The focus of attention on the economic terms of the coming bailout has obscured some of the likely political consequences a bailout may have for the dominant party of Irish politics. The recent decline in Fianna Fáil popularity has coincided with the sharp deterioration in economic conditions. This has led to suggestions that Fianna Fáil has lost a group of its core support, which had been based on their reputation for economic governance. The recession has greatly damaged that reputation and it may take considerable time to restore it.
Any bailout of Ireland by the EU and the IMF is likely to further undermine the economic reputation of Fianna Fáil but it may also contribute to a fall off in another section of the party’s core support. The party system has its origins in the Civil War and differing opinions on the shape of Irish independence and the nature of Irish sovereignty. Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party, have built a reputation as the more ardent nationalist party and defender of Irish sovereignty. Its position on Northern Ireland, goal of restoring the first national language and rhetoric on a variety of issues have reinforced this view in the mindset of party members and the public alike.
If Fianna Fail negotiate a bailout which erodes Irish national sovereignty, it may result in another section of its core base re-evaluating their support for the party. The actions of the party in the current period will undermine their sovereignty credentials and questions can be asked about how this may manifest at the next elections. If it loses support on this front, these voters may choose to support a party with stronger credentials on questions of Irish sovereignty. The arrival of Gerry Adams in the Louth constituency could be a focus for disaffected Fianna Fáil voters? The offer by the British Government to assist in the bailout of Ireland provides another piece of discordant evidence for the republican Fianna Fáil voter.
There are interesting times ahead for Fianna Fáil.