After the election, Sinn Fein needs to find a brand new story to tell…

It’s been an odd year for Sinn Fein. Last Friday saw their perennial president play a bit part in two separate political end of the pier shows in two jurisdictions. First joking about ‘Endapendents’ and ‘Shergar’ at Leinster House, then quietly slipping off to Belfast.

On his way into the Belfast count centre, his supporters had to be prompted into their customary ‘hail-to-the-chief’ cheer. Perhaps it was his long absence from the business of Northern Irish politics, or just that there seemed so little to cheer.

2016 was the year Mr Adams had invited the Irish people to ‘join the rising’, promising northern journalists (the southern ones were broadly more sceptical) that they would be in power on both sides of the border.

The rise that came in February was not the one his supporters had been expecting. And when it came to last Thursday the rising became a falling. Not a large one, for sure. But unlike the dead cat bouncette of 2011, this represented an actual 3% fall in the vote.

There were some successes. Getting two home in Upper Bann gave the party’s number crunchers a few light headed moments during the day, but they’ll be pleased with the result. A straight swap in East Londonderry at least brings in new, younger and female talent.

Grist to the STV mill for a party treading water when the tide is no longer at its back. For Sinn Fein 2016 wasn’t meant to be like this.  If larger than normal crowds at Easter demonstrations in Belfast, Derry and Newry heartened activists, it didn’t show at the polls.

The irony is that in Northern Ireland at least, as much as the media cannot stand the social conservatives of the DUP, they have largely bought into the insurgent themes of the official Sinn Fein narrative.

But we’ve been here before. Several times. One difference from previous times is that unlike the party in the south the northern leadership is ageing. Another is that, again unlike the south, they actually have been in government, with not a lot to show.

Both the party’s own manifesto and the Fresh Start agreement – from which it appears to have been drawn – are deeply conservative documents, which contain very little that is visibly or palpably Republican or nationalist in flavour.

It’s public spokesmen, from the deputy First Minster to the columnist Jim Gibney in today’s Irish News can and are taking some solace from the fact they are not failing as badly as their nationalist rivals in the SDLP.

However, that’s for the optics. Those party spokesmen I met at the weekend acknowledge the party has work to do. Delivery is the touchstone word in the studios. But delivery has turned up in the wash up to every election since 2007. It has yet to emerge.

Some of the spin in the southern newspapers (who by and large had their minds and their best resources focused resolutely on the Return of Enda) often exaggerated what amounted to the loss of just one seat: largely I suspect for the want of anything better to say.

There wasn’t any real change this time, and there was barely any last time. Nor, it seems to me, were there any serious plans to expand the domestic northern vote for nationalism. The leadership has been immersed in the southern campaign, since late 2009.

The organisation is fine, the membership is fine, the money is fine and the leadership remains as unassailable as ever. The problem is that the n-word, ie the narrative, isn’t in such good shape.

It’s not just the southern slip in February this year, nor the slip in their northern position to an opposing coalition that barely existed in 2011. Such was the weight of expectation about the party that something has stopped fizzing around Sinn Fein.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, the party will not lead the opposition in the 32nd Dail, whilst in the north it is charged with carrying forth (possibly as the only nationalists) a PfG that reeks of the DUP’s deeply cautious approach to public sector finance.

The jarring note lies in the contradictions between the story the party has telling about the certainty of its future success as Ireland’s only slightly constitutional party and the other less compelling one that’s come to pass.

With an aging leadership, it is not only in obvious need of rejuvenation: it also needs to find a brand new story to tell.

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  • chrisjones2

    Can it admit that NI can work?

  • Surveyor

    Sinn Féin are an all-Ireland party. They lost one seat in the North but
    they added nine TDs in the South. That works out as a net gain of eight
    seats for them. So what story should they be telling Mick?

  • Nordie Northsider

    ‘First joking about ‘Endapendents’ and ‘Shergar’ at Leinster House, then quietly slipping off to Belfast.’ Wasn’t the ‘Where’s Shergar’ remark asked of Adams by a Fine Gael TD?

  • mickfealty

    Yes, I took it from Miriam they were in the one exchange.

  • mickfealty

    It’s up to them, but 2016 is shot.

  • Declan Doyle

    The threat posed by dissidents has risen to such an extent that British security services have raised the level of threat ‘from moderate to substantial’. Despite this, the focus of the media and commentators in general remains focused on doing their bit to stem the rise of Sinn Fein, a tactic that is failing while the dissident threat grows and remains largely ignored. Dissident supporters have gone so far as to organise on the ground and mobilise their voting strength to damage the party.

    SF itself has over the course of the last two decades shifted from hard left to centre left both politically and economically. This has contributed greatly to its growth in the south but has also left itself open to challenge from parties such as PBP and other left leaning individuals. Becoming part of the ‘establishment’ in the Assembly has its cost, and losing 3% is a small price to pay to make sure the institutions stay afloat and power sharing actually works.

    It is quite miraculous that the party only lost one seat in the face of a 3% drop. It is a testament to their hard work and organisational skills that a lot more damage wasn’t done. There were no shocks in the recent Assembly elections. Both the FST and WB losses were gone before the competition got off the ground. Holding EA and gaining in UB were fantastic achievements given the external pressures and falling turnout figures. SF’s position as the lead party of nationalism is unassailable and coupled with their growth in the South; the party has plenty to celebrate.

    In 1997 you could count on one hand the number of Sinn Fein elected reps outside councils. Less than twenty years later the party has hundreds of councillors and well over 60 MPs, TDs, MLAs and MEPs; a remarkable achievement given the level of hostility directed at SF from the traditional political establishment, and given the campaign of hate waged against the party by the established media. Journalistic standards have fallen so far that Commentators these days don’t even bother hiding their disgust at SF, or even attempt a semblance of balance. It is highly fashionable to hate the party that is willing to challenge and demolish corruption amongst the political and media elites. Any aspiring young journalist has to jump on board the anti-shinner train, or say goodbye to any future in the industry.

    Of course the narrative has changed over recent years. It used to be a case that SF have ‘reached their peak’ ‘will never have more than X seats in the Dail’ ‘would never get a seat in all four Irish European constituencies’. All proved dramatically inaccurate so now the narrative is – ‘they are not growing as fast as they would like to’; or lets point out that Gerry didn’t get as big a cheer as is normal – these charges are the best a hostile political and media establishment can come up with in the face SF’s continued march forward.

    The battle has been won in the South, the party is in great shape with nine extra heads; capable, articulate and intelligent ‘shiny new things’ to challenge the FG/FF coalition. Without doubt it will lead the opposition and hold both parties of reluctant and perverse government to account. Assisted by the broader left including Labour, PBP, AAA, Greens, Social Democrats and a plethora of independents baying for FF’s blood. The brand new story is already ten pages in.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Barring an economic meltdown, always possible but very unlikely, SF have peaked. The actual peak was probably in 2014, when pessimism about the Irish economy was still extremely high and just before the strong recovery set in. In those parts of Ireland where SF first emerged, namely N. Ireland and the Ulster counties that are in the Republic, their vote fell in 2016. This suggests that there is a threshold beyond which SF can not pass, that they will hit a peak and then decline. In these (9) Ulster counties SF are now well past their peak and in decline. In the other parts of Ireland, where SF emerged later, their vote rose in 2016 compared with 2011, but by nowhere near as much as they predicted or the polls suggested a year ago, Following the pattern of the (9) Ulster counties, SF will eventually peak and then decline in these non-Ulster counties as well, but some years later reflecting their later emergence in these counties. Overall, the SF vote rose by 3% in the Republic and fell by 3% in N. Ireland. Hardly the triumph they must have envisaged for the centenary year of the Easter Rising. In the Republic they failed miserably to overtake FF as the main opposition to the FG-led government, and in N. Ireland they failed miserably to overtake the DUP as the largest party.

    The prospects for SF increasing their vote in coming years is not great. First, all indications are that the Irish will continue to do very well, with rapidly falling unemployment. This won’t held SF. Second, FF are likely to start organising in N. ireland, which will split the nationalist vote 3 ways instead of 2 ways, resulting inevitably in a fall in the SF share. Third, the growth of far-left parties like PBP-AAA is likely to take large numbers of votes from SF on the left. I advise anyone who bought shares in SF to sell them now.

  • Declan Doyle

    Are you a psychic?

  • Hugh Davison

    Where can I buy shares in SF?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Sinn Féin is basically the mirror image of the DUP. The DUP have a wee problem with the TUV, who are pressing for full-blown exclusive Unionist policies which the DUP would love to implement but cannot do so, because it is part of the United Kingdom and has to do what the Westminster Government tells it to.

    Sinn Féin’s mirror image problem is People before Profit, who are pressing for full blown left wing anti-Poverty policies which Sinn Féin would love to implement but cannot do so, because it has less MLAs than the DUP and these are keeping Northern Ireland in the UK, under the rule of Rich Boy choke the poor Cameron.

    So SF/DUP represent the compromises of coalition, while being undermined by the TUV/Pb4P opposition, who stand for what people actually want but will never be able to get.

    The structure of politics in Ireland is that coalition is virtually always necessary, meaning that party manifestos are purely aspirational and can never be implemented.

  • mac tire

    Just a few small points to your analysis.

    1. We have heard this peaked thing before particularly about SF but also recently about the DUP (Wonder how that worked out). It usually emanates from wishful thinking.
    Lesson to be learned: Drop the wishful thinking (I have).

    2. I’m not sure SF attempted to overtake FF – that would have been a Bridge To Far, Far Too Soon. I’m sure they expected to do slightly better and FF slightly worse, though. Sin mar a phreabann sé – that’s the way it goes.
    Lesson to be learned: Polls throw up all sorts of stuff. The politicians say the only polls that matter are elections. The people had their say. As I say, Sin mar a phreabann sé

    3. SF didn’t try to overtake the DUP as the largest party. We all know that they could not have done that; the DUP would have had to collapse and SF to have grown well beyond their capabilities right now. You are listening to Arlene too much.
    Lesson to be learned: Become realistic and stop reading into things that you want to. (Also see 1 and 2),.

    4. Things may indeed look up – and may well impact on SF.
    Lesson to be learned: You may have a point.

    5. FF organising in the north. Unlikely at the moment. An Independent Republican running in Newry & Armagh got a miserly 900 odd votes. He set up a FF office in Crossmaglen a few years back. He had the votes of quite a few anti-Agreement Republicans in that area. Pitiful, since the pro cannabis guy received quite a few more votes than him.

    Anyhow, if FF stood here it would be likely to bring out more Nationalist/Republican voters. FF in the north would be seen as SF lite. A fall in the SF share does not alarm Nationalists/Republicans. The fall in Nationalists/Republican share does. FF would ease that alarm as more would vote.

    Lesson to be learned: More Nationalist parties increases Nationalist vote.

    6. PBP are an all Ireland party, voted in by an almost exclusive Nationalist/Republican electorate. As a SF voter I am glad they are standing. It keeps SF on their toes – and if SF fail then PBP, in my view (just like FF), deserve their vote.

    Lesson to be learned: SF do need to tell a better story. That can only be to the benefit of us all.

  • Jollyraj

    You can’t. Because that would lead to the needs for audits. Which could be a moment of clarity for their voters, one suspects, if the monolithic money-making machine hiding under the cover of 19thC whimsy were to be revealed to the voters.

  • Jollyraj

    Nowt funny about abducting and shooting a horse. Though it might get you a job as a SPad.

  • Dessie

    Sinn Féin are seen as an establishment party here and any party that has been in office for 2 terms normally loses some votes.

    There are also some other reasons for a falling vote. Support for a united Ireland is at the lowest it’s ever been in NI and ROI despite SF labelling this as the year for unification a while back. This is Sinn Féin’s core message, and they do not have any plan on how to achieve it or how it would happen (that they release to the public anyway). Imagine the SNP campaigning for independence with no plans they would have got nowhere.

    Another thing that people have started to realise is that Sinn Féin have no power to do what they campaign for. The GFA had taken it away from the hands of local politicians. Theresa Villiers will decide if and when to have a border poll. We could have 108 DUP MLAs and if there was enough support for a border poll it would happen regardless of what the DUP want in this scenario.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I do worry about what SF might do to restore its vim. If past performance is anything to go by, Ulster Protestants should brace themselves for a new truck load of dog-whistle ethnic slurs and anti-British rhetoric. Backs to the wall, SF will be looking for ways to stir up the kind of sectarian tension their politics feeds off. Expect lots of sh**-stirring around parades and flags this summer for starters, and that when it happens it will of course be the fault of Protestants.

    Calm, tolerance, normality, optimism – these are the mortal enemy for SF. They surely won’t allow them to persist for too long.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Nice job – I hear there are some exciting careers available right now at Minitrue, here in Oceania.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, Sinn Fein’s brave championing of the assassination and dismemberment of equine celebrities is truly inspiring. Right up there with their position on human beings.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but which bit of Ireland is Shergar in?

    SF’s dream is to one day get elected everywhere in Ireland that contains a piece of buried dismembered IRA victim.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    as is Shergar

  • WindowLean

    Ball or man MU??

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Ball: I was suggesting it read like a propaganda piece, spinning poor election results into a positive in a rather Pollyanna-ish way. It was a comment made in specific response to that post (“nice job”), not about him more generally. If it was taken as playing the man, I apologise, it wasn’t meant that way.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Or SF will be forced to reinvent itself. Trojan Horse etc. indicates that countering the DUP’s social conservatism has been its gradual & optimistic repositioning before AE16. The DUP are wise to this of course and have their own defence against SF presenting itself as the party of ‘liberal’ values – not that there is either much capital to be gained from nor sufficient appetite for this for now. PBP & Greeens will be the party that offers a stronger voice on those values anyway.
    I can’t imagine that SF would benefit a great deal from the “sh**-stirring around parades and flags this summer” as local community reps have stolen a lot of SF’s thunder. Furthermore, parades & flags are not universally popular period. In addition I can’t see SF’s upping the divise ante really generating an increase in votes for them. It seems that the days of nationalist grumbles are gone. Maybe parity of esteem has been achieved.

  • Msiegnaro

    Surely after the election the TUV are less of a problem than ever for the DUP?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Are Pb4P such a problem for SF? Only because of people who want to spin this as a victory for partition.

  • Msiegnaro

    Where are they getting their funds from, do you really think like William it comes from illegal sources?

  • Msiegnaro

    Honestly no. McCann will be lucky to see out his term and he was elected as much on persistence with a little media hype than anything else. SF was always too strong in WB and the SDLP too weak so there was a need for a party to bridge this gap but they’re no threat and will have damn little influence.

  • Msiegnaro

    I would like to believe support for a UI is at its lowest ebb than ever but how can anyone be sure without a poll?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    You could just learn to relax of course.

  • Msiegnaro

    I am relaxed, the wagons are rolling along nicely ready to be circled if we are being lead into a false sense of security.

  • Msiegnaro

    No he’s an optimist! 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, I wasn’t saying I thought it would work, just that it’s what they have tended to do in the past.
    I’d disagree with one comment, where you say “I can’t imagine that SF would benefit a great deal from the “sh**-stirring around parades and flags this summer” as local community reps have stolen a lot of SF’s thunder”. The local community reps were/are in many cases closely tied to SF; Adams was caught bragging to a Republican audience some years ago that Drumcree and other parade protests hadn’t happened by accident but by hard SF work on the ground. I think this is well established and understood.

    SF has a strong interest in provoking the kind of Protestant rage on the streets that convinces Catholics they need a party like SF to protect them. That doesn’t excuse those Protestants who fall for the bait, but bait it very much is. The Republican Movement has never made any bones about seeking to push its chosen enemies, whether police, army or unionists, into losing their heads and using violence in and around Catholic areas, generating grievances from which Republicans can then gain support from the community and licence to do what they will. In the past it’s used violence to provoke the response, these days it tends to be subtler agitation and Kulturkampf.

    They need grievances like they need air; if they find they don’t have enough, they are adept at engineering situations in which old ones can resurface and new ones can emerge. That’s how they have long operated. As I say, they are poison. I hope they are changing now, but it remains to be seen.

  • Dessie

    I’m pretty sure I saw the results of some poll here on slugger not too long ago. I’ll have to look it up but there are polls carried out regular by a variety of sources as far as I’m aware, the belfast telegraph does one if I remember correctly. The accuracy of these polls are something I wouldn’t be able to comment on.

  • Jollyraj

    I would never say that. I’m just saying it’s a markedly odd state of affairs that a pseudo-Socialist/Marxist political group is seemingly, and seemingly unashamedly, the richest party in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

  • Msiegnaro

    Their elected representatives have to give a significant percentage of their salary to the party, perhaps that accounts for something?

  • Barneyt

    My feeling is that we are a risk of stagnating and by this I mean no movement with the executive. Yes yes…I know we may have already achieved that some years back. Ok, if all ministries are left to DUP and SF to carve up, it makes it interesting, but it wont be gripping. You hear, particuarly in the South that SF cannot hope to move forward with Gerry at the helm, and its now time to hand over to the impressive Lou. I feel this may be the case but one will not know until it happens. He could leave a serious void.

    In the north, I find it hard to disagree that the association that many may have with active republicanism is again preventing the party from commanding many more nationalist votes. There are plenty that might might tick 7 out of 8 boxes politcally with respect to SF but that 8th box is a bridge too far and they revert to a safe SDLP bet or dont come out at all. SF can only make more progress if there are fewer opportunities to sling paramilitary mud.

    We need to take seriously the threat of the dissidents and this should remind us how far SF has come in their support of peaceful means. That is important. I often feel that the DUP would prefer conditions as they were pre-94.

    I am interested to see how and if an opposition may form. If nothing else it will make life more interesting should we purely have DUPSF in gov and the rest opposing.

  • Declan Doyle

    Ah yes of course I totally forgot that old Unionist paranoid propagandist nugget employed against imagined propaganda. One of the remnant narratives of a defeated supremacist mindset. It is what an is; an opinion and a general overview which clearly doesn’t fit with your preferred form of paranoid propelled propaganda.

  • Declan Doyle

    Loyalist bonfires and sectarian marches = Calm, tolerance, normality, optimism. Deluded.

  • Declan Doyle

    Sinn Fein create the circumstances where Unionist are justified in ripping up the streets and attacking the police? A brilliant example of Paranoid Propogandist Unionist delusion, simply brilliant !!

  • Reader

    Be fair, you were gushing. If a supporter from a party that had just gained seats wrote a similar post you would surely recognise it for what it was.

  • Declan Doyle

    The fact that you think a positive post about SF means the author has to be a SF supporter proves much of what I said is true.

  • Hugh Davison

    I was responding in an (I thought) ironic way to JohnTheOptimist.
    You have taken the discussion in an entirely new direction. I would love to see some sources for your ‘monolithic money-making machine’ (whatever that means in English) allegation.
    I assume you mean they have loads of money, but there are no audits, according to you. So where is your information coming from?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “unionist delusion” – that’s exactly the kind of rhetoric I was talking about. Let’s see if it’s effective in improving things for SF. I’d doubt it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Ha – you make my point for me there 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … and I didn’t say they were justified – they very much aren’t. They are to blame also. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, even when provoked. But it’s also true to say, the provocation, if indeed it is done with the intention of producing that behaviour, should not escape condemnation too. It’s not either / or.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There are lots of journalistic reports suggesting they have a lot of cash. It seems to mainly stem from a small body of stupid rich people with Irish surnames in the US. But I’d be very surprised if big scale criminals like Slab Murphy hadn’t put a few bob SF’s way also. How much of their wealth it accounts for we may never know. For transparency you’re better off going to Panama.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, I suspect SF will bounce back next time. But let’s enjoy the moment.

  • Declan Doyle

    Unbelievable hypocricy. You talk of provocation? What could be more provocative than burning your neighbour’s flag and religious symbols upon a bonfire, or forcing a sectarian parade through an area where the local people have clearly stated they do not want it? That’s provocation. But sure blame the Shinners instead.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree, that is also provocation. Not sure what your point is though?

  • Redstar

    Parading where they know they aren’t wanted, pissing on chapels, burning effigies of everything they see as Catholic- is mainland ulsterman for real thinking these numpty bigots need provoking!!!

  • Declan Doyle

    You are accusing Sinn Fein of provoking loyalist violence because they support communities in objecting to provocative sectarianism. The net result of course by you standard here is thus ; Croppy Lie down.

  • Redstar

    Could t agree with you more HOWEVER, many of us in Republican areas see SFs participation in administering British Rule as facilitating Croppy lie down. SF certainly are getting their answer at the polls in our areas as more and more people refuse to vote

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not so much provoking loyalist violence as responses from the security forces. I think they were always a bit afraid of the Loyalist mob in the early years of the Troubles and there was limited political capital to be made from it after a while. But they were very focussed on seeking out confrontation with the security forces – and they have written and expounded very eloquently on the strategic advantage to them of doing that. If you want me to quote some passages in Republicans’ own words I’d be happy to. I think it’s well known to anyone observing or reading about the Republican movement during the Troubles, especially in the early years.

    That isn’t to excuse occasions where state forces responded brutally, which was also wrong, just to (for the third time) make that clear. It’s just that the Republican movement has been especially brazen about its use of these tactics to build community support.

    It’s a sensible tactic if you’re as cynical and careless of human life as the Republican movement – Republicans commit some new atrocity or maiming, security forces have to try and make arrests and/or seize weapons, do so messily and hey presto we have a new grievance. It’s not brain surgery and I guess it would be surprising if Republicans hadn’t hit on the propaganda value of that cycle, given its obvious benefits to them. Some people fell for the ruse and it seems some may still not have quite realised they were played. Malachi O’Doherty’s “The Trouble With Guns” is great on all that. I’d also recommend Rogelio Alonso’s “The IRA And The Armed Struggle”, based on interviews with 70 former IRA ‘volunteers’. If you’ve swallowed the SF version of the Troubles, hearing what the IRA did and why from the terrorists themselves will be a bit of an eye-opener.

  • Declan Doyle

    But you are referring to a period of intense conflict which ended over twenty years ago. This is today, not 1970’s Derry or 1981 H Blocks. Today, most responsible parties including SF are doing their bit to avoid such social unrest, so to claim that they are intentionally provoking loyalists who are the real provocateurs, quite frankly amazes me.

  • kensei

    I think it’s finally time for the Northern leadership to begin bowing out. MMG looks tired more than anything else, and others like Gerry Kelly look like a busted flush in terms of moving vote forward. More than that, there is now a generational gap – I’m just about old enough to remember the Troubles, but there are entire voting adults below me where it might as well be 1798. That creates a disconnect in attitudes and ideas that I think will only get worse. That’s not to say it should happen in an uncontrolled or in orderly fashion – as with football the call is always for untried talent that can go wrong, but it starts to need happening. I don’t think SF can go to 2021 with the same faces.

    I refer you to Limmy on “narrative”: https://twitter.com/DaftLimmy/status/556176627051560960. It’s a load of balls. SF have the advantage of knowing what they stand for and what their goals are, but they are promising what cannot be delivered at present. They need to look at policies that help with their goals, are popular and can be delivered. A reputation for competence would go a long way to healing some of their problems.

    And I think they going to need it. I think the nationalist vote is splitting, in part on class lines. The middle class is stopping voting, working class drifting more left. If SF are the major party of the centre-left for Nationalism, they have to bridge that gap. And I think the middle class will not countenance any economically left policies without feeling the party proposing them is competent.

    There are other issues. Too many. The structures may now be a subtle trap. But that’s for another time.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well of course yes that is true, there are many who have refused to accept the agreement and the institutions and arrangements which have grown out of it. And SF is paying the price at the polls, no doubt about that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The decision to make some Orange parades into theatres of conflict was quite deliberate. Adams, in a speech in Athboy to Republicans in the autumn of 1996 which he thought was a closed session, asked the audience, “Do you think Drumcree happened by accident?” He went on to put the stand-off down to “three years of hard work”. He referred to them as “scene changes” the party should “exploit”.
    That was 20 years ago, but the agitation goes on:

    AP comments: “One local Sinn Fein councillor, Tom Hartley, was in the thick of the fighting.”

    This is kind of friendly SF stuff that is not at all provocative:
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/furore-over-orange-order-comparison-to-ku-klux-klan-by-sinn-fein-candidate-34557031.html

    I might also mention the many t-shirts you can buy from the online SF which continue to glorify the IRA.
    http://www.sinnfeinbookshop.com/ira-undefeated-army/

    Be amazed.

  • Skibo

    MU as far as I see SF does not have to raise any sh1t. Loyalists are more than capable of producing their own.
    I think rather than attack the British culture of flag waving and marching through areas they are not welcome in, it is time t push the positive welcoming Irish culture and let Loyalism show how inclusive their culture is.
    The new SF story has to put bones on the UI project. Let them come up with a possible solution, show how it can work and let others suggest different solutions. It is time we sit around the table and work it out.

  • Skibo

    Redstar your post makes me think of Mark Twain’s quote, “reports of my death have been severely exaggerated”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think SF certainly needs to have a sit down.

  • Skibo

    I agree. It will be difficult to attract the non-voter without antagonising those who already vote.
    The issues on abortion and equal marriage need to be put to bed quickly or taken out of the hands of politicians completely and resolved by the courts.
    They have to put show they are real about reunification.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … or on unification, adopt a more softly, softly approach. Recognise it’s a long way off and focus on showing they are real about reconciliation?

    I think they have to show bona fides on reconciliation (so do much better on acceptance of British culture in NI, and shift decisively away from IRA apologism) before they are likely to make any headway on widening the appeal of a united Ireland. I just don’t think it’s in the republican DNA to do that though. As a vehicle for a united Ireland, they are sitting on bricks with their wheels removed.

  • Skibo

    I think the softly softly approach has been their downfall. It is that soft, there is no actual plan to point to!
    Who does not accept British culture? There are thousands of OO parades every year, there are minute number that are contentious yet they have to be allowed to show acceptance of British rule! Do you expect Republicans to show up at bonfires with their election posters for burning to save the poor craiters the bother of stealing them?
    Republicans are holding the hand out but too many from the Unionist side still have their fists behind their back.
    You sound so much like the sack cloth and ashes comments by Dr Paisley before he sat down and shared power.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I would say SF is uncomfortable with British culture and reluctant to tell any kind of positive narrative about the history of British people in Northern Ireland. Surely that has to change? To us, their rhetoric often sounds like the violence stopped but the hatred of us didn’t.

  • Skibo

    It is not up to SF to tell of the positive narrative about the history of British people in Northern Ireland.
    It is in SF’s interest to tell the positive narrative of the Protestant people in the strive for Irish Freedom.
    Funny I never hear Unionists telling the story of the positive narrative of Republicanism in Northern Ireland!
    Rhetoric definition “the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people”
    At the moment it is an up-hill struggle for SF to convince Unionists of anything as their words are not taken at face value.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “It is not up to SF to tell of the positive narrative about the history of British people in Northern Ireland.”
    And there’s one massive flaw in their worldview, if that’s reflective of it. I didn’t say you had to tell a positive story about the DUP, or hardline unionism, just British people in Ulster more generally. If that isn’t possible for republicans, they need to ask themselves what republicanism really has to offer the wider community.

    “At the moment it is an up-hill struggle for SF to convince Unionists of anything as their words are not taken at face value.”
    You hit the nail on the head there. So one of the main tasks for republican outreach has to be starting to undo the republican reputation for slippery use of language and dissembling. I’m not just sounding off on that, that is a real perception people have of republicans, rightly or wrongly (I think rightly). Trying to work out what the IRA meant in its various delphic utterances was akin to Kremlinology; and Danny Morrison’s running of An Phoblacht and the SF PR machine has been a thirty-odd year process of spinning grotesque sectarian hate crimes into acts driven by crusading liberal values. Excuse if others find much of it hard to believe and certainly not to be taken at face value. Building some new reputation for plain dealing will be a truly mammoth task after Morrison.

  • Skibo

    The issue SF will have with pushing the positivity of the British people in NI is that SF does not accept that NI in itself was a positive move.
    They have spoken on numerous occasions on the benefits that the Unionist community can offer a UI. They need to expand on this and also expand on the benefits a UI can offer the Unionist community.
    The simplest example of this is their percentage representation in a Dail for a UI compared with their percentage representation at Westminster.
    If you want to revert back at all times, when discussing SF, to the times of the ballot box in one hand and the armalite in the other then there is nothing that SF can do.
    If you want to convince republicans that you are prepared to accept us as equals then begin with shaking hands. The most simplest of actions to show you are sincere.
    SF have had their hand out for a long time waiting for a sincere return. Perhaps Arlene will be “man” enough, perhaps not!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    main thing they need to do is disown IRA and apologise for their former support of it. That’s the elephant in the room.

  • Skibo

    There is as much chance of that happening as there is of you condemning the actions of Bomber Harris in WW2 or apologising to the Germans for the bombing of Dresden!
    Can you condemn the actions outright of the B Specials or the UDR and disown them?
    This is like the demand I hear on these pages from others for Ian’s sack cloth and ashes.
    There have been numerous SF statements on the deaths of non combatants, please see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-128258/IRA-issues-apology-killings.html
    Now can we begin again. The Elephant has left the building!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “non-combatants” – really – what planet are they on

  • kensei

    £50 that won’t happen.
    Flegs was entirely the fault of the people bringing Belfast to a stand still after a democratic vote on a modest measure.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    exactly
    sorry, to clarify what I meant by ‘exactly’ – I predicted in my post above, 5 days ago, that a republican response to stagnation would be a rise in rhetoric against P/U/L people. You seem to be obliging by making my prediction come true, no? As does Declan on this thread. A propos of nothing, Declan and yourself have introduced: the flags protests; loyalist bonfires; and sectarian marches (by which presumably Declan means OO parades).
    Great start!
    To be fair many other nationalists on this thread have been asking good questions and having interesting thoughts about the future direction of nationalism. The question for SF is whether they take that debate seriously, or decide to plough on fingers-in-ears with their previous ethnic-aggression-under-thin-veneer-of-equality-and-human-rights-verbiage approach. They can have a lot of success with the latter, but I’d say not much more than they have already achieved. If they want to take the united Ireland cause further, they are going to have to be less dismissive and antagonistic towards unionists and build bridges – at the very least the working class ones. Let’s wait and see if they are up to it. I’m not ruling out a new generation of SF people coming through and making the necessary break with the old guard and old sectarian attitudes – and that could be transformative for them. A long term project though, if they choose it; and there would have to be a split, I would have thought.

  • Skibo

    Military term from a military movement. What is the issue?
    Oh I see what you are after. You want the IRA to say they should have never done any violent action at all! Everything in Northern Ireland was rosy and Nationalists were never treated as second class citizens.
    I agree that the IRA took advantage of the civil unrest during the 60s to push their belief in a United Ireland but Republicans did the same in 1916 and in 1867 and in1798 and in 1641 and in 1594. This craic of Irish rebelling against foreign invaders just didn’t start in 1969.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Oh I see what you are after. You want the IRA to say they should have never done any violent action at all!”
    … which would be, well, ridiculous of me of course …

    I salute the plucky attempt to revise the definitions of words like ‘military’ and ‘craic’ but I think the English language may be too mighty a foe.

    Most nationalists opposed the IRA during the Troubles, just like I did. They saw a pretty big disconnect between wanting to improve life for nationalists and going out and killing people. You seem to be disagreeing, but it’s such a preposterous position, I can’t quite believe you’re seriously suggesting it – are you?

  • Skibo

    Definition of military “relating to or characteristic of soldiers or armed forces” Did they not consider themselves soldiers? Did the British Army not consider them as soldiers? During the start of the troubles did the British soldiers not salute funerals of IRA volunteers?
    Remember what General Sir Mike Jackson said about them, “a professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient force”, while loyalist paramilitaries and other republican groups are described as “little more than a collection of gangsters” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6276416.stm
    Problem is if you accept that they were a military professional organisation with political motives then that gives them credence, a move you cannot make.
    Like to meet me in no-mans land where I accept that you have been here for generations and have a mandate but I want you to accept you are that long out of Britain that you are Irish and we should stand together as fellow Irish men and govern this island for the betterment of all on it.
    You can accept that I am an Irish man from generations of Irish men who have opposed British rule in Ireland but you would like to convince me that my world would be better if I embraced my Britishness from years of trying to stifle Irish culture.
    By the way the use of the word craic was just slang for idea, in the context I used it, or was it the use of an Irish word that offended you?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Did they not consider themselves soldiers?”
    Yes but in self-flattery and self-exculpation. Terrorists claim to be soldiers, “at war”, because they think if they can get people to buy into that, it would give them the right to kill people and be regarded as actual real-life soldiers. They weren’t, they were credulous, jumped-up fanatics who took upon themselves the right to kill other people to further their dumb-ass cause. Tw*ts of the first order, however skilled they got at killing people and evading the law.
    “Did the British Army not consider them as soldiers?”
    No, terrorists.
    “During the start of the troubles did the British soldiers not salute funerals of IRA volunteers?”
    If any did – and I can’t think that was too common – they should have been disciplined for it.

    I wouldn’t disagree they were very good at being terrorists, at least once they hit their stride, and “a professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient force” sounds about right for the PIRA after the fairly shambolic early years.

    Of course I give them no credibility, not because I am constrained but because I am free to make up my own mind about them.

    “I want you to accept you are that long out of Britain that you are Irish …”
    I decide my identity, not you. Can you not see the problem there?

    “You can accept that I am an Irish man from generations of Irish men who have opposed British rule in Ireland …”
    I do

    “… but you would like to convince me that my world would be better if I embraced my Britishness from years of trying to stifle Irish culture.”
    No, I have no interest in you embracing your British culture if you don’t feel you have one. That is exactly what we shouldn’t do, try and tell other people what their culture and nationality are, as you have tried to do to me. It is absurd. If you say you are Irish and nothing else, then you are, I have no problem with that.

    It was describing the “Irish rebelling” as “craic”, which I think you take to include the IRA’s terror campaign, which I found problematic. Gaelic is fine with me, though I don’t speak it myself. And I spell “crack” the Ulster Scots way, which also a valid spelling 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    a research colleague of mine was telling me 6 months ago about discussions he’d had with teenagers in West Belfast for one of his projects. He was astounded to find that many of them seemed not to know even in basic terms what the Easter Rising was. That may have changed in the months since with all the public events and so on – but I wonder if it shows the wind changing? Could Northern Ireland kids now be becoming more, dare we say it, normal?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Love Limmy’s ‘muffit of tea’ thing – fantastic 🙂

  • Skibo

    You really are condescending and arrogant. They did not fight for you so they must be manic murders on a killing spree. They have a political goal.
    You would not be too happy if I drew comparisons with the young men who went “over the top” during WW1 under the command of English officers into hails of bullets, How idiotic!
    What about all the civilians killed in the pursuit of a British empire. How dare the colonies rebel against their British masters. Can you actually hear yourself think?
    Have a look at this for respect for IRA volunteers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9H93ynDzCI
    You can keep your British identity, it means nothing to me. During your time in England you have probably lost your accent, due to the amount of times you would be asked “what part of Ireland are you from”
    How can you not connect the actions of the IRA with that of previous generations striving for Irish independence?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not a real army – end of. Just a small self-appointed group of fools using criminal violence to advance their failing and unpopular cause.

    The word for them is ‘paramilitary’ and it’s used about them and the equally vile UVF, UDA etc for a reason – it’s what they are. Not arrogance, just the truth of it. It’s not controversial anywhere other than among their supporters to call the IRA terrorists. Everyone else hates them, as you may have noticed by this stage.

    The saluting thing looks to me like an instinctive mark of respect for a funeral, not a recognition of status. If you want to check the Army view on the status of the IRA in their eyes, please do. I had a look yesterday at Aaron Edwards’s book on Operation Banner and it’s clear they were regarded as terrorists, as you would expect.

  • Skibo

    Were a real army end of. There were those who were more interested in making a fast buck but they were present in all wars. When I think about it, the setting up of the British Empire was the largest robbery in the world. Ever thought of giving the marble back to Greece?
    Your British identity is built on slavery stolen lands and displaced peoples. You have no right to moral high ground any more than anyone else.
    How long does it take for stolen to become possession?
    As for your statement on everyone hates them, do you hate the UVF of 1912 or are they so far back now that they can be worshipped.
    As for your statement of The Truth can I add, the truth according to Mainland Ulsterman. You carry no badge of infallibility in my book.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “After the election, Sinn Fein needs a brand new story to tell” is the thread.
    I then said, “If past performance is anything to go by, Ulster Protestants should brace themselves for a new truck load of dog-whistle ethnic slurs and anti-British rhetoric.”
    And, as if by magic …

    Seems there just isn’t a new story for republicans to tell. The old nasty ones just feel better, I suppose. It’s republicans’ loss if they don’t want to change. Society will move on and they will be increasingly marginal. The door is always open though, don’t forget that, despite everything. It’s never too late.

  • Skibo

    I was wondering what you were blethering about there until I realised you do not like your history being raked over but want to cast aspersions on everyone else.
    When are you going to take your head out of the sand and accept that SF do not need a brand new story, they just need to put meat on the story they have been telling since their inception before partition even started.
    If you want to start throwing sh1t, I will return it, but remember your British history is littered with crimes against humanity or is the British Empire a figment of my imagination?