The SDLP leadership will herald their partnership with Fianna Fáil as a new dawn in Irish politics. But as Kieran Allen explains, the entry of one of Europe’s most corrupt parties into the North is nothing to cheer about.
The new ‘partnership’ between the SDLP and Fianna Fáil will see a link up between the historic craw-thumpers for the Northern Bishops and the most corrupt entity that ever existed in Ireland.
To be fair, the scale of Fianna Fáil’s corruption is related to the long periods it held office. If Fine Gael ever gets to share a similar record, they would equal Fianna Fáil in the corruption stakes.
Fianna Fáil began as a radical party, founded by De Valera to break away from the abstentionist policies of Sinn Féin. Initially, it spoke a language that was to the left of anything ever spoken by Gerry Adams.
In the 1920s, Fianna Fáil promised to rid the country of banks and a standing army because they regarded them as relics of an imperial age. They wanted to replace them with credit unions and a citizens’ militia. They frequently invoked the name of James Connolly when supporting workers struggles.
But once they took office in 1932, it was a different story.
The rhetoric about ending partition was replaced by one which promoted and defended the ethos of the 26 county state. In one famous example, De Valera, called for the sacking of a librarian in Mayo because, as a Protestant, she was not deemed a fit person to distribute books to a largely Catholic population.
Fianna Fáil formed a close alliance with the Catholic Church to clamp down on any moves to introduce divorce, contraception or provide students with sex education.
Women who married were excluded from the public sector workforce under this type of fundamentalist regime.
This legacy remains within Fianna Fáil to this day as most of its TDs opposed the Repeal of the 8th amendment outlawing abortion.
Aside from this conservatism, Fianna Fáil was mainly distinguished by its corruption.
One leader, Charles Haughey, was a regular taker of bribes who did favours for top business people.
Even while Taoiseach of the country, he was involved in an Ansbacher account whereby rich people hid their money from the Revenue Commissioners.
His successor, Bertie Ahern had signed the cheques for Haughey and was also forced to resign because of dubious ‘loans’ he received.
The present leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, served with Ahern and never opened his mouth in criticism.
This corruption and tax dodging has had a detrimental effect on the Southern population.
To this day, there is not a proper health service that treats people according to medical need rather than the size of their wallet. People wait for years for basic operations – and all because a corrupt elite want to use the country as a tax haven for the rich.
The partnership that the SDLP are now promoting tells you more about their politics. Both parties are kindred spirits when it comes to social conservatism and defending the wealthy. Let’s hope that they get a marriage made in hell.