The Fianna Fail Stasi Twitch.

Are you, or have you ever been, a member of Fianna Fail?

I was at a Fianna Fail event recently (No, I have not converted. I still have my PD membership card to ward off evil spirits.) and was struck by a curious social phenomenon, what I have called the “FF Stasi Twitch.”

I knew quite a few people at it, many in Fianna Fail, and many far smarter and thoughtful than the general impression of the classic “Stare into the camera at the Ard Fheis” FF mouthbreather, you know, with the bit of balin’ twine holding up the strides and a smell of stale sweat and urine wafting off them. No, these were smart, well read people.

Yet they all had the same social reaction. I’m notoriously loose mouthed at these things (Sure, what have I got to lose?) and was really struck about how everytime I made anything other than a bland statement they would, to a man, twitch around to see if some one was listening, eyes darting nervously.  Like they were being watched by some form of internal party secret police.

The tanaiste arrived, and I made an inquiry as to how she became tanaiste (Not to her: even I’m not that crass.)  I wasn’t actually being smart, in that I don’t know that much about her, and was expecting a stalwart defence of her political achievements.  What I got was a look of horror.

In fairness, I don’t blame them. This is their party, and they have to get on in it, whereas I can be selfishly reckless at things like this. Fair enough. But I have spoken at length to many of these people in private, where they have provided articulate, sensible, mature and thoughtful analysis about Irish politics, society and Fianna Fail’s place in it.  The people in particular I’m speaking of are men and women of integrity, calibre and committment, patriots in the real sense. If I thought Fianna Fail was run by these people, I’d join in a heartbeat.

Yet my suspcion, and I stand ready to be corrected, is that they are very uneasy about speaking openly within Fianna Fail. Let’s be honest, if you can’t have open political debate in the country’s largest and most sucessful political party, where can you have it?

By the way, if anyone in Fianna Fail would like to submit a guest post in defence of the party, please do. I’ll even post it anonymously if you wish. I’m aware that I’m always getting stuck into FF, and that the party does have good points. Email me if you’re interested. Just one thing, though: Please don’t send me one of those mindless FF press office cookie cooker pieces of crap that they give junior ministers to publish in the local paper. I want a  passionate defence, and I assure you, discretion is guaranteed. Just drop me an email at the bottom of the page.          


Good DVDs you should watch: The Sandbaggers

Great spy drama, Crossroads sets.

Great spy drama, Crossroads sets.

First, a warning: If you’re more James Bond than John Le Carre, you’re probably not going to enjoy this. But if you like your spy thrillers with a touch of realism, then “The Sandbaggers” is the one for you. There’s almost no action in it, and most of it is political intrigue in the Westminster corridors of power and bureaucratic infighting, but it’s solid and thoughtful and an intersting glimpse into a period in British cold war history where Britain struggled to maintain its place in the world as a major power. 

Made in 1978-80, it ran for three series in the UK, and stars Roy Marsden as Burnside, the head of MI6’s special operations section, a Coke drinking teetotaller who takes his CIA counterpart to McDonald’s for meetings and gets the bus home. There’s a fascinating context as to how reliant Britain is on the US for help, with MI6 so underresourced compared to the CIA (And KGB.) that one episode has Burnside fighting to stop budgets cuts forcing his agents to fly economy class!

The production values are shockingly dated (It makes Fair City look positively glamourous, and Leeds is used as a substitute for both Cyprus and Gibraltar. Yes, Leeds!) but once you become accustomed to the look, you can enjoy the acting and the plots, which are really top notch. And you’ll find yourself humming the theme tune to yourself.

A guilty indulgence, but well worth it.