“The Fianna Fáil That We Would Have”
The following article was written by Malachaí Duddy, Chumann FF Seán Lemass, Brí Chualann, Co. Chill Mhantáin
The People have judged Fianna Fáil in the recent general election: having found our policies wanting, they have acted accordingly. The extreme economic difficulties that Ireland has suffered over the last four years have their origin during the 14 years of uninterrupted Fianna Fáil lead government and just as the organisation rightly took credit for the Peace Process and Ireland’s unprecedented prosperity which has kept 1.85 million people at work even during recession: Fianna Fáil has taken responsibility for its part in the present crises, has apologised for these failings, and has been doled its electoral punishment.
Fianna Fáil The Republican Party has traditionally been a broad based national movement holding the support of nearly half the Irish people; embodying the popular mainstream of the Irish political tradition which goes back through the united republican movement of 1917-1921; Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly and the other leaders of 1916; the disciplined Nationalist party and Land League under Charles Stuart Parnell who united, under his leadership with Michael Davitt, the New Departure that revolutionary tradition of the Fenians; the Young Irelanders; and the United Irishmen of 1798 and 1803; and together with the constitutional mass agitation of The Liberator Daniel O’Connell. That mass constitutional agitation inaugurated the development of the broad national movement which is represented today by Fianna Fáil The Republican Party. Under the presidency of Éamon de Valera, the founder of Fianna Fáil, Ireland democratically confirmed our national independence, and defended our right to freedom through force of arms. More than any other political force, Fianna Fáil has shaped this state and nation. Fianna Fáil is a practical republican organisation permeated with the 1916 ideals, committed to national advancement based on democratic means.
The significance of our inimical resistance is that through the unremitting national struggle, it bound within the nation a movement that embraces geographical, social, and religious diversity to embody the popular mainstream. The national question has always been a passionate concern for Fianna Fáil which together with the welfare of the people is above all else fundamental to our organisation. Fianna Fáil is the Republican Party, the political organisation which, acting in the interests of the people, peacefully dismantled the Treaty settlement and restored the Republic; severing, one by one the bonds that tied this state to the British empire, ensuring that the Irish people, in the greater part of our country, exercised the right of self determination appropriate to a free people, ever mindful that our nation remains divided.
Detractors of Fianna Fáil rhetorically ask what differentiates us from Fine Gael –in an attempt to distance Fianna Fáil from the working population, ignoring all Fianna Fáil accomplishments and at once conflating the two Civil War sides: as the Labour Party compromise socialist class interests, its leader having jettisoned his Marxist-Stalinist heritage, to enter government with Fine Gael, a right wing party with fascist antecedence. The Fianna Fáil membership has been the subject of a tirade of hostile odium and bias. We have been vilified and treated with malice mostly through hypocritical prejudice where any Fianna Fáil achievement is treated with loathing or dishonesty to the extent that the public mind has been polluted by malevolence. In the words of the song Deep In The Canadian Woods by T.D. Sullivan:
“We’ve heard her faults a hundred times, The new ones and the old, In songs and sermons, rants and rhymes, Enlarged some fifty-fold”:
As members and supporters of Fianna Fáil, we know in our hearts what Fianna Fáil is, where it came from; we remember the cost volunteered, the great sacrifices made, for what we stand; be it during the War of Independence, the Civil War, discrimination suffered during the 1920s or in recent times the supreme bearing exhibited by the late Brian Lenihan. It has been said of our political philosophy that ‘those that know, don’t need to ask; and those that don’t know: don’t need to know’, yet in the present hostile environment it is appropriate to articulate the general objects and principals which, together with our aims, informs Fianna Fáil. I proffer the following vision:
The Fianna Fáil that we would have must be a national movement faithful to the people of Ireland; which desires the realisation of true democracy; built on the republican principals of equality, fidelity and fraternity; supportive of the welfare of the whole people, where Fianna Fáil will safeguard with special care the economic interests of the weaker sections of our community; espousing social solidarity as opposed to divisive class conflict; where all have the opportunity and assistance to achieve; motivated to maintain our national independence as a quantitative and qualitative democratic republic, to realise the unity of our country in harmony and friendship; where the common good prospers; embracing our native language as integral to our national traditions, celebrating our culture and heritage essential to the development of a distinctive national life; proud of our past, confident in our future; supportive of the weak, encouraging of youth, and respectful of the aged; protecting the dignity and freedom of the individual so that the well being of the community is assured to all: Fianna Fáil must not merely be a sectional interest party but a national organisation in the republican tradition of liberal democracy, which is of the people and for the people of Ireland, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, united and free; adhering to the ideal of peace and friendly cooperation amongst the nations of the earth, committed to the pacific settlement of international disputes, fraternal concord established with our European neighbours, promoting environmental sustainability and global social justice.
Now is the time to take ownership in the Fianna Fáil organisation, to be involved in reshaping and rebuilding Fianna Fáil The Republican Party as an authentic national movement of the people of Ireland. In this task members must play our rightful part, so that together Fianna Fáil will come again to represent the values that our forbearers fought so dearly to achieve in an independent Ireland of which we all may be proud. Lest we forget, in this the 80th anniversary year since Fianna Fáil first came into government, the great achievements that as an organisation Fianna Fáil has brought to national life which include:
- the large scale home building and slum-clearance programme, housing 132,000 families in the first 10 years of Fianna Fáil in government (1932);
- preserved our native language from probable extinction;
- maintained an anti-Partition policy in domestic and international affairs where all policies were proofed in the context of the unjust partition of Ireland;
- tackled the growth of Irish fascism and protected Irish democracy (1933);
- industrial and economic development;
- introduced: Unemployment Assistance (1933);
- a Widows’ and Orphans’ Pension (1935);
- sweeping measures to improve conditions of employment providing for a 48-hour working week and annual holidays (1936);
- Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937), a republican constitution that even today protects more civil rights than the European Convention on Human Rights and has been the model for the constitutions of India (1949) and South Africa (1996);
- establishment of Social Services (1939) replacing the Poor Relief Acts, 1838-1929;
- maintenance payments for deserted women and children (1939);
- military neutrality (1939);
- prevented the extension of conscription by the British to the North (1941);
- introduced the Children’s Allowance (1944);
- a conscientious foreign policy;
- introduction of the Health Act, 1947 making health policy a priority for the Irish, safeguarding the health of mothers and children (1947);
- a specific mother and child health scheme (1953);
- a state-sponsored health insurance scheme (1957);
- economic and industrial expansion (1958);
- a conciliatory policy towards the North (1965);
- free secondary education (1966) enabling greater access to further education ensuring future economic and social development;
- Public Transport Free Travel Scheme for older people (1967);
- Free Electricity Allowance for the elderly (1967);
- Free Television Licence for the aged (1968);
- Carers Allowance (1969) at first as the Prescribed Relative Pension Payment until final evolution as the Carers Allowance in 1990;
- the Medical Card (1970);
- Ireland’s membership of the EEC (1973) which became the European Union, with the consequential benefits to agriculture, was initiated and implemented by Fianna Fáil in the proven interests of the country;
- In the pursuit of social solidarity Fianna Fáil embarked with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on social partnership (1987);
- Fianna Fáil leaders were instrumental in establishing the initial contacts (1987) which became the Peace Process;
- negotiated the Downing Street Declaration (1993) in which the British declared that they had no selfish strategic or economic interest in Ireland and accepted that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement, to exercise our right to self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland;
- Fianna Fáil leaders sustained the talks which culminated with the Good Friday Agreement (1997) which stands as an outstanding legacy to Fianna Fáil;
- In the time that has been called the ‘Celtic Tiger’, Fianna Fáil in government is responsible for the introduction of a 12½ % corporation tax rate (1998) with the consequential inward investment into Ireland;
- transforming the work force into a highly skilled and educated resource;
- infrastructural development that now include 750 km of arterial motorway routs (2003-2010) across the country;
- the LUAS light rail system (2004) in Dublin;
- Work Place Smoking Ban, Ireland being the first country in the world to do so (2004);
- the reduction of the National Debt from the 1993 level of 96% GDP to just 30% by 2006;
- Now that the country finds itself in such stringent circumstances, the state is able to rely in no small part on the National Pensions Reserve Fund (2000), monies totaling €25 billion collected at the height of economic prosperity, used at present to assist in the banking crisis.
It should be recognised that if impersonation is the highest form of compliment, the present Fine Gael/Labour coalition government chose to maintain Fianna Fáil policy, with superficial or minimal changes, almost a year after coming to power, so far discarding positions adopted in the comfort of opposition, in pre-election statements and election promises. Despite the pledge to burn the senior bond holders, be it ‘Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way’, and Fine Gael’s ‘not another cent’ to the banks, etc. the manifest cynicism adopted through the high moral tone, unbridled arrogance, political spin, exaggeration and cronyism of Fine Gael and the Labour Party are now being laid bare. By needlessly engaging in auction politics during the general election, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have sold the people a pup, when Fianna Fáil simply offered the people the truth.
We should remember the 90th anniversary of the Treaty vote (7th January, 1922); the Pact general election (16th June, 1922); and the bombardment of the Four Courts (28th June, 1922) marking the outbreak of the Civil War: as republicans we have seen much worse times than those at present, through division, betrayal, discrimination, execution, atrocity and murder. Following 1916, through the War of Independence, led by Éamon de Valera our forefathers built a national movement that successfully took on the largest empire the world has yet known. In the 1920s our forbearers had to rebuild that electoral base which had been so vital at the time of the 1918 general election. The 1916 Proclamation formulated social aims which, in substance, called for the establishment of a classless Ireland: it was Fianna Fáil that established Ireland amongst the nations of the world in peaceful concord; it was Fianna Fáil which, as those of no property, took the first decisive steps in the 1930s towards a welfare state and industrialisation. It is Fianna Fáil that through social housing programmes cleared the slums and built a public health service. It is Fianna Fáil that provided for universal, free secondary education for the first time and introduced the high standards of social care for our elderly. Since 1987 Fianna Fáil has taken the hard decisions and made the daring choices that, despite the recent difficulties, have brought a level of sustainable prosperity to Ireland which is permanent. It is only Fianna Fáil The Republican Party, as a restored national movement which will fulfil the constitutional imperative to restore the unity of our country in harmony and friendship, promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured and true social order attained through peace.
Fianna Fáil has provided the political vision for all of this and can continue to do so as long as we can unite in the rejuvenation and restoration of the national organisation. Emulating our Fenian ancestors of old, we must rise from the bitter ashes of defeat –like the Fenian Phoenix, be reborn in the flames of hope and endeavour– continuing that long and proud tradition of Fianna Fáil through service and integrity. Remembering the motto marked on the harp seal of the United Irishmen, when we are newly strung, we “shall be heard”.
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