implement it. They didn't.

I never said they did. Nor am I disagreeing with you. I'm only saying that the absence of any liberal-socialist 'threat' make the far-right much weaker than it could have been in the circumstances (Fianna Fail were too obvious an Irish type of populist party even then to fit the boogeyman role perfectly).

Btw, you forgot to mention J.J. Walsh or, of a slightly later vintage, Oliver J. Flanagan. The most obnoxious fascists of the lot.
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« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2012, 08:30:43 pm »
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Unlike ObserverIE though, I don't think there is much room for an ideological right-wing party in the present context. The failure of the various anti-immigrant groups or hardline Catholics (excluding who have won eurovision song contests and even those have not done so well recently) to form one and take at least one seat at any level shows that there are certain things that haven't managed to take root in the Irish context.

But with living standards falling as they are and no end in sight, who knows really....

Hardline Catholics have always been irrelevant in elections if all they were offering was hardline Catholicism, even in the 1980s and 1990s (see Nora Bennis, the Christian Solidarity Party, etc.). Anti-immigrant groups were hampered by being led by obvious cranks (see Áine Ní Chonaill).

I would be much more worried about the likes of Declan Ganley and other hard-right slash-and-burners if things get desperate enough, with an enthusiastic group of media cheerleaders (NewsTalk, Independent Newspapers, etc.)

That's quite possible, but I don't see that coming from Ganley but more likely from some ex-FF/FG type who claims to speak for "de peeple". Perhaps someone whose major talent would be the ability to say the word "entrepreneur" a lot.

Supposedly one of O'Duffy's main problems in the 1930s was that it was difficult to take seriously a would-be Duce with a strong Monaghan accent. I think the "enthreprenouwer" you're thinking of would run up against the same problem with a Ballyhaise accent.

In any case, being exposed as a bagman with nothing else but a load of vacuous patter and a sizeable dose of paranoia the following day did for him, no matter how many FF bitter-enders whinge about bogus tweets.

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This would a bit different though from a classical right-wing party, more a league of militant bourgeoise consumerists, that minority who are confused and believe firmly The Sunday Independent is actually a newspaper (such people actually existed or at least so I'm told).

Oh, I'm sure it would be Carcrash Central and as entertaining for outsiders as whatsisname in Turkmenistan. But some of us would have to try to live through it.
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« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2012, 08:32:05 pm »
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This thread has touched some interesting topics, but it is straying a bit from my original question about the future of FF.

1. Populists without much in the way of core beliefs (in their modern incarnation). Agree/disagree?

2. "Party of power" / no longer in power (and not likely to become dominant again?).
There do they go from here?  Any thoughts?
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« Reply #20 on: April 12, 2012, 08:34:17 pm »
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Ah yes, but the desire to turn Ireland into a damper, anglophone (hell, sometimes not even that) version of Portugal was hardly the desire of just elements of Fine Gael in the 1930s. Ever read copies of Studies or the Irish ecclestical review? They are.... ummm... enlightening.

The Jesuits (publishers of Studies) would always have been more Fine Gael's type of religious order, of course. I'm sure there was a good deal of cross-fertilisation at the time.

De Valera, for all the opprobrium cast on him (or at least on a caricature of him) these days, kept us as a democratic and (relatively) pluralist state all through the 1930s when the fashionable trends in Europe were for the abandonment of democracy and the elevation of the strongman.

Our luck in that regard was that De Valera was the closest thing he had to a strong man (O'Duffy? No). Oh, and the absence of any real socialist or liberal 'threat'.

Plenty of supposedly more responsible and respectable Fine Gaelers (Ernest Blythe, John A. Costello, Desmond FitzGerald) would have been perfectly happy to be in that junta if only they'd gotten the chance.

If De Valera or Fianna Fáil had been inclined towards authoritarianism in the 30s, they had the parliamentary majority from 1933 through to 1938 to implement it. They didn't.

I never said they did. Nor am I disagreeing with you. I'm only saying that the absence of any liberal-socialist 'threat' make the far-right much weaker than it could have been in the circumstances (Fianna Fail were too obvious an Irish type of populist party even then to fit the boogeyman role perfectly).

Btw, you forgot to mention J.J. Walsh or, of a slightly later vintage, Oliver J. Flanagan. The most obnoxious fascists of the lot.

Flanagan wasn't in Fine Gael in the 1930s - he was actually a later acquisition who I am, sadly, just old enough to remember as a Cabinet Minister in the 1970s (I don't think he ever apologised for the comments about Hitler's Jewish policy).
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« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2012, 08:38:56 pm »
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This thread has touched some interesting topics, but it is straying a bit from my original question about the future of FF.

1. Populists without much in the way of core beliefs (in their modern incarnation). Agree/disagree?

Up to a point. There would still be a self-image of being socially concerned and slightly "left of centre" economically, but they were always flexible and inclined in the latter years to accommodate their smaller coalition parties.

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2. "Party of power" / no longer in power (and not likely to become dominant again?).
There do they go from here?  Any thoughts?

It depends on how badly things go for the current government (which may well end up being very badly). The most likely future is as a predominantly rural analogue of the Scandinavian Centre parties, because while I don't see the urban vote returning any time soon, in a lot of rural areas they are the only organised or semi-credible alternative to Fine Gael at local level.
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« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2012, 08:42:47 pm »
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Err.. Thus the comment on a Flanagan being of "a slightly later vintage". He was first elected in 1943 iirc in part by Jew-baiting. I actually had one of Flanagan's quotes on the Jews on my signature for a while but it has since been mislaid.

Clann na Talmhan and later, post war, Clann na Poblachta had their fair share of fascists as well.

Back on topic: If Fianna Fail does have a future it is, somewhat absurdly, as a party that is even more in hock to certain (rural, small town, nationalistic) interests than it is already; gombeenism plus so to speak. Though how useful is a gombeen party if it can only achieve power in a coalition? The party is effectively dead in Dublin though and there is no sight of it recovering there (and no party could possibly be in power without significant representation in the capital).
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
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« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2012, 09:04:43 pm »
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Err.. Thus the comment on a Flanagan being of "a slightly later vintage". He was first elected in 1943 iirc in part by Jew-baiting. I actually had one of Flanagan's quotes on the Jews on my signature for a while but it has since been mislaid.

He wasn't accepted into Fine Gael until the mid 50s.

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Back on topic: If Fianna Fail does have a future it is, somewhat absurdly, as a party that is even more in hock to certain (rural, small town, nationalistic) interests than it is already; gombeenism plus so to speak. Though how useful is a gombeen party if it can only achieve power in a coalition?

Ask Phil Hogan?

More seriously, I wouldn't equate "rural" with "gombeen".

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The party is effectively dead in Dublin though and there is no sight of it recovering there (and no party could possibly be in power without significant representation in the capital).

If you mean having an overall majority or being close to it, I agree with you, but I think Labour were down to three or four seats in Dublin in the 1980s coalitions. Dublin holds a large portion of the population, but not by any means a majority.
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« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2012, 09:09:48 pm »
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That's quite possible, but I don't see that coming from Ganley but more likely from some ex-FF/FG type who claims to speak for "de peeple". Perhaps someone whose major talent would be the ability to say the word "entrepreneur" a lot.

On further thought, I think you're barking up the wrong tree with that particular individual.

I would have in mind a certain loudmouthed bankruptcy tourist with a newspaper column and, until very very recently, a breakfast radio show.
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