Why Sinn Fein will rightly raise three cheers for the Dragon-slaying Kingmaker from Derry

In years to come, 2011 may well be remembered as the most significant year in post-Good Friday Agreement Irish politics.

The bail-out which decimated the once dominant Fianna Fail party has not only transformed the party political composition of Leinster House, but it has also provided the opening for Sinn Fein to make their inevitable entrance into the mainstream platform of southern Irish politics, a move effectively sealed by the performance of Martin McGuinness in the Presidential election race.

McGuinness’ candidature has been more than justified by his electoral outing, which will have further cemented his status as the pre-eminent political figure on the northern political stage and, crucially, has further bolstered the party’s status as contender for the leading opposition party within the Dail in the time ahead.

It is hard to think that, just twelve months ago, the most common narrative being spun regarding Sinn Fein’s southern project was that it remained on the ropes, without direction or hope following the desultory electoral performance of the 2007 Dail election and the loss of Mary Lou McDonald’s Dublin seat in the Euro elections which followed.

Pearse Doherty’s by-election triumph will be remembered as the springboard, but the successful election of a number of impressive political voices to the Dail in the February General Election has ensured that Sinn Fein’s stature in the Dail chamber has risen considerably, with party spokespersons regularly making effective contributions on a range of issues which does not receive much coverage in the northern-oriented domain of Sluggerotoole, but to which those with an eye to the Dublin media have picked up on over the past eight months.

It has been interesting to note the spin being placed upon McGuinness’ performance by traditional critics of the party. The Irish Independent, which editorialised against the Sinn Fein figure, has declared today that Sinn Fein will be “severely disappointed” with his performance, whilst Diana Rusk in an Irish News op piece has suggested something similar.

Yet the facts overwhelmingly indicate that the election candidacy of Martin McGuinness has been a successful one for republicans:

  1. McGuinness’ vote percentage represents an almost 40% increase on the Sinn Fein vote which had already reached its highest level in the February Dail election.
  2. The even spread of McGuinness’ vote indicates that, right across the State, he tapped into a vote which republicans must now view as theirs to lose in key constituencies which can represent strategic gains in the next Dail Election.
  3. In an election in which the ruling Fine Gael party candidate has suffered the humiliation of losing his claim to expenses, the Sinn Fein figure came well above Mitchell and three other candidates.
  4. McGuinness’ candidacy has once again highlighted the issue of northerners voting in subsequent Irish Presidential elections, something which will continue to form a key plank of Sinn Fein’s political platform and to which other parties keen on curtailing their growth (namely Fianna Fail and the SDLP) may now be forced to become more active on.
  5. The McGuinness candidacy has been a spectacular success north of the border, further cementing the party’s status as the pre-eminent voice of northern nationalism. It is worth noting that, whilst Mary McAleese was hounded into declaring that she had never voted for Sinn Fein in the debates and tv discussions preceding the 1997 Presidential election, there was an impressive range of high profile voices declaring their support for McGuinness in this election, something which illustrates how far perceptions of the party have altered across the country, north and south.
  6. The enduring image of this election campaign will be the moment in which McGuinness exposed Sean Gallagher’s Fianna Fail connections, effectively slaying the dragon and proving to be Higgins’ kingmaker. Whilst spurious arguments have been raised in order to suggest that Gallagher was an innocent victim of the engagement, the facts clearly indicate that Hugh Morgan’s account severely challenges the credibility of Gallagher’s subsequent denials, which were made in interviews in which the independent Fianna Fail candidate cleverly raised and rejected a legion of straw man arguments which put a lie to the suggestion that he was too honest to respond like a politician to the questions he faced (btw anyone who caught the magnificent Gift Grub sketch in which Sean Gallagher was revealed to be Bertie Ahern in disguise can appreciate the power of ridicule!)

McGuinness will now return to his northern post as Deputy First Minister with a heightened profile and platform which Sinn Fein will put to good use politically and electorally in the years to come across the island.

Little wonder Gerry and Martin had the look of a contended couple yesterday….

  • Jimmy Sands


    MV’s David would be this gentleman


  • pippakin

    Jimmy Sands

    I thought so, but who knows with MV there could be another David lurking in the bushes.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Séan Gallagher’s vote partially collapsed because all the students who said they vote for him outside of Dublin didn’t get their postal votes sorted in time. Séan had the highest shair of this demographic of youth working or studying in the Capital, but it’s clear from the low turnout many didn’t show up.

  • Some smart students, then?
    BTW, share, not shair. (joe the pedant/helpful fellow)

  • Alias

    McGuinness hoped that his lies about Gallagher on Frontline would gain him some of the votes that Gallagher was soaking up, thereby mitigating the scale of the electoral defeat that was about to befall the him with the Red C poll showing McGuinness on 13% and dangerously close to losing his metaphorical deposit.

    However, McGuinness’ stunt failed to win any votes from Gallagher, and he finished the election still where the previous Red C poll had showed him to be.

    Indeed, his stunt backfired and the Shinners ended up bolstering the position of the their main rivals for the left vote, Labour. Worse still is that, far from opposing the government as McGuinness touted his position to be, he ended up bolstering the government’s agenda to continue imposing draconian austerity measures at the behest of the EU/IMF that will hit his own supporters the hardest.

    “More than anything else it will cement the relationship between the partners… there are tough days to come, there are tough budgets to come, and we have to make tough and hard decisions. This will ensure that the bond is there to do it. And I think Fine Gael will feel the same.” – Labour’s director of elections, Joe Costello

    The coalition view the election of Higgins as a mandate to continue with the EU/IMF austerity agenda of cuts and “tough days” and “tough budgets” that will hit the poor hardest of all.

    The public was determined not to ensorse the government’s austerity measures and was searching for a suitable candidate who was not from a government party in order to avoid giving the government the mandate that McGuinness’ stunt has now given them.

    The witless one left the public with no option other than to vote for the likely contender with the least skeletons in his closet, and to hope that in doing so that the government would interpret that vote as a mandate for “tough days” and “tough budgets” that are designed to bail-out the eurosystem.

    McGuinness’ stunt not only failed to garner extra votes for himself, it failed to consider the interest of his party’s supporters who will be hurt the most by the cuts that McGuinness delivered the mandate for, but it did, however, succeed in bolstering the position of a rival political party, Labour – so the whole thing stinks of failure on the part of the hapless Shinners.

  • Alias,
    Can you explain for this dummy how MMG’s participation in the debate delivered a mandate for government cuts?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Brian Boru,

    Thanks. Looking at the comments on the article, the “sinnerbots”, as they are apparently called, are very worried about this. Claims of bias and bigotry against poor old SF. Oddly enough only the title is biased. The article is just factual reporting

  • Alias

    Joe, there is no need for me to explain to you how the coalition will interpret the election of Labour party’s candidate when the Labour party’s director of elections, Joe Costello, has already explained it:

    “More than anything else it will cement the relationship between the partners… there are tough days to come, there are tough budgets to come, and we have to make tough and hard decisions. This will ensure that the bond is there to do it. And I think Fine Gael will feel the same.”

    But in case that simple statement is really beyond your grasp, he is saying that the election of Higgins will strengthen the government’s determination to press ahead with the cuts that will hit the poor the hardest.

    The austerity measures are all about bailing out the banks, which in turn is all about bailing out the eurosystem. That is the endorsement that the public did not want to give to the government by ensorsing a government party’s candidate.

    Thanks to the lies told by McGuinness to the public about the non-government frontrunner, the public have now granted what the government interpret as a mandate to press ahead with the EU/IMF agenda of cuts and bailing out the bondholders.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Joe Costello appears to be suggesting FG will be happy with the result.

    It’s an argument I suppose.

    Meanwhile Gay (or, if you’re MK, Jim) Mitchell has given arguably the least gracious post defeat interview since Nixon.

  • Alias,

    Could it not be that Higgins was the least worst of the lot and, since the President has virtually no powers, national politics had nothing to do with it (why didn’t FG’s candidate come tops?). You have railed against it, but no matter whether FF or the coalition held power, they would have to do what they were told by les autres?

  • Alias

    He is saying more than that. He said that the election of Higgins “will ensure that the bond is there” between the two government parties to “make tough and hard decisions” about “tough budgets to come”.

    In other words, the government is strenghtened in its resolve to impose the EU/IMF austerity agenda – excatly the outcome that the public did not intend.

    In regard to Mitchell, when you fail that badly, immaculate grace is your only possible redemption.

  • Alias

    Joe, you continue to miss the point. Higgins’ personal merit is neither here nor there since even if Higgins was the worst of a bad lot, the government would still interpret the election of a government part’s candidate as an endorsement of itself and its own agenda. That is why the public wanted to avoid election a candidate from a government party.

  • wee buns

    I don’t agree that Higgins being President will have impact on FG/Lab determination to continue on their path of cowardice with regard to EU/IMF. The voice of the people disallows them to conduct enquires ( and importantly standing against allowing them be the arbitrators of what constitutes the public interest – no distrust here clearly) : neither will this deter them either.
    The fact is FG/Lab always have known that the public disagree with paying of bondholders – but forelock tuggery prevails to date.
    Enda Kenny didn’t even have the testiculars to object to a blatantly unwise choice of presidential candidate. Higgins is not needed to shore up this lack of leadership.

  • HeinzGuderian

    So 87% of the REAL Irish peple who gave their first preference votes…………….snubbed our very own Mertin ?
    After all he has done for them.
    Ah well,the people have spoken…….The Sensible !!

  • Limerick

    Three cheers for Coco?


  • wee buns

    We need a business person like SG like a hole in the head – it’s a vacuous premise for a presidency, no matter how ‘vigorous’.
    G Adams on radio today claimed full SF responsibility for the strategy of Frontline sabotage – but little or no mention by the meeja of Glenna Lynch’s timely & articulate intervention.
    Not important that the dragon was partly slain by a plain person of Ireland?

  • Alias

    wee buns, both parties in government wanted an ‘under the radar’ strategy in regard to their respective candidate. Michael D Higgins and Fergus Finlay are both longstanding Labour hacks but both are seen differently by the public. Higgins beat Finlay for the nomination but either would have been an ideal ‘under the radar’ candidate. Likewise, Enda Kenny wanted an ‘under the radar’ candidate in the form of Pat Cox but the party members made the mistake of choosing an ‘above the radar’ candidate. Even FF wanted an ‘under the radar’ candidate in the form of Gay Byrne.

    Basically, with an ‘under the radar’ candidate, you hoodwink the public into thinking that they’re not really voting for your party when they vote for your party’s candidate.

    In Michael D, the trick works well since most folks think they voted for a nice wee man from Galway – or the best of a bad lot – rather than voted to give the Labour Party its first president. However, political parties don’t borrow and beg large sums of money just to fund the ambitions of nice wee men from Galway but rather propose and promote a candidate because it promotes the interests of that political party. The Labour party has invested a large chunk of its income into securing the presidency, and it wants a return on its investment.

    The other return for a party of government is that it can claim that its suucess respresents an endorsement of that party’s role in government and of the agenda that it is promoting. Labour’s director of elections for Higgins wasted no time in using that success to claim that it is an endorsement of the EU/IMF austerity agenda or cuts, cuts, more cuts, and more bailing out of banks and bondholders.

    That is how the government will interpret the success of a government party’s candidate, and there is no surprise at all in that. If the candiate was above the radar then the public would not have endorsed the party of government, so they flew their hack in below the radar and hoodwinked the public and thereby secured their endorsement. The public could have rejected a candidate from party of government and thereby rejected its agenda, and that is what the public wanted to do.

    In the end, they did not feel that they could endorse a non-government candidate because of a pack of lies that were told about him on live TV, so thanks to McGuinness, the government got their endorsement.

  • wee buns

    While in agreement on the wish for non political Presidency, there was no alternative in S Gallagher.
    As already pointed out by John O’Neil there were a myriad of other questions about Gallagher’s biz practice.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just caught the evening news on RTE. Brian Dowling points out that FG spent some of its considerable resources on finding out during the summer that the people wanted a non political President. A point now belatedly accepted by the candidate.

    Something not lost on the winner but almost entirely missed by Martin’s campaign. The Irish people do their main politics through Dail Eireann almost to the exclusion of any other office, above or below.

  • Alias

    So why did FG, a political party, nominate a candidate if their research told them that the public wanted a non-political candidate? Because they wanted to set fire to €500,000 of party funds? More importantly, why didn’t they tell Gay Mitchell that, since he gave many lectures about why the presidency is a political office?

    As Gay Mitchell rightly pointed out, the presidency is a political office – being one of three tiers of the Oireachtas. It is not that they want the impossible absurdity of a non-political political office but rather that they want the political integrity of the office, as given to it in the Constitution, to be upheld.

    Gay Mitchell never said that he intended to carry out the functions of the office as a party partisan and nor did the public form that impression, so the fact that he was a member of a political party and nominated by it does not explain why he was not elected any more than it explains why Higgins, also a member of a political party and nominated by it, was elected.

    He wasn’t successful because the public had no intention of endorsing a party of government, intending instead to use the election to snub the government and its EU/IMF austerity agenda. In the end, they endorsed the government and its EU/IMF austerity agenda. It is only in Wonderland would the election of a government party’s candidate not be seen by that government as an endorsement of it.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, the other acheivement of the Shinners was to hand their rival party on the left (if that is where they are) the office of president for the first time in its history.

    That is a major acheivement for the Labour Party as it helps it break out of the margins and moves it towards the mainstream in Irish politics.

    Labour can build on that success and can now talk about becoming the major party of government in a way that it would have been laughed at for doing before.

  • Mick Fealty

    My bad. This is a conversation better had on the FG thread.

    Methinks you are dining out a little too much on your ‘the Shinners put the government back in line. Dowling was in fact referencing Mitchells own (though possibly written for him by Mr Hogan) rationale.

    But questions about the leaderships motivations should be lodged in another place.

  • john

    My own opinion is SF will be disappointed with the result. I think they were looking at 20% of the vote – probably would have still finished third but 20% would have been a big figure and if it was retained at the next general election it could bring them in as a junior partner in government – a possibility some of the bookmakers seem to think could happen – although alot depends on how quickly people forgive FF!!

    The other interesting possibility in future presidential elections is if Northerners get the vote – Im not sure about the legalities on how it can happen but if it did SF would be in a strong position but the interesting thing is will the Unionist community ignore the election or take part to try and block SF.

  • Obelisk

    “The other interesting possibility in future presidential elections is if Northerners get the vote – Im not sure about the legalities on how it can happen but if it did SF would be in a strong position but the interesting thing is will the Unionist community ignore the election or take part to try and block SF.”

    If such a situation arose though and Unionists got involved to block a Sinn Fein candidate, whilst it may inflict a tactical loss on Sinn Fein would it not be a strategic gain, as Unionists started to get entangled in southern politics?

    Also as a side, I don’t think northern voters can be treated as a Sinn Fein voting block if we were allowed to vote for the Presidency. Many Nationalists vote Sinn Fein as part of a tribal zero sum game with Unionism. It’s basically why I vote for them.

    But given a choice of alternatives based on ideology rather than tribalism my vote (had I been allowed to cast it) would have gone to Michael D Higgins, a man who has impressed me considerably over the course of the campaign.

    To cast my vote not on the basis of my tribe but on the basis of my beliefs in the next presidential election would be a sweet novelty.

  • Fair Deal

    On the stats, the SF physical vote was down on 2011 and in 3 of their 5 best performing constituencies MM’s performance was below their 2011 % share.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Another point of order with this thread. When it became apparent to Sinners that their man wouldn’t win, they consoled themselves with McG being the kingmaker, in that his transfers would elect the president. Hence the title but in fact that didn’t even happen! Norris would have pushed him over the line.

    Unless you think the frontline debate did it. But PK did s much damage with unprofessional reporting of a tweet and the definately not political apparently Glenda did more damage during her numerous non political TV and radio appearance that were definately not motivated by political affiliation

  • Brian Boru

    The hypocrisy from other parties over unproven fundraising for FF is incredible. A Gallagher campaign source on the radio this morning mentioned a fundraising even involving Enda Kenny. Perfectly legal of course. but it underlines that there is nothing special about any role Gallagher may have had. It’s normal and anyone who thinks otherwise is brainwashed by the Dublin 4 media.

    FG for example had a tent at the Punchestown races but most of us have never heard of it.

    See this article from the Sunday Independent for information on Labour’s shenanigans with businessmen offering access to Labour ministers in 1996.


  • Munsterview

    BB : BS!

    The hypocrisy is all Gallahers, what he did in fundraising up to € 5,000 a pop per person was probably lawful and legal, the fact that he collected funds and was ‘bag man’ for Fianna Failed is not the problem here.

    The problem here is the fact that Gallaher from February of this year all the ways back to his youth, for over a full thirty years was part of the Fianna Failed ‘Tamany Hall’ process of corrupt and corrupting politics, he is the one that tried to sweep all the shenanigans of those thirty years under the carpet.

    It is not surprising that the penny finally dropped, albeit late in the day and people began to ask themselves ” just what sort of a person could be associated with this foregoing corruption ?

    Sean was not just a ‘Joe Soap’ party member, he Was on the bloody National Exectuive of Fianna Failed, one the people that ran and controlled the Party. He was not only ‘Fianna Fail lite’ but rather Fianna Failed all right !

  • DoppiaVu

    I’m not sure which one is more delusional. Chris Donnelly’s hysterical fawning or Gerry’s nonsense over on his website.

    Although Gerry may be right about one thing. He somehow thinks Marty’s presidential bid has helped bring closer unification. If he meant that the general ROI population is not clearly united with northern unionists in their utter disregard for SF, then he’d be right.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Fair Deal
    Physical vote matters little when comparing elections with a 14% differential in turnout. Parties are judged by % of actual votes cast in each case.

    You’ve clearly never heard of Mary Robinson, Labour’s 1990 presidential candidate…..

    You’re right. Every party leader would be appalled and disgusted with a near 4% increase in the party’s % of the overall vote.

    How dare Gerry even show his face in public!

  • Rory of the Hills

    Not surprising that this is considered a success for Sinn Fein. After all, what isn’t?

    They fought a losing, pointless, and counterproductive campaign of terror for 30 years only to surrender, but that didn’t stop them from claiming victory. It must be nice to be a True Believer….

    I don’t understand, though, why SF put up McGuinness? Could they not have found somebody who didn’t have all of his baggage? Pearse Doherty seems pretty impressive, but he is awful young for President. Is there anyone else?

  • Jimmy Sands

    How dare Gerry even show his face in public!

    He’s shaved?