Talk of recovery is everywhere! There are those recent CSO recovery figures, heavily distorted by multinational tax evasion, claiming that the Irish economy grew last year by an astonishing 26%. There’s recovery too for some of those builders and developers who crashed the economy, offloaded their debts to NAMA and are now back in business.
Then there is the modest recovery of the bankers’ and developers’ favourite political party, Fianna Fáil.
The party of Haughey and Ahern has risen in recent opinion polls, much of it as a result of declining support for the Endapendents and Fine Gael as conservative voters transfer allegiance within the establishment pool. The media also exaggerated a supposed ‘Fianna Fail comeback’ following February’s general election.
Their share of the vote went from 17.5% and total collapse in 2011 to 24.3%, still the second lowest percentage ever and a far cry from the 50% it once enjoyed.
Talking Left, Acting Right
Fianna Fáil once had very deep roots in Irish society, both in working class areas through limited reforms dressed in nationalist language, and through a network of cronies they did favours for. They were and remain the protectors of Irish capitalism and the rich.
All this unravelled after the economic crash. Their corrupt links to bankers, builders and property developers were exposed. In phoney opposition to Fine Gael-led governments, Fianna Fáil are now trying to reinvent themselves by talking Left on water charges, workers’ rights and housing. However, in reality they are acting Right by blocking attempts to abolish water charges in the Dail and allowing anti-worker FEMPI legislation to slip quietly through without notice.
The worst example of Fianna Fáil hypocrisy is over the issue of water charges. The Party are now opposed to the charge and claimed in their Election Manifesto that they would ‘end the failed water charges regime’ and ‘abolish Irish Water.’ Their leader, Michael Martin, even claims they never introduced the charge in the first place and blames them on EU/IMF demands.
According to documents released under Freedom of Information, the then Fianna Fáil /Green government agreed in July 2010 to introduce a €500 water charge and metering system, five months BEFORE the EU/IMF/ECB Troika even arrived. These plans, which then Minister for Foreign Affairs Martin agreed to, also included the creation of a state-owned ‘water usage agency’ in charge of bills- now known as Irish Water. Martin and Fianna Fáil are habitual liars and will say anything to wins votes and worm their way back to power.
Fianna Fáil’s Poisonous Record
In opposition, Fianna Fáil always move towards the Left and pretend that their ideological twin, Fine Gael, are ‘too right-wing’ for their liking. Their recent election Manifesto, ‘An Ireland for All,’ is full of talk of ‘moving forward together’ so that ‘we can create an Ireland which serves all of its people.’
Their ugly past tells a different story. They gave a blanket guarantee to cover bank debt leaving the Irish people paying off the €64 billion cost until 2053.
It was they that introduced the USC for even the lowest paid workers, cut the wages of public sector workers and the minimum wage by €1 an hour. Martin’s ‘Party of Fairness’ also launched vindictive attacks on the poor, cutting 32,000 home help hours in 2010, cutting the medical card for the over 70s and starting a policy of discriminating against young people by halving social welfare for those under 20. They even slashed child benefit by €16 per month per child.
Lest We Forget
The current leader of the Party, Michael Martin, served under the likes of Charles Haughey, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen. Cowen presided over the destruction of the country. Both Haughey and Ahern kept vast amounts of unexplained money in personal accounts, much of it from property developers eager to solicit political favours and lucrative state contracts.
After the crash, Fianna Fáil set up NAMA to help builders and property developers with massive debt relief worth billions. Many of the top debtors in NAMA were awarded salaries of €100,000 a year. They included the likes Sean Mulryan, Bernard McNamara, Johnny Ronan, Gerry Gannon, and Seamus Ross, all acknowledged Fianna Fail supporters. Sean Dunne was once the single biggest donor to Fianna Fáil, giving them £80,000 following their election victory in 1997, while Seanie Fitzpatrick was appointed to a number of powerful positions by Fianna Fáil Ministers.
And when workers saw their living standards collapse and hundreds of thousands were forced to emigrate, Bertie Ahern was upset for the fate of his developer friends, saying “most of these guys lost their shirt. I feel sorry for them.” Ahern and Cowen are now on a combined annual pension of €150,163 with Martin himself shamed under public pressure to give up his ministerial severance payment of €88,000 days after saying he would accept it in 2011.
Aware of the political shift leftwards in Ireland, Fianna Fáil are cynically swinging their rhetoric in that direction. The most effective way to expose them is through grassroots campaigns, by fighting on issues like Repeal the 8th that they are uncomfortable with, and through mass street protests over water charges. The Right2Water demonstration on September 17th is not only vital for smashing water charges once and for all; it can also expose the hypocrisy of two-faced Fianna Fáil.