Anatomy of an election 69
About the only constructive innovation among Mr. Lynch's Cabinet changes was the promise to create a new department for Housing and Physical Development with Mr. Blaney to be in charge. This presumably will mean a higher priority for one of the nation's most pressing social needs as well as greater prominence for a neglected aspect of Irish economic affairs. Apart from that, the numerous promotions, demotions and "transmotions" effected by Mr. Lynch seem only to be aimed at concealing the absence of substantative change by making a multiplicity of minor alterations. The departures and arrivals from the Cabinet were perfectly predictable and politically innocuous. Mr. Lenihan's movement to Transport and Power was undoubtedly a demotion, but whether for him or the Department of Education is not clear.
Dr. Hillery's movement to External Affairs makes sense in the light of EEC developments but none at all when one considers the problems remaining in the Department of Labour. And so on. In fact the most significant feature emerging from the changes in the Cabinet is that it confirms Mr. Haughey in his strategic position as Minister for Finance. From there he can continue to exercise his enormous, and generally conservative, influence over the direction of government policy. He is also, needless to say, in a strong position to move into Mr. Lynch's place should the latter decide to move on to higher things in 1973.
For this prosaic state of affairs there are probably two important reasons. The first is the simple fact that the Fianna Fail party is chronically short of talent. The second reason why Mr. Lynch's "new" Cabinet has an aura of familiarity about it arises from Fianna Fail's interpretation of the general election result as a mandate for continuity rather than change. For although the party's percentage of the total poll did slip a couple of points its vote remained constant absolutely and the party captured enough seats to avoid having to be unduly worried by elections in unfavourable constituencies. And all of this was accomplished, the Government can claim, while holding with rare consistency to the past policies when the two opposition parties bombarded the electorate with a wide variety of proposals of varying degrees of radicalism. But although continuity rather than change is what last month's result suggests the people probably want, it does seem unlikely that Mr. Lynch's new Cabinet will, in fact, be able to avoid a fairly considerable amount of re-organisation of the nation's social, economic and political institutions. If a pragmatic conservatism under Mr. Lynch's genial leadership is what the people were promised last month, and what Fianna Fail probably thinks they approved, then this at least, is one election promise, which the Government is unlikely to be able to deliver.
For one thing, there is the sudden re-emergence, after six years in a state of suspended animation, of the possibility of Irish entry into the European Economic Community. This should prompt a wide-ranging re-appraisal of how much preparation still remains to be carried through within the next few years. Although a fair amount of work was begun eight to nine years ago when the first hint of free trade sent Government and industry into convulsions of activity, there still remains a vast number of Irish firms not only incapable of meeting foreign competition but many who are quite possibly lacking the human and material resources to accomplish the necessary adaptations.
To push on with what remains to be done, Mr. Colley may find himself impelled, in due course, to depart from the "free enterprise" philosophy of his party and to intervene a little more directly in the affairs of private industry.
More radical still, however, are the measures, needed of Mr. Gibbons when he moves to Agriculture, to deal with the economy's most intractable problem -the persistent failure of agricultural net output to show any consistent expansion. In the EEC context agricultural markets will, of course, provide better opportunities than those currently available to Irish farmers. But if these markets are to be exploited then substantial improvements in the quality and volume of agricultural output will be required, necessitating in turn, significant alterations in the structure of Irish farming and traditional techniques. Only substantial changes in the present armoury of Government subsidies and price supports will secure this.
But these are far from the only set of radical changes in policy which the Government, however complacently it may view the election result, seems unlikely to have forced on it. A much more immediate, and certainly more delicate problem than preparing for the EEC is caused by the pressure of rapidly rising incom~ on the economy's not-so-rapidly-rising productive incomes policy. For one thing, the economy is now operating close to capacity and even the relatively bullish prognostications of the Economic and Social Research Institute quarterly survey expect prices to rise 6.5% this year and the deficit on the balance of payments to widen to £57 million.
Secondly, and obviously closely connected with the first, the results of last February's strikes may eventually unleash a chain reaction of comparable demands among the members of other unions. Precisely, because the horrors of a free for all scramble for wage increases are fairly evenly distributed between both sides of industry, the Government, and Mr. Haughey in particular, have an opportunity to intervene in a manner which could produce some order among forthcoming wage claims - presumably by getting an agreement on a basic percentage increase for all industries.
But such action is essentially a matter of preventing a bad situation from getting worse. What is also required is some institutional arrangement which will render less likely repetitions of the Maintenance strike. To that end something on the lines of the British Prices and Incomes Board may be needed, although here it might be questioned whether Mr. Brennan, in Labour, is quite the man for the exceptionally difficult task of setting up such an agency.
But, of course, these areas, sensitive though they may be, are far from comprising the complete list of fundamentally necessary reforms. Perhaps the most significant of all those not yet mentioned arise from the Buchanan Report on physical planning. Followed a few days later by the announcement of a General Election, the Buchanan Report barely entered the public consciousness. Yet dealing as it does with the deployment of industry and urban development throughout the country, and calling for commitment of almost £2! billion over the next twenty years, the report could hardly be more significant for the social and economic future of the country.
Unfortunately it is the lot of all plans for regional development that fewer areas are favoured than are excluded. In the statement which is issued with the report's publication, the Government betrayed its fear that the Buchanan Report would lose it more votes in the rest of the country than it would gain in Cork or Limerick. Moreover, the future appointment of Mr. Blaney, who hails from an area deliberately neglected by Buchanan, suggests that the Government is unlikely to follow all of its recommendations. However, any policy is better than none, and the creation of a special Department suggests that an active programme for urban development will now be promoted by the Government.
On the other hand the acquisition of the Department for Social Welfare by Mr. Boland presumably means a lower priority for that section of our social services. Certainly, no one would consider Mr. Boland one of our more thoughtful and inventive Ministers. He is, however, capable of carrying on traditional Fianna Fail policies which in Social Welfare have consisted in minor adjustments to existing benefits as and when a fairly parsimonious estimate of the health of the exchequer permits.
The trouble is that raising the level of Social Welfare benefits is likely to meet increasing difficulties for so long as Mr. Boland adheres to flat-rate insurance contributions from employers and employees. Only a shift to the more equitable system of graduated contributions will allow the degree of buoyancy required to finance a modern system of Social Welfare benefits. In the health services, where the somewhat more enterprising Mr. Childers now holds sway, the collision between the cost of improved services and the inadequacy of a narrow and regressive revenue base, has already occurred. There the rising burden of health charges on the rates has provoked Dublin City Council into refusing to strike an adequate rate. While part of the resentment against rates stems from the speed with which they have risen, much is derived from the knowledge that the rateable valuations constitute an extremely archaic tax-base with numerous anomalies and injustices.
Unfortunately, the solution to this problem also lies in Mr. Boland's territory where he continues to control the Department of Local Government. Moreover, an Interdepartmental Committee on local finance recently argued against any change in the use of rates as a main source of local authority funds. And this despite the fact that several different types of tax, entertainment taxes, turnover taxes, etc., have been in use in other countries. Nevertheless, in respect of both Health and Social Welfare, unless the Government succeeds in breaking away from systems of taxation laid out in the 19th century further development of the services will meet increasing popular opposition. Developing new sources of finance for the social services is one of the more urgent necessities facing the country and one of the Government's most difficult political problems.
Very different are the difficulties facing the Government in its educational policy. Here the disaffected are not the public at large, which probably has greater approval of Government policy in education than Government policy on any other department, but rather the teachers and, less noisily but no less determinedly, the staffs of the two universities.
The dispute with the teachers is as much a consequence of internal rivalries in the profession as it is of ministerial hamhandedness - though of that there has been a fair amount. So, although Mr. Faulkner's tact, impartiality and ability to secure the confidence of all those involved with education, can help to secure agreement on salaries among the teachers, the ultimate solution lies in the distant future. For it will only be when the training, social backgrounds, and promotional opportunities are the same among the three branches of the teachers, that rivalry between them will cease.
The other acute problem awaiting the Government's attention in the educational field also arises out of disagreements between members of the educational profession-if one can so describe all those who teach in primary, secondary and higher education. In this case the disagreement lies in the failure of the two universities in Dublin to find some means of following through the proposal of Mr. O'Malley that they should merge. Unless the Council on Higher Education can perform some very remarkable feats of diplomacy the Minister for Education will be faced with the unpleasant choice of riding roughshod over the inclinations of all the staffs concerned or retreating from the Government's stated objective behind a smoke screen of "co-operation," "joint operation," and the like.
In short, Mr. Lynch and his party went into the General Election of 1969 promising the public no more and no less than a continuation of the policies which they had followed since Mr. Lemass's accession to power. They were returned with a handsome mdrgin of superiority and Mr. Lynch constructed a Cabinet, which, despite numerous superficial changes, accurately reflects the character of the party's electoral victory. But whatever the people thought when they voted Fianna Fail back into office, the reality of the situation is that there is an urgent need for a wide range of reforms. Some of it, such as the need for an incomes policy, is obvious to the public. Other needs, such as that for a new source of finance for social services, is not so obvious. But taken altogether there is an overwhelming case, so far as the good of the country is concerned, for turning aside from the implications of the General Election and launching into a period of reform. Should Fianna Fail do just that, then the 19th Dail will see some of the most fundamental legislation since the founding of the state. But should the Government party follow the quiescent policies implied by the shape of the new Cabinet then the next five years should see Fianna Fail continually surprised by events, and increasingly certain of being out of office in the 20th Dail.
IT WAS certainly Jack Lynch's campaign. By car, aeroplane and helicopter he crisscrossed the convents of the country in one of the greatest crusades since the holy wars of the Chief. But as always nowadays it was Charlie Haughey's idea.
Six months ago Haughey made up his mind when the Taoiseach should call an election. He had felt the revival of the party's morale from the doldrums of the referendum defeat. Despite the instant economic crisis of March he appreciated that the country's mood was buoyant and optimistic-but, most of all, he saw the opposition parties make a mess of it. Haughey-who still thinks that he would make a better Taoiseach than anybody else-realised that the best thing Fianna Fail had going for them was Jack Lynch-therefore the strategy was to expose Jack as much as possible and he got his Tacateer friends Des McGreevey and Eoin Kenny to plan Jack's job of journeywork.
When the budget began to shape up well the final decision was made to go to the country in mid-June. Neil Blaney was the most outspoken opponent of a June election-wanting to postpone it until the autumn-but Charlie had made up his mind. So when the budget, the Electorate Amendment Bill and the Fine Gael Ard Fheis were out of the way-off they went.
Charlie with Desmond O'Kennedy wrote and designed all the advertisements-wrote the T.V. scripts for all Fianna Fail speeches and quite a few other speeches for the Taoiseach as well. And all this was while he frequently was doubled in pain with a stone in his kidney.
While Haughey proved himself as a first rate backroom boy-Jack was proving himself as an excellent front man. Despite an inauspicions start to his tour in Kilkenny, and minor incidents in the Gaeltacht and Dundalk -his country-wide. parade was a magnificent success. Charges of arrogance, corruption and dishonesty just don't stick to Lynch-the affable sportsman. He could talk knowledgably about hurling and football to the old stalwarts and young aspirants at every crossroads-and his ever-sure belt of the sliothar didn't do any harm either. Jack's tour was not one of a compelling, exciting leader of the Kennedy mould or of the awe-inspiring mystique of the de Valera-de Gaulle ilk, but rather of the hurling hero who exemplified those qualities most beloved in rural Irelandtrue sportsmanship, skill and quiet determination. The times when only he could clear the raging crowds from Thurles and Killarney pitches by a few quiet words, "Come on now lads-get off the field." And of the countless hurling feats he accomplished without ever deliberately fouling-were recalled again and again even in the land of the old foe-Tipperary. They seemed much more important than the third programme or the Buchanan report and maybe rightly so.
Looking back now some Fianna Fail people said that the convents were overworked-but Jack's rendering of "The Bould Thady Quill" to the nuns and two-stepping with the sistersproved the goodness that was in him and "sure anyone that would be going again him must be a communist," and the word went out the children were father of the men.
"Let's back Jack" was the campaign's best slogan-for it got the message through and the issue was very clearly "do we want to risk these commies or these Fine Gael "do dahs" or both together, when we can have honest dependable Jack-one of our own. Had Charlie left the back room more often the rcsult might have been differentbut he knew better.
Blaney stayed up in Donegal-he knew better too-and wouldn't even come down to do the T.V. broadcast. Paddy Hillery filled in and Blaney didn't give a tupenny curse. Colley tried to angle in on the act by announcing a new dollop of factories. Charlie was furious and so was Jack and that was the end of the factories.
The "Fine Gael Will Win" banner was a sick joke from the outset and was rivalled by the "Fine Gael are Ready to Govern" with the pinchy photograph of a moth-eaten Cosgrave underneath. 'Leave Liam Alone" might have been more apt-except for the fact that nobody needed to be told. Poor Liam wasn't up to the crusading lark and there were few nights he didn't sleep in his own little bed at home-and few mornings that saw him out before halften. But then Liam's idea of a full-time politician's week is 6 hours for three days, 2 on one other day and the telephone off the hook after 7.00 p.m. every evening.
Liam didn't read too bad in the papers when Michael Sweetman could take time out from his own campaign in Dublin North West-but on his own we had the "reports coming in from the country indicating a massive swing to Fine Gael" and the like.
But Liam wasn't entirely to blame. Tom O'Higgins didn't move far beyond South County Dublin-and him the Presidential candidate and a great reputation all over.
Gerry Sweetman-apart from being eaten up by Haughey on T.V. laid low and the party's whiz-kid Garret Fitzgerald huffed in South East over the treatment meted out to Maurice "The Liberator" O'Connell. Declan Costello went off to sulk in Spain leaving his Just Society to rot on the lips of the Ritchie Ryans and the Paddy Donegans. Apart from Jack himself-"Brending" Corish made the best effort. He did his stint in the country and if he left the New Republic in Earlsfort Terrace afterhim-whatmatter. Brendan Halligan "the cleric in mufti" worked hard that his chausables and sou tans are all hanging off him. And litttle help he got from the new recruits. Thornley beamed from behind his battered nose at the housewives of Glasnevin and Ballymun and who cares about socialism when you've got sex appeal?
The Cruiser was the stickiest of them all-he went after the biggest fish in the pool and stayed there nibbling at him and sure enough he got into the Dail clinging on to Haughey's throat.
It was such a pity about all those smears really-wasn't it? It's such a shame that in this day and age people should be called "communists" and "queers" .
Anyway-'twas quite an interesting campaign in the good old style (and none of your Marshall McLuwan T.V. guff). 'Twill be better next time around when Jack is in the Park and Charlie, Conor and Garret will be doing the rounds.
A STRIKING FEATURE of the 1969 General Election campaign was the evidence of a marked swing against the Government in the Dublin area. Yet although when the votes were counted this swing was as evident as during the campaign itself - the Government party's share of the Dublin vote was reduced by no less than 18% - Fianna Fail nevertheless returned with an increased majority, securing 75 seats as against the 72 they won in the 1965 General Election. How did this happen? There are two main reasons for this out-turn. One is the fact that on this occasion, uncharacteristically, the country did not follow Dublin at all; indeed outside Dublin Fianna Fail's share of the poll was fraction tally higher than in 1965-47.65% as against 47.5%. The other reason was that Fianna Fail's votes yielded a higher return in seats this time, partly, but not solely, because of the way in which the constituency revision was carried out by the Government.
The Differential Swing
While there is a clear contrast between the drop in Fianna Fail's share of the poll in Dublin, (from 48.2% to 39.5%, a fall of almost one-fifth), and the stability of its vote in the rest of the country taken as a whole, there are marked regional differences in the voting pattern. Comparisons with the 1965 General Election are of course rendered difficult by the extensive changes in constituency boundaries, but it is possible by grouping certain constituencies together - e.g. those of North Leinster together with Monaghan and Cavan; or Donegal together with much of Connaught and Clare-to make valid comparisons between the results of the two elections.
The country may be divided into five well-defined geographical regions for the purpose of this analysis. First of all in the cities of Dublin and Limerick, (but not Cork), there was a very large swing to Labour, principally at the expense of Fianna Fail but also, to a small degree, at the expense of Fine Gael.
In the east and south-east outside Dublin there was a clear-cut and almost universal swing from Fianna Fail to Fine Gael. Of the areas in this region in respect of which valid comparisons can be made, only Louth failed to show this pattern. There the three parties' shares of the vote were almost completely static. It is possible that Fine Gael's failure to achieve gains at the expense of Fianna Fail in Louth may have had something to do with disagreements within the Fine Gael organisation over the question of a candidate from Dundalk. Labour's position within this eastern and south-eastern area varied somewhat from place to place; it held its own in Wicklow and in Louth, and lost very little ground in the rest of the
"Overall majority a result of gerrymandering"
northern part of this area, but it suffered set-backs in Carlow-Kilkenny, in Waterford, and, to a lesser degree, in Wexford, Brendan Corish's own constitunecy. There the situation was complicated by the presence this time of two Independent candidates but if their votes are allocated to the parties which benefited from their elimination, emerges that Labour's share of the party vote fell slightly from 32:l% in 1965 to 31 % this time.
The third area to be considered is Cork and Kerry. There the two main parties both gained votes at the expense of Labour and Independents-Fine Gael gaining a little more than Fianna Fail.
In the middle of the country, in the counties of Laois, Offaly and Tipperary, Fianna Fail gained from both Labour and Fine Gael - principally from the former party.
And finally in the West of Ireland, from Clare to Donegal, Fianna Fail gained ground slightly at the expense of Fine Gael almost everywhere, increasing its share of the poll on average by about 3% or 4%. As Labour also secured more votes than previously, partly as a result of putting up candidates where none had stood for Labour in 1965, Fine Gael's share of the vote was cut by about 7~% on average in this region. Thus Fine Gael gained ground in the east and south, and lost some support in Dublin and Limerick, and in the midlands and west. Fianna Fail lost heavily in the cities of Dublin and Limerick and also lost support throughout the east and south-east, but gained some ground everywhere else. And Labour gained ground in Dublin and Limerick, held its own in parts of Leinster, and gained a little support in the west, although this was somewhat illusory in character, reflecting rather the presence for the first time of Labour candidates in some areas than a swing in votes. In the midlands, south-east and south, Labour lost a lot of ground -and a number of seats.
One result of this very mixed geographical voting system is that the regional disparities in the voting strengths of the two principal parties have been greatly reduced. In 1965 Fine Gael polled 35% less votes than Fianna Fail in the east and south of the country; this time its vote was only 25% lower than that of Fianna Fail in this area. By con trast in the rest of Ireland, where in 1965 Fine Gael's vote was only 18% below that of Fianna Fail, Shares of the Poll-Candidates who Secured 25% or More of the Votes
J. LynchFFCork City NW44
P. WyseFFCork City SE38t
G. CollinsFFLimerick W.36~
G. FitzgeraldFGDublin SE3lt
C. HaugheyFFDublin NE3H
M. O'LearyLab.Dublin NC30t
N. BlaneyFFDonegal NE30t
M. O'KennedyFFTipperary N30
1. CosgraveFGDun Laoire/Rathdown 29
G. ColleyFFDublin NC29
R. MolloyFFGalway W28
D. ThornleyLab.Dublin NW27}
D AndrewsFFDun laoire/Rathdown 27 ~
J. DonnellanFGGalway NE27
Mrs. J. BurkeFGRoscommon/Leitrim26!
N. DavernFFTipperary S25
T. DunneFGTipperary N25
H. KennyFGMayo W25
it is now running about 26% below Fianna Fail's. Thus the two principal parties are now similarly matched throughout the country as a whole. Labour, by contrast, which previously had at least one-fifth of the votes throughout the south-east and south, including Tipperary, now finds itself with this proportion of the vote only in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford. It is now much more of a regional party than previously.
The Seat/Vote Ratio
So much for the way the votes went. What about the seats?
Everyone knows that in this election Fianna Fail's votes yielded them more seats than previously. Althouf.:h the Government party's share of the total vote was reduced by over 4%, its share of seats in the Dail was increased by 4%. Only once before in its history has Fianna Fail secured such a large bonus of seats, beyond the proportion to which its share of the votes entitled it. In the exceptional circumstances of 1943, when almost one-fifth of the electorate voted for candidates other than those nominated by the three main parties, Fianna Fail's share of the seats was almost 16% greater than its share of the votes. On no other occasion has there been a disproportion as great as on this occasion: Fianna Fail's share of the seats is now 14% greater than its share of the votes.
Of course the largest party always secures some 'bonus' of this kind. Thus in 1965 Fianna Fail's share of seats was just under 5% greater than its share of votes, and in the five elections between 1951 and 1965 the 'bonus' averaged about 6%. If in this election Fianna Fail's bonus had been of average size, its reduced share of the vote would have given it 70/69 seats. If its 'bonus' had been the same as in 1965 it would have had 69 seats. Instead it has 75.
To answer this question satisfactorily it is necessary to look at the regional results in some detail. In this election Fianna Fail secured 39t% of the Dublin vote, but secured 17 out of 38
Dublin seats - 45% of the seats, or 2 more than its share.
This reflects the result of the revision of constituency boundaries in Dublin, and the introduction of 4-seat constituencies in as many cases as possible, which certainly ensured a bonus of 2 seats. It should be said that this bonus already existed in the last Dail when the 1961 distribution yielded 1 or 2 more seats than Fianna Fail's share of the vote entitled it to. In other words the 4-seat device in Dublin merely preserved a bonus which Fianna Fail already had, and did not contribute to the increased bonus it secured this time At the same time the Dublin redistribution was extremely ingenious, and in conjunction with the fact that Fianna Fail's share of the vote fell below 37-!-% -the critical figure to secure 2 out of 4 seats-in only two of ten constituencies, it enabled Fianna Fail to hold an advantage that might otherwise have been lost.
The areas where Fianna Fail secured extra seats as a result of its additional 'bonus' were Cork, Waterford, LaoisOffaly, and the west, where it secured two extra seats. It is arguable also that its retention of 4 seats in Co. Limerick, despite a drop in its share of the vote from 54 % to 45 % also represents an extra 'bonus', but as half its drop in votes in Limerick was due to the intervention of Mrs. Hilda O'Malley, it is arguable whether a fairer distribution of seats within Limerick would in fact have led to the loss of a Fianna Fail seat.
If one examines the five constituencies mentioned above, one finds that in two cases the Fianna Fail gains were largely fortuitous viz. in Laois-Offaly and in Waterford. In both cases the constituency boundaries remained unchanged, and Fianna Fail gained seats from Labour because the Labour share of the poll dropped.
In the other three cases however, it is fair to credit the constituency redistribution with the gains secured by Fianna Fail. Of course in Cork the drop in the Labour poll would in the normal way have led to the loss of one seat by Labour, which would have gone to Fine Gael. But owing to the redistribution of the Cork constituencies Labour lost not one seat but three-and Fianna Fail and Fine Gael each gained one more seat than their shares of the poll entitled them to.
But the main gain from the constituency redistribution was obtained in the west, with its solid mass of 3-seat constituencies. In the last Dail Fianna Fail, with 50!% of the votes in this area, secured 54t% of the seats-18 out of 33. This was one more than its share; with this proportion of the vote it should have had 17 seats.
To sum up then-Fianna Fail's share of the vote entitled it to 66 seats in this Dail. The normal 'bonus' secured by the largest party under PR, with constituencies ranging from three to five seats, would have raised this to 69 or 70, and it is possible that because of special circumstances in this election-the declineMost days they get one meal. Labour support in certain rural areasbrings back'health. While you continue, giving, they where they had only a tenuous hold on certain marginal his-It's twelve months since--we urst 'appealed for your
might have been raised to 71 or 72. The fact that the Government has an overall majority of 75 seats is the result of the gerrymandering of Cork and of the west, and the way which the 4-seat constituencies in the Dublin secured, perhaps fortuitously, by Fianna Fail in the 1965 election or
At the same time the gerrymander would not have given Fianna Fail an overall majority had it not been for that party's success in improving its poll in the west and south, and part of the midlands, which went a long way towards offsetting its loss of votes to Labour in Limerick and Dublin and to Fine Gael in the rest of the east and south-east.
FINE GAEL has greeted the election results with predictably diverse reactions. On the one hand the conservative wing gloat at the repudiation of
Labour and its own re-establishment "as the only alternative to Fianna Fail," while at the same time blaming Labour for handing the election to the government by refusing to co-operate. On the other hand, the younger and more radical elements view the results as a defeat of old fashioned Fine Gaelism as exemplified by Gerard Sweetman, and point to the hypocrisy of the Ad'l:frcisers Amlouncement conservatives in blaming Labour for not co-operating when they themselves opposed any form of co-operation whatsoever. Fine Gael is still essentially the same.
One thing that seems reasonably certain is that Liam Cosgrave will not lead the party into another General Election. However, his departure will probably be somewhat more dignified than Dillon's following the 1965 General Election. One cannot point to any substantial source of support for Cosgrave within the party. He has long been discredited in the eyes of the leftwingers and his reputation among the other party members has consistently sagged since the referendum. Even his major prop, Gerard Sweetman, cannot now be relied upon, for Sweetman undoubtedly sees the writing on the wall, and will now be concerned not so much to protect Cosgrave as to ensure that an "undesirable" will not succeed.
Surprisingly, there is no shortage of candidates for the leadership. Paddy Donegan has nursed secret ambitions for over a year now and a few months ago held a top-secret meeting in Athlone to boost his candidature. Donegan was elected Vice-Chairman of the party by a large vote at the recent Ard Fheis but in view of the blatant fiddling of the ballot this result is not of itself significant. If Donegan were to make it , which is unlikely, Fine Gael would become a rural based taca-party, even more conservative than the Fianna Fail urban based one, and, needless to say the left-wingers would depart en bloc. Donegan would be a likely candidate with Sweetman's support and in the absence of another right-of-centre candidate he could muster a few votes from the diminishing number of T.D's who consider that Fine Gael has strayed too far from its traditional business man and professional base.
Another contender would likely be Tom Fitzpatrick, T.D. for Cavan, who would probably run as a middle-of-the road man but with a little more dynamism than Cosgrave. At the moment his campaign has just begun and one cannot really determine the strength of his possible support. However, his election would be also anathema to the left and he would be unlikely to contain the ambitions of the other aspirants. With Fitzpatrick as Leader, Fine Gael would change hardly at all and would drift with the prevailing political tide.
Of course, the obvious successor to Cosgrave is Tom O'Higgins, the former Presidential candidate and currently the party's spokesman on Finance. O'Higgins, though stodgy, is considerably less so than either Donegan or Fitzpatrick, and he is, perhaps, the only one of the three, that could now keep the party together. Whereas, under O'Higgins there would be few dramatic changes, nevertheless, the influence of progressives, such as Garret Fitzgerald, would be more keenly felt than now, and the possibility of co-operation with Labour would be enhanced.
A long-term possibility is Garret Fitzgerald. Currently, his popularity in the party is at a rather low ebb, for he has, apparently, been seen to breach party discipline which, of course, is the mortal sin in the Fine Gael book. To many of the backbenchers Fitzgerald is a little too clever and, of course, to the Sweetman mob he is a dangerous leftie. However, Garret's prestige in the party Tried hard in Dublin North-West is likely to improve with his Dail performances. For the party will see him, for the first time, using considerable powers of intellect and personality in the daily battle with Fianna Fail, rather than in the party rooms against theFineGaelestablishment. All politicians admire winners and Garret is likely to be a winner-at least in the Dail. Of course, with Fitzgerald as Leader of Fine Gael the party would be entirely transformed and the overall political stagnation arrested. For Fitzgerald would move Fine Gael significantly leftwards towards the Labour Party and a coalition between the two with Fitzgerald as Taoiseach would be an inevitability.
The chances of Fitzgerald becoming leader' would appear to be decidedly remote at this stage, for the opposition he would encounter from the Sweetman/ Donegan and possibly Fitzpatrick nexus would be formidable. In any event, there are genuine misgivings, even among Garret's most ardent admirers about his leadership qualities. Indeed, those very human qualities of unusual tolerance and fair-mindedness, which Fitzgerald possesses in abundance, could well be his greatest defects as leader.
In the hearts of a few remaining starry-eyed optimists in the party there still lingers hope that Declan Costello will come back and lead Fine Gael out of limbo. Costello, of course, had he remained in politics, would have been the obvious successor to Cosgrave. However, his refusal to stand in this election, whatever his disillusionment with Fine Gael as it was, is regarded as an act close to betrayal and many of his former friends won't quickly forget it. However, stranger things have been known to happen in politics and the Costellos have always been a law unto themselves.
The outcome of the Senate election will have a significant bearing on the emerging leadership contest. If people like Alexis Fitzgerald and Michael Sweetman get elected, then Tom O'Higgins would seem to be assured of the leadership if he wanted it, which is, of course, a moot point. Otherwise, Garret Fitzgerald's chances would be enormously enhanced.
One significant factor in the Fine Gael equation now is the absence of James Dillon. Dillon, through his prestige and powers of persuasion, was a huge conservatising influence within the party, and one who always successfully squashed any leadership crisis by his rhetorical pleas for party unity against
the common enemy. His absence now means that one of the great unifying bonds of the party is no more and the conservative heavy weight has got off the scales.
In a sense the country's entire political development over the next number of years is dependent on the outcome of the Fine Gael leadership contest. If either Donegan or Fitzpatrick win or, by some fluke, Cosgrave remains, then we can expect stagnation and continued political apathy. However, if either O'Higgins or Fitzgerald make it, and particularly the latter, then we would seem to be assured of a radical alliance between Fine Gael and Labour, and in the next election a real alternative to Fianna Fail.
Really, the choice is between stagnation or renewal.
Declan Costello, age 42, married: with 5 chtldren-son of former TaOlseach
John Costello, educated at Xavier's College, Donnybrook, U.C.D. (B.A. 1st Class Honours Economics) and the King's Inns. Called to the Bar in 1948 and to the Inner Bar in 1965 where he is now one of the country's leading senior counsels.
He was first elected to the Dail in 1951 as Fine Gael T.D. for Dublin North West. It is widely believed that he was omitted from the Cabinet of the second Inter-Party Government (195457) because his father was Taoiseach. Nevertheless, he remained very active during that period as an ardent advocate of progressive social and economic policies.
Following numerous unsuccessful attempts from 1957-1964 to persuade Fine Gael to move leftwards he finally succeeded in 1964, with the aid of a Fianna Fail inspired press leak, to have the draft of a new policy programme adopted by the party. Then singlehanded he pushed through the policy "Towards a Just Society"-encountering intransigent opposition from the
entrenched conservative core-Dillon, Sweetman, O'Higgins (Michael)-suspicious apathy from the majority of the remainder and some support from his father, Paddy McGilligan, Pat Harte and Denis Farrelly.
Immedjately following the 1965 General Election James Dillon resigned as leader of Fine Gael and Cosgrave was manoeuvred into the leadership by
an inner cabal consisting of Dillon, Sweetman and himself. Their main purpose was to "block" Costello who during the Just Society "debates" had shown an alarming amount of ambition. In 1966 Costello announced his decision to retire from politics for health reasons-he had been physically and mentally exhausted by the endless and often frustrating committee work on the Just Society policy.
In November 1968 following appeals mainly from Garret Fitzgerald and the Young Tiger element in Fine Gael-he offered to re-consider his decision to retire. But the party hierarchy showed little inclination to have him back and even less inclination to share his ideals -so he stayed out.
Brendan Corish and Brendan Halligan of the Labour Party made incessant efforts at this stage to persuade him ro join their party or to form a new party (the Social Democratic) or even to remain in Fine Gael. Costello, though sympathetic to Labour policies believed that it was futile to operate from such a meagre base as the Labour Partyimpractical to form a new party and pointless remaining on in Fine Gael when Labour refused to joirz a coalition. Both Corish and Halligan, while reaffirming their determination to stay out of a coalition after the 1969 election-nevertheless argued that their decision was valid only for. the immediate future and was open to reconsiderationthereafter.Costellowas unimpressed.
With the return of Fianna Fail to power-new political re-alignments will have to be considered. Declan Costello though not a member of the 19th Dail will inevitably be a focal point of any negotiations or talks on this question. His contribution below begins a debate which is likely to dominate political discussion in the next few years.
THE RIGHT back-lash is now to be anticipated in Irish politics - not, perhaps, demonstrating the startling characteristics which are to be observed in other countries, but nonetheless affecting powerfully the future of Irish political development. It is likely to influence each of the political parties, but in different ways and in varying degrees.
In the case of Fianna Fail it would be a mistake to talk in terms of a possible victory of the Right over the Left. Like many conservative parties, Fianna Fail is divided into factions, not wings. Those who wistfully desire a polarisation of Irish politics and talk of the Left of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael joining Labour usually have some difficulty in naming names when they are asked to particularise-particularly when examining Fianna Fail. Indeed it is almost an impossible task, for its factions may start stirring again. But there will be no doctrinal disputes, with one wing triumphing over another. In relation to Fianna Fail, therefore, the Right back-lash will not influence the balance of power within the Party, but it will certainly influence the policies which the Party will follow in government. Fianna Fail has always been a party which carefully gauges the public mood. Indeed this is one of its greatest weaknesses, for in spite of the great power which it has enjoyed over the years it has frequently failed to exercise it, because of its interpretation of what is politically wise.
Fianna Fail will have taken careful political soundings in recent weeks. To its ears these will almost certainly have contained a simple message. Anything smacking of Left-wing policies should be out. To play safe is to be safe. Eschew adventure, in economics, politics, social welfare-at home as well as abroad. And so the progress and direction of the government will remain the same as it has been for years past. No dramatic changes in legislation are to be expected; modest minor improvements here and there from time to time is all that will be thought necessary. The rule of cautious unimaginative uninspiring expediency will continue.
It is on the two opposition parties that the Right back lash is most likely to be more directly felt. At first sight it might appear that the Labour party might suffer the most. After all, it is now a widely held view that the Labour policy documents adopted by the 1969 Convention were responsible for Labour's defeat, and it is argued that the opponents of the Party's new socialist image will seek their revenge. But such an argument is a gross oversimplification of a complicated situation. The concept of the Labour Party, divided between the decent clothcapped conservative trade-unionists on the one-hand, and long-haired intellectuals on the other was a caricature (but one which, incidentally Fianna Fail successfully paraded in speech and canvass). Even, however, if it is true that the conservative element in the Party comprised in the main the members of the Oireachtas Party elected from outside Dublin (and even to that generality there would have to be reservations), a simple counting of heads will show that there are not so many of them around now. Obviously Labour is going to have to do a great deal of re-thinking, but amongst the deputies in the Labour party who will do the most of it there is a good majority of. those who supported the New RepublIc.
It seems highly probable that the party must run into serious controversy within its ranks, but it is equally improbable that decisions will be made which do not have the backing of the majority of the Oireachtas Party. If controversy erupts into disputes, it is difficult to see victory going to those who are identified with the Right of the party. A further factor has also to be considered.
It is a notorious fact that minority parties in opposition, unburdened by prospect of immediate governmental responsibility, are likely to be more extreme in their statements and criticisms than those who believe themselves close to achieving power. This natural tendency is, in the case of the Labour Party, likely to be accentuated by the frustrations and annoyances which the Fianna Fail government will certainly engender in the months and years ahead. It would be very surprising if the Labour voice in the Dail was in any way a muffled one, or if the Labour stance is altered to any significant extent.
Fine Gael finds itself once again in its, by now, accustomed place on the Opposition benches. There is a considerable danger that instead of examining itself for possible shortcomings it may use Labour as a convenient scapegoat. The theory goes this way. Labour strategy in the election (by refusing coalition or even support) and/or Labour policies ("cuban," "foreign" or "maoist" socialism) are responsible for the fact that Fine Gael is not in power, because the people were given no alternative to Fianna Fail and/or because they were frightened into voting for Fianna Fail.
Before examining the effects of this theory, a few comments on it should be made A strong case can be made that the results of this election might have been very different if there had been a pre-election programme agreed between Labour and Fine Gael and a firm alternative to Fianna Fail offered to the electorate. The causes of the failure to achieve such a development go back many years, and to put all the blame on Mr. Corish is again a gross over-simplification.
But many of those who now blame Labour's strategy were in the past most strongly opposed to any rapprochement with Labour, which opposition in turn had its reactions on Labour thinking. The suggestion that Fine Gael's failureSj are to be blamed on Labour's policies (as distinct from its strategy) also requires some analysis. Labour, it is said, went too far; faced with the prospect of a doctrinaire socialism the electorate was stampeded into voting back Fianna Fail into power. But this is not what happened in Dublin City (where Labour gained seats) and Labour party policies are obviously not an adequate excuse for Fine Gael's unsatisfactory result in the capital. Nor does it explain Fine Gael's failure to pick up more seats outside Dublin.
The theory breaks down before the results in East Mayo, Cavan and Monaghan. Why did these constituencies give Fine Gael two seats out of three? Was the electorate in these areas immune to threats of cuban socialism whilst people elsewhere were not? And surely, if Labour's policies alienated one of the Opposition parties would it not be reasonable to expect that this would have been to the benefit of the other.
True or false, the Labour scape-goat theory may gain strength and could have serious consequences. Most obviously, it would deflect attention from an examination of Fine Gael's role in Irish politics and possible explanations for its failure seriously to challenge Fianna Fail to-date. But furthermore
the adherents of the policy could use it to stultify the efforts of those in th6 party who might seek some sort of understanding with Labour in the:; future. Again, now that the challeng~ has been warded off, the old beguiling idea that Fine Gael alone could beat Fianna Fail could gain new recruits
Policy-making could also be discouraged.
There are always those in eve~ political party who are opposed to working out policies on the ground that they only divide the party, antagonise support, and give weapons to the opposition. And those who oppose policy - making because they usually find the results unpalatable will point to any streak of pink that may appear in any Fine Gael statement or speech and warn of the electoral' dangers of such a line. Fine Gael's move to the Left might not only grind to a halt-it could also be discreetly reversed.
These developments could materiall~ effect Fine Gael's relations with the Labour Party. They could also significantly affect the long-term prospects of the Party itself. It is well known that within the ranks of Fine Gael there are a number of excellent young intelligent people who without hesitation would call themselves socialists. Their continued presence in the Party is far from guaranteed, nor is there any firm prospect that there will continue to be an influx of new people with progressive sympathies. Labour supporters find it hard to understand how people with progressive views either join or stay in the Fine Gael party. The explanation is not hard to find. Their initial membership may have been the result of heredity, or friendships or even chance.
But their continued membership depends on a conscious exercise of judgment. Power is what politics is about. To achieve power to realise certain aims and ideals is what politicians should work for. Fine Gael with 50 seats is obviously much closer to power than Labour is. As long, therefore, as there is a reasonable prospect that Fine Gael in power would implement the ideas which the progressives hold then the attractions of membership of Fine Gael are clear.
There is, of course, no immediate prospect that the status quo ante bellum will be altered. Decisions taken in the next few months, however, could have important long-term effects. There are those in both Fine Gael and Labour who see how disastrous it would be if the 1973 election was fought on the same terms as the elections of 1969 and 1965-disastrous not merely in terms of electoral support but for the political and economic development of the country. To gain support for their point of view is not simply a question of prevailing over the extreme wings of the two parties. The powerful force of party loyalties will be encountered.
It is hard for those outside active politics to appreciate what this means. The outside cynic does not realise that the great majority of party supporters give their time and energy out of genuine idealism, from no selfish motive, and with an enthusiasm that can sometimes border on fanatacism. Without this dedicated loyalty democratic politics as we know them would not work. If, however, the ultimate loyalty is to the organisation which is to implement the ideas, and not to the ideas themselves (as can frequently be the case) the common good can suffer. Co-operation between parties merely for the sake of power and to share out the jobs would be a form of treason. But to refuse co-operation which could result in a government genuinely committed to a programme of social reform could also be treasonable The best is the enemy of the good. Both Fine Gael and Labour could well believe that a government of their own party would be the best for the country. But circumstances might not permit this. Human nature being what it is, a refusal to compromise may in certain conditions stem from intellectual arrogance, or unwillingness to accept responsibility, as well as from principle.
It is easy enough to sketch a course of action. It is more difficult to get it accepted as desirable. It is more difficult still to ascertain the circumstances in which it should be followed. In present circumstances, however, it seems to at least one observer of Irish politics that the problems facing the opposition parties can only be resolved, and the reforms required in Irish society assured, by following the way here indicated.
IT HAS BEEN a disappointing, embittering, but also an enriching and maturing election for the Labour Party. Disappointing because of its loss of four seats; embittering because of the campaign of smear and vilification; enriching because of the influx of new "quality" deputies; and maturing for its new socialist policies have been electorally seasoned.
Of course the Labour Party had been foolish to expect to win up to 30 seats in the election, for while it could reasonably expect to gain four or five seats in Dublin, it should have foreseen that these gains would be offset, at least somewhat, by losses in the country, notably Laois/Offaly, Clare and Kildare. Furthermore, it should have been recognised that as the party's new policies were so explicitly urban orientated this would necessarily occasion a backlash in the country which could have lost a few seats. Had these rational predictions been made (though it is easy to say so now with hindsight) by the Labour Party prior to the election, then the euphoria which had so enveloped the party would not have been replaced by such deep depression among the rank and file now.
The election has instilled a roaring rancour in the Labour soul which has unfortunately sometimes exhibited itself as petty pique. However, the anger is understandable when one remembers the charges of communism, Trinity queers, etc., and more particularly the covert rumours. But politics is largely a matter of communication and in failing to dispel the communist and other charges the Labour men failed as politicians.
But the significant outcome of the election for Labour is, of course, the radical transformation in the character of its Dail representatives. During the period of the last Dail, the Labour Party contingent was demonstrably unrepresentative of the new thinking within the Party as exemplified in successive conferences. The only deputies who gave any expression to the New Republic ideas were Michael O'Leary and, to a lesser extent, Brendan Corish, Frank Cluskey and, perhaps, Eileen Desmond. The vast majority of their colleagues were, at best, unsympathetic to the new trend. Thus, the Labour movement was, to a large extent, incohesive and divided.
The replacement of the hard core of die-hards (within Labour terms) including Tom Kyne, Henry Byrne and Pat McAuliffe, though excluding Mrs. Desmond, by such articulate spokesmen of the new policies as Conor Cruise O'Brien, David Thornley, Justin Keating and Noel Browne, necessarily re-establishes a unity and cohesion to the Party, and, most significantly, gives its thoughtful policies the mouth-pieces they demand.
On the question of Labour and rural Ireland it was disastrous of Brendan Corish to suggest that the country people were not sufficiently sophisticated to understand Labour policies. For, apart from the implied insult involved, it missed the point. The Labour Party's failure in rural Ireland is attributable to two factors: the first is that there was never much hard core Labour support in rural areas anyway, and where Labour held seats it was attributable to the personality of the candidates more than a solid Labour vote. Therefore, as happened in four of the constituencies where Labour lost a seat, where the "personality" was not standing again-it was discovered that there was simply no substantial Labour vote in these constituencies where they lost out. In one case (Waterfordwhere Kyne would have got in had he stood on his own) the loss was due to bad tactics, and in the other two, MidCork and North East Cork, the rearrangement of constituency boundaries was an important factor.
The second point is that the new Labour policies were never clearly explained in a rural or agricultural context. Socialism has traditionally been an urban phenomenon and has rarely been adapted to rural conditions. It is easy to identify the Labour Party with the urban worker - a good deal less easy with the rural worker and small farmer. Rural Ireland is beset with discontent and despair due to the decay of society there. This is fundamentally a social concern and the Labour Party must now analyse the rural problem and offer remedies consistent with its wider aims.
The influx of the new radicals into the Party and Dail group paradoxically will make the Party less radical and image-wise, more responsible. The power within the Party will now transfer to the Dail from the conferencefor while the conference will theoretically and perhaps in fact remain the centre of decision-making it will now be led by the Dail members whose experience of the daily political battle will mature their judgment and refine their general political approach. This does not mean that the new policies will be abandoned or diluted but rather presented in a more practical, less extravagant manner.
The Party cannot for long postpone the leadership question. While Brendan Corish was ideally suited to hold the Party together during its regenerationit is now clear that the new Labour Party demands a new figurehead and chief spokesman. Fortunately Corish is neither vain nor ungenerous and probably is fully aware of the need for change himself. Conor Cruise O'Brien is of such remarkably outstanding qualities that he is an obvious choice-but not yet. His own image as a politician must mature and he must prove his durability and dedication. There will be demanding tests on one of such diverse competences and of impatient energies. He must also, of course, prove his ability to get on with lesser mortals. In two years' time if O'Brien can discipline himself to the drudgery of the Dail and avoid Cubanesque blunders-then the Labour Party could be offering the country the leader of the century.
And finally to Coalition. Already it is obvious that the Party's attitude is changed somewhat. The chief proponent of the no coalition idea-Michael O'Leary-speaking in the Dail on the first day of its assembly said that Labour would not join with any party which did not sincerely share its beliefs. Gone was the "no coalition under any circumstances" attitude. This change of mentality is somewhat augmented by the new deep hatred Labour now share with Fine Gael of Fianna Fail. Whereas this is an inauspicious incentive to come together-it could act as a valuable catalyst. Furthermore, O'Brien, Thornley and Keating cannot be expected to consign themseves to the opposition benches indefinitely. Then, of course, there is Noel Browne who has always been sympathetic to the coalition idea. Despite this obvious thaw in Labour's attitude to coalition-if Fine Gael remains or becomes more conservativethen Labour cannot but refuse an alliance and then presumably it is Fianna Fail yet again. So it's up to Fine Gael.
By Ciaran McKeown, president of USI
THE CONSOLING THING about coming bottom of the poll is that you can say what you feel, and even your opponents will listen, if only out of pity. Indeed, there is as much pity after the election as there is filth before it. The filth is cleaner.
Mind you, there would be something radically wrong with democracy if a bearded student haranguing the citizenry for all of two weeks could do any better than I actually did. So given that democracy was exercised within its present limits, I'll not worry about my own expensive experience, and talk more about the election proper-about the real candidates, I mean, the ones who got the votes.
"God Bless you, Missus, I hope you'll do your best for me." This inspiring line sums up the high calibre of political discussion which decided the issue in Dublin South-West, and elsewhere, from what I gather. And sure enough, though the voter despised the politician as much as the politician despised the voter, she did her best for him, and he shook her hand. The mutual deception was over for another five years; master and serf had swapped roles for five minutes. All the abuse and empty promises of three weeks are driven into obscurity by the crippling realisation that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. Especially with all the strange things that are going on, with strikes and drugs and economies and like mysteries. And after all, didn't they manage to put a few bob on this and a few bob on that. For all the talk, things must be all right when they can get that amount for land. Still, I'll throw out a preference or two in the direction of Labour, just to let them know we're watching them. Let them know who's the master.
"Free education? What are you talking about son? Sure there is free education. My eldest lad is up in the Tech. And wasn't it in the paper, did you not see that ad for Fianna Fail? University grants for all promising young people that need them. Isn't that free education?
"But Mister, this is a huge lie. There's only about 4 % get those grants. You're only a promising young person if you get four honours. And the majority of kids that could get into higher education don't get four honours. All the promise they have is a boat ticket."
"Ah wen, I don't know. I think things are going along well! Too well. Sure look at them students. Drugs and Communists and Beards-no offence, your beard is neat enough-but some of them! My God, and this is supposed to be a Catholic country."
You resist the temptation to tell them that Christ had a beard, so had St. Patrick and St. Francis, and Parnell and Casement and a dozen others-he'll think it was blasphemy. You go on down next door, and listen for twenty minutes to the widow with the pension problem, and then she promises you fifth preference after she's voted the Labour ticket. You wonder at your folly. The professionals have warned you-"not more than two minutes at any door-it only confuses them, and you'll never get round them at all." But you haven't the gall to treat them with such derision, so you get lots of sympathy, and a few votes.
Still, the lads are putting up the posters with great enthusiasm and the leaflets are nearly ready for the post, and youthful optimism abounds. We're going to win, we're going to give the machines the shock of their lives: have you heard one yet that is for Fianna Fail? It's all Labour, Labour. That suits us. Keep it up, we're getting among the votes. And so it seems. The word filters back, "That's an honest fellah-he'll make them work for their money. That's what we need in this country." Every tit-bit of praise and support is regarded as the tip of the ice-berg, the posters go up quicker, the canvass moves faster, the speech gets more eloquent.
Then you hear it. You don't believe it at first-so you ask around. Horror slowly sets in. It's like being told you've two months to live. "He's an out-and-out Communist." "Voting for McKeown? Sure he's against the Irish language."
Nothing you can do. Ignore it. Work twice as hard. But all the time you know it-it'll take years of ground work to kill it. You have a fair idea who's doing it; part of you rages, part of you forgives, part of you almost respects.
Suddenly it's all over and the result is exactly as you forecast. One F.F. on top, two Labour in the middle, one F.F. creeping in fourth. There's an impressive reality about it after all the dreams. You fall to reflection, to analysis, to the recall of details. The F.F. machine working relentlessly underground, just a few miserable pictures of Jack on the posts so as not to offend anybody, a few strategic boards on houses to impress the punters, while the lads get round and nobble the voters. And then there's the imaginary meeting where speeches are made by the script factory: very impressive that-especially when you remember the real speeches you made yourself, 150 of them and you get a total of about twenty column inches. You've only yourself to blame; the outgoing deputy has summed it up; "Speeches don't go anymore, they don't get results!" But you can't rid yourself of the conviction that a deputy should prove he can stand up and speak out, so you go on wasting your sweetness. . . Mind you, when it comes to knifing their party colleagues F.F. have the finesse. The Labour men are crude about it. "That so-and-so bastard. . . he's looking after himself." And they were all looking after themselves but F.F. did the best job of concealing it. Would you believe this conversation between myself and one F.F. candidate?
F.F. "How're you doing?"
Me "Ah, better than I should be on paper."
F.F. "Good for you. I really hope you dowell.You're gettingour fourths." (Smiles benignly). "Tell me, how do you think we're doing?"
Me "Well, on paper," say I, "It should be two F.F. two Labour: but I think the second F.F. man will be struggling for it."
F.F. "Ah well, maybe you're right. But Labour's not as strong as they're trying to make out. We're very encouraged by the canvass. But, tell me, do you think X will suffer by the redrawing of the constituency? After all, it was over in A that he has his strength."
Me "Well he has the name, of course, but I think he'll be struggling. He'll probably just make it. Unless" say I with a laugh, "Unless I just beat him to it."
We all laugh.
F.F. "Well, how do you think the other lad is doing. He's well known round here of course."
Me "Aye he is. But I'd be surprised if he did well. A bit too middleaged to bring in the young vote."
Controlled grins all round. Restrained
IMe "Me too. I think you'll be safe enough yourself.".
The Fine Gael support was very civilized and didn't get many votes.
But it's a vain politician who doesn't learn a lot from every election. And I think I learned a wee bit myself. That slowness to ask a friend for help, the lack of ruthlessness, that tendency to actually enjoy a conversation with a voter, all these faults and more-they must go. More truthfully, the inability to keep to a strict timetable, the tendency to stop for that unnecessary cup of tea, or for an uninterrupted pipeful-these are luxuries that the dedicated campaigner should not allow himself. Perhaps. But the prime objective is to be the devil they know.
It would be nice if politics were like sport One could say "Thanks for the game" and mean it. But magnanimity has no rights over honesty and I am not happy over the results of this election, nor over the way in which it was conducted. It was dirty and meanminded and marked by a singular lack of concern, not only for the truth, but for the plight of the children of the nation. If there is bitterness and anger in this article, believe me, it is not because I was hammered: a heavy defeat was predictable and acceptable, and I am a comfortable happy young man with both prospects and interests. What galls me is the complacency and the gutlessness that prevails at a time when "This scrap of paper"
Ireland has such golden opportunities. Look at Dublin South West: how many of its 40,000 kids will get a chance of a life commensurate with their ability and national resources. Look at the facilities for recreation for both children and adults: forcing children onto the streets, and into petty crime; and adults into pubs, and psychiatric clinics, and mute acceptance of their situation. Look at the humiliating health service. Look at the disastrous planning. Look at the growing problem of alienation. Look at the uncertainty of young people about their values. If you have eyes to see, you'll agree that we are coming into the most challenging period in Irish history, all the more challenging because the dilemmas come very much from within, and not so much from outside interference.
The human race is approaching total self-awareness as a result of modern communications: we have ultimate weapons of destruction, ultimate means of survival. Yet the world faces dramatic conflicts of justice, conflicts of value systems. Little Ireland, with her present resources, her surviving faith, her history free of colonial guilt, can give a unique example to the world by fulfilling the simple promise of the Proclamation to cherish all the children of the nation equally.
Will the 19th Dail face this challenge? Or will Ireland be blighted by a violent conflict between one generation, complacent in its rectitude, and another, no more virtuous, but arrogantly determined to establish its vision of peace, justice and creativity?