Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Are Fianna Fail scuppering their own recovery by denying us our Portillo moment?

portillo moment
It looks like game over. The most successful political party in the history of the state is virtually an ex-parrot. But it would be rash to go writing Fianna Fail’s obituary just yet. Today’s polls show party support steady at about 15%. Considering our present predicament, that suggests one-seventh of the electorate would vote Fianna Fail even if the local candidate were standing at their front door with an axe in his hand and a murderous twinkle in his eye.

From here, really, the only way is up. The incoming government has many unpopular decisions to make. And with Enda Kenny at the helm, they’re unlikely to win over many skeptical hearts or minds along the way. With an unrivaled grassroots organization at its disposal, and a new generation of leaders (untainted by association with the Ahern/Cowen era) at the helm, there’s no reason to assume a retooled Fianna Fail couldn’t force it’s way back into the reckoning in the medium term.

People have short memories. If we can entertain Sinn Fein under Gerry Adams, why not Fianna Fail under, say, Dara Calleary?

Right now though, the public appetite is for blood. Perhaps unfortunately for Fianna Fail’s long term prospects though, the chief culprits in this debacle – Ahern, Cowen, Dempsey, Harney et al – have opted to go gentle into that good night. By denying us the opportunity to repudiate them personally at the ballot box, by denying us the catharsis of seeing them humiliated at the count centre (as Michael Portillo was, so memorably, in 1997), they may actually be delaying the process of national healing.

Say what you like about the Greens. They face outright annihilation at this election, and deservedly so. But, without exception, they are going to meet their fate with their heads held high.

P.S. If you haven’t seen it already, you have to read Michael Lewis on Ireland in Vanity Fair.

February 3rd, 2011.

10 Responses to “Are Fianna Fail scuppering their own recovery by denying us our Portillo moment?”

  1. Neal Says:

    At the time (2007), I kinda saw McDowell losing his seat to be a minor Portillo moment…

  2. graham Says:

    Would Bertie have lost his seat though…

  3. Paul Says:

    Brian Lenihan might yet provide us with our Portillo moment, though the state of his health might have some trying to prevent us from having a good gloat about it.

  4. Dan Says:

    Who’s the guy who defeated Portillo? He seems kind of crazed..

  5. Eoin Says:

    @ Neal – agreed.

    @ Graham – maybe, maybe not. He’d certainly have been a lightening rod for opposition. I could see massive turn out in that constituency specifically to vote against him.

    @ Paul – Really? I’d have thought Fredo was in more danger. Has anyone published comprehensive constituency-by-constituency polls yet?

    @ Dan – Candidate’s name if I recall was Mad Jack McMad.

  6. Dan Says:

    Here thhat Jack McMad fella is standing for Fianna Fail this time around. That’s him hacking at the front door now with an axe. I like the cut of his jib.

  7. Bobby Says:


  8. Eoin Says:

    Jesus, bit strong Bobby. Are you the author of the letter?

  9. Tony S. Says:


    1. O’Dea getting the boot would be a good Portillo moment
    2. You’re right about the Greens
    3. Read the Lewis article. Stunning. Will probably be boring the arse of people quoting from it (but it is written by the person who popularized the phrase ‘big swinging dicks’ in ‘Liar’s Poker’), but the following really resonated:

    “Two things strike every Irish person, Irish friends tell me: the vastness of their country, and the seemingly endless desire of its people to talk about their personal problems. Two things strike an American when he comes to Ireland: how small it is and how tight-lipped. An Irish person with a personal problem takes it into a hole with him, like a squirrel with a nut before winter. He tortures himself …. What he doesn’t do, if he has suffered some reversal, is vent about it to the outside world. The famous Irish gift of the gab is a cover for all the things they aren’t telling you”

    This was exactly the behaviour of our leaders in the period leading up to the INF debacle …. afraid to tell the neighbours. The neighbours (i.e. French and Germans) sussed it and the result is that we became the repositiory for their bank debt, as well as our own richly deserved woes

    Finally, re Fianna Fail – as people often say about Sinn Fein – ‘they haven’t gone a away you know’ Don’t underestimate the small-mindedness and parochial nature of the Irish electorate.

  10. Eoin Says:

    @ Tony S – O’Dea getting the boot? Not a chance. Agree with you otherwise. Potholes and funeral attendance, that’s what the Irish electorate care about.

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