I have, in recent posts here and elsewhere been very critical of Fine Gael. It isn’t out of a partisan bent (I was as glad to see Fianna Fail get a kicking as anyone else) but out of a sense of disappointment at Fine Gael’s u-turns on doing politics differently from the discredited Fianna Fail. The failure to appoint outsiders to the cabinet, the u-turn on state board appointees, and the simple bending over when it came to Michael Lowry leaves one with an impression of Fine Gael who are as aspiring in their sleaziness as Fianna Fail, or just incapable to imposing their will on the government, giggling at the novelty of calling each other “minister” as the civil service continue to run the country as they did under the last crowd.
The upcoming presidential election is another case in point. The story doing the rounds is that Fine Gael is blocking councillors from voting to put David Norris on the ballot. Is this what Enda’s New Politics means? Manouvering in the shadows to keep one’s political enemies off the ballot paper so the people can’t make their choice? How De Valera of them. When Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness speaks about being a president of all the people, does she mean except for those people who have the audacity to want to vote for someone else? You’re now in Fine Gael’s Ireland, and you’ll get to vote for whomever we say you can vote for?
Enda can redeem Fine Gael. It’s too early in the government’s term to dismiss them as a failure, but they seem to be missing the importance of symbolic gestures. If the Taoiseach were to announce that whilst Fine Gael will be running their own candidate, he will instruct the party to also nominate (but not endorse) David Norris. Senator Norris is not just any candidate, and the Taoiseach could clearly state that Fine Gael believes that this decision must be decided by the people of Ireland, not the selectorate of De Valera’s constitution. It would be a very classy thing to do.
There’s also another reason: Fianna Fail will have enough Oireachtas members to nominate their own candidate but also to lend additional votes to Senator Norris. If Fianna Fail were to do so, and publicly permit its councillors to support Senator Norris’s efforts in the county councils, it would immediately put Fianna Fail in the moral high ground above Fine Gael’s (and Labour’s, who also have enough Oireachtas members to nominate two candidates) playing of party politics. It’s been a long time since Fianna Fail has been able to breath the sweet clean air at that altitude.