If we cannot support Sinn Fein, then who?

Malachi O’Doherty believes the real dilemma facing Northern Irish Nationalists is not whether to vote Sinn Fein or not but rather if not them, then who else?

We may be fortunate enough to escape a resumption of violence though we can’t be sure of that either. But if it is true that the IRA has amassed hundreds of millions of pounds, has built up a substate Stasi which is spying on us and if government and business are getting nervous of people from Catholic areas who might be IRA sleepers or agents, then maybe the children would have a better chance abroad.

Besides, if the IRA is a criminal empire operating in secret, who knows what hidden dangers there are? This [notional nationalist] family will have voted for Sinn Fein because it believed the Provisional movement had leadership which wanted to stabilise life here and make it secure and prosperous.

John Hume first told them that Gerry Adams was a man they could do business with. Now they very much doubt that. If that is a fair analysis of why votes shifted from the SDLP to Sinn Fein then the logic of it is that many of those votes will now desert Sinn Fein.

But where will they go? The SDLP would like to have them back but the SDLP is still committed to the failed Hume project and arguing for the inclusion of Sinn Fein in a devolved assembly and on the Policing Board.

  • Young Irelander

    Who?Ideally,a party of FF/SDLP.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    Yeah, I think it’s inevitable now that Fianna Fáil will have to organise in the north “for the sake of the childer”. Such a move could possibly drag Labour and Fine Gael along in their wake. And at that point it’s all over bar the gurning.

  • maca

    Have FF been planning/considering a move North?

  • Rebecca Black

    I heard that Fianna Fail would not contest elections in the north because that would mean the possibility that they would have to sit in government with Sinn Fein and they are not prepared to do that.

    They are quite happy to preach to parties up north but they are not willing to muck in and get their hands dirty.

  • PaddyCanuck

    Is Malachi using th royal we? When did he ever support Sinn Fein?

  • George

    The votes won’t go anywhere because nobody seems to want them.

    The SDLP vote is imploding and only Sinn Fein are in there mopping up what they can so why on earth will anyone come in to try mop up any disillusioned Sinn Fein voters – a much stickier puddle.

    The pressure coming from northern nationalists on Sinn Fein is coming because they feel they represent them and they feel they are letting them down over the McCartney murder in particular.

    They will learn in the next two months as the elections approach that while there are many politicians who want to berate the party and people that represent them, there are very view if any willing to do the work necessary to replace Sinn Fein.

    That is the core problem of all this. You can’t stop Sinn Fein unless you offer the people an alternative. There is none in Northern Ireland and there won’t be for the forseeable future.

    Fianna Fail won’t go north in the interests of northern nationalists, it will only go there in the interests of retaining power in the Irish Republic.

    There is no need at the moment and anyway the easier option is to work to get Sinn Fein to become the northern branch of FF.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    maca: There’s already an “unoffical” FF cumann in Derry, and the FF Ard Fheis a year or two back passed a motion calling on the Bert to get the finger out. I think it’s only a matter of time myself. Depends on how the election in May goes I suppose.

    If the SDLP collapse but SF remain static that means there’s a lot of abstainers that FF could pick up. If the SDLP revive somewhat, then they become a viable prospect for an SDLP/FF merger. And if SF continue to gain, then FF can claim they’re moving in “in the national interest” in order to “provide an alternative”.

    Rebecca: your argument would have some validity if there was a northern administration to share power in…

  • Rebecca Black

    yes Ciaran, I know theres no northern administration, thats why I said

    “that would mean the possibility that they would have to sit in government with Sinn Fein and they are not prepared to do that.”

    However I tend to be of the optimistic variety in that I think the assembly will eventually get back up and running.

  • Young Fogey

    I still can’t see this Northern FF stuff flying, anymore that the British Conservative Party got anywhere. There’s no real reason to vote for the Failers unless that’s where your roots are, and nobody in the North has roots in FF.

    I think George is right when he says no-one will pick up disillusioned SF voters. Some will go back to the SDLP, especially the middle-class ones, some will bite their lip and vote for the Shinners again anyway, and a lot of them will stay at home until the Shinners can convinced them they really are for real.

  • AW

    Initially SF will loss gradually, a seat in Coleraine one in Newry perhaps two in Belfast and one in Armagh and so on. It will be a blip and they will not be overly concerned, a reverse due to exceptional times. A few independent types will gain but that will be the start of their decline for once this edifice starts to come apart it will happen with alarming speed.

    I cannot see the SDLP filling the vacuum. The future of republicanism is up for grabs. FF organising in the north possibly, Labour or Greens who knows but it is unlikely to remain as one monolith.

    Have SF peaked their fate is in their own hands

  • Tom Griffin

    There was an interesting comment by Martin Mansergh in the Irish Times in January.

    “perhaps a different republicanism needs to be brought together, one with wide appeal and less baggage, and more closely associated with the much denigrated but far the most successful part of the whole republican project, the independent State to the south.”

    Both Fianna Fail and Labour now accept members in the north. I wonder whether that might not take on a momentum of its own if the SDLP do badly in the Westminster elections.

  • mickhall

    Neither the Irish nor British Labour Party’s will organise in the north so long as the SDLP represents that area in the Second International. There is a third option, if PIRA stands down there is no reason to believe SF rise there will not continue.

  • Tom Griffin

    I agree SF’s rise may well could continue, but I think that from a nationalist point of view there is a case for multiple parties competing on an all Ireland basis.
    It means northern voters having the opportunity to participate in a functioning democratic competition.
    The counter-argument, made by Brian Feeney recently, is that northern nationalists should stay out of southern politics to avoid divisions.
    SF’s intervention in the Republic has pretty much made this academic.

  • Hector

    Fianna Fail will not merge with the SDLP or move north in any real capacity. Why? Because a united Ireland is not in their interest.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Because a united Ireland is not in their interest.”

    How so?

  • James

    “Because a united Ireland is not in their interest.”

    “How so?”

    A 12% tax increase per 3 billion of current subvention.

    399,000 voters who make Fine Gael seem like the Red Menace, 175,000 Shinners who would delight in shafting them as opposed to 170,000 stoopies who remember that the Soldiers of Destiny have deserted them at least once.

    Think of a mob villagers at the gates of the manor with pitchforks, torches and a rope.

    That’s the sugar coated version.

  • levitas

    The notion that SF wanted to “seize power” a la some kind of Munich putsch is so laughable that it says more about those who believe it than those who are suggesting it . The likes of Jim Cusack are so widely discredited that,and speaking as a former journalist on a major Irish daily, former colleagues and friends fall around laughing when they hear the next most preposterous porky emanating from the fevered anti-republican sweat shop which is the Irish Independent these days, under the malign dictatorship of Sir Tony O’Reilly’s hand picked editors. Certain journos at the Indo are virtually under orders to turn up anti-shinner story a day-and many of them are heartily sick of it. As for SF support nose diving in the ROI don’t start counting your chickens anti-shinners…their base would be very cynical of the media and are astute enough to see and sense a witch-hunt when they see one. Also the Shinners are out most nights leafleting and meeting and greeting to reassure their core supporters.
    Also from what I have heard from a reliable source, focus groups employed by two Irish media corporations are registering boredom and increasing apathy about the anti-republican agenda being pursued by so many ROI publications, with comments such as “repetitive”….”same old stuff over and over” coming back…dispiriting for them also that the ubiquity of McDowell’s ugly bonce is widely believed to actually solidify wavering but instinctively pro-republican pro-GFA sentiment FF voters -the very group SF covet for transfers.

    Apparently Bertie’s spin doctors are aware of this and have cautioned laying off on the rhetoric somewhat-hence the marginal scaling down of the intensity in the last few days. What is affecting the shinners however is the Bert McCartney affair , and I gather that internally a huge head of steam is building up on this within SF too…I expect some developments on this with word of SF actually preparing for a “sensational initiative” in the autumn

  • aquifer

    “I heard that Fianna Fail would not contest elections in the north because that would mean the possibility that they would have to sit in government with Sinn Fein and they are not prepared to do that.”

    Good enough for the Onionists, but not for the Soldiers of Destiny? What a prissy platoon.

    Its the GFA, stupid. like it or lump it.

    Get the FF nomination papers in or apologise to the DUP and hand their statelet back.

  • IJP


    On the contrary, SF is quite clearly set for gains in relation to 2001.

    Its overall vote share may of course fall slightly compared to recent elections.


    Agreed entirely. I can’t see what’s in it for FF anyway.

    NI is about identity politics. That’s why there’s no room for FF, or the Tories, or the Greens.

  • JD

    What is affecting the shinners however is the Bert McCartney affair , and I gather that internally a huge head of steam is building up on this within SF too…I expect some developments on this with word of SF actually preparing for a “sensational initiative” in the autumn

    Care to give some details…?

  • Hector

    “Because a united Ireland is not in their interest.”

    Posted by: tyrone_taggart at March 2, 2005 06:52 PM
    How so?

    Because if you incorporated a large number of people who dont vote Fianna Fail into the electorate, Fianna Fail’s percentage of the electorate drops. That is not a prospect that people who’ve made a career in Fianna Fail will relish.
    And sorry James but it is that simple.

  • James

    “And sorry James but it is that simple.”

    Just exactly what is your MALFUNCTION Hector?

    That’s exactly what I told the kid.

    What do you conceivably have to be sorry about? Did English reading comprehension in the province drop below Albania? Is this some inner child malady or something about the Clearasil Generation that’s off adult radar?

    Keep you guilt feelings to yourself. Christalmighty, save me from the flagellants.

    Ball please James A.U

  • Christopher Stalford

    I’ve just finished a great book on Fianna Fail. Why the SDLP would want to align themselves with a party so corrupt that it produced and sustained Charles J Haughey for more than a decade is beyond me. What exactly would the SDLP get out of such a merger? More importantly what would the Fianna Failers gain from it?

  • Davros

    Come on Christopher – Haughey was a child of the time. Look at the parties on the mainland – Archer and Lord Gannex . Harry West ring any bells ?

  • Christopher Stalford

    The corruption of Archer pales into insignificance compared to Charlie Haughey. A cynical, rotten, greedy individual who managed to corrupt an entire political party through his actions.

    More disturbingly, his protege is now the current FF leader. As for Harry West – West was forced out of the cabinet at Stormont at the first hint of financial scandal, Finna Fail, knowing the nature of the beast, time and time again voted confidence in CJH.

    Not only is Haughey’s integrity questionable in regard to financial dealings, his behaviour towards political opponents and the press was way beyond the pale. The tapping of journalists telephone lines was an outrageous abuse of power.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Not to mention funnelling state funds to the Provisional IRA…

  • Rebecca Black

    Was that “Yes Taoiseach” by Frank Dunlop Christopher? If no, I’d recommend it, very interesting, written by a former FF worker.

  • Christopher Stalford


    No. It was “The Power Game: Fianna Fail since Lemass” by Stephen Collins. Very good read.

  • irishman

    IJP, you’re right about Sinn Fein being on the verge of even more significant gains in the locals and westminster. Anyone who doesn’t beleive that has not done their homework on this one.

    The two elections we’re facing in to were last contested in 2001, when Sinn Fein took just over 50% of the nationalist vote. Even on a dip from the Assembly and European elections, anything above this will register in the form of seat gains in both elections.

    Take Westminster for example. Does anyone believe nationalists in FS Tyrone, Mid-Ulster or W Tyrone are going to put at risk nationalist seats by splitting the vote? In Newry/ Armagh, the SDLP have already thrown in the towel. The only seats of interest as such will be Foyle and S Down, where unionists will probably swing behind the SDLP in small but significant enough numbers to render those results academic.

    At council level, SF are starting from such a low premise that gains on 2001 are a virtual certainty.

    Looks like Malachi et al are in for another frustrating day of election results…….