Some thoughts on Fianna Fail after the referendum
One of the interesting post-referendum developments is the ructions in Fianna Fail. For folks not familiar with Irish politics, Fianna Fail was the dominant party in southern irish politics from 1932-2011 and was actually in power a majority of that time. Although when it was founded in the mid-1920s it was attacked by the Catholic hierarchy as ‘communistic’, its dominant figure for almost 50 years was the socially reactionary Catholic nationalist Eamon de Valera, who served many years as prime minister and many years subsequently as president. In power in the 1930s, de Valera quickly made peace with the Catholic hierarchy and opposed Catholic moral teaching through the state.
In the 1980s, FF was closely aligned with the Catholic right in support of the 8th amendment and in preventing divorce being legislated for.
In the referendum a majority of FF members of parliament and the senate opposed repeal of the 8th amendment, however the party leader, Micheal Martin, supported a Yes vote. Some Fianna Fail parliamentarians announced their intentions to try to frustrate the referendum outcome by adding restrictive amendments to new legislation which will make access to abortion available. Martin appears to have laid down the law that this is not acceptable and talked of imposing the whip on the issue. A decade or two ago this situation in Fianna Fail would have been unimaginable – the party would have thoroughly lined up with the Catholic Church.
That Fianna Fail, under Martin, broke with the Church over gay marriage in 2015 – Fianna Fail called for a Yes vote for same-sex marriage rights – and that Martin supported the repeal of the 8th amendment and is now demanding that his caucus not attempt to frustrate the will of the people over abortion indicates how dramatic the shift is in public opinion. Not only have the Church lost the hearts and minds of the vast majority of young people, the Catholic hierarchy is now losing its political wing.
Of course, smart folks like Micheal Martin will also know that if they want to prevent haemorrghing of support to Sinn Fein they can’t afford to be seen as being to the right of the Shinners on abortion and on respecting the democratic vote of the electors.
- Philip Ferguson