John Gormley: The problem is the system, not just Fianna Fáil (archive, October 2011)

Seán Gallagher has become the highest-profile victim of a new type of anti-Fianna-Fáil (FF) McCarthyism. Pressed repeatedly by Miriam O’ Callaghan to condemn his erstwhile colleagues in the Soldiers of Destiny, Gallagher hesitated and tried to dodge. It’s perhaps understandable that Seán Gallagher would have some residual loyalty to his old friends, but his equivocation on the issue didn’t look good. And no doubt the feedback following the presidential debate led  Gallagher  to quickly rethink his position. Political expedience and sheer media pressure forced him to recant and condemn Fianna Fáil.

Charlie McCreevey: not alone in embracing neo-liberalism

In this new post-FF era there can be no acceptable line other than ‘FF destroyed the country’. Even the hint of a deviation from this neat narrative  is enough to arouse suspicion that you might somehow be a closet FFer. The new one true faith explains everything. And that’s the problem. If that is the entire explanation for our economic problems then we’re really not seeing the full picture.
Let’s be clear: Fianna Fáil are guilty of embracing the new, de luxe, no-holds-barred version of capitalism from 1989 onwards. Charlie Mc Creevy outdid the PDs in his enthusiasm for neo-liberalism. All of that is true. But were Fianna fail the only ones guilty of this ? Even a cursory examination of the manifestos of the main parties in 2002 and 2007 tells you that they tried to outdo each other in their free-market fervour. The ‘FF are to blame for everything’ version raises further questions, like how d’you explain what’s occurring in Greece, Spain, Portugal. Italy and beyond? Perhaps Fianna Fáil special advisers have been working quietly behind the scenes all over Europe, instructing governments on how best to wreck an econom!  The anti-FF backlash ensures that the public doesn’t ask the bigger questions, like ‘is it possible, even remotely possible, that the system itself is deeply flawed?’
‘Is a system based on infinite economic growth, the creation of debt, the exploitation of workers and a dependency on fossil fuels in any way sustainable in the medium or long term?’
But let’s not go there: that’s just a bit too complicated and dangerous! It’s much easier to see Fianna Fáil as the root of every problem. So toxic was the Fianna Fáil brand that even the most outlandish conspiracy theory gained credence. There are still many who believe that the bank guarantee was a Fianna Fáil inside job. It had all the ingredients – banks, builders, bailouts (BBB) – just add the initials FF and you have a very plausible explanation. The corruption of Haughey, Burke, Lawlor and the closeness of Fianna Fáil to big business  led many to conclude that Anglo was saved because it was a Fianna Fáil institution. Even the Nyberg report, which stated that the ECB had put pressure on the Irish government to save the banks, is still conveniently ignored.
But can we  ignore what has happened since the election? There has been no discernible change in economic or financial policy. People have discovered that it is Frankfurt’s way and not Labour’s way; people know now that no bondholder will be ‘burned’ unless such a move is first sanctioned by Mr Trichet. Not even the unsecured debt – that part not even covered by the guarantee – can be touched.
The major difference between this government and the last is that Fine Gael and Labour have an overwhelming majority which enables them to put through the social-welfare cuts and tax-increases they had promised would never happen. They have, however, delivered on one election promise – to give greater powers to Dáil committtees. Of course, that’s provided that the people approve such a measure in the forthcoming referendum. Any bets on what the committee’s first Inquiry under the new rules will be? How about an Inquiry into how Fianna Fáil ruined the country? A star chamber is born.
All over the world, through movements like the ‘indignants’ in Spain or ‘Occupy Wall Street’, people are questioning the system that gave rise to the global economic collapse. But not here where there appears to be only one valid question: ‘Are you now or have you ever been a member of Fianna Fail?’