Fianna Fáil ploughs more modest furrow on its way back to the top

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin at this week's National Ploughing Championships, joined by among others Deputy Ann Rabbitte - and watched over by Eamon Ó Cuív!
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin at this week's National Ploughing Championships, joined by among others Deputy Ann Rabbitte - and watched over by Eamon Ó Cuív!

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

For the anoraks, September is essentially the political version of football’s pre-season friendlies, as all the parties have their pre-Dáil away days – or think-ins as they like to call them. Political leaders used to go to the Listowel Races too but that tradition does not seem to have carried on. They do go the ploughing championships, which is the Electric Picnic for the farming community. And of course, there are the All-Irelands, where sport and politics definitely do mix.

Every single party has a stand at the ploughing now and all their prominent people attend.

Leo Varadkar made his first appearance there last year and looked like a fish out of water. He’s not the hand-clasping type and has to work hard to do the ‘meet and greet’.

Enda Kenny was still Taoiseach and he’s a professional glad-handler – the ploughing championship was, in sporting terms, very much a home fixture for him.

Varadkar returns this week as Taoiseach and, because of his new status, you can expect a more comfortable afternoon for him.

Gerry Adams accompanied by Sinn Féin’s Dauphine Mary Lou McDonald has also make the obligatory as has Micheál Martin who was there on Thursday at the Fianna Fáil tent.

Its sheer size these days shows the party is back. It had a modest almost apologetic stall for several years there when things were not going well for the party. But the canvas these days is almost as impressive as the one that was pitched in Ballybrit during Bertie Ahern’s heyday.

But you know the party is never going back there. That’s one painful lesson it’s learned over the years.

I was at its other pre-season game, its parliamentary party think-in in Longford on Monday. It struck me that Fianna Fáil does modesty these days with the same self-conscious zeal that Irish soccer supporters play the role of the “best-behaved fans” in the world.

You suspect it is not fully the natural dispensation but that’s the kind of role it wants play, and the kind of image it wants to project.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.