Opinion Polls suggest Fianna Fail about to be annihilated, But should this worry us?


I never thought I’d feel this way but the thought that Fianna Fail are about to be wiped out in the forthcoming general election is sort of worrying me. The latest opinion poll has put Fianna Fail’s support as low as 13% - in fourth place behind Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein. 

In an interview on the Pat Kenny show on RTE radio 1 this morning (Friday), veteran Fianna Fail TD Mary O’Rourke (aunt of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan) said she wouldn’t be surprised if FF had as few as 16 seats after the next election.  I don’t think anyone really expects them to fall that low but there will be a hell of a lot of ex-Fianna Fail T.Ds in two and a half months time.  For a party that has been considered to be the natural party of government since the foundation of the state, such a result would be nothing less than complete and total annihilation.

I’ve spent most of my adult life campaigning against the policies of various Fianna Fail led governments so I should be elated.  But here’s what worries me – what are they going to be replaced by?

Fianna Fail being thrashed is certainly a cause for celebration.  But there won’t really be much to celebrate if, as seems certain, we end up with a government which might not be called Fianna Fail but which will be implementing exactly the same ‘screw-the-workers, protect-the-wealthy’ policies.

Opinion poll figures are suggesting that the likely next government – a Fine Gael-Labour coalition – could have between 100 and 110 seats in the next Dáil (out of a total of 166 T.D.s).  That’s what’s scary – that’ll be a government with a huge majority, a government that can essentially do what it wants as it’ll have at least 4 years before it’ll have to face the electorate.  And both those parties have signed up to the same austerity agenda as Fianna Fail.  They may have slight variations on how the austerity should be imposed on people but they’ve both accepted that the Budget Deficit should be cut to 3% by 2014.  And they’ve both accepted that the pain shall be inflicted on workers and the unemployed and that the wealthy shall be spared.

There will of course be a few voices of opposition in the next Dáil.  Sinn Féin can expect to have anything up to 20 seats (though their opposition to cuts in the south will seem rather hollow as they impose similar cuts in the north). The newly-formed United Left Alliance will pick up a few seats. 

But what we’re looking at after the next election is a government that will be in a position to do as it pleases.  Unless of course we can build an opposition in our workplaces, in our communities and on the streets that can impose a different agenda.  A few voices of opposition in the Dáil will provide welcome relief from a cosy consensus.  But is there a danger that the presence of those voices on ‘Oireachtas Report’ or the ‘Six-One News’ will merely contribute to the illusion that we live in a democracy (‘aren’t all views represented?’) but will do nothing to provide real opposition?

Will the people who have voted for those voices of opposition expect the politicians elected to provide the opposition?  Will the very act of voting for an oppositional candidate absolve the voter of the need to get involved her/himself in actively working to build an opposition?

Every one of us has to be involved in building a real opposition.  Following last Saturday’s march it’s more than clear than ever that we can’t depend on the leadership of the ICTU to help build it (see http://www.wsm.ie/c/general-strike-ireland-ictu-fail).  So it’s down to each of us to do what we can in our own workplaces and communities to build a movement strong enough to take on whatever government is elected.

Here’s the challenge for everyone reading this.  If you accept that Fianna Fail, both the party and the policies, has to be gotten rid of, and if you accept that we need strong and serious opposition capable of mobilising on the streets and capable of organising the type of general strike action necessary – how can that be brought about?

If you’re considering knocking on people’s doors in the next couple of months asking people to vote for a candidate will your message be ‘Vote for X and help build the fightback’? Or will it be ‘Even if X gets elected, YOU need to get involved in building the fightback’?  And do you think that the people whose doors you knock on will hear anything past the ‘Vote for X…’ bit of your plea?

If you’ve read this far and agreed with the main thrust of what I’ve written – do you not fear that the ‘Vote for X but build the fightback’ message will simply sow even more illusion in people that change can be brought about by voting?  And won’t this make our task of convincing people to become leaders in building a real opposition themselves rather than relying on leaders – politicians or trade union leaders – to do it for them even harder?

Background articles on Anarchism & parliamentary elections