Thursday, March 19, 2009

"A peace process too far"?

Thanks to Iain Dale's Diary: The Daley Dozen: Wednesday for pointing me too Slugger O'Toole: Fianna Fail's European dilemma..., which in turn points to Irish Examiner: FF's Euro wing is trying to wriggle between a rock and a hard place.

Can anyone tell me which party produced the Irish Taoiseach who wrote the following? And which party produced the UK Prime Minister he was writing to?
I would like to testify that you did more than any former British Statesman to make a true friendship between the peoples of our two countries possible, and, if the task has not been completed, that it has not been for want of goodwill on your part.
The answers are, surprisingly, Fianna Fáil and the Conservatives. (The men in question were Éamon de Valera and Neville Chamberlain.)

As I've noted before, the Conservatives are not the only party who have had problems relating to alliances in the European Parliament. The Irish party Fianna Fáil have had similar. Even the recent announcement that they are going to join the European Liberals has provoked criticism and internal rows. But Fianna Fáil can't stay where they are forever as the Union for a Europe of Nations is in danger of dropping below the rules for being a recognised group in the parliament, not least because the Conservatives are seeking recruits for their new group from it.

The Examiner makes an interesting hint:
The Tories and FF might have more in common than they both realise. Both consider themselves natural parties of government and both are instinctively suspicious of ideology.
Indeed there is so much in common that there are many Conservatives who admit they would strongly consider voting for them if they were voting in Ireland. Might a linkup in the European Parliament be a solution to both parties' problems here?

Unfortunately there are some rather major stumbling blocks on this possibility:
Trouble is the Tories want to be with Europe but are not of it, to use Churchill's phrase.

And then there's the issue of the North. Everyone's for the Agreement these days but there's about a century's worth of bad blood between the two parties. It would be a brave Fianna Fáiler who made the case for a Tory link-up. It's probably a peace process too far.
There's also the not insignificant problem of Fianna Fáil's support for the Lisbon Treaty in spite of the Irish "No" vote last year, which would be the major stumbling block at the Conservative end - would the grassroots be happy.

But the latter problem is a temporary one that will fade with time - who now even remembers which parties were for and against Maastricht? The former - well other past bad blood has certainly been overcome, but this isn't exactly an insignificant one, even for a notoriously pragmatic party like Fianna Fáil. There have been times when the two parties' leaders have been close, as shown above, but it would take so much more.

And yet... the European Parliament has certainly thrown up other strange alliances. How many years will pass before this one doesn't seem so unthinkable?

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