Some of them still have not contracted it. You still meet a dwindling number of Fianna Failers who are in total denial about what has happened, holding out like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man and just hoping that things will somehow go back to the way they are. You can see that they are in denial because they still use phrases like “It’ll be a disaster for the country if Joan Burton is minister for finance.” Really? What will she do? Wreck the banking system? Go on her knees to the IMF? Nationalise bank debts? Let public spending get out of control? End our economic independence? They look blankly at you, as if their minds are like that old game “Mousetrap” and they are waiting for their single transferable idea to roll into place. It does, and then they say things like “Yes, but the Fine Gael Party (Only FFers call them that. Even Fine Gael just call themselves Fine Gael) and Labour (Labour always refer to themselves as the The Labour Party, like a peacock trying to make himself look bigger) have marginally different policies!”
Then you meet the FFers who have full blown FFPTD. The cockiness, the “you are mere parties, we are a national movement” is long gone. Instead, you can see it in their eyes, the nervous flicker of the regularly beaten dog that just wants to be loved. Being a former Progressive Democrat, I can recognise many of the symptoms, although even we were never actively hated (most people had no opinion about the PDs, regarding them like the Abbey Theatre. They’d heard of it, alright, but other people used it.) to this degree, or indeed to the degree that the left like to believe. And worse is to come: Polling day will unleash a burst of national euphoria as Fianna Fail is partially destroyed. Don’t be surprised if a small crowd actually attack Fianna Fail headquarters, the way a mob stormed Stasi headquarters in Berlin, and party members are founded curled up in a ball in the corner, reading a heavily thumbed copy of Stephen Collins’s The Power Game, and rocking themselves, muttering to be taken away to their special place.
Post election, it’ll really hit. Being not just rejected, but a minor party. For the first time ever, not having a party leader who is guaranteed to be Taoiseach. Being actually afraid of Sinn Fein, who will provide far more coherent opposition to the new government, because the FF front bench will be made up of exhausted people who will have every query answered with “Well, we wouldn’t have to do this if you hadn’t wrecked the country.” And that’s assuming, by the way, that the new Dail doesn’t assemble a committee to investigate, in public, the actions of the last government, and spend the next two years dragging frightened looking former FF cabinet ministers up in front of television cameras to relive the trauma, blow by blow.
There is one upside, however. You can only get FFPPTD once. Those who have had it may come out of the fever with an appreciation that they have survived it, and look upon life with a new lease, willing to try and do things they never would have dreamed off before, like turfing Bertie out of the party and getting serious about ethics. What doesn’t (politically) kill you can only make you stronger.