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Free booze off the menu at Fianna Fail strategy meeting

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Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen enjoying a Guinness
Free booze is off the menu for those gathered for this year’s Fianna Fail strategy meeting, set to begin tomorrow.

The policy discussion takes place just twelve months after last year’s fiasco at which ousted Taoiseach Brian Cowen appeared hungover on national radio seemingly hours after a night’s reveling. The so-called ‘garglegate’ fiasco spelled the beginning of the end for the deeply unpopular party, and was scrutinized in a recent TV3 investigation into the seemingly dysfunctional leadership at the political party.

It’s not just drink that’s going to cost the attendees, however. In a showing insight into the now dire state of the party’s finances it seems as if even the night’s stay is going to have to be funded by each delegate, rather than paid for by the party.

Fianna Fail, under the leadership of Michael Martin, has suffered the fallout in popularity both financially and politically.

One estimate put the party’s outstanding debt at over €5m, although the exact figure is not known.

The surprise warmth with which Fine Gael’s henchman Enda Kenny has been received has shunted Fianna Fail into a never more distant place within the Irish political sphere.

Although talk of a ‘honeymoon’ period still looms large, it’s fair to say at this stage that the government seems set to enjoy a good deal more popularity -- no doubt inevitably -- than its predecessor.
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Although austerity measures drive a continuing feeling of exasperation from the populace, such moves are largely seen as unfortunate necessities of the previous government’s financial iniquities, while Kenny and his Cabinet’s continued defiant stand against the Vatican continues to draw plaudits from friends and foe alike.

Fianna Fail’s dramatic fall from grace has never been laid so bare as it is now, however.

A recent TV3 investigation charted a seemingly endless litany of gaffes and incompetence, while a string of highly uncomplimentary articles have followed in its wake.

Ireland’s widest circulating Sunday paper The Sunday Independent let an inside story charting “The Demise of Fianna Fail, the Inside Story,” just one of several such pieces penned by Irish journalists in recent weeks.

The party’s pecuniary woes are now glaringly obvious as well, however.

An anonymous party source, noting the Ryanair-like ‘no frills’ style of the coming policy meeting admitted that the lack of indulgences was simply because “we don’t have the money”.

Politically, the party’s axed resources have also taken their toll.

It’s thought that one of the predominant reasons why the party isn’t nominating a candidate for the upcoming presidential election is the cost: embarrassingly the €500,000 price-tag this would entail would put too much of a strain on resources.

Party leader Martin’s prevaricating on his decision of whether or not to back another candidate after Gay Byrne’s sudden exit was probably swayed more by a glance at the party's diminishing bank balance than anything else. What resources are still left will reportedly by focused on local and European elections in 2014.

Fianna Fail’s financial ruination is perhaps some measure of vindication for a population left struggling to survive in an economic climate the creation of which it presided over. The devastating blow it was dealt in the last election has hurt more than its political standing. At the very least, however, it’s a welcome sign that the party itself is also being forced to confront the tough economic times many consider it created.

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