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FF birthday

Although my mother was given a due date of 24th April 1967, I did not arrive into the world until almost a full month later on the 16th May 1967 at the Rotunda, As it happens the 16th May is also the day on which Fianna Fail had been formed forty one years earlier.

However, such were the tensions in the Republican movement in the 1920s that I might never have been born at all.

My grandmother Mary Coyle, as she then was, was on the executive of Cumann na mBan and strongly objected to the formation of Fianna Fail. It almost brought an end to her relationship with my grandfather, who were not married at that stage.

She refused to attend the launch of the party.

My grandfather, Todd Andrews, thought that her objection was based on her feminist principles. In his book, Man of No Property, he says, “she regarded Dev, and even more so Frank Aiken, as what nowadays would be called sexists; in this opinion I don’t think she was far wrong.

“Dev always commanded the devoted service of women but I believed, and when I got to know him well I told him so, that he never gave women sufficient recognition for their dedication.”

Nevertheless, my grandfather was in the La Scala picture house (now Penneys on Henry Street) on that day and he described the scene as one of ‘delerious enthusiasm’.

It was Lemass that brought a dose of reality to the political scene after the Civil War. He wrote a series of articles outlining his view that the party should focus on practical and attainable objectives including taking seats in Dail Eireann. The futility of the bitter-enders drove him to distraction. His position became known as the ‘New Departure’.

In fact, the key date was March 9th when DeValera tabled a motion at a Sinn Fein meeting in the Rotunda that would allow TDs to take their seats if the oath of allegiance were removed.

FF set out on a path of self-sufficiency before graduating from independence to interdependence in the 60s. Economic policy featured strongly but mainly as a way to buttress the central policy which was to sever links with Britain to the greatest extent possible.

Putting economic policy in the service of the constitutional issue in this way will look familiar to Unionists who are not interested in the economic benefits that the Protocol has to offer.

It was committed to making the resources and wealth of Ireland subservient to the needs and welfare of all the people of Ireland.

This radical statement is not irrelevant today and the job is only half done when it is possible under our constitution for investment funds to block purchase housing that should by all accounts be available on the open market to the people of Ireland.

At the first Parliamentary Party meeting I attended as a new MEP I spoke of the need to be radical and raised the possibility of a referendum on housing which would ensure the balance between private property rights and the common good was struck in a way that provided for a stable business environment but also that ensured that the perfectly reasonable aspiration to own your own home by the age of 30 is not subservient to the needs of the open market.

The next generation of Fianna Fail leaders looked to Europe as a counterweight to British influence. Lemass first spoke about a united states of Europe in the 1920s. He saw the EEC is an antidote to the ailing Irish economy.

There are some good young politicians coming through but as a party we are in serious danger if we don’t deliver for young people, particularly in the area of housing.

Nevertheless, and despite the obvious discomfort my delayed birth must have caused my mother, I was delighted to share my birthday with a party that my family has been associated since its foundation 95 years ago this week.

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