Micheal Martin: Enormous potential on both sides of the Border being spurned…

So it may be telling that in a fairly lacklustre campaign so far the first heated exchange is between Arlene Foster and Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail. Martin’s speech at Arbour Hill yesterday, when he attacked not just Sinn Fein but the DUP…

The Good Friday Agreement which we played a central part in negotiating gave us all an opportunity to build not just an absence of war but also lasting reconciliation and development.  This opportunity is being wasted.  We need a new beginning in the concept of North-South bodies, which have an enormous potential to deliver services and sustained development on both sides of the Border.

And we need direct engagement by both the Irish and British governments to end the stranglehold in Stormont by two parties. This is doing immense damage to public support for the institutions and public engagement in politics.

Too which Arlene just had this to say

If it wasn’t so offensive it would probably be quite funny. Here is a man who is part of a political jurisdiction that 53 days after a general election can’t form a government, yet he spends his time making comments about a different country.

He really should concentrate on forming a government in his own country.


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • the rich get richer

    Thats a Quality Bitch Slap (not in a sexist way if your asking) from Arlene there.

    FF’FG get an easy ride with their sown up establishment media .

    That should soften Michael Martin’s cough.

  • Declan Doyle

    The problem for Martin here is in the fact that he recently let the cat out of the bag regarding his party’s true motivations in helping secure the Belfast Agreement. His refusal to countenance Sinn Fein in government in the South while accepting them as part of the Northern Ireland government on the basis that ‘it had to be done for the peace’ suggests his party acted in very bad faith. Ms Foster is quite correct to put him back in his box, her ‘different country’ and ‘other country’ comments may reflect her own unfortunate intolerance for ‘Irish’ Northern Ireland, but she has a point in pointing out indirectly that Fianna Fail’s ‘party before country’ negotiation shenanigans leave MM in a very weak place to criticize anyone else, not least the Queen of Northern Ireland.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Arlene Foster’s party didn’t form a government (or Executive to be more accurate) with Sinn Féin for over a year.

    She’s either got a short memory or she’s being a bit of a rouge herself.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If Arlene had backed PR in the UK, her party could’ve been the ones deciding between a Blue-Kip and a Lab-Nat government.

    Unfortunately Westminster refuses to reflect the true politics of the people of the UK.

  • the rich get richer

    FF just use Northern Ireland when they are doing the old “Look Over There” routine !

    The distraction may be working but Arlene’s putdown is Top notch.

    FF already getting cocky again . This well placed putdown makes us all feel better.

  • Gingray

    Did SF/DUP not take a lot longer?

  • Mirrorballman

    If FF think they could do a better job we have an election next month. Stand.

  • Reader

    A bit of a rogue
    It was a quip, and worked perfectly well as such.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ironically the two biggest victims of this are Scottish unionism and British Euroscepticism are ones who seem to be hopelessly in love with a system that gerrymanders them out of influencing things stand. UKIP and Scottish Labour.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oops, I meant to say rogue. In the slight fear of being unwittingly misogynist, I’m going to blame a transcription error for that. 😀

    Of course some Men wear a bit of rouge too, even straight ones.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t really see an Arlene boost emerging, she’s been de facto leader for a few years now, it’ll probably be minor like the one Ed Milliband had in England overall.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What better way to stop Southerners commentating on Northern affairs than having Northerners commentating on Southern affairs.

    Well probably ignoring one another would he a hell of a lot better in stopping these arguments if I’m being honest.

  • chrisjones2

    “And we need direct engagement by both the Irish and British governments to end the stranglehold in Stormont by two parties. ”

    Yes… We could shoot the voters ….or the Party Leaders ….or abandon polls altogether and just appoint the politicians much as you do in the Senate …. or just rig the ballots …………

  • chrisjones2

    Yeah …shame the electorate voted against PR innit

  • Anglo-Irish
  • Kevin Breslin

    Well AV is only PR on a constituency level basis, not a national one and we had the likes of our local Green Party actually campaign against it on the basis it wasn’t STV.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I corrected myself. I think AV and PR could end up in a similar situation to what I mentioned.

  • Anglo-Irish

    In my view the reason we were offered AV and not PR is because it is easier to make the case against AV.

    As PR was already being used in the UK why wasn’t it offered?

    The problem being for those who wanted to retain FPTP ( the politicians who had been elected using it ) the only argument against PR is that it is the fairest system as yet devised and returns a true picture of the electorates wishes, which can result in close finishes and coalitions.

    As Germany has had coalition governments since the war and has prospered more than other European country it’s an unconvincing argument.

    Politicians in Britain put themselves and their parties before any concern for the public.

  • mary

    When you going to face it Arlene Foster Martin what have both got in common ( nothing ) fresh flower? Slale mates ????????????

  • Dominic Hendron

    Arlene in Wonderland

  • Thomas Barber

    This will really have Arlene and the DUP frothing at the mouths then if Micheal Martin decides to advise the Irish in Britain-


    “The UK decides? Non-British voters could swing Brexit referendum”

    Some 470,000 Irish, Maltese and Cyprus-born British residents will be
    able to vote in June’s historic referendum, despite the majority of EU
    nationals being barred from participating. With opinion polls showing the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ camps almost neck-and-neck, this significant group of non-UK citizens could decide the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU. According to data published by the Office of National Statistics last August, there are 383,000 Irish citizens resident in the UK, in addition to 27,000 Maltese citizens and 60,000 Greek-Cypriots.

  • Gopher

    I just get from it Martin is alluding to SF are not a competent governmental partner, the DUP is just there because it makes it easy for him to make the inference indirectly. Good reply from Arlene which won’t worry FF too much. Martin knows his enemy and SF can’t defend themselves on this one whereas Arlene can.. The mention of North South bodies and British government part gives the implication again that SF won’t be near the decision making process..

  • Nevin

    The Arbour Hill speech contains some of the usual nonsense from Micheál with his attacks on Enda Kenny and the friends of Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy; unionists don’t really rate a mention. As for reconciliation, he’s stuck in the island of Ireland groove and, with most other political leaders in Ireland and Northern Ireland, he boycotted the commemoration service at Glasnevin.

    Micheál also gets a resounding slap from the News Letter: It was Fianna Fail that insisted that we accept SF in power

    We have seen how this pans out since 1998. Whenever the IRA does something despicable, everyone is punished. Sinn Fein is never specifically sanctioned, not even for the Northern Bank robbery or for IRA murders. This means that Fianna Fail is entirely culpable for the situation that it condemns.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There are 300,000 Britons in the 26 counties.

    I expect the turnout not to change much.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If I were to ask the big difference between Robinson and Foster’s leadership … I would say the answer is nothing.

  • Croiteir

    As you know I am a keen observer of FF. This is because I was one of those deluded idiots that actually believed that they were for moving north and cannot break the habit. I suppose that I am a dog that returns to his vomit.

    This speech is so hypocritical that it is nigh impossible to believe he made it.

    Take the line that the Irish and British Govt need to break the SF/DUP stranglehold etc as highlighted in the OP

    1. I would point out that this is the will of the people. As expressed in the ballot box. As negotiated by FF, British Labour, and the regional parties. You signed up to this. Micheál Martin is projecting his inner flegger – democracy is not working. Perhaps just like the Lisbon Treaty we should keep at it until we get the correct decision?

    2. If you wished to end the stranglehold why not do what you have been threatening to do since Bertie announced it around 2007. Then you can really affect the quality of the politics here. At the minute you are only a hurler on the fence. In fact amongst nationalists you are a joke. By the way – for those who say they will enter electoral pilotics in 2019. He gave no such undertaking. Here is a quote I have from some website or other. If it is wrong please let me know.
    “In terms of an electoral phase, I think 2019 would be a key date in terms of targeting for participation in Northern elections”
    No commitment there .

    I believe that Bertie was away ahead of the pack when it came to the north. He knew that FF had to be there – or else hand over whatever gains and control to others. FF has squandered the peace – they cannot get that political capital back. Now that mistake is biting their arses in the Dail. And they are not going away you know.

    3. Is Micheál telling us that the promise of the GFA is just an illusion, bully for Micheál. You are indeed a slow learner. I am quite happy to say that I did not vote for that trash. In that agreement the South ceded the legitimacy of the border, and , in my view anyway, the legitimacy of Irish resistance to British rule. It undermines the absolute right to speak on behalf of the people of any part of Ireland, making it dependant on British law. That was a huge mistake. Any right you now have is a delegated right.
    Please say that this is really a call for the whole experiment to be wound up. I do have reservations over it being wound up for the wrong reason but I am not going to go all Thomas a’Beckett over it.

  • Peter Doran

    It’s interesting to see how observations that have merit (Martin’s point about making better use of the GFA institutions) get lost because the authors can’t resist injecting inter-party invective. This is not only impacting on political discourse within the North, but has now permanently tainted interventions from FF due to the contest between SF and FF in the South.

  • Roger

    Do UK citizens living in Ireland have the right to vote in the UK referendum? If so, how are they going to vote…is it by post?

  • Roger

    It might have been poor politics but it was pretty factual. The local government regime out of Stormont is pathetic.

  • Roger

    “…the Northern Ireland government”

    There is no such thing. There is a local government administration in Belfast styled an executive with no real tax raising powers. There is a government of the United Kingdom based out of Westminster of course. SF-IRA are in local government administration in Ireland too, in lots and lots of county councils. But making them part of a sovereign government is a totally different kettle of fish.

  • Roger

    AV is not PR. Full stop.
    There is nothing proportional about AV. One person wins.

  • Roger

    Agree with the thrust of that for a change Anglo-Irish: the sensible option would have been PR-STV versus FPTP.

  • Roger

    A Scot told the other day that some Scot-Nats are going to vote LEAVE in order to help precipitate another referendum on secession.

  • Roger

    you made the point I tried to make somewhere above more eloquently Peter, even if I hate the “North” and “South” terminology.

  • Roger

    The GFA, as Mick Fealty pointed out to me very eloquently, really created a post-nationalist society in Ireland proper. The UKNI issue was settled. Off the agenda. The effects of the GFA in that sense were actually really huge and are only slowly beginning to be appreciated.

  • Roger

    I found Arlene’s response very parochial.

  • Roger


  • Roger


  • Anglo-Irish

    Particularly when you consider that PR+STV is already in use in the UK and also in Europe.

    The only countries using AV are Australia – where voting is compulsory – Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

    If I was a cynic I would think that AV had been chosen – as opposed to the obvious PR system – for the simple reason that it has flaws that enable a case to be made against it.

    Obviously that would then mean that our political class are more concerned with their own self interests than the democratic process and welfare of the general public.

    As that can’t possibly be the case, I am at a loss as to what happened.

  • Roger

    Thanks a lot. A generous, inclusive approach I’d have to say, although only “qualifying” citizens of countries that are members of the Commonwealth can vote.

    Interestingly, reading the website, either the list of countries in the Commonwealth was prepared a long time ago or they’re in denial about Zimbabwe and The Gambia….Not sure if those Zimbabweans and Gambians, who would if their states were still Commonwealth members, be “qualified” still get to vote.

  • Roger

    I think it was fair comment by Martin. The UKNI local government is a sick joke.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It ensures 50% of the people have representation, just like the Irish Presidental election.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The one thing you have to remember that systems don’t make voter choices they only filter them. AV is definitely a cynical option but it doesn’t make people vote for cynical politicians.

    What was more cynical was the attempt by the Tories to say that unless FPTP was maintained, people who wanted the Lib Dems voted out would somehow find themselves voting them back in because their referendum vote somehow transfers over to a general election.

    The fact that the political elites were mostly against that system too means they preferred the status quo a lot more than AV.

  • Kevin Breslin

    As is their choice, but Scotland would have to balance the Staying Out vs. Re-admission referendum for the European Union, just like Scotland has to deal with balancing unionism, nationalism, staying in the EU and going out of it.
    Voters may see “voting to manipulate voters” strategies for what they are.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Politicians who gained their seats by the FPTP system have little incentive to change it.

    The fact that it is undemocratic to the point that no single party has formed a government since WW2 having obtained even 50% of all votes cast concerns them not one bit.

    Their self interest will always outweigh any fairness or democratic requirements.

    AV whilst in someways better than FPTP ( other than tossing a double headed coin it’s difficult to think of a worse option than FPTP ) has flaws and can result in lob sided results in certain circumstances.

    Which is why it was the one offered to us.

    PR+STV is the fairest voting system yet devised it is used in the UK, there was no reason other than political self interest to come up with the suggestion of AV which few people had even heard of.

    Am I sounding a tad cynical here?

    That’s what years and years of observing those self serving self interested second rate numpties we call our ‘ Leaders ‘ can do to you.

  • Croiteir

    It was appreciated at the time which is why I and a huge minority of nationalists voted against. SF was fooled and now are in so deep they cannot admit it.

  • Roger

    I think that’s just parochial….the idea that we shouldn’t speak about each other’s jurisdictions….

  • Roger

    Well, I think England had the Wars of the Roses and things like that. Stability and success take some longer than others. The Zims have a lot going for them. They now have their own country, no longer under whites who threw them off into the ditches. But certainly President Mugabe ought to think about retirement.

    Addition: Given the list on the website, is the FCO in denial about Zimbabwe and The Gambia having left the Commonwealth? Can these people vote on Brexit…

  • Roger

    Mugabe should be arrested and put on trial at the Hague.
    Well, maybe. But then so too should Bush and Blair. Look at the havoc they’ve caused. The boats are still arriving in the Greek islands. Moreover, Mugabe keeps winning re-election. People don’t always go for what’s sensible. He is a hero to millions of Zims. He has a mandate, even if his performance on several criteria is poor.

    The point about the Wars of the Roses is to flag that Zim is a baby country from a historical point of view. England had its traumas too. They were centuries ago. There was no Zim until, at earliest, the 1880s. In defense of Mugabe, we could take a long view of things. Yes, he has not achieved on many criteria but he rid the country of the blood sucking whites. Perhaps that alone is enough for his era. Maybe the next leader will build on that. The land is owned by Zims now. That’s an achievement.

  • Roger

    Well, when it comes to economic performance, one has to keep in mind that Zimbabwe has been bullied by powerful economies who’ve imposed sanctions. Mugabe isn’t responsible for that. The sanctions played a big role in pushing millions of people out too. Zimbabwe was not a threat to its neighbours or the wider international community. There were no WMDs there. There was no ethnic cleansing either, unless you want to suggest that protecting the white thugs could be justified on that ground. I think 11 whites or something tiny like that died in the whole saga of the land restoration. This was good old fashioned ‘low cost’ bullying. A poor, defenseless country being bulled into toeing the line.

    But I wouldn’t like to come across as suggesting Mugabe performance was stellar across the board. But he did rid the country of those disgusting whites who pillaged the country. He restored land ownership to black people. He is a hero to millions of Zimbabweans, who would not accept your claim that he is a dictator. Indeed he is a great source of pride to many there, whether you think them foolish to feel like that or not.