On the matter of a leadership vacuum…

A reader writes:

I think this is much more serious than people realize.  Sinn Fein can’t go back into power with an unreformed DUP, and the latter could even come back with less of an electoral wound that SF, who knows. But the reason I think this is very serious is this.

I’ve argued for 10 years that the Sinn Fein are under-estimating their own base if they think Mary Lou will command the same loyalty and patience as the Adams-McGuinness nexus.

Nationalists grassroots are currently at best disenchanted and increasingly angry and insulted. The DUP machine will whip up the worst instincts of team Blue. There’s a leadership vacuum.

Dissidents will sense an opportunity. There’s a real danger of a return to street politics here, and at a time when the robustness and coherence of the Republican movement has never been more vulnerable. Not good.

 

  • Robbi McMillen

    I’ve always voted Sinn Féin, and I’ll never vote for a dissident. Although, I did vote Gerry Carroll last year. It breaks my heart to see Martin McGuinness so frail.

    But Sinn Féin have followed the DUP’s will for a long time. An Irish Language Act, Gay Rights, there should have been accommodation for these basic needs long ago and SF took a long time.

    Now they are in a bad situation – of those two human, non-political, citizen-based rights are not secured in negotiation, they will lose votes.

    The DUP are among the most insensitive, demoralising, right-wing fundamentalists in European politics, but Arlene might be brave enough to break rank and carry with her.

    I don’t like anyone being in personal turmoil or pain, or for their families to be affected. Why can they not see our side?

    I know to many readers an Irish Language Act is a smoke screen, but to me it a deeply held ambition that will let me belong. I speak it daily, it is not and never has been a weapon for me. If you are a unionist, don’t see it as a victory for one side, see it as a victory for common decency, humanity and cooperation.

  • RWP

    Is it likely that Martin would return as either FM or DFM if/when SF go back into government when this crisis is over, or will the crown pass to someone else? If so, who?

  • mickfealty

    Not the man we saw on that television tonight. I’ve scrupulously stayed away from the topic of his health, but that was heart breaking to any human viewer tonight.

    Unless I am very mistaken, Martin will not be back, and for reasons various, he will be missed by his party.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Conor murphy

  • Karl

    The Provos?? The 1980s just called, it wants its terminology back. Pan nationalist front cant be far behind.

  • Katyusha

    I don’t think anyone would expect Mary Lou to be able to lead Sinn Féin in the North, nor can she tie together all the disparate elements of the party in the way Adams can. She doesn’t have to; she’d make a very capable leader in the South and a superb candidate for Taoiseach. As for leadership of SF, at the moment Gerry is the only man that can lead the party.

    If they need a new candidate for FM/DFM in the North, I don’t really see a problem. It’s not the most prominent role in the SF worldview, all they really need is a caretaker. Conor Murphy gets mentioned a lot in this context, but perhaps Declan Kearney would also be an option. Or perhaps Martin O’Muilleoir – fighting the DUP on financial grounds, in a campaign fronted by the current Finance Minister, could be a clever move.

    In any case MMG has provided us with years of good leadership and service and his calibre stands above pretty much any other MLA that has ever stood in the new NI Assembly.

  • Jag

    It’s a “rare heart condition” Mick, (according to Tommy Gorman on RTE TV news). Don’t know what it is, but a bypass for example can involve the crushing of the chest and would take the wind out of Hercules for a few weeks. But people bounce back from heart issues and these days, ultimately, transplants, bypasses and stents are no big deal.

    Don’t write Martin off.

  • NotNowJohnny

    It should not merely be a question of an Irish Language act and Gay Rights. There needs to be a recognition that there are other views and these views need to be respected and therefore it is no longer acceptable to exercise power in a manner which inhibits the legitimate rights and freedoms of others irrespective of your political or religious viewpoint. There also needs to be a recognition that there is more to a successful Northern Ireland than building a successful economy and delivering effective health and education systems (which is often the view of some unionists). I believe Sinn Fein was wrong to concede the abolition of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. It is notable that the departments for economy, agriculture, health and education survived the departments cull pretty much intact while important other functions such as culture, heritage and rural development were swallowed up by larger departments (all now run by DUP ministers incidentally). As part of any future deal Irish Natuonalists should insist on the reestablishment of a ministry with responsibility for a range of functions including the Irish language, culture, heritage and north/south co operation.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Tommy Gorman could be wrong.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Political unionism needs to wake up and smell the coffee. I genuinely hope that the UUP can break away from the awfulness that is the DUP and start engaging with the Irish language community.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Does he not carry too much baggage?

  • mickfealty

    Well, I hope he recovers. But I also think the party rhetoric has a certain valedictorian tone to it. He’s never been other than decent to me.

    Time surely time to trigger a renewal? Younger leader, who listens to his younger reps and can bring actionable ideas to the table would be a decent upgrade.

  • mickfealty

    He has credit with the IRA. Unrealistic for any SF leader in NI to proceed without that.

  • RWP

    I hadn’t seen that video until just now. Whilst it’s uncomfortable viewing seeing someone looking so ill, and shocking to see the usually robustly healthy-looking MMcG in such a state, I wouldn’t be honest if I said that I feel less sympathy for him, given his earlier history, than I would for most people with a health problem like that.

    That said, he does deserve a lot of credit for (eventually) making the correct judgement that the “armed struggle” was a blind alley and for bringing republicans in from the cold. As with Paisley, a lot of the praise will be tempered with the knowledge that he helped drag NI out of a terrible situation that he helped cause.

  • Granni Trixie

    And he doesn’t have the moral authority to demand that AF stand down given his own recent past.

  • hotdogx

    Mick, at a guess I’d say he might be the most popular politician in Northern Ireland by first preference. He’s been there longer than anyone and has worked with many. The DUP is incapable of power-sharing as it is today. I’m worried too about what could happen without his leadership. They gave the man nothing to work with, he has the patience of a saint and he couldn’t bring his grassroots any further and understandably so.
    He’s a gentleman and I hope he gets well

  • Old Mortality

    Spending on ‘culture’ with other people’s money should end.

  • Backbencher

    Mick – That comment just about sums up the problem with our system of government – effectively, you can’t have a government unless the IRA are kept happy.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Just the right amount

  • file

    You do know that Sinn Féin have the option – as do all parties with sufficient MLAs – to refuse to take up seats in the executive and to this be in opposition?

  • Teddybear

    Mary Lou & Peirce are the Prince Charles off Sinn Fein. Once the young hungry heirs, they’ve just grown older and older as their king refuses to leave the stage. What were bright future hopes look rather shop worn & jaded

  • NotNowJohnny

    That’s merely a statement and an unsupported one at that. What about spending on the Irish language? Or Sporting events? Or the Ulster orchestra? Or festivals? Or the Lyric Theatre? And who are these ‘other people’ whose money it is? I’m interested in where you are coming from.

  • J D

    The PIRA no longer exists.

  • Teddybear

    What IRA has he credit with? I thought they don’t exist anymore or do you know something we don’t?

  • Teddybear

    Shame he wasn’t as decent to those who deaths were ordered by him.

  • ted hagan

    Well said Mick, well said.

  • ted hagan

    Forgive me if this is insensitive, but I would put that it terms of soldiers fighting for a cause that they felt to be right, and, like most soldiers, are left with pain and regrets.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    This argument is nonsense. Mary lou is closer to and knows more Shinners in Antrim than she does in Cork. Its a one nation party. So the crowning of a new leader is no more an issue for supporters and voters of SF than it would be for any other party. The regionally assembly in the North is just a political extension of the rest of the island in the minds of Republicans.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    And Marty does?

  • North Down

    I was told it was something to do with his brain

  • Teddybear

    Self appointed murderers

  • mickfealty

    And the half million Caral took from bands? The zero sum of this coalition is both dismal and profoundly unproductive.

  • mickfealty

    That would be a logical out working of the last few days, certainly.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m not sure what the question is here.

  • Gopher

    Please tell me what an Irish language act is, what it actually does and what budget you want for it.

  • Karl

    If only you had a copy of the internet, you could look it up. Foiled at every turn.

  • Granni Trixie

    It is one thing to,have a ‘past’ but I am referring to what we know about Murphy in the relative present when he was a Minister Found guilty of discriminating by a Tribunal and which awarded compensation to the Protestant who lost out. It was not at all on the same scale as RHI but does undermine his authority in demands from the DUP re RHI. O forgot. Sf were not seeking the kind of enquiry neeeded to hold DUP to account…they proposed a watered down version. Now we might not have any.

  • Gopher

    So you cant say what it is?

  • Karl

    Google returns this as the first item
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/irish-language-act-stormont-business-would-be-translated-and-courts-heard-in-irish-30980190.html
    after 0.43 seconds, but I appreciate youre busy.
    Im sure to get more information you could look up the GFA, the St Andrews agreement and viewpoints from differing sides with similar searches.
    I believe the Act has been agreed in principle during a number of tortuous negotiations but that proposals still have to be put forward and agreed before the Act is passed and thats where the DUP have been putting the kybosh on it. So there is no definitive Act, and therefore no scope and therefore no budget.
    If you need anything else looked up, please let me know.

  • Gopher

    I dont believe something of the scope of Wales is possible given the difference in the number of speakers. What realistically is the Irish Language act you want.

  • RWP

    I didn’t know that, actually. I thought that any executive had to have the two largest parties of either denomination occupying the FM/dFM slots.

    If you’re right (and I do not doubt you), does this mean either
    a) the DUP could be the sole executive party, either filling the dFM slot or leaving it vacant, or
    b) the SDLP would be entitled/mandated to take up the dFM role in the executive?

    Thanks!

  • Karl

    Id be happy if it was officially not only recognised but embraced and encouraged. Guarantees to educate through Irish, provision for Irish place names, provision for recognised gaeltacht areas and generally less shitiness towards it would be enough for me. Difficult to legislate the last part.
    Im ambivelent about use of Irish in the courts and engaging state services because the cost outweighs the benefit but believe that public facing documentation should be provided as gaeilge on request.
    Having said that, Im not a gaelgeoir so my opinion is not reflective of possibly the wider movement.

  • file

    I have no idea, but I do not see how the ability to refuse seats in the executive could be allowed for some parties but not for others.

  • RWP

    Well I assumed that it would be the same as the current situation. SF has pulled out of the joint authority, so there is no authority. On that basis, you would think that the executive could only be re-started with the dFM role re-filled by a nationalist designation party.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Myself also. I know of some decent people with progressive instincts in the UUP who could lead such a move, not that I’m in agreement with them on many issues, but they can at least suggest the shape that pluralist politics might just take here.

  • file

    I had a look at the legislation. After an election, nothing else can happen UNTIL a First Minister and a deputy First Minister have taken up office. Now it says that the biggest and second biggest parties have to nominate to these positions. It further says that IF the people nominated do NOT take up the positions within a specified time, the nomination process will be run again. HOWEVER, it does not say that the process will be run again by asking, for example, the third biggest party to nominate to one of the positions.
    SO I dunno, and I have no information that going into opposition is even a part of Sinn Féin strategy. It is just what I would do as I think that a party which is meant to be a bit revolutionary should find its natural place in opposition rather than in government. Also it is ‘cleaner’ to work for the disintegration of the statelet from the opposition benches rather than from the government benches.
    We wait to see …

  • SeaanUiNeill

    With beaches that run a close second with Iceland’s for holiday temperature friendliness one of the few “products” we have to offer tourism is our culture, as that excellent report from the mid 2000s clearly noted. Pity no one in power appeared to actually read it. If you sit in the cafe of An Chultúrlann on the Falls during the summer afternoon it is instructive to watch just how many tourists one encounters! Spending money to attract other money on this issue of culture is at least productive, unlike much else where money is, (wait for it), simply “burnt” to no serious end…..

    You may not like Irish Culture as a party political default, OM, but an older generation of Irish Unionists had no problems with it and seemingly the rest of the world agrees with them! Who knows, they might even get a whiff of the Weaver Poets and visit Ballycarry for Jimmy Orr’s recently renovated monument!

    http://www.larnetimes.co.uk/news/memorial-to-bard-of-ballycarry-restored-1-6089702

  • SeaanUiNeill

    This is how I’d understood the situation. If SF refuses to go into government with the DUP, stalemate! After the comments of “status quo” I don’t see how the can without loosing their credibility (did I just say “credibility”?)

  • RWP

    The above matches my understanding. I am happy to be stood corrected but I believe that unless the two largest parties of each designation (almost certainly the DUP and SF after the next election) both nominate a candidate for the OFMDFM, the deadlock continues and an executive cannot be formed. So (unless I am wrong), sooner or later SF will have to return to the table if they want the executive restored. Expect a new torturous negotiation to provide some political cover for this.

    You are right that the law doesn’t provide for, say the SDLP to have the option of stepping in as the next-largest nationalist designation party if SF do not exercise their option of nominating the DFM…..perhaps this is classic Blairite peace process creative ambiguity, or just that no constitution can provide for every event under the sun.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Its not relative present, its also in the past. He denies ever intentionally discriminating.

  • Granni Trixie

    But the judge did not believe him.
    Note that Employment discrimination was one of the grievances leadIng to the conflict in Ni. Don’t think Unionist government intended that outcome either.

    Look, he may end up leader of Sf…so be it. Just giving a reason why he starts off with th job of convincing people he is fair minded …bit like the repair work Arlene would have to do should she continue.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    If he had a proven pattern of discrimination i could understand your view, but he doesnt.

  • grumpy oul man

    While the IRA dont exist as a army anymore the people who made up its membership would(this is a assumption since i am not a Shinner or privy to the inner circle) make up a powerfull group with a lot of influence inside the party.

  • grumpy oul man

    I suspect a lot more than his party will miss him.
    Its hard to see any other poltician n NI having the same calmness about them.
    Arlene and peter would have tried the patience of a saint but MMG kept a level head.