McGuigan re-appointment conveys a sense that Sinn Fein has “simply missed its window…”

So what does SF’s decision to replace Daithi McKay with the guy McKay himself replaced back in 2007, Phillip McGuigan, mean?

North Antrim is no hotbed of radical nationalism. In his earlier role as MLA McGuigan was credited with creating a senior role for Sinn Fein in what had been solidly SDLP territory. No explanation was given at the time for his stepping down.

But it is hardly indicative of a party with talent breaking down its door to get in when the same man who left his Assembly office nearly ten years ago is first in the queue to take it back again.

In the Irish Times Newton Emerson traces the lack of talent in the second tier of SF’s northern project to one particular incident in early 2005:

The longer the mediocrity continues, the more it seems a permanent setback occurred in 2005, when Sinn Féin’s formal talent development suffered a profound calamity.

The party had established what was in effect an undergraduate training programme for aspiring politicians, complete with course material and written exams.

On January 30th, after a field trip to Derry for a Bloody Sunday commemoration, many of these young people were dropped off at a Belfast bar that was about to witness the IRA murder of Robert McCartney.

The trainees did not witness it, however, nor the IRA clean-up operation that followed.

In statements to police, 71 people claimed to have been in the pub’s one square metre lavatory. That was the end of the programme, while only a few brief careers emerged from the Tardis toilet.

It seems that everybody else went home to their horrified families and were told to have nothing more to do with Sinn Féin – and the wisdom of that advice has sunk in across a new generation.

He goes on to note something that rarely makes it into the mainstream media’s assessment of the state of nationalist politics in Northern Ireland:

The party’s university presence has shrunk, even as the student body has approached a two-thirds Catholic majority. Sinn Féin’s style of politics was rejected outright at Queen’s University Belfast two years ago, when the party forced a union vote supporting a united Ireland and lost, after large number supported neutrality.

For some time, nationalist and republican students aspiring to politics have joined the SDLP or Fianna Fail –the former offering respectability, the latter with the buzz of the future about it, albeit always seemingly 10 years away.

Sinn Féin offers neither. There is a strong sense that it has simply missed its window.

Last year, Fianna Fail, not for the first time, out-recruited every other nationalist party at fresher’s week in Queens. Although the SDLP took another step down in numbers in May’s Assembly election, there’s no doubt they have sloughed off the old guard and renewed most of what they have left.

Outside Mairtín, most of the public interest in Sinn Fein still configures around old military men like McGuinness, Kelly, Murphy and, less frequently these days, Alex Maskey, few of whom have excelled themselves in their new roles in Northern Ireland’s Nationalism’s natural party of government.

That may explain why so much of the party’s official narrative is so much more focused on matters arising from an increasingly distant past than of the future.

, , ,

  • Declan Doyle

    Ditching perfectly talented and popular senior reps in favour of younger fresher faces is not really a winning formula as the SDLP has proven. Is Daithi’s replacement considered talented, capable? That’s the important question.

    As for University recruitment, FF is a shiny new thing offering something different and while we all know they have quietly dropped their plans to stand in the six counties it will not take long for the new recruits to discover the ‘Republican Party’ is less Republican these days than the DUP.

    SF on the other hand eventually got permission to recruit in UCD after years of FF blocking tactics and are hoarding them in. Queens will turn around for SF when it becomes clear that the shiny new things is really just rust and bluster.

  • Nevin

    “North Antrim is no hotbed of radical nationalism”

    I suppose it depends how hot you consider to be hot. In the final Moyle council elections about half of the republican vote in the Glens went to independent republicans. SDLP part-timers in North Antrim were no match for the professional SF operation.

  • chrisjones2

    “Ditching perfectly talented and popular senior reps in favour of younger fresher faces is not really a winning formula”

    said President Gerry from his chair by the window of the Tiocfaidh Ar La Nursing Home as he celebrated Easter 2038.

    “Look at Marty ….. hes a sprightly 88 and now been Deputy First Minister for almost 40 years. Two new hips a kidney later he’s still battling Unionism day in and day out. And since we converted Stormont to a Nursing Home he doesnt even have to go out to work anymore and can have his nap on the bed in the corner of the office – though thon big steps at the front are a bit pf a problem and with the hills you need to make sure that the brakes on the Ministerial Wheelchairs are well serviced…..

    Now …who did you say you were again? And who am I?”

  • Paul

    I don’t have a dog in this fight but Newton is being a tad disingenous focusing solely on Northern Ireland here, you have to remember Sinn Fein fights elections in the Republic of Ireland too and there is a lot more younger talent being sent that way: Pearse Doherty, Kathleen Funchion, Carol Nolan, Jonathan O’Brien, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Louise O’Reilly, Eoin O’Broin, Niall O’Donnghaile etc. That won’t be changing anytime soon with the way the Dail is currently balanced. In the assembly nothing will be changing anytime soon so they can relax and keep the focus on the south although Megan Fearon is Martin’s junior minister. Sinn Fein will need to change the guard in Northern Ireland eventually but nothing significant just yet.

    I doubt Sinn Fein will be worried about Fianna Fail in Northern Ireland just yet given they’ve been threatening to run for what? the past 10/15 years?? In fact if they do run it might give Sinn Fein an injection of motivation to get off auto pilot.

    Lastly the SDLP, the party of the slow death is being used to beat SF after its best election results in the Republic (where all its resources and talent had been sent), and treaded water in the assembly while the SDLP had its worst, students might have joined it at Freshers week but they ain’t voting for it. To reverse the famous quote “the reports of its revival are greatly exaggerated”.

  • mickfealty

    I wouldn’t, to be fair, call the above a report of the SDLP’s revival.

  • Jollyraj

    “I showed up to a Sinn Fein youth organised table quiz in my first year”

    I’d love to know what kind of quiz questions were asked. Remember any?

  • Jollyraj

    Still got great teeth, though 😉

    And the chap’s memory was never his strongest suit anyway.

  • Declan Doyle

    The CNR community is rapidly increasing in North Antrim, if only they would get off their bums and vote.

  • Paul

    Yeah Mick sorry I was talking in general between this and the article. I felt it was inferred that more students joined in Freshers Week, the party has respectability Sinn Fein doesn’t, and they’ve got rid of their old guard and so are just a new election away from an increased vote I’m sorry but I just don’t see it, in fact I think if Fianna Fail do run it’ll practically wipe the SDLP out.

  • Declan Doyle

    Newton has a point in that he correctly identifies what ‘appears’ to be a lack of talent. And that is true, there is a sense that the old gaurd are shielding the arrival of younger talent despite Stormont appointments. The issue for Sinn Fein of course is to maintain defenses against a rising dissident threat, that is better achieved by keeping the like of Gerry Kelly et al at the helm for now. You are correct, a change is coming but not just yet. If Sinn Fein have any sense they will have Daithi back in place within a year.

  • Declan Doyle

    That might be what is holding FF off along with the fact that they will be under pressure to explain where they have been for the last 100 years. There are now three nationalist parties in the north, FF might think a fourth would spread the vote too thin. Ideally, if PBP could get more voters to the polls the pressure on the pro union vote will increase. It has been below 50% for sometime now.

  • Tochais Siorai

    ”How many people can fit in the toilet in Magennis’ Bar?”

  • Paul

    Yeah I was a bit surprised they didn’t ask Patrice Hardy to replace McKay but maybe she was happy where she was or felt she wasn’t ready. Also Sinn Fein won’t replace MMG, Gerry Kelly, Alex Maskey etc all in one go it will be slow and steady with the old guard supervising which is probably the best way to do it, but make no mistake they will be moved on. I wouldn’t be surprised if McKay ended up in the south in some capacity then brought back up as he does appear capable.
    I hadn’t even factored in the dissident threat to be honest and keeping the older guard in there probably makes sense as they’ll have built up a certain personal vote as well as having a past.

  • Katyusha

    I wouldn’t worry about splitting the vote, with the requirement to declare Unionist/Nationalist at Stormont and a ludicrous six MLA seats per constituency. PBP’s gain in West Belfast, while something of a blow to Sinn Fein, isn’t a bad thing for republicanism as such.

    I think FF organising here would be a real shot in the arm for nationalism. They’d be appealing to parts of the electorate that SF can’t reach, and SF would need to quickly get their act together or risk being upstaged. FF is a much more dangerous political operation than any of the parties up north that SF are used to dealing with.
    The only real danger of splitting the vote is losing the opportunity for a nationalist First Minister, which doesn’t really matter anyway. I think even if unionism decided to circle the wagons in such an event, there is going to be little that could halt a nationalist movement catalysed and energised by competition between SF and FF.

    The question is, do FF want anything in the north? In the past they’ve been content to drape the tricolour over themselves when it suits them as a popularity stunt, but haven’t shown the slightest bit of interest in Northern Ireland. The only thing that could motivate them is if SF start putting pressure on their partitionist antics in the south. SF’s status as the only major cross-border party is an embarrassment for FF, and it lends SF a gravity they would not otherwise have.

  • Katyusha

    All FF need to do to gain support is make a move. The political scene at Stormont is stagnant and there is an opening for a centre-right socially-conservative party within nationalism. It’s up to them if they want to take advantage of that opening or not. Any sense of bringing some dynamism into our political system would stand them well in terms of attracting supporters and voters.

    If they continue to sit on the sidelines, people will get bored, assume that it was all a facade and they’ll haemorrhage any potential support they have in the North. Rather than SF, it’s FF that are in danger of missing their window of opportunity.

  • Katyusha

    I think SF will leave some of the old guard in North and West Belfast for as long as they possibly can. They don’t need to have them in leadership positions, but they have demonstrated commitment to their principles and cause that no blow-in career politician can possibly replicate.
    The multiple seats per constituency would probably allow them to have some young firebrand socialist stand in WB under the tutelage of the likes of Maskey, in order to head off any advance by PBP while still retaining credibility amongst older voters.

    MMG will go when he is ready. He’s genuinely popular throughout NI and as a result doesn’t actually cause much of an image problem for SF. They can take their time until a suitable heir apparent emerges.

  • Croiteir

    You are correct in that they have missed their window, Take Dr Dave of this parish for example, he was a bright young FF’er, nothing from him now on this. Because FF have absolutely no intention of getting embroiled up here, they only comment when the north threatens their interests or they wish to hurl from the ditch.

  • Jollyraj

    “demonstrated commitment to their principles and cause that no blow-in career politician can possibly replicate.”

    It always amuses that the likes of Adams, McGuinness and so on (having made a good living, no doubt holiday homes, nice nest eggs salted away) from a career in politics are not considered ‘career politicians’. Anybody explain that one to me?

  • Jollyraj

    Multiple choice:
    A. 1
    B. 71
    C. I don’t know, I wasn’t in there.
    D. Please direct all enquiries to the SF press office.

  • Katyusha

    Anyone who is willing risk being imprisoned or shot for their politics demonstrates that those beliefs are more important to them than living a comfortable and wealthy life. It shows they clearly didn’t join the party for the sole purpose of enriching themselves and living a life of privilege.
    One reason why SF’s common wage policy was a good one. It prevented gombeenism and the development of any nomenklatura that tends to follow socialist movements into power.

    You’ll find plenty of people who accuse SF of selling out and growing fat on the largesse of Westminster, but in Belfast there is some value in having been prepared to stand up for the beseiged citizens in the North when everyone else had either turned against them or turned a blind eye. FF can’t claim that.

  • Thomas Barber

    ” Anybody explain that one to me”

    Jolly no politician in this part of the world is considered as a career politician they all claim they are in it for the country or the people but we both know thats bull… Sinn Fein politicians are simply able to hide their personal ambitions behind the cloak of republicanism but in reality your 100% correct, holiday homes both in Donegal and abroad, Portugal being the choice of a few and its well known many are multiple landlords in West Belfast never mind having two or three public funded jobs while their at it, not bad for some who have never had a dirty hand nor a bit of muck on their boot. Thats before we get to the ones who have similar lifestyles and properties yet spent most of their lives in prison.

    Oh and I almost forgot – All achieved on an average industrial wage.

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps not worried by FF but more so by the general erosion of their vote in the North as the electorate catch on and get fed up with lack of progress. They share that with the other parties

  • mickfealty

    It’s chicken and egg Declan. Who’s giving them something to get off their bums for? It’s not the voters fault.

  • chrisjones2

    Sinn Fein Quizzes must be easy. Issues like “Who is the Party President?” dont change much from year to year. .

    It must be like passing the exams in the Police College

  • chrisjones2

    E No comment
    F Asking that shows you to be an enemy of the peace process

  • chrisjones2

    So how do you know they are increasing?

  • Croiteir

    And who would we vote for Declan?

  • Jollyraj

    I dunno, Chris – I daresay the Irish language round would be a fierce low-scoring round for most of the Sinner Youth.

  • Croiteir

    Ninis?

  • Jollyraj

    “Anyone who is willing risk being imprisoned or shot for their politics ”

    All sounds great – but in some cases I think if you want to be accurate you’d really have to say “Anyone who is willing to falsely imprison or shoot others for their politics…” (both being staples of the IRA’s day-to-day, combined with a bit o’ mutilation and extortion) and finish off that phrase however you like, if you really want an honest depiction of the finishing school attended by some of SF’s finest before heading off to a lucrative career in the old ‘non-career-politician’ game.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Looks like desperation going no where fast ? – Phil knows how to fight the traditional enemy – Orange Parades ! We’ll hold our vote base in North Antrim, but End Game and Outreach to Unionism ? Feck That ! Who Cares ? Keep the Money Tills Ching-a-Chinging ! Republicanism in a very sorry state if this is what it is down to ?

  • Declan Doyle

    Yourself, of nobody else fits the bill.

  • Jollyraj

    Presumably a more straightforward choice back in the day when SF were still backed by the goon squad.

  • Declan Doyle

    I don’t buy into that theory tbh. Voters have a wide range of candidates to choose from. If they can’t get up and vote for the one they hate the least then they can stand themselves.

  • Croiteir

    Of course I do – I stay at home

  • Croiteir

    Who are the goon squad?

  • Declan Doyle

    You are one of a large chunk of Irish Nationalists who refuse to engage with British politics.

  • Declan Doyle

    Why would anyone choose a job where they work seven days a week 24 hours a day and get mud slung at them at every turn. As imperfect as they all are they are still just human, flaws n all. Despite this, we live in a far better society now compared with just twenty years ago. It is not hard to invest in a holiday home on the average wage. Such assets come with mortgages that have to be paid. Tbh you sound a bit jealous. Having a spare few quid in the bank doesn’t turn you into rocker fella, compared to the wealth of Unionist, Dublin and London politicians the rest are mere paupers. It’s easy to sling mud from the ditch, if u can do a better job get up and do it.

  • Hugh Davison

    Thomas, none of this is well-known to me. Care to identify who are multiple landlords in West Belfast, and maybe when you’re at it who has holiday homes in Portugal? Not that I think a holiday home in Portugal is a big deal. Loads of ordinary UK and Irish people have holiday homes in Spain and Portugal.
    Money where your mouth is?

  • Jollyraj

    I was referring to the IRA.

  • chrisjones2

    ninis??

  • chrisjones2

    Does he rent them by the month …and all on the average industrial wage?

  • Thomas Barber

    Well it must be all lies then seeing as none of its known to you Hugh but im 100% sure the tenants who rent out those MLA’s properties would know differently.

  • Hugh Davison

    Thomas, I’m not saying that it”s all lies. I’m sure you can tell me that the dogs in the street know who they are, but I’m not a dog. Can you help me out here?

  • AntrimGael

    Anyone who believes that apathy hasn’t set into the Nationalist electorate is a naive fool. As I have said before perception is everything in the North and many Nationalists, and Republicans, believe that the DUP and Foster are totally setting the political agenda and Sinn Fein are running after them like lapdogs. There is NO recognition or acknowledgement whatsoever of the Irish Nationalist identity within the political institutions and when it does raise it’s head Unionists veto it immediately and the Shinners and SDLP fall in behind it without so much as a whimper.
    Mid and East Antrim Council show what majority Unionism does when it has an outright majority, they are driven by sectarianism and bigotry and only built in locks stop them doing this at Stormont; they are not in powersharing willingly and are incapable of embracing equality.
    Sinn Fein has lost a lot of respect and trust within the Nationalist community and antics like the Bryson link up demonstrate this. They have lost a core Republican element who despise their ‘sell out’ of Republican principles while it also has to be said that many Catholics are also fed up with their MOPE, ghetto mentality; the Shinners don’t represent the aspirations of people who want to do better and there is an image of them as just representing those who want a DLA form filled out. Maybe that’s why they are moving their constituency offices further up the Antrim Road in North Belfast?
    As for anyone who doesn’t believe either that the massive upsurge in apartments and building works going on across Belfast hasn’t got ANY Republican involvement is also a fool.

  • AntrimGael

    Maybe if they had something to vote for they would. The people have spoken….the ba**ards!

  • AntrimGael

    Going by all your replies on various threads, you really DO believe that anyone who doesn’t vote for Sinn Fein anymore, or who has left the party, or who criticises them is a lost sheep who will eventually see the light. How arrogant, detached and naive is that? No wonder their vote in the North is falling.

  • Gaygael

    Here is a handy link to members interests.
    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/your-mlas/register-of-interests/

    I posted something in the last mandate on a similar discussion re the number of mlas renting out properties. St that stage it was 30 odd mlas, including a fair share of SF MLAs.

    You can look for yourself.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Who is setting the agenda when it comes to the Executive’s position as regards Brexit? Did the recent letter to the PM from the FMDFM more closely reflect SF policy or DUP policy? If it more closely reflected SF policy, then how do you conclude that ‘the DUP and Foster are totally setting the political agenda’? Perhaps you made this up?

  • mickfealty

    Probably. But links are always a good/useful addition Declan.

  • mickfealty

    Voter turnout is often a critical difference between political success and failure in politics. What’s been underwriting the DUP for sometime is the uptick in Unionist voter registration and the drop in motivation of nationalists to use theirs.

    Understanding what motivates voters and then using it to enhance your mandate is critical to the modern political party.

  • mickfealty

    Agreed on the wage thing: although it does raise issues on accountability that are hard to square when most of that operation happens in the private realm of the party. When, for instance, is it legitimate to claim benefits if you’re giving more of your cash to the party than you can actually afford?

    The party also has had to suspend that rule to bring in suitably qualified staff (as in the case of its economic advisor).

    But do you honestly think they’ve avoided the problem of having a nomenklatura?

  • mickfealty

    Oddly enough perhaps, I largely agree with you. I’d add Caoimhe Archibald in East Londonderry and Cat Seeley in Upper Bann to my own personal list of talent.

    But that’s not really Newton’s point. It’s the fact that the trajectory pre-2005 is no longer there for northern SF like it is in the Republic, which was unaffected by those events.

    You can kinda see what northern SF would have/should have looked like. The lack of talent coming through is one reason why it’s constantly getting caned by the DUP.

    The result is plain for anyone to see. Newton’s list is far from comprehensive:

    Successive Sinn Féin education ministers have been blamed across the board for damaging the school system; successive Sinn Féin agriculture ministers have incurred huge EU fines for farm subsidy schemes that should be simple to administer. Sinn Féin’s only culture minister boasted of disliking books and plays, yet still managed to make building a GAA stadium controversial in West Belfast.

    As for the SDLP, it is an indictment that they continue to scoop talent at University and yet have no project that draws in that talent and makes proper political use of them.

    Successive leaders have been too focused on solving other people’s problems rather than looking after the interests of their own home farm.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    SF have a decision to make. They need to decide whether they are primarily a revolutionary socialist party, focused on turning Ireland into Venezuela, or an SNP-type nationalist party, focused on bringing about a United Ireland asap.

    The first option is a dead-end. Its been tried for 30/40 years and it has brought SF nowhere near being in government in either the current Republic of Ireland or in a potential future all-Ireland state. Indeed the prospects for an all-Ireland state have receded during this time. Pursuing this option, SF have been in alliance or attempted-alliance with a motley collection of deadbeat socialist parties, none of which gets more than a few percent of the vote and all of whom hate each other. In addition, they are frequently extremely hostile to nationalism.

    Time to scrap all this. Ireland will never have more than a tiny minority wanting a socialist state. We’re in a whole new ball game. Brexit and the Republic’s continuing economic boom have transformed the situation. The economic argument is moving strongly in favour of a United Ireland. Time for SF to integrate with moderate mainstream non-violent nationalism and articulate in a non-threatening (to unionists) way the economic case for a United Ireland. That argument can now be won. Doing this means SF should ditch its links with left-wing parties and move closer to FF, although a broader nationalist front including the SDLP and some in FG would also be desirable. So, SF should either move closer to FF with a view to cooperation in pursuit of a United Ireland as the primary objective or simply disband and clear the path for FF to move into N. Ireland.

  • Thomas Barber

    Hugh im a life long republican from West Belfast and I’ve been around a few corners too. I dont need to tell lies but neither am I daft enough to name names either and I dont really need to, the proof is right in front of your eyes. I know many republicans who haven’t a button to their names nor a job because of their past, who give everything to the republican movement, yet others who are connected to certain families in high places have two or three jobs, two or three houses yet never worked an hour in their lives. Publicly the PIRA is disbanded but dare cross certain republicans in high positions within Sinn Fein and you’ll soon learn reality.

  • Croiteir

    An why would it be more straightforward?

  • Acrobat_747

    I wouldn’t underestimate the work Alasdair McDonnell did to foster talent during his leadership.

    As far as I can see he did get a lot of young people into position. Some with a good future.

    Maybe it was some of these that eventually forced him out of his leadership position.

  • Croiteir

    Well speaking for myself SF’s policies don’t reflect my views and thus they rule me out, no chance of me voting for abortion, gay marriage, socialist policies. The SDLP are just a me too party, devoid of independent thinking, a party of personal fiefdoms and internecine conflict. No one to vote for.

  • Croiteir

    That is simply not a viable proposition Declan.

  • Katyusha

    Well, no, of course they have one; drawn from the ranks of former paramilitaries rather than people who joined the party for personal enrichment or career advancement. The protection afforded to the murderers of Robert McCartney, compared to this week’s throwing under the bus of Daithi McKay demostrate the benefits enjoyed by SF’s privileged caste very well.

    It’s the latter that dogged the Communist states, resulting in legions of members who merely paid lip service to the party ideology in exchange for a life of comfort, and that’s what SF’s policy guarded against. You can be fairly sure that anyone who joined SF has at least some belief in their politics and aims. And if it is money and power you are after, there is another party that can provide this just down the road. FF avoid the problem of members not being committed to their ideology by not having one.

  • Skibo

    Does the act of working in politics prevent people having holiday homes or savings? Do you want to discuss the number of properties members within the DUP have ? Or wonder about who their MPs are renting their properties from?

  • Skibo

    Thomas you could be mixing up SF and SDLP with those comments.

  • Oggins

    You could argue that the growth in vote was due to the political and economic issues of the south. They have some excellent people in the south, but the reoccurring points on this posting and others is the future direction.

    If they want grow further they need to move more centrally. This contradicts, their original voting base in the north, and evidence.of PBP has shown this.

    Their concerns should be with the economy in the south growing, they could lose the ground they have gained at the last election.

    So the decision to grow the party in the south, would ultimately cause diffraction in the north.

    They are at a crossroads. They need to decide where to go. Is their ultimate goal a UI or fair left socialism. They cant get both at the same time

  • mickfealty

    Well, the competitive instinct of ambition can either wreck a party, or build it. The jury remains out on the SDLP.

  • Reader

    Katyusha: Anyone who is willing risk being imprisoned or shot for their politics demonstrates that those beliefs are more important to them than living a comfortable and wealthy life. It shows they clearly didn’t join the party for the sole purpose of enriching themselves and living a life of privilege.
    Being an SF MP does seem to have been safer – in practice – than being e.g. a Conservative MP, during the troubles.

  • Teddybear

    at least FF has a track record of governing a sovereign state which gives them a gravitas and sense of responsibity. I don’t agree with what they stand for but they are against terrorism and support the rule
    Of law

  • Hugh Davison

    Thanks Gay. According to the register, only one Sinn Fein MLA has declared as a multiple residential landlord, and that is Pat Sheehan, West Belfast, with 3 properties let.

  • Hugh Davison

    See Paul Girvan, for example, in Gaygael’s list

  • Brian Walker

    I hadn’t heard the story about the SF training school at the murder scene before! Have we reached peak Sinn Fein or is this wishful thinking from Newton? I suspect it will take longer to find out. A dip in the vote doesn’t necessarily foreshadow decline. But I’m sceptical about the ” hollow shell” case.

    There is a paradox perhaps in the fact that for all the alleged emphasis on a southern strategy Sinn Fein is relatively better established in the North where it is clearly the majority nationalist party. It has no such similarly clear role in the Republic.

    Left wing republican parties in the south have come and gone, squeezed by the traditional two main parties, either in coalition or outside it. Will Sinn Fein be any different? In our time, they have so far failed to break through as a result of the decimation of Fianna Fail or claim a unique place in the heritage as a result of the Easter Rising commemoration, despite the brand.

    But I’d guess they are far from finished, given the fragile condition of government. The unprecedented pact between Fine Gael and a reviving Fianna Fail compresses the old rivals into a right wing grouping. It creates the vision of a new right-left polarity which gives Sinn Fein some chance of becoming the main party of the left. Much depends of course on whether the two main parties can differentiate convincingly for the next election.

    In the North, though quite reasonably wanting to stretch the envelope, they look becoming a more than slightly constitutional party. No party’s talent base is big in a region of this size and it is still hampered – probably – by more than a lingering respectability deficit which the DUP shares. But this may well continue to change, slowly.

    Sinn Fein then will probably survive well enough as a moderate centre- left nationalist party which no longer wins support from contriving perpetual revolutionary crisis or holding down territory in a state within a state. Dependence on the political system will expose it to real competition.On the other hand it has a head start on rivals like PBP and can draw on the patronage of government. Sinn Fein’s goal of unity is hardly disappearing and may even acquire greater appeal, if accompanied by genuine reconciliation.

  • Katyusha

    A misleading comparison if there ever was one. How many Sinn Fein MPs were there during the Troubles?

  • Jollyraj

    “The protection afforded to the murderers of Robert McCartney, compared to this week’s throwing under the bus of Daithi McKay demostrate the benefits enjoyed by SF’s privileged caste very well.”

    You’re saying SF protected the murderers of Robert McCartney? And that that wouldn’t deter you from voting for them??

  • chrisjones2

    “demonstrated commitment to their principles and cause that no blow-in career politician can possibly replicate.”

    is that a euphemism for body count?

  • chrisjones2

    Arent Fords very middle class teeth?

  • Hugh Davison

    A register of interests for Belfast councillors is supposed to go online at some stage, but it hasn’t happened yet AFAIK, so more facts about the supposed ‘Rachmans’ of SF cannot be established.

  • Thomas Barber

    That is absolute bullocks Reader.

  • Thomas Barber

    No Skibo I know exactly who Im talking about but I agree with you about the SDLP, being a landlords party, they are no different than Sinn Fein, they will eagerly brush their socialist ideals under the carpet when the opportunity arises. Perhaps you’ll remember the Sinn Fein councilor from Short Strand who bought housing executive land behind his home to extend his garden only to attempt to get planning permission to build 3 houses on it.

  • Thomas Barber

    Try four properties Hugh and I’ll give Pat the respect he deserves for at least being honest. But the puzzling parts of those register of interests is the amount of Sinn Fein MLA’s who claim another MLA’s brother in law carries out maintenance work on their offices – What offices, where are they.

  • Katyusha

    You can read Emerson’s article as well as I can, JR. I only used it as it as both the aftermath of McCartney’s murder and Daithi’s recent resignation were both described in the OP.

    I’ve no special information or authority on the matter, only the same information you have. I didn’t say SF protected them, and I don’t expect that they would be willing to or could afford to do such a thing, but it appears that something happened that hindered a police investigation. It was probably carelessly broad brushstrokes on my part. I am aware that SF did expel members for not making reports to the police ombudsman, so to suggest that the party were protecting anyone is most likely false.

    But no, I’m from Tyrone, not Belfast; the Sinn Fein I know is very different and far removed from the “SF-IRA” image that the media and certain commentators play on. I’ve no problem with voting for any of the candidates they stand here, and any suggestion of violence or covering for individuals would cause SF to drastically haemorrhage the support they have here.

  • Jollyraj

    “But no, I’m from Tyrone, not Belfast; the Sinn Fein I know is very different and far removed from the “SF-IRA”..”

    I’m not from Tyrone myself, my knowledge of the nationalist scene there is limited – though one assumes they do also have the problem of having been for decades the political wing of the IRA, apologist for their many crimes, and still to this day reluctant to call out the IRA of those times for the ignoble rabble of ne’er do wells, murderers and thieves that they were.

    It must surely be hard to get away from the fact that the IRA murdered many of your Protestant countymen – and Sinn Fein at the very least worked PR for them. Are any of the Shinners up there formerly IRA themselves?

  • Jollyraj

    Sounds like it, doesn’t it?

  • Katyusha

    Such things were long over before I was old enough to understand politics, JR. I’d say the things you cite are the reasons SF has a definite limit to its support amongst older voters in most regions that is not replicated in the younger generation.

    When people use the Troubles as a stick to beat Sinn Fein with, they forget how long ago the conflict ended. You are right that SF is tarred by its association with the IRA, but it is a legacy it needs to, and will, shed. SF’s opponents in the south have the same problem; trying to pin them on events that happened more than twenty years ago rather than addressing the concerns of voters today. If you want to damage SF, use their economics to beat them with, not their past. Its much more effective.

  • Skibo

    I would be a good old country boy. I wouldn’t know what thon city slickers get up to. I do remember the boul Pete Robinson doing something like that.

  • Skibo

    Can this really be judged as a story or do all parties go through the rejuvenation process at some stage?
    Is this just a case of “if you throw enough mud some will stick”?
    SDLP dragged their heels in replacing the old wrinklies and suffered because of it. I see a fair spread of young blood within the SF party, some more polished than others.
    SDLP have now had to replace substantial numbers and will take time to pull back the numbers, if they ever do.

  • Granni Trixie

    I trust Maskey teaches them benefit rules such as those governing DLA cars.

  • Granni Trixie

    But if there is repugnance towards SF today it is not just to do with baggage arising from their violent past but from continual strategic attempts to legitimise the terrorist campaign. People would be more likely to let go (indeed SF could broaden its voter base) if they just put their hands up to say that all the misery they caused was unjustified.

  • Granni Trixie

    If it’s that Joe fella you’re talking about TBF to SF didn’t they drop hm like a hot brick after this info became public?

  • Granni Trixie

    No but the public have a right to expect transparency eg if you own property and are involved in city hall decisions over use of resources to the area the property is in.

  • Thomas Barber

    Yeah the bold Robbo done the same thing Skibo, like I said above ALL politicians here claim to be in politics for the country and the people but as you point out thats simply bull….

  • Thomas Barber

    I dont think so Grannie wasn’t he once again in the spotlight after a certain housing association allocated a property/properties unjustly he being the chair of that housing association and the person being a relative of his. –

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-23725517

  • Thomas Barber
  • Brian Walker

    So apart from the swag what genuinely is the attraction of Fianna Fail? Did any UK party attract at all?

  • Brian Walker

    In the bad old pre 1969 days nationalist apathy in the face Unionist majority rule and institutional discrimination was suddenly replaced by mass protest followed quickly by communal violence and political collapse. The rest is history.What is happening now is a pale shadow. Today institutional equality is a reality that exists. Might that be the reason for apathy? Is what remains of the old struggle anything more than boorish lack of civilly?

  • mickfealty

    I wouldn’t infer too much from David not banging the FF drum day in, day out. He rather lacks my dogged (some might say obsessive) nature.

    I wouldn’t rule it out now there’s a movement back up in the Republic (prior to 2007 they weren’t serious, after 2011, they couldn’t be serious).

    All entrants must answer: what needs can you fulfil, and will it let you scale. Outside my native N Down, the Tories are too unpopular, being associated with quintessential Englishness.

    But southerners won’t make it happen, that’s really up to native folk to organise and figure where the beachheads are most likely to yield actual votes.

  • Declan Doyle

    Based on your views I hope we never have a party or individual standing that cuts the mustard for you.

  • Croiteir

    I am sure I will, it is all cyclic.

  • Croiteir

    Easy enough to justify, the same place were SF were in relation to Stormont – the only difference being SF decided to jump first

  • Croiteir

    I hear that the SDLP’s latest wheeze is to recruit in the south’s uni’s. Interesting to see how that will go.

  • mickfealty

    No comment. #Zip

  • Croiteir

    Is that the aroma of discretion I smell

  • mickfealty

    Quite so.

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