Where is it all going to end?

Well, the news flows are buzzing and they all seem to scent political blood – namely that of Sinn Fein. We’re not sure the animal is quite badly wounded as the majority seems to think. Mairtin O’Muilleoir on Morning Ireland this morning was convinced that Sinn Fein and the IRA were made of stronger stuff (sound file).

No doubt that’s true in the heartland, and amongst the core of workers that have driven the party forward with a work ethic that would put the average protestant to shame. But everywhere else that support is being shaken rather than stirred. The movement would have find a very powerful silver bullet capable of putting several rather nasty genies back in their bottles.

Fear of some kind of return to a violent offensive is uppermost in many minds. In the last 24 hours, Slugger has spoken to three people from very different political backgrounds who accept there will be no return to war as such, but still fear the IRA will find some way to punish what it considers its illtreatment in the press and media.

At this point nothing major is expected before the election results. Before the controversy, Sinn Fein was expected to walk home. Now things are a little more difficult to call. Eddie McGrady’s workers feel their man has a hard task against Catriona Ruane, but will now probably keep his South Down seat.

In Derry, Mark Durkan may now be in a position to start hooking back those Hume nationalists who had been contemplating the Sinn Fein Chair Mitchel McLaughlin as a natural successor to their local hero. It is doubtful whether his performance on Questions and Answers will have damaged him anywhere near as much as the current impression of his party as unwilling to deliver the original Hume deal.

A interesting fight may be on the cards in South Belfast. If Alex Maskey (who worked hard in his year as Lord Mayor of Belfast to break down barriers with unionists) runs he may find himself dogged by a series of questions over his stance on the rioting in the Markets in the immediate aftermath of the McCartney killing. McDonnell will not pull his punches.

For now, Adams and McGuinness look safe. Conor Murphy (who SDLPers claim has gone to ground since this crisis began) also looks too far ahead at this stage to be caught, as does Pat Doherty in West Tyrone. Michelle Gildernew’s fate probably lies with whether the Unionist party can make up and mend fences rather than on the strength of a resurgent SDLP.

For now, there is no telling what lies in wait for the Republican movement around the corner. Two months ago the SDLP looked as if it might be swept clean from the House of Commons altogether. It seems to be slowly clawing its way back into political life.

If things remain as they are, then Sinn Fein will be thankful to have ridden out yet another political storm. But if this atrocious PR continues, it would be a foolish punter who would bet against another one or two of those seats moving from solid to vulnerable.

And if there is some kind of political upset, all attention will inevitably turn to the reaction of the IRA!

  • peteb

    That would be an example of the royal ‘we’, Mick. 😉

  • Cahal

    And guess what will happen to the SF vote if they are excluded from the assembly ( – what assembly?)

  • Christopher Stalford

    I wish you were right Mick, but I don’t think so.
    In Pottinger the Provo’s may well lose a couple of hundred votes (with the erstwhile Deputy Mayor not a candidate this might cost them their seat), but I really can’t see Newry & Armagh staying in the SDLP Column on the day of the election count.

    McGrady will hold – but this doesn’t solve the long term problem as to how the SDLP holds the seat in five years time when he steps down. Ruane vs. Ritchie – I know were my money would be.

    Durkan will start as the favourite in Foyle and will probably hold it with a majority circa. 2000 votes. But the other Provo seats are fairly safe. Mid Ulster, West Belfast, and thanks to the Ulster Unionists, Fermanagh and South Tyrone will all stay Sinn Fein.


    One final thought: if the Provos could get a savoury character like Sean Hayes elected in Laganbank in 1997, I don’t see Maskey sweating it too much.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    it would do to go out onto the streets rather that talk to other politicos who no doubt have their own biases to get across.

    Where is the evidence that SF support is shaken? Read the Indo or the Tele and of course you will get that, as you always will do.

    The new found SDLP confidence is due to Durkan shouting in a few television interviewers and appearing macho.

    I don’t know of a foolish punter but it would be a totally idiot who would declare any of the seats (other that Gildernews) as vulnerable, any time in the future.

    To a greater or lesser extent all areas have seen incidents like that in the Strand. It is local.

    As for the Northern, i’ve been in some non Sf’er houses and the sight of Mc Dowell on Tv even has the dof barking.

  • Keith M

    I happen to agree with Pat McL and Mr.O’Muilleoir with regard to Northern Ireland. While the IRA’s terrorist campaign was carrying out attrocities like Enniskillen and Warrington, SF were regularly scoring over 11% at the polls in Northern Ireland. Are people who voted SF/IRA when they were regularly carrying out cold blooded murders now going to bauk over a bank raid and ancillary criminality? Add to that SF/IRA take take over three quarters of the under 30 nationalist vote. These are people who have never voted SDLP, and are never likely to.

    My predictions for the May elections are on record here. I have always thought that Murphy was unstoppable in Newry & Armagh especially given the threadbare field running against him. I have always maintained that McGrady’s personal votes will mean the SDLP holds South Down, and his recent comments distancing himself from the party’s lily livered Foyle contingent can do him nothing but good.

    Foyle itself is close. McLaughlin is also laying low. There’s speculation of a tricky medical procedure to cure his foot in mouth disease. Durkan won’t so much win here as SF/IRA lose.

    Adams and McGuinness are indeed safe, which leaves F/ST, where unionist bloody mindedness (from both sides) could allow Gildernew to hold. It is too obvious to state that a deal on F-ST and South Belfast would give both the UUP and the DUP a seat that they may otherwise not win?

  • jonty

    Just noticed a mistake in chris stalfords post, it is because of the DUP that Michelle Gildernew took FST and it will be their continued egotripthat will allow the shinners to keep it.

    Remember DUPs public stance onFST in 2001 was better the shinners win it than the UUP.

  • James

    Rather, when is this thing going to start?

    There is a lack of urgency here that I find disquieting.

    What does it take to get these cops off their asses? The FBI would have been in Dublin yesterday.

    If people acted more like there was a “there” there I would feel less like I was being scammed.

  • Jacko

    Yeah James. But then you have Superman and Batman working for you guys as well.

  • Mick Fealty


    “…it would do to go out onto the streets rather that talk to other politicos who no doubt have their own biases to get across”.

    Fair point Pat. There have to be some limits to the observational powers of the Slugmeister General. Although I don’t think I’ve been unfair to the party in my analysis.

    I certainly don’t believe the core vote has been shaken. But they are not the battleground.

    I accept that Derry is a special case. But personally I had it in the Sinn Fein column before this all started. Sinn Fein now has the uphill (but not impossible) fight to wrest it from the SDLP, rather than the other way round as it seemed before Christmas.

    These are the voters who’ve been shaken.

    I don’t believe that if the party can stablise the current crisis, that any other seats are vulnerable. Where I think you are profoundly wrong is that an SDLP recovery is somehow:

    “…due to Durkan shouting in a few television interviewers and appearing macho”.

    I also hope that’s not the general view inside the party – otherwise it’s in bigger trouble than it already appears. The trouble in the Short Strand is local. And it may be that the Party has done enough to keep a further feeding frenzy at bay. But it has gone global. And promises have been made.

    Neither Sinn Fein, nor the IRA, can afford many more of these crises. And, as Robin points out in the Guardian today, it really cannot afford to continue handling them as badly as it has McCartney’s killing.

    That is not simply a matter of PR. It’s also a matter of being seen to deliver on the public promises it has made to help ensure the sisters get justice for the killing of their brother.

    Note: I probably can’t reply for a while. I’m travelling over much of the rest of the weekend.