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27 September 2007 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Fianna Fáil in the North — Another stroke by Bertie?

WHEN An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced last week his intention to set up a committee to look at Fianna Fáil organising in the North, there was much speculation as to his motivation.
Would they merge with the SDLP or would they just more overtly support them politically and financially in an effort to slow their demise? Did he feel that because Sinn Féin did not make advances in the 26-County general election this presents an opportunity to take us on in the North?
Could it have been another one of Bertie’s cynical strokes to deflect attention from his inept and unconvincing evidence to the Mahon Tribunal?
If none of these are true and Fianna Fáil, after over 80 years since its foundation, is serious about embracing politics on a 32-county basis, then it is to be welcomed.
Not only has Fianna Fáil and the other 26-County Establishment parties ignored the plight of Irish citizens abandoned behind the British-imposed border but Fianna Fáil taoisigh since its foundation have actively rebuffed approaches by nationalist leaders seeking political assistance.
If An Taoiseach wishes Northern citizens to take seriously his new-found commitment to all-Ireland politics he should adhere to the promise of the Good Friday Agreement, which he helped negotiate, and deliver Oireachtas representation for Northern elected representatives.
He could also, through the all-Ireland Ministerial Council, support Sinn Féin in our efforts to increase the number of all-Ireland implementation bodies and areas of co-operation. This would be a true measure of the Fianna Fáil commitment to the type of all-Ireland politics that will deliver tangible benefits to everyone on the island.
But there could be another reason for this announcement and its timing.
In the next two years we are definitely looking at an EU election and local government elections, North and South. We could possibly also be looking at a snap Westminster general election.
Although Dermot Ahern says Fianna Fáil will not fight these, if they do decide to go forward, I presume they will fight local government and EU elections but, short of a merger, where will that leave the SDLP?
After all, for over 20 years, Fianna Fáil has been coming north to fight elections against Sinn Féin on behalf of the SDLP. Is the real reason for their new-found all-Ireland ambitions the fact that they have given up on the SDLP being able to do the job and want to attempt to do it themselves?
Whatever the reason, and presuming that it comes to fruition, I look forward to the battle. But I believe that Fianna Fáil will be surprised to find out how little support there will be here for its brown envelope, corrupt approach to politics.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

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