Does Fresh Start significantly change the landscape for a 2019 re-entry of Fianna Fail?

Good to see Newton Emerson back in his post at the Irish Times again. This week he’s turned his fire on Micheal Martin for the cardinal post-Blairite sin of post-modern triangulation (which I don’t quite believe), but here he makes a very strong point:

Martin’s statesmanlike stance above party interests kept him aloof from any dispute about welfare itself, which was most fortuitous.Yet as the crisis limped on from one all-encompassing set of talks to another, the timeless warning that London and Dublin needed to sort Stormont out began to look a little dated.

It became apparent London was disengaging as an active, positive policy, to force an indigenous deal it felt would be more likely to stick. Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers was specific about this, in word and patient non-deed, while David Cameron referred all demands for “crisis summits” back to a blasé Villiers. At the same time, Stormont parties had top-level access to British treasury and welfare ministers whenever they wanted to discuss practical solutions.

People in Northern Ireland began to enjoy the strangulated spectacle of their elected representatives realising they would have to sort out their own arguments. Some people even began to believe it might work, or at least that it was the only thing that ever had a chance of working. [Emphasis added]

This goes hand in hand with David’s point about Martin McGuinness appeared to back up the Fresh Start agreement as some kind of new arc of the covenant for a future Programme for Government. [Has anyone asked Jim McVeigh? – Ed]

Newton goes on…

No doubt his [Martin’s] concerns are sincerely held but they triangulate his party nicely between the crisis he predicted and the solution that came to pass. The “stranglehold” at Stormont arises from “Fresh Start”, the deal London and Dublin stood back from to let the Northern parties figure it out for themselves.

If the stranglehold is the thing, then it far pre-dates Fresh Start and until now has been far more in evidence as a break on change than anything more pro-active than that. In part – as I argued briefly in Tuesday’s Slugger Report – it’s a constitutional matter.

It may be that a two party stitch up is better than five party fudge, but whilst a major political change at OFMdFM might signal a shift in manner or policies, the stranglehold would endure even in the face of a passive aggressive ‘Opposition’ without teeth.

Any real change in political business requires real Track One change at Stormont. Since Martin has pledged a direct entry into NI politics in 2019, he’d certainly be wise not to discount a renewal of SF’s commitments to making the institutions work.

But he would also be foolish to assume that Fresh Start will – over time – prove to be anything like what it says it is on the tin.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t believe it does change much with regards to what will happen 3 years from now. The fact that Newton believes that Fresh Start provides some sort of solution pretty much shows he leans to the believe it is solving a lot of problems on the ground and inside the community.

    It remains to see if Fresh Start avoids being another False start.

    As for Fianna Fáil, three years is a long time in politics … even here in the North.

  • mjh

    Just a point. I don’t think FF said that they might enter NI in 2019. I believe they said that they might fight the 2019 elections. In which case they could decide to have a formal launch as early as this autumn.

  • Declan Doyle

    This is unusually sharp stuff from Emerson. He quite correctly holds a mirror to MM,s comments only to find the reflection quite different to the image. MM has for some time been to the forefront in criticizing the Northern Ireland government and while Arlene handed his arrse to him last week in solid fashion, Emerson has done similar by showing up Fianna Fail’s opportunistic ramblings for what they are. Fianna Fail are seen by many as a deeply dishonest political organisation with Independents and commentators alike laughing at the notion that current negotiations with FG have anything to do with the ‘nationalist interest’. As such, Martin is an easy target and his comments on the North are perfect fodder for Emerson’s unique sneering style of journalism.

    But Emerson does seem to miss what could be a crucial element in the latest blast from Martin? That being the necessity for Martin to get his name and face into the front rooms of Northern citizens in the lead up to Fianna Fail’s foray into Ulster politics. Given Arlene’s recent slap down and the antagonistic relationship between FF and SF not to mention the SDLP struggle to keep afloat and the fact that FF have ignored Northern Ireland for the most part of a hundred years; Martin might find a very cold house waiting for him and his soldiers of destiny.

  • Croiteir

    How many times do they have to be told that Martin never said FF will be entering politics in the north in 2019?

  • Croiteir

    They already have had launches.

  • Croiteir

    Fresh Start is a phrase culled straight out of the GFA. It is there in the first page. That has not really borne he fruit which was promised. Can you remember the halcyon days of peace dividends and such? There will be no change. All will move on as it has.

  • Brendan Heading

    “no” is the answer. Fianna Fáil can no more start an organisation in NI than the Labour Party can. If they had a chance of winning Assembly seats they would already be here.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Fianna Fáil have started an organisation in Northern Ireland, they are registered here just like NI Labour.

    You don’t need to run for election to be organised here Brendan, I was a Dublin SDLP member for a while.