Fianna Fail senator Averil Power’s bill to protect gay teachers is an interesting snapshot into Fianna Fail thinking. Some people are surprised that it is Power who is pushing the bill, having bought into the incorrect view that her mentoring by (and friendship with) Mary Hanafin means that she shares Hanafin’s conservative views. It will surprise many that Power is actually quite left wing on social and economic issues whilst being, shall we say, very firm on law and order. Having said that, the bill itself raises interesting questions about where Fianna Fail sees itself going. Whereas it is unlikely that Fianna Fail will repudiate its conservative voters ( and would be foolish to do so) it looks very likely that Fianna Fail has now accepted that a strong and visible socially liberal wing will be part of its recovery. It will also be influenced by its membership of the European Liberals in the European Parliament. This can be over-hyped, of course, but as FF members attend ELDR/ALDE events, new ways of thinking about issues do emerge. In my own experience, as a Young PD in the ELDR, the social liberalism that grew in the YPDs was a partial side effect of engaging with our European partners.
What will also be interesting will be Fine Gael’s reaction, and whether FG will become the conservative party on social issues, finally trading places with FF and dealing the death knell to the last vestiges of Garrett? Could we see FF finally go the Des O’Malley route of allowing votes of conscience on designated issues? I wouldn’t rule it out.