Frank Fahey - he has not quite gone away you know

One was a phonecall, the other a text. Both messages came early on Saturday morning, they were from two close friends, and both were enquiring about Fianna Fáil’s Frank Fahey. In their own way they exemplified the way Mr Fahey divides opinion.

On the phone my friend described the electoral massacre of Fianna Fáil as “like a bereavement in the family” and he rued the party’s three candidate strategy in Galway West.

“If we had just run two there would have been enough votes to challenge for a second seat as well, Frank would still be in it, and he could have taken it,” he argued. Maybe, but in light of the national results, probably not. Yet it typified the loyalty Mr Fahey could inspire, even as his stock plummeted.

The text, from a friend in Dublin simply said: “BTW OK we know he’s gone but when you arrive n count centre would you mind sending me text ‘Casualty Fahey!’? The glee behind it was impossible to ignore.

By 2pm the Fianna Fáil tallies told the tale. Mr Fahey was in the region of 5.7 per cent - 11 per cent short of the quota and with eight other candidates ahead of him for five seats. When the first official count was announced, showing Mr Fahey’s first preference vote at 3,448 it was obvious he was gone.

Yet it came as no surprise. The warning signs had been there since 2007 when he won the final seat in the constituency without reaching the quota. Then with all that has happened - or, as many would argue, with all Fianna Fáil has done to the State - Mr Fahey was always going to be the chief casualty.

Either way Saturday February 26 2011 was the end of an era in Galway politics - the day Frank Fahey’s 29 year career as a national politicians ended. Despite all, Mr Fahey still says “I feel OK.”

“I’m not disappointed,” he tells me, “I went into the race knowing I was up against it. I have given the people of Galway an opportunity to decide and I accept their decision.”

Does he regret not standing down in advance of the election, which would have seen him end his career retiring as a sitting TD, rather than ending because he lost his seat?

“I made a conscious decision that I was not going to walk away and I learned a long time ago how to be a good loser,” he says.

He also does not think that running two candidates instead of three would have made any difference to the final outcome. “Whatever I would have taken, had Mike Crowe not been in the race, would not have been enough,” he says. “The electorate were not prepared to give Fianna Fáil enough votes and that applied to Galway West as well as nationally.”

Surely it came as no surprise to any Fianna Fáiler though? This, after all is the party that has plunged the State into massive debt; made it a ward of the IMF/ECB; poured billions upon billions of taxpayers’ money into dead and zombie banks to no apparent purpose; presided over and cheer-led an unsustainable and dangerously inflated property bubble; oversaw the return of unemployment and emigration; and then sought fit to punish the taxpayers harshly, through deep cuts and tax hikes, for the incompetence’s of Government, the banks, and property developers.

“The electorate are very angry with us and they have given us a major rejection,” says Mr Fahey, “but I am sure we have done the right thing since July 2008. It involved difficult decisions which hurt a lot of people and we have now been punished for that, but I think very quickly, in the next six to 12 months, you will see the new Government getting into difficulties with the electorate, especially if they don’t have the courage to continue with the type of policies which will be unpopular with the people.”

The public is well used to hearing FFers using the ‘taking the hard decisions...’ line, but few believe it, especially when TDs and ministers retire on generous pensions while those involved in the worst excesses of the banking sector go off with golden handshakes. This is a time when the public demand honesty, and demand that FF face up to the fact that it is not the ‘hard decisions’ which has Ireland in the mess it is today, but the bad decisions and no decisions taken by Fianna Fáil since 1997.

“We made major mistakes during the good times,” Mr Fahey concedes. “Fianna Fáil needs to make a careful examination of the mistakes we made during our time in office. We need to look at our policy advisers and work with the best economists to make sure we never fall into those traps again.

“We did not implement policies that anticipated the significant downturn that happened in 2008 and you cannot afford to make those kind of mistakes in government. Failure to take those kind of decisions resulted in the property bubble.”

Mr Fahey says he will remain in FF in a “voluntary capacity” to help “rebuild the party”. Bowing out of electoral politics, what advice does he have for those who have been elected to Galway West, particularly those elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time?

“I am concerned that the great success story that is Galway is going to be threatened as north of us in Mayo Fine Gael has four seats and Mayo will have massive expectations. South of us we may have a new Minister for Finance from the Limerick/Shannon region.

“Galway has been the envy of many places in terms of the multi-national industry and investment we attract and that sector will now be under threat. What has happened in Galway has been a result of national policy, IDA policy, and the fact that companies want to come here. There will be pressure on them now to go to Mayo.

“The new Galway TDs need to be vigilant as major projects will struggle to get to Galway. This is the message I have for the new TDs and I will still be around to make sure they hear it.”


Page generated in 0.2799 seconds.