Post #Brexit northern nationalism needs its politicians to step up. Enter Fianna Fáil?

Maybe we were far too rigid in our approach [to partition], too tenacious of our point of view, too proud to temporise or placate… whatever may have been the reason, we made no headway, so our successors must start from “square one”.

Sean MacEntee, 1970

The head-quote is from Stephen Kelly’s Fianna Fail, Partition and Northern Ireland 1926 – 1971. It could fit the situation nationalism faces now that Brexit looks set to alter intra-island relations more profoundly than any time since Belfast Agreement.

On the face of it, FF can barely afford the time for real attention on Northern Ireland. Pressure on independents in government aimed at regaining rapidly lost ground throughout middle Ireland has a higher priority than northern adventurism.

The next big adventure is an Irish general election. But yesterday Micheal Martin’s reinforced an earlier promise to come north, to substantiate some of the arguments he’s been making over the last three or four years in the form of a real political presence.

As Kelly noted in 2014, there’s something far less theoretical about these rumblings compared to those when the northern project began under Bertie Ahern…

He believes that there is a ‘lack of leadership’ among the mainstream parties of Northern Ireland and he feels that Fianna Fáil can fill this leadership gap.

Describing Fianna Fáil as the party of the ‘middle ground’, Martin envisages that his Soldiers of Destiney can march into Northern Ireland and champion social injustice and become the voice of ‘working class communities’.

That’s certainly where they need to go to get back into Dublin on scale. But any move north must also signal ambition, both in terms of the overall objective and in achieving practical change for those in the middle classes.

NI is hardly swamped with sharp competition in that regard. Chris Donnelly has long argued that such a move would be good for Sinn Fein – who’ve enjoyed an immunity to competition unrivalled on these islands – arousing them to a better game.

Sinn Fein at least has the advantage of incumbency, and recognition. Even though they are by far the weaker of the two, the SDLP also have a brand recognition in Northern Ireland that, thus far, Fianna Fail lack.

As Newton Emerson notes in today’s Irish Times, the ‘scoilt‘ between northern and southern politics is as mediated as much by cultural concerns as harder political ones:

The Troubles generation was marked by an almost total collapse in the unionist sense of Irishness, which is usually explained as a reaction to republican violence. However, I do not believe this alone can account for the extent to which I do not feel Irish in the slightest. I think it is because I grew up in Co Finchley.

The role that television might have played in this is so underexplored that it sounds eccentric to mention it. But consider the circumstances, again unique, of my generation. We were born as television became the ubiquitous mass medium, only for it to enter a 30-year plateau.

The reverse can be said for many nationalists particularly in border areas, where the main news were RTE television and radio, and weekly copies of the Sunday Press or Sunday Independent (often taken mainly for the GAA reports).

Martin himself gives few clues as to what a Northern Ireland based Fianna Fail would stand for: rather he posits a bunch of questions which also highlight just how little the northern nationalist project has advanced since the Belfast Agreement:

“What are we talking about when we talk about a united Ireland? Is it two parliaments?

“The SDLP say they believe in that, so do Sinn Féin. So it’s not the only idea that Dublin rules Ireland. You’d have two assemblies,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s evolving work. I’ve no sense that Sinn Féin or anybody else have any sense of what the configuration would be.

“Economically, what does it mean? Subsidy-wise, what does it mean? Integration of two health services, what does it mean? There are two education systems, which are quite different in some respects.

A successful move north could be part of a broader brand regeneration, but to be successful they’d need to make progress on a broad front. That’s just one reason, a merge with the SDLP is unlikely.  They need a solid purpose beyond brand enhancement

Certainly, under Martin, the idea has risen from nice to do one day, to important, but not yet urgent. Much as that makes it fun to conjure with it still does not, in itself, signal any clear intent.

We’ve known since 2014 that the ‘plan’ is to come north for what would have been the next European elections. Brexit may have put the kibosh on that specifically, but it also heightens a sense that northern nationalism needs to get its game together.

For all the UK government reassurances around the maintenance of the Common Travel Area (CTA), there were critical north-south layers to the Belfast Agreement that will need defending and even developing in the upcoming period of negotiations.

Where there’s a political vacuum, there’s usually an opportunity to fill it. Martin’s pronouncements on northern affairs over the last four years have been consistent enough to suggest that he personally is serious about the idea.

However, electorally Fianna Fail never moves into any project without heavy spade work first. These days Niall Collins and Darragh O’Brien come north to speak at events. It’s no longer just the leader’s enthusiasm alone.

More broadly the new intake of TDs appear to be much more open to the idea of moving north than previous parliamentary parties.

The mere thought of their coming seems to excite a media unendingly bored with nothing happening. As the BelTel notes in its editorial:

Fianna Fail is one of the big beasts of Dublin’s politics, and many northern nationalists may feel it is better placed to deliver on Irish unity ultimately than either Sinn Fein or the SDLP, hitting their electoral heartlands.

Yet, what does Irish unity mean in the modern world? Is it the simple disappearance of the border, or is it more a unity of purpose rather than a single landmass?

Could it be two political institutions – the Dail and Stormont – working on areas of mutual interest?

But talk is cheap(ish), we can be pretty sure the party won’t move unless it’s convinced its voice will carry directly to northern voters. The taking of polls is a key pre-requisite to knowing whether or if all this good intent is to be followed by action.

As any engineer knows in order to build a bridge capable of holding an increased traffic in ideas and human or even financial capital, you need to build upon the most solid ground on either side of the river.

That requires foundations which are broader and more stable than the narrow ground available to the current players. This should go hand in hand with a view of the future that takes us beyond the next row over parades or the past.

The idea of unity in twenty years – rather than promising success every Tuesday week – allows for the kinds of long-term realignment that were apparent in the Republic’s great shifts of the 1950s and 60s.

If this was always the case before Brexit, it is likely to become more urgent afterwards. The need for the heavy engineering needed to set up such a broad base is not yet pressing.  But, if it is going to happen at all, it will need to begin fairly soon.

Irish freedom will not be finally secured until it rests on firm and unshakeable economic foundations.

Sean Lemass, 29th July 1963

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  • Mirrorballman

    Totally agree. I’d go one further and even consider joining them…

  • Declan Doyle

    What Martin is really saying in his usual fluffy but ever more obvious vacuous language is that Fianna Fail will do what it does best; break a clear pledge. The 2014 announcement was made whilst the party were still in the swamp, since then it has recovered somewhat and now feels the North is not required to help shore up its recovery.

    Most notably, the problem for Martin’s troops standing in the North is that it will open up the party to the kind of scrutiny the southern media establishment refuses to engage in.

    This includes the party’s adoption of almost all of SF’s policies over the last few years. It also includes questions such as ‘hello, but were have you been for the last 100 years?’ FF don’t like playing second fiddle to anybody, being a junior to SF and the SDLP in the six counties would be hard to stomach given their size and influence in the rest of tge country.

    Ultimately the stinging reality for Martin and Co is the fact that PBP have stole the march on them. PBP are offering nationalists an alternative with genuine integrity that FF could never match. Moreover, FF simply do not have the cuts to take tge leap and pay the price required to build a serious Base in this part of Ireland. Finishing at the end of the bunch in elections and watching their transfers increase the seat share of both SF and the SDLP would wake Haughey from his slumber.

    Martin has also risked upending the entire GFA with his refusal to accept the principle of consent and his constant efforts to push nationalists into the hands of dissidents. He has also allowed FF to fall behind SF as the true ‘Republican Party’ island-wide.

    Michael Martin has begun the reconstruction off FF based on words, with little deed attached apart from shifting position to steal the clothes of others; the benifits of which are usually short term rather than longterm.

    Martin simply can’t venture up north the same way a man cannot swim with a breeve block strapped to his ankle. But the words sound good. As Mrs Browne would say – ‘that’s nice’.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well let’s wait and see. They have made a big impact in both areas you mention and they are off to a very good start indeed. As in the rest of the country, they now have the profile to build on their recent success. Yes they are a party of protest but all parties are effectively a party of protest against their opponents.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    PBP are for all intents and purposes, a single issue party. A protest vote of sorts. And yes, they had success in 2 constituencies… whether or not 5 years and not realistically being able to meaningfully influence any policy coming out of Stormont will endear them further to the electorate will become clear.

    For my view, they are to Sinn Fein what Jim Allister is to the DUP. a force to keep them honest and highlight their misgivings. Will PBP ever be more than that? hmmmm. Their manifesto, such as it is, amounted to little more than, “Discrimination bad – housing good.” Hardly likely to be seen as credible opposition for a major party. Ankle biters. Productive ankle biters, but ankle biters nonetheless

  • Skibo

    I am very pleased to see that FF seem to be ready to make the move to a full Republican party and represent all on the island.
    My problem before I could give them a vote is all he has done so far is ponder questions. The very same questions i have raised myself in private conversation. If and when he puts answers to those questions, I will consider whether to vote for them or not.
    I believe Micheal still has eyes only on the southern election that cannot be that far away. He sees the attitude of the electorate is moving towards unification and does not want to offend anyone and lose a vote. Easier to say “aye we are up for it” but confirmation of actually standing would be better.

  • Skibo

    I do not think Micheal is concerned at the PBP phenomenon with any real concern. They are not fishing in the same pond. FF will be looking towards the soft middle class Catholic vote that, I for one, do not think is getting out in any great numbers.
    This is one reason I think we actually need FF and eventually FG to enter politics in NI. FF will be first but when FG enter, you can start counting to the “end of days” for British rule in NI.

  • If a Fianna Fáil entry north is to be any measure of success, they need to present themselves as a republican alternative to Sinn Féin. Rather than rendering the republican brand solely to Sinn Féin as the SDLP have always done (the ‘nationalist’ brand is enough for them), they should embrace it. I do reckon there’s a northern market for Fianna Fáil up here, one that thinks that the Shinners are too red and the Stoops are too evasive.

    Regards specific policy content, however, I struggle to see what difference Fianna Fáil will bring to the table. From parade disputes to abortion rights, what will Micheál Martin’s lot really say that we haven’t all heard before? Ideologically, they’d simply be another Irish nationalist party that makes a few noises about social justice and the Irish language.

    Regards the eye-rolling cliché ‘unionist outreach’, after all Martin’s sermons about “generous, anti-sectarian” republicanism, the reality is he and his strategists will be focused on the nationalist electorate. This idea of wooing fence-sitting Alliance voters and ‘open-minded’ unionists around to Irish republicanism’s “international idealism” because Fianna Fáil said so isn’t really worth listening to.

    Just as People Before Profit’s “substantial unionist support was a fantasy” http://www.irishnews.com/opinion/columnists/2016/05/17/news/pbp-claims-of-substantial-unionist-support-are-a-fantasy-521862/, there’ll be no Fianna Fáil-inspired born-again Wolfe Tones in the Shankill come 2019. That aside, I welcome their intended northern adventure. If they take off electorally, I suppose it’ll make northern nationalism a bit more interesting.

  • Brian Walker

    No doubt an elected Fianna Fail presence in the North would boost nationalist confidence and hopes of eventual unity. But there are a host of questions. Would it merge with the SDLP or supplant it? So much for the future of democratic socialism.The SDLP of John Hume benefited from keeping aloof from both main southern parties (although Seamus Mallon accepted FF nomination to the Seanad).

    How does FF subtitled “the republican party” differentiate essentially from Sinn Fein, when the North followed an entirely different political path since FF was founded in 1925?. Northerners like Sean MacEntee ( College Square Belfast) and Frank Aitken ( south Armagh) remained in southern exile to their deaths at the beginning of the Troubles. . There is a new tradition here to invent. Competition with SF in the North might make coalition with SF in the south that bit more tricky and anomalous. Would NI benefit from a future Fine Gael-led government? And what would Fianna Fail actually stand for? ( Not that that ever cramped its style before). But a bit of a crowded marriage, to borrow Princess Di’s famous phrase? Raising the profile of unity may be a natural reaction to Brexit but it may not be the best time for healthy development. As It’s weighted entirely on one side of the house, the whole house might fall over…

    If nationalist politics becomes dominated by dreaming about which is the best republican and diverts from the harder business of living together, we’ll all be very much the poorer. . If Fianna Fail North were to present a challenge of better government cooperation and move in close to challenge sectarianism, so much the better.

  • eamoncorbett

    Presumably if it happens , their candidates will be from NI but might not all be Catholic as FF is a broad church . There is a disaffected Alliance vote for the taking out there . I admit it would bring a smile to my face to see a Fianna Fáil MP at Wesminster.

  • Skibo

    You have crossed a bridge there that I am not sure FF could do. As a Republican party, could they take their seats in Westminster?

  • the moviegoer

    Will never happen. Fianna Fail did somersaults to avoid coalition with Fine Gael despite the two parties being almost identical in policy terms. Forming a coalition with the DUP or UUP would be a bridge too far. It is simply not in their DNA. It’s all about the Dail, which they have ambitions of controlling totally, and having to enter into compromise arrangements does not suit them.

    A major reason they won’t is the experience of Sinn Fein operating in two parliaments. Every time Sinn Fein criticize the government in Leinster House, they are called hypocrites for implementing austerity in the North while denouncing it in the South. Fianna Fail aren’t going to put themselves over a barrel like that and open themselves up to such flak. Northern politics would hold FF a hostage to fortune. It’s enough for them to mention it every so often, to remind people of their “credentials”, but without doing anything about it.

  • I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on Fianna Fáil’s supposed republicanism hindering such a move. They’d go into Westminster just as quick as they went into the Dáil. If they wouldn’t, well at least their party slogan turned out to actually mean something.

  • eamoncorbett

    Ek, FF may or may not organise in NI but even if they did and the SDLP and SF contested the same seats there would be only one winner , that’s Unionism . With boundary changes Nat/Reps will have to do deals just to hang on to their own seats just as Unionists will do.
    Depending on FF to deliver a UI would be foolhardy in the extreme , they simply can’t . I can’t see any situation developing that would encourage unionists to vote for a UI , but if the strand dealing with devolution isn’t functioning then the GFA needs reviewing and updating and the constitutional issue needs addressing as it is in my opinion the chief reason that Stormont is not and will not operate to full capacity.

  • mickfealty

    Maybe so. But coalition with opponents is the price of power in Northern Ireland. And one thing they’re not afraid of is power.

  • murdockp

    yes extreme left wing politics with some other state picking up the tab of delivering a socialist dream were personal responsibility has been lost and we’re a significant proportion off the population is happy to be on benefits is not somewhere I want to live. FF gets my vote.

  • murdockp

    the SDLP supporters don’t give a damn about anything other than the policies voted for by its members.

    I cannot see them linking up with a right of centre party anytime soon.

    I can’t even see them changing policies to attract the non SDLP voters so more to the point why would FF want to link up with them.

    also FF have policies that reflect unionism. farming is thier bedrock. don’t write them off in attracting the unionist vote.

  • Declan Doyle

    A single issue party? What is this single issue?

  • Declan Doyle

    They were certainly very much afraid of it after this last GE. Maybe because they are so bad at it. In any event they got over their fear and formed a hybrid coalition anyway.

  • murdockp

    if Europe goes for irelands jugular and brexit is a success then everything changes.

    I can see Ireland and UK becoming closer .

    if this happens if the Republic makes a significant unionist gesture unification of the island is a possibility.

    but what sort of gesture would deliver a united Ireland?

    It would have to be Ireland as a unified country joining the commonwealth of nations.

  • Katyusha

    PBP are, for all intents and purposes, the Socialist Workers Party, dressed up in such a manner that lets the electorate forget about the Red Scare and lets them don the coat of being a modern, but intellectually vacuous, anti-inequality, anti-austerity popular movement. It looks like such a guise was successful.

  • Declan Doyle

    United States Democrats are more likely to set up shop in the north than the Fine Gaelers. The six counties have enough Unionist parties, another one is not required.

  • Katyusha

    Only for Westminster, and SF don’t take their seats in Westminster anyway. We’ve no clue as to whether FF would take their seats or not.

    Stormont, and the Dáil, are what counts when it comes to internecine Nationalist rivalry. And in Stormont we have PR and you can transfer votes.

  • Katyusha

    Hahahaha.
    You know what, the sheer spite and accuracy of the criticism makes me look forward to three-way cross-border civil war politics. The fireworks will be worth it.

  • mickfealty

    Oh, you mean FG and/or SF? I don’t see that changing anytime soon, even if FF get ahead of FG in numbers. SF after Gerry maybe, but not in the shorter to medium term.

    They’ve no need to go into coalition with SF to get power in NI. And since they don’t share a voter base with the DUP or UUP, working with either would not be as much of a challenge.

  • Brendan Heading

    The history of imported political parties in Northern Ireland has never worked out well. Political party brands do not travel well. The brand itself is no good; the party’s ideals need grassroots support, and it is not clear to me where FF (or FG) would find theirs.

    I suspect Fianna Fáil would end up being some sort of continuity SDLP and might pick up a few council seats. It is hard to picture them mounting a serious challenge to either of the two big nationalist parties.

  • Brendan Heading

    strategy to coordinate and link up North-South government there’s a very good chance that they’d get a vote from me.

    That strategy would amount to precisely nothing unless it came accompanied by a strategy to get around the mutual veto on the Executive.

  • Katyusha

    the party’s ideals

    Well, that’s FF screwed then. What if they have no ideals?

  • eamoncorbett

    FF probably would take their seats funny as it might look because they accept the constitutional position whilst SF just tolerate it.

  • Brendan Heading

    This is curious. FG are a party who are committed to Irish reunification and you want to turn them away as “unionists”. It is interesting how, when it comes down to it, Sinn Féin supporters put party politics ahead of the objective of Irish reunification. When I suggested that Sinn Féin were no longer actively committed to reunification earlier this week, I was angrily chastised for it; and yet here is the evidence.

    If I were a nationalist, I might think that it is to FG/FF’s credit that they have not, so far, voted to send powers back from Stormont to the UK government.

  • mjh

    This is exactly the sort of coat-tailing that we could expect if FF genuinely intent to enter NI politics in time for the 2019 Council elections. It raises media interest and might serve to inject some urgency into any “what if” conversations it may be having with individuals (elected or otherwise) behind the scenes.

    But we won’t have long to wait to know if its for real. It takes a long time to put down the grass-roots of a political party.

    Alliance, which grew out of the pre-existing New Ulster Movement, had three years before it fought its first election. While the SDLP, two and a half years after its foundation was still not able to field candidates in all nationalist areas.

    Sinn Fein was organised for many more years before putting up candidates and the DUP benefited from decades of ground-work put in to developing the Free Presbeterian Church and the subsequent Protestant Unionist Party.

    On the other hand NI21 launched a year before its first, and last, election. And recent history offers dozens of similar now-forgotten examples.

    If they are coming, FF will have a formal launch by April at the very latest – and will have been seriously ramping up the speculation well in advance of that.

  • Brendan Heading

    I mean “ideals” in the loosest possible sense, ie the things that cause people to vote for them.

  • eamoncorbett

    I see it differently , I think Britain will very slowly cede sovereignty with treaties like that signed today to defeat paramilitaries . This will be a very slow tortuous procedure taking years , but it is noticeable how active Charlie Flanagan has been in the last couple of years with regards to Northern affairs.

  • murdockp

    but in this instance the paramilitaries are an irrelevance thier numbers are so few. it will come down to what the 75% of the population of the island thinks 10 years down the road. watch Andrew Marr on I player to show what the SNP achieved in 20 years in Scotland once they became mainstream. SF or sdlp or even DUP are not mainstream in a country where 50% don’t vote.

  • Declan Doyle

    I don’t speak for SF

  • 05OCT68

    Could the FF organizing in the North strategy be that they gain greater influence in Brexit negotiations?

  • Jollyraj

    “Political party brands do not travel well.”

    Travel? Forgive me if I’m wrong but I thought you were of the opinion that NI was merely the ‘north’ of Ireland. Thus no travelling involved.

    (Sincere) apologies if I’m misattributing here.

  • Brendan Heading

    Forgive me if I’m wrong but I thought you were of the opinion that NI was merely the ‘north’ of Ireland.

    Haven’t a clue where you got this impression. NI is a separate jurisdiction with its own political system.

  • Jollyraj

    If you really believed they were unionist, you’d welcome them with open arms – to split the vote. If anything might encourage FG to stand in NI it would be the very tangible fear SF are showing that they would take a big slice of an electorate the Shinners are taking for granted.

  • Jollyraj

    Apologies then. My mistake.

  • Declan Doyle

    The last election hopefully has taught all parties not to be in such a hurry to rule out options pre poll. Every party including g those that made significant gains such as FF and SF had their arsed handed to them by the electorate. Fianna Fail should romp home next time with FG in disarray and independents in a similar state.

    SF won’t budge from their current position so Martin will have an assortment of options, the only thing that might spoil his chances would be a clever Varadker as FG leader; streets ahead of Martin and wildly popular.

  • Ryan

    I currently vote SF but I would definitely vote FF if/when they come North. SF are very sluggish these past few years in the North, them being concentrating in the South. I don’t see how Nationalism hasn’t advanced towards Irish Unity since the GFA 1998. There hasn’t even been a border poll. I personally believe all this talk of BBC polls and how a United Ireland is “very far off, if it even happens” is Unionist propaganda. 1,000 people were asked a question and its portrayed as 1.8 million were. Its nonsense, really. There’s talk of what is the benefits of Irish Unity? Well lets ask: what is the benefits of this part of Ireland staying in the UK? We’re an economic basket case. Our health system is disgraceful, and I speak from personal experience. Our economic growth is nil or even going negative. What exactly ARE the benefits of the UK? According to Economist David McWilliams the average wage in the South is DOUBLE what it is in the North. The South exports 17 times as much as the North. I could go on. The Unionist vote since 1998 as been declining, seats that were once solid Unionist are now unwinnable by Unionists unless using a pact and the SDLP splitting the vote. I feel the whole talk of partition has been deeply, deeply one sided in favour of Unionism. Of course I think this is due to not wanting to upset or worry Unionists about what they perceive as the “threat” of Irish Unity. I stand with Chris Donnelly who said he believes if a border poll was held tomorrow or even 3 years ago at least 35% would vote for the end of partition. There’s only one way to find out but do Unionists have the bottle? Not a chance.

  • mickfealty

    I would have thought the opposite was the case Declan.

  • Gaygael

    You won’t find a link online to their manifesto. They didn’t publish one before the assembly election. Hence I gave a higher preference to the workers party than pbp in my constituency.

  • Declan Doyle

    No I think Varadker would definately have the edge over Martin. Vad has clean hands whilst Martin was one of the hands on the wheel driving the country over the edge not so long ago and turning a blind eye to various FF habitual dodges. He could wipe the floor with Martin if he put his mind to it.

  • Declan Doyle

    Excellent post

  • Declan Doyle

    Out of curiosity, if I may? Did SF get a mark on your ballot?

  • Declan Doyle

    FF will have zip zero nada nine noitze influence on Brexicide.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Our health system is disgraceful, and I speak from personal experience.’
    You get what you (don’t) pay for. Hopefully, it’ll be better when you get to sign up with VHI for at least €700 a year.

  • Gaygael

    I got to 7th preference (if I recall correctly) and I couldn’t bring myself to go any further.
    One of their candidates did because of her stance on a particular issue, and she champions change internally.

  • Seán South

    Don’t be fooled with this FF subterfuge nonsense about coming up North. Whilst I think it would be a great idea, it ain’t going to happen, as they’re a partitionist party. Why would they change the habit of a lifetime?..95 years to be precise.

  • mac tire

    “You get what you (don’t) pay for.”

    NI contributions?

  • Gaygael

    Seems the line to challenge them if they do come north is being test run early. 😉

  • Seán South

    I think your onto to something there alright….but its all smoke and mirrors….too cute to show their hand.

  • Declan Doyle

    It’s the one thing that will hold them back and I said it (applause please) 15 years ago.

  • Declan Doyle

    Most of us champion change internally.
    Did you place a right wing party ahead of SF in any of your preferences? (I am pushing it now I know but can’t help myself)

  • Roger

    Confusing though I found it with you referring to Martin when there is a Martin Mc G. and a M. Martin, I assume you were referring to the FF leader when you said “Martin has also risked upending the entire GFA with this refusal to accept the principle of consent”. What’s that about? Has the FF leader taken a stand against the consent principle (f.k.a. the Unionist veto)? When did he take that most radical stance? Very interested to learn about this.

  • Roger

    About as much influence as the local politicians at Stormont then?

  • Roger

    Renua Ireland

  • Roger

    Ireland could offer to rejoin the UK and restore the former UK on the map? The unionists might accept that, though even then I doubt they’d be willing to be in the same local government area as the area today comprising Ireland. But unity of sorts. Ireland and Northern Ireland would once again be in the same state.

  • Roger

    FF have run a successful country and its economy….and run it into the ground.
    SF/DUP/SDLP/APNI etc. simply haven’t done that. Me thinks FF experience and perspective could well bring a lot to Northern Ireland.

  • Roger

    FF endorsed the Belfast Agreement. They’ve accepted UK sovereignty in UKNI. It would be silly if they didn’t take their seats too.

  • Roger

    95 years? FF wasn’t around in 1921. Its then leader was a FF MP for a UKNI constituency as late as 1938.

  • Declan Doyle

    In an interview at the weekend with the Sindorag he said he would not accept a 50 plus 1 percent support for Irish Unity.

  • Seán South

    After its formation many FF members were encouraged to hold dual membership as IRA volunteers and duly walked into the Dail with their side arms-in case a gun fight broke out. The Fianna Fáil leadership used this relationship with the IRA to grow the organisational base of the new Party, and eventually went into government in the 26c. It claimed the title of the Republican Party, but never tried to organise nationally, nor did it ever develop a strategy to achieve Irish national democracy, or independence or speak up for northern nationalists-but merely played lip service with a few rebel songs and the odd sabre rattling rant. It abandoned the Norths nationalists to the wolves-who would pay a heavy price. These have been the characteristics of the party throughout the last number of years of its existence. Instead, its leadership relied upon populism( as seen lately with it uturns), republican rhetoric, and clientelism to build up hegemony in the southern state and by getting into bed with the church who’s dogma and conservatism was allowed unabated to dictate the morality of a nation to look inward or immigrate….that took a long long time to achieve-not 3 years…forgive me if I’m not a little cynical about FF moving North…but do I trust them?..but in way I welcome them as they can’t pull these stunts up north..or could they?

  • mickfealty

    That was the dominant analysis in the MSM the serious end of which reasoned Martin might only pick up as little as 35 seats. Leo, if he’d have got in early enough, might not have run such a dog of a campaign but I think your analysis of Martin has been outrun by time and events dear boy…

  • mickfealty

    Complaining about the ‘status quo’ only gets you as far as our deeply familiar ‘narrow ground’ Ryan. To bust out of the of the old cliches, you need a routemap, bridges and some practical steps forward.

    What they discovered in road safety two generations ago is that haranging motorists to better behaviour is not as effective as ‘re-engineering the environment’.

    That takes time, patience and, I venture to add, a drop of Zen. Just about everything else has been tried, tested and hastily thrown at the problem.

  • Gaygael

    I voted on a particualar social issue this time. I made a conscious decision to focus my preferences on those that would effect abortion law reform.

    The minimum was compliance with human rights standards as. In this instance, in my particular costituency, that put the UUP and Alliance candidate further up the list than the would normally be. It also meant the SDLP got nothing.

  • Old Mortality

    Deducted from a public sector salary? In that case no.

  • Declan Doyle

    I think time and events will uncover the great skill of Martin’s speech writers and Martin’s inability to deliver. .. dear boy …

  • Declan Doyle

    Pretty much

  • Roger

    I see. Does SF now accept principle of consent (f.k.a unionist veto)?

  • Declan Doyle

    Sinn Fein signed up to the GFA which contains the principle of consent which means the status quo remains until a majority decide otherwise.

  • Roger

    No party signed the GFA. Chairman Mitchell put it to a vote of the parties. SF abstained and to my knowledge have never voted in favour of it. If I’ve got that wrong, when did they endorse (loosely ‘sign up to) it?

  • Declan Doyle

    This is nonsense, SF have endorsed, supported, defended and operated the terms laid down in the GFA from the get go. They have battled for that agreement on the ground at home and internationally. They defend it against all attacks most rigorously, particularly against the so-called republican dissidents in their own heartlands. In every and all public pronouncements they have proved an absolute commitment to the GFA.

  • Katyusha

    Describing Fianna Fáil as the party of the ‘middle ground’, Martin envisages that his Soldiers of Destiney can march into Northern Ireland and champion social injustice and become the voice of ‘working class communities’.

    I find this really strange, because NI already has a nationalist party staking a claim to the territory of social justice and the working classes – Sinn Fein. Where there is a gap in the market is to the right of Sinn Fein, for a nationalist party that is centre-right, pro-business, anti-abortion, rural- rather than urban-centred – in other words, a traditional Fianna Fail position. It makes no sense for them to move onto already crowded SF territory, which is already tying down and hampering SF, instead of taking the vast, easy ground open to the right of them. Of course, in the republic, the situation is reversed, FF are going after the working class voters since their rural vote has largely been restored and is relatively safe. It open up the fascinating dynamic of cross border politics – what plays well in one jurisdiction may be toxic in the other.

    It’s also curious that all of the commentary has been around “do Nationalists believe FF can deliver a united Ireland.” The BelTel editorial demonstrates when it says “Fianna Fail is one of the big beasts of Dublin’s politics, and many northern nationalists may feel it is better placed to deliver on Irish unity” as if FF’s only appeal is in the strength of the party and the only issue nationalists care about is uniting the country.

    I want FF to enter NI politics to a) provide a centre-right nationalist party that can encourage business and investment, to try and breathe some life into our near-deceased economy, b) to provide competition to SF and stimulate them to actually work on winning voters, forming policy and governing in a way that meets the day-to-day concerns of this place, and c) to emulate SF in parties organising on both sides of the border as single units, to create a more homogeneous political culture and discourse between North and South. It makes no sense to have some invisible political wall dividing the discussion around issues that ordinary people face on both sides of the border.

    I do not expect them to lay out a game plan for Irish unity. That is not what I am looking for from FF. Any such strategy outlined by any one party – whether it be SF, FF, or FG, would have no value, as the makeup of a united Ireland can only be decided through cooperation, and all three of these parties have their own stakes. If there is going to be a strategy, it needs to be agreed upon, more-or-less, between those parties.

    The idea that SF could become a party fixed on meeting the aspirations of the middle classes seems fanciful as well. It would leave their left flank completely open to PBP, and any softening of their republican position will leave that flank open to dissidents. I don’t think SF can move to the right without alienating a lot of their current support, and some of this catchment will never vote for them anyway because of their paramilitary history.

    Still, FF moving onto SF territory, while SF move onto FF territory sounds interesting – and as FF overlap with FG one one side and SF on the other, meaning the party can bid directly to voters of both parties rather than being tied down by ideology. The dynamics of parties having to find a position that satisfies the market of the electorate on both sides of the border, and facing criticism in elections in one jurisdiction based on their actions in government in the other jurisdiction will be good for politics, and good competition and criticism will energise nationalist politics in the North. I am very much looking forward to three-way 32-county civil war politics.

  • Roger

    You do agree with me that SF did not vote for the GFA at Castle Buildings in 1998 right and that that’s not nonsense?

    Did s SF Ard Fheis approve the GFA subsequently? If so, when? I know SF have a constitution, rules and procedures so this should be clear if SF did so.

  • mjh

    Exactly, Roger

  • mjh

    I think your first paragraph is bang on the money, Katyusha.

    I also suspect that positioning might well appeal to many current SDLP voters (or people who would have voted SDLP but no longer vote at all). And it would make sense for a newly entered FF to attempt first to dispose of its weaker rival for nationalist votes.

  • Declan Doyle
  • Declan Doyle

    Also this
    http://www.sinnfein.org/ardfheis/98ardfheis/

    Anything else, you should phone connoly house, they will be happy to help u.

  • Brendan Heading

    SF are a right wing party. In government in Northern Ireland they maintain low taxes and cut public spending.

  • Brendan Heading

    SF also accept the Agreement but do not take their seats, so I’m not sure that rule applies, but it would be interesting to see whether FF would abstain or not.

  • Declan Doyle

    Ya sure and I just spoke to Santa.

  • Croiteir

    If FF ran here I would vote for them. It would be the first time I would be voting since the GFA. I am also aware of some logical contradictions in my reasons for voting for FF however I believe the balance tilts unavoidably to obliging me to support them. I would expect that many who share my reasons for not voting would do likewise. This would help maximise the nationalist vote.

    But I have a caveat. I treat Micheal Martin’s latest statement with as much as a pinch of salt as I do the one he made in Killarney. The wording is such that he can do nothing. He has built in a lot of wiggle room.

    When I hear a call for the recruitment of members, when I see concerted campaigns using press, social media and so on, when I see FF doing door drops and seeking to help with day to day stuff, the filling in of forms, the writing of letters to officialdom that sort of thing then I know they are serious.

    I believe that the next elections in 2019 are so close that to build up membership to help campaign, to identify and develop candidates, to make policy and so they need to move quickly. If not by the end of the year then they are not moving, or if they are for moving, they will have given themselves a hell of a mountain to climb.

    As for the SDLP. It would be a mistake for FF to merge with them. The SDLP are dead on their feet. They have outlived their raison d’etre. They have achieved the agreed Ireland of Hume, the GFA was that. The SDLP have the infrastructure of offices and such but they have the disadvantage of debt on them, an albatross if you ask me. They have the legacy of internal disputes and factions. The best thing for FF to do is get fresh faces for the electorate. As for the SDLP they can turn in the main to the Labour Party, which one I do not know or care, their time is up.

    As a parting shot can I add that there is a probability that another election is threatening in the south and so this may just be another cynical wrapping of the green flag around him to keep the troops happy, to be forgotten in more calmer times.

  • Croiteir

    History says they will not

  • Croiteir

    He has played a blinder steering FF from the cliff face. They did face implosion and possible extinction as a party. Now they are looking like the heir apparent and have the govt under control. MM has done a great job.

  • Declan Doyle

    They never faced extinction. At their worst moment they still commanded 17% of the popular vote. FF are like a chronic cancer, forever infecting but never expiring. His speech writers are brilliant and his ability to flip flop without judgement is unmatched in these islands. More importantly, THE biggest media organisation have him in their pocket and that is the key to his success.

  • Gaygael
  • Roger

    Thanks for the link. That’s really helpful. Let’s recap:

    I asked “[d]oes SF now accept principle of consent (f.k.a unionist veto)?”

    You responded “Sinn Fein signed up to the GFA which contains the principle of consent which means the status quo remains until a majority decide otherwise.”

    To back up your assertion that SF are “signed up” to the GFA and its principle of consent (f.k.a. unionist veto) you’ve now directed me to the “Ard Chomhairle paper to 1998 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis” on the SF website which includes the following statements:

    – (QUOTE) “Sinn Fein does not accept the legitimacy of the six county statelet.”

    – (QUOTE) “[Sinn Fein] have made it clear that we reject a Unionist veto and that we seek an end to Partition and British rule in our country.”

    These statements clearly do not reflect endorsement of the GFA. The GFA includes:

    – (QUOTE) “The participants endorse the commitment made by the British and Irish governments that, in a new British-Irish Agreement, they will:

    (i) RECOGNISE THE LEGITIMACY of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status…

    (ii) acknowledge…the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and LEGITIMATE is to maintain the Union…”

    What is expressed in the “Ard Chomhairle paper to 1998 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis” is in fact outright rejection of the core principle at the heart of the GFA. That core principle is the principle of consent (f.k.a. unionist veto).

    Moreover, the Ard Fheis ballot paper did not include a motion to endorse or approve the GFA. The motions were to permit SF participation in the Northern Ireland Assembly and to call for a yes vote in the referendums in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Very different things, which is entirely understandable given the contents of the “Ard Chomhairle paper to 1998 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis”.

    Do you want to call Connolly House to have a chat with them?

  • Croiteir

    That’s what I was referring to, in my second sentence, although I counter with Avril Power and Ken Curtin

    http://www.thejournal.ie/ken-curtin-quits-fianna-fail-2125231-May2015/

  • Jollyraj

    As Declan said below, he doesn’t speak for Sinn Fein. It is just, seemingly, that his opinions often align extremely closely with the SF company line on these things. Even when he isn’t quite sure what the line is on a given day. Can’t be easy.

  • Declan Doyle

    I think you should do it and maybe then you will see that the leak in the ship which you are desperately trying to find simply does not exist.

  • Roger

    Desperate to find something, me?
    Oh no no. With your help I’ve set out above what I’ve already found. Confirming what I knew all along. You’re the one claiming SF is ‘signed up’ to GFA yet you pointed me to sources confirming the very opposite. You don’t seem to have any answer.

  • Declan Doyle

    Grand so

  • Gaygael

    No, I thought that was what you meant.

    So – why not vote for the SDLP? They had Alban and Sinead Challinor letter a few years ago.

  • Croiteir

    Not green enough, too willing to accept a Northern Ireland

  • john millar

    “at least 35% would vote for the end of partition. ”
    And 65% would vote no ?

    “1,000 people were asked a question and its portrayed as 1.8 million were. Its nonsense, ”

    I suggest you “mug up” on Statistics before you dismiss it as nonsense

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampling_(statistics)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_size_determination

  • Gaygael

    Fair enough.

    I’m not a nationalist but nationalism probably needs a right wing party.