I came home from London in 1976. As far as I am concerned the rot started the following year. During the 1977 election Fianna Fail promised us that Christmas would come 365 days a year. They trounced a very unpopular Fine Gael/Labour coalition. The Fine Gael Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan, was nicknamed “Ritchie Ruin”. The real truth of the matter was that the actions of the incoming Fianna Fail administration was our true ruination. They brought auction politics to a whole new level and to cap it all, they abolished rates. As far as I am concerned, all political parties have been complicit in this state of affairs. In life there is no such thing as a free lunch, as the people of Drogheda know whilst they struggle to cook without running water.
For want of a better way of saying it, I just hope this marks a watershed in Irish life. The realisation that we must find a way to run our country in such a fashion that it will cast out auction politics along with self important political figures dancing in a ballroom of smoke and mirrors. We need real leadership in this country. We need to be told how it is. I am sick of hearing about new politics and confidence and supply arrangements. What confidence ? What supply ? Certainly not of water to the people of Drogheda and the surrounding area. What will happen if a problem arises in Cork or Dublin ? Then the Taoiseach and the leader of Fianna Fail may find the electorate only too willing to wash away their votes.
To be honest, recently I have been reflecting back over the years. There was a time when I saw the need for a new political party. I was ahead of the Progressive Democrats but simply didn’t have the traction at the time. I called it the New Departure. It came to naught, but the idea didn’t die. The name says it all, a new way of doing things, a sense of realism but with a regard for social justice.
With this in mind let’s examine what puzzles so many outside observers of Irish politics. -the differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. Over the years since I came home I have sat down with many people in the USA and the UK, responding to questions on this great contemporary mystery. Yes, in the past there have been differences but Fine Gael’s image as the Law and Order party has been seriously damaged in recent years and Fianna Fail’s closeness’ to the small farmers and the working class tarnished by the carry-on in the Galway tent. The New Departure was an idea. There is great strength in ideas. At this moment in our history the case for it is as strong as ever.