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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

The election - a better result than first appears for the left.

Tiocfaidh ár mbláth - Our flower will bloom

Only the vainglorious ranks of Irish journalism could contrive to turn a vote for a fairly middle ground party like Fianna Fáil into a protest vote against an unrepresentative and out of touch media. For, does anyone doubt that the hounding of Bertie Ahern by the media over alleged personal payments and events surrounding the break up of his marriage
(see amongst many others for ex. - http://www.rte.ie/news/2006/0926/ahernb.html)
along with the Irish media's ridiculous appointment of Enda Kenny as a possible alternative Taoiseach, made many sensible people look at what was happening and decide that they were not happy.
Thus, the soft Fianna Fáil vote (vulnerable after a second term in office) solidified, and many people, I believe, went to the polling station to register their protest in the most effective way possible. In other elections, this protest vote could have opted for Sinn Fein and/or the Green Party. This time, however, it developed around the need to prevent a media sponsored government coalition between the hapless Enda Kenny and Labour’s apparently power mad and opportunist Pat Rabbitte. It should be noted that the inherent bias within the Irish media against Fianna Fáil – the “Republican Party” - often combines with membership of and/or closet support for the Labour Party and formerly the Workers Party. This phenomenon also has the unfortunate effect of making the Labour Party appear like a media darling rather than a party looking for radical change. This to some extent is unfair, as there are many committed socialists, I believe, in the Labour Party. However, there are good reasons for this view of the Labour Party as being essentially a comfortable repository for middle class dilettantes and serial radical posers. The acceptance into Labour’s ranks in the early 1990s of many former members of the "Designer Stalinist" Workers Party only exacerbated Labour’s soft middle class tag.

My own experience in working in RTÉ during the 1990s was that erstwhile members and supporters of the Workers Party and its secret Ned Stapleton cumann simply switched allegiances to the Labour Party once membership of the Workers Party became untenable after revelations contained in a BBC programme (which I made for the BBC along with journalist Shane Harrison) about the continued existence of an armed wing within that party. It is true that the group of TDs and their supporters, which left the Workers Party in 1992, first set up another party called Democratic Left. However, DL was just a staging post before this group could join the Labour Party proper.
Fianna Fáil is the majority party in the 26 counties and yet it has very few champions in the world of broadcasting and the media. At the same time, membership of, and support for, the Workers Party was always hugely overrepresented within the Irish media compared with the actual size of the party itself, which was always quite small. Now this group of pseudo radical journalists supports the Labour Party and the idea of a coalition with the “patrician” Fine Gael. In all my time in RTÉ, and I worked there from 1994 to 2004, I never met one head of department, executive producer or series producer who was openly sympathetic to Fianna Fáil. On the other hand, I met many senior producers and journalists who were virulently anti republican and pro-British, and also sympathetic to the aims of the former Workers Party and/or Labour.

It is perhaps for this reason that Bertie Ahern was the only party leader to come under sustained media scrutiny and pressure during the canvassing period of the election. This is not to say that Bertie Aherne, as Taoiseach, should never be questioned regarding issues such as possible secret loans and other financial issues. But what needs to happen is that all leading politicians are subject to the same intense scrutiny. For example, Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte has some important questions to answer, if only there were journalists who might be willing to put them to him. After all, Rabbitte was for years a leading member of the Workers Party. This party had very close and fraternal links to some of the world's most repressive regimes around the world, including "Communist" East Germany and the late Kim Il Sung's North Korea. Every year, (throughout the late 1970s and 1980s at least), the Workers Party would send delegates to these dictatorships and those delegates received warm welcomes. How did Pat Rabbitte and other former WP T.D.s (Teachta Dála – MP) like Liz MacManus feel about these fraternal links with Stalinist countries? Rabbitte can hardly claim that he was unaware of these links. After all, he was a member of the Workers Party for 15 years; in a period when the party defended the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the suppression of Solidarity in Poland, Kim Il Sung's regime in North Korea, and the early repression of the democracy movements in eastern Europe in the 1980s. A Workers Party press statement in late 2005 confirms the openness of the party's links with North Korea:
"The Workers' Party has never denied, or attempted to make secret, its links with North Korea and its work to promote political, social and cultural links to Ireland."
(see http://www.workers-party.org/wpstory.asp?sn=770

Then there is the question of the WP’s armed wing - the Official IRA. Rabbitte has claimed that he knew nothing about the existence of an armed wing but I made my BBC film about the Workers Party and its clear links to the Official IRA in 1991 and, instead of ringing me and asking for more information, Pat Rabbitte made claims to the media that three separate libel writs were in the offing against the makers of the programme. I am willing to accept Pat Rabbitte’s claims that he knew nothing about the continued existence of the Official IRA and its links to the Workers Party, but this simply means that he had been tremendously badly informed as to the make up of a party in which he was a leading member. As the saying goes in Belfast – the dogs in the street knew about the Workers Party and the Official IRA. Just to emphasise the point that the Official IRA was not just a relic from bygone day, the OIRA has not disarmed and is still involved in racketeering. It has not gone away you know.
Surely, there is enough information here for journalists to hound Pat Rabbitte in the same way that Bertie Aherne was hounded? Yet, you will find few journalists who would be willing to raise these issues with the present leader of the Labour Party. In my view, the central problem is the narrow and “aristocratic” social make up of the journalistic community, especially in Dublin, which ensures that the media in general, and RTÉ in particular, does not reflect the views or culture of the audience it is supposed to serve. The people who pay RTE's wages. The message from RTÉ and indeed the Irish Times and almost all sections of Dublin based journalism is that voting for Fianna Fáil (or Sinn Féin for that matter), appreciating the six o’clock angelus, describing Ireland as a "former English colony", describing the North as “occupied territory”, or speaking with a country accent is a sign of poor breeding and a lack of sophistication; unless they are speaking about farming. Country people, including those from the North, arriving in RTÉ to work for the first time soon learn to modify their accents to comply with the linguistic values in a region starting at Sandymount and Ballsbridge on one side and ending at Killiney and Dundrum on the other. Do say - “Oorh T E; “I have to say”; “absolutely” and “appalling”. Do not say - “Arh T É (with the fada); “tiocfaidh ár lá”; “maise” or “that’s a right hoor’s mess”.
And yet, after all the anti Fianna Fáil “revelations”, and much to the utter chagrin of the Designer Stalinists who run RTÉ and other sections of the media, the Irish people continue to vote for Fianna Fáil. The reason for this is the Irish electorate is very sophisticated and can smell smug middle class bias at a thousand paces. The more the Dublin 4 set, and its satellite encampments in other parts of the country, rail against Fianna Fáil, the Catholic Church, the “dinosaurs” in the GAA and so on, the more ordinary people see that the “national broadcaster” does not reflect the lives and opinions of people in their area and come to their own conclusions as to how they will vote. It is for this very reason that the Labour party, from now on, will struggle to gain a place in government whilst it maintains its holier than thou attitude against the Soldiers of Destiny (Fianna Fáil). At this very moment, the Labour Party could have been preparing to take office in a coalition government but instead, due to the leadership's blind hatred of all things “Republican” (how ironic for a party which claims to be inspired by James Connolly!), it must sit in the ditch watching history pass by.

Senior Fianna Fáil politician Dermot Ahern’s criticism of Sinn Fein’s socialist politics gives a strong indication of his party's pro capitalist economic standpoint. However, Fianna Fáil has always had a solid working class and small farmer vote which, amongst other things, recognises Fianna Fáil’s historic legacy and the commitment it has shown to the peace process. Bertie Ahern has stated very clearly that he regards the settlement in the North as “his” greatest achievement and I believe he and FF deserve some credit in this regard. At least in the sense of ensuring that the old days of unionist apartheid in the North were gone for good. So whilst Fianna Fáil is no radical socialist party, it does command respect within wage earning communities and Labour needs to recognise this fact. (Something that Sinn Féin has already done). This change of view at the top of the Labour Party will only happen if Labour ditches its ersatz Workers Party and Dublin 4 media approach to Fianna Fáil and begins to accept that there are many decent and committed people in FF at all levels of the party.

As for Sinn Fein, the party is now faced with the same kind of hard slog in southern constituencies as it faced in the North but at least the party can move into this phase without fear of assassination and the police harassment (North and South) that has happened in the past. It is also the case that SF now has a very solid base in many constituencies. No other party, in this blogger's view, is as good as Sinn Féin when it comes to working for change in the locality. Nor do their representatives in the south have either the war mentality which, understandably, affected their comrades operating in the North, or the political sectarianism which so badly affects the leadership of the Labour Party. For example, those Sinn Féin members, with whom I am acquainted in Dublin, have nothing but praise for the kind of contribution made by the likes of TD Tony Gregory, in terms of his work against drug dealers, rack renting Landlords, agus ar son na Gaeilge chomh maith. And who knows, in the week that is in it, where the Green Party looks likely to have a role in a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin may yet have some direct influence in the Dáil when it comes to voting agreements.

It seems to me, given the crisis in health service provision (partly generated by the vanquished Progressive Democrats), the crime and anti social behaviour situation, the land and language crisis in the Gaeltacht and the general financial and environmental pressure on our land and sea resources, that this historical moment provides a space for radical elements in all parties of the left (including an element of Fianna Fáil) to begin developing a new strategy which can create new movements for change and place pressure on the reigning government for more action with regard to placing people before profit, a proper strategy for an teanga náisiúnta and a more independent stance vis a vis Bush and the English government where Middle Eastern policy is concerned. As the rich and powerful business class shows everyday, actual social power does not lie exclusively in the Dáil and no one party will deliver true independence to the country because, even with a completely committed programme of work, the forces ranged against it would be too great. What is needed is cooperation on the ground, which will politicise and radicalise people and also give them confidence and, at the same time, bolster cooperation at government level.

Tiocfaidh ár mbláth. Our flower will bloom
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Title: The election - a better result than first appears for the left.
Date posted: 27 May '07 - 21:12
Filed under: General
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