Bruce Arnold

Chief Critic of the Irish Independent, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Bruce Arnold

Chief Critic of the Irish Independent, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Bruce Arnold

Chief Critic of the Irish Independent, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Bruce Arnold

Chief Critic of the Irish Independent, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Martin the worst choice to restore FF's integrity

My order of preference, for the leadership of Fianna Fail, was as follows. First choice, Eamon O Cuiv, a man of integrity who comes from a tradition within Fianna Fail that has been largely lost. It is one that needs restoring and I believe that O Cuiv would have done, and would have handled the necessary authority unflinchingly. This would have been worthy of the political line that runs from Eamon de Valera, through Lemass to Jack Lynch.

It stopped there, mainly because of Charles Haughey, and in due course because neither Albert Reynolds nor Bertie Ahern had the strength to reform Fianna Fail. Brian Cowen never had the chance, struggling as he was with an economic storm, a struggle that in the end defeated him because there were no true guidelines left for negotiating our way. O Cuiv might have been wrecked by the party, but my instinct is that he would have prevailed.

My second choice would have been Mary Hanafin, a good way behind O Cuiv and a woman who has been damaged into silences when she should have spoken out. A woman leader would have been a novel change for Fianna Fail, but the greater role of women might have been her effective basis for widespread and much-needed reform.

Third choice, a long way behind the first two, would have been Brian Lenihan. Hopelessly out of his depth in the Department of Finance, he has been the main architect of our economic chaos, and, even up to yesterday, he was defending the nonsense he has made of our financial affairs in arguments with the Opposition about what might be done in Europe to mend our dire level of debt.

Brian Lenihan has still not grasped the truth about his mistakes. He sided with the know-all elites of the EU. As he progressed deeper into error, with his hands-on and secretive management of our economy, he completely lost contact with the Irish people. They now correctly blame him, as much as they blame Brian Cowen, for the intolerable, and avoidable, mess that faces huge numbers of men and women in this country. A friend has put it to me in the following terms: "The EU, which should consist of 27 sovereign countries, has become a federal structure in all but name."

These Brussels rulers thought they could create a single unbreakable currency, making it impossible for "euro-critical" people to do anything about it. Brian Lenihan, an enthusiastic neophyte (the worst kind) swallowed all this and landed us in the present mess.

Worst of all to become leader of Fianna Fail is Micheal Martin. Since his election as leader, he has distanced himself from the economic mess as if the Department of Foreign Affairs was somehow off-limits in the wrecking of Ireland between 2008 and now, when in fact it was the very heart of the problem. It and Micheal Martin performed as EU vassals during the whole of that period, effectively blocking the will of the people, which was a firm No to closer involvement. Instead, he forced us into the embrace of Team Europe led by José Manuel Barroso.

Micheal Martin, a key but deceptive figure, misrepresented to the EU that close on a million Irish voters had said No to Europe because they thought they would be called up into a European army or made to have abortions. He referred to "seven stages of grief", following the referendum result, which he then tried to demolish as mistaken, misinformed, wrong. He said "our position", meaning that of the Government, "was one of full acceptance of the decision of the people". It was the opposite. He and Brian Cowen committed themselves to overturning that decision.

Since becoming leader, he has tried to shift the coming campaign to one-on-one or group debates in order to 'find a new direction for Irish politics'. At the same time, he is keeping in place all the mechanisms for blocking that search. This is woodenly supported by Brian Lenihan and the rest of the party. Like a bunch of Houdini lookalikes, they think they can break free from the past without actually breaking free from anything at all except Brian Cowen. As the new representative of the shabby Fianna Fail elite we hope we are getting rid of, Micheal Martin should be coming clean and admitting he was hopelessly wrong about his espousal of the worst of the EU in this country. Truth is, the EU either has to become a full political union, with common taxes and public services, or the whole thing has no future.

This will not happen. The leadership for it is not there. The German people do not want it, whatever about some of Germany's elites and the present German government. The euro and widespread debt across the 27 member countries has undermined the will and the capacity to act, and Micheal Martin is as compromised as others in Fianna Fail by their servile belief that Brussels would somehow bail us out.

All the signs are that Micheal Martin will set himself up as a blame game ringleader, mocking the Opposition parties as they struggle with the economy on the two fronts represented by Fianna Fail trying to save face and the EU maintaining the Barroso standpoint of laying all the blame with our banks and our defective regulation.

The blame game will go on after the election and Micheal Martin will play it well, with the Department of Foreign Affairs silently cheering him on. He is experienced and wily enough, just as he was shrewd in timing his heave against Brian Cowen. This is probably why he got sufficient support to succeed Cowen and become leader.

He won't have the courage to challenge Europe, the task on which Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan have embarked, like the Owl and the Pussycat, who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat, bringing some money and plenty of honey wrapped up in a five-pound note. That is the level of farce we are facing.

I have two other worries. The first concerns the role Micheal Martin played in the initial shaping of the Church-State reaction to abuse in Ireland's industrial schools and the setting up of the Abuse Commission and later the Redress Board, something he keeps very quiet about.

It was a carefully orchestrated washing of political hands and the expunging of state responsibility. As Minister for Education, he was centrally part of that and of the delusion represented by Bertie Ahern's apology to the many former inmates of our industrial schools. The apology turned out to be a betrayal that is still the prevailing judgment of those who suffered.

Secondly, there is his stance towards Israel during 2009. Micheal Martin expressed an admiration for the European Union and all it stood for in respect of our obedience and co-operation. At the same time, with the eruption of violence in Gaza, he adopted an Irish foreign policy towards Israel that was shamefully non-European as well as being one-sided. He was in conflict with EU policy that has always called for "an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel and an end to Israeli military action".

Micheal Martin stressed the injunction on Israel, but did not comment sufficiently on Hamas outrages against the Israeli people.

Instead, his statements were seriously biased against Israel. This was blatantly one-sided and was sustained in statement after statement of grave concern over Israeli military incursions by the Israeli Defence Forces coupled with invitations to Hamas "to desist from all rocket attacks".

All of this was popular stuff; Micheal Martin knew it, as did the faceless Foreign Affairs architects of his so-called "policy", which was neither connected with EU policy nor with Ireland's own long-standing struggle against terrorism, and our supposed support for democracy. On this extremely difficult question Micheal Martin's approach was superficial, misleading and biased. He was an advocate, and being an advocate in territory that is not your first interest is dangerous.

Such confused approaches do not qualify him to restore FF's integrity and conviction.