Bertie’s electoral dilemma?

Whatever you think of his views, Noel Whelan knows southern electoral politics like few other public commentators. He sees Ahern’s shutting out Sinn Fein from a future coalition with his party as recognition of an important electoral reality. Much as SF is growing in popularity, there’s a much larger section of the electorate that is antipathetic to them.

  • Keith M

    Whelan is bang on the money once again, SF/IRA have to go through the same decontamination period in this country as they do in Northern Ireland, before they can be considered acceptable coalition partners.

    Ahern knows that if he doesn’t put enough distance between FF and the provos, that FG, Labour and even the PDs will use the threat of a potential FF/SF coalition to scare the electorate into voting for an alternative government.

  • Henry94

    There is a slight problem with the tactic of refusing Sinn Fein a coalition role in advance of the election. It makes them a safe protest vote. You don’t have to worry too much about their policies.

  • Conor

    Who do people feel the need to add ‘IRA’ onto the words ‘Sinn Fein’ all the time. its very petty really. the party is called ‘Sinn Fein’.

  • Zach

    While Bertie refusing to go into coalition with SF is nothing new or special what is of interest is the fact that the reasoning has changed from association with terrorism to their marxist policies (though I hardly think unionists will pick up on this nuance). I don’t think this upsets SF’s plans for the Republic. What SF is hoping for is to become a member of the relevant opposition by picking up the votes from Labour and FF. There can be no doubt that while the Celtic Tiger is lauded by nationalists in the North and republicans in the South (who now include everbody and their mother if you believe the rhetoric) the fact remains that ROI has one of the largest income gaps in the world. SF is fishing in one end of the pool (I’ll let you guess which in end) while Bertie, McDowell and even Rabbitte are fishing (or whaling if you prefer) in the other.

    Although SF shouldn’t do too bad in the election I wouldn’t be expecting any break throughs in this election cycle. What should be of interest to the politicos is something along the lines of “Humespeak” in regards to the Republic. All those who scoffed at the 2005 SF economic policy would do well to read SF’s 1987 “A Scenario for Peace” to see that while SF can publish some laughable things (see also “2003 economic policy”) they are quick learners and are apt to surpass their teachers. In NI SF started adopting the language of the SDLP in the mid eighties to the extent where they were speaking it better than Hume himself and delivering a “Greener” SDLP which has led to the ultimate reversal of fortunes for SDLP to the point where they are regarded as “SF lite”. I would imagine that the 2005 economic policy was a step in this direction. The old rhetoric is being swept aside for a sleeker (yet still populist) vernacular. Just as SF became a Greener SDLP I think we can expect SF to morph into a Redder FF. I wouldn’t be holding my breath until you see the change occur but then again if one held their breath until they saw change come to Irish plotics they would have passed out long ago.

  • Joe

    As a southern voter I wouldn’t vote for a party unless it had ruled out going into coalition with SF – a movement which whips up unhealthy base emotions of the nationalism and socialist variety. But principally my objection to them is their association with and defence of their campaign of violence. Much of the violence could in no way be described as defensive. To take just three examples among thousands the Mountbatten and Edgar Graham murders and that of the Geoffrey Agate, the DuPont boss in Derry. To me and my friends its not a question of whataboutery. I don’t excuse the crimes of the loyalists or the British but they are not now seeking my vote and were not acting in my name. Its not good enough for SF to sanitize the campaign as “the armed struggle” or “conflict” or to see these “in context”. These acts were murder most foul committed in cold blood. The authors are unrepentant and are now seeking votes and influence in the ROI. It’s a question of basic values and morality to oppose them. Some might regard this as now trite but that’s how many people feel.

  • Henry94


    The main Dail parties FF and FG also emerged from the armed republican tradition as did the leader of the Labour Party.

    I assume you have some kind of personal statute of limititations which allows you to suppost them. So how long is it?

  • Joe

    My main point is that the murders I mentioned were wrong in themselves as were many others. Context does not make them right. A lot of people were put into early graves in our time by that type of logic and many widows and orphans created. There were non-violent alternatives. But the hard men turned their faces against the majortiy voices of moderation and insisted on their bloody campaign. These same hard men are now looking for votes in Dáil elections. As they do so I think of the many victims.

  • Henry94


    There were non-violent alternatives.

    There were. For everybody. Yet you don’t seem to give any credit to the political leadership of republicanism who convinced those who were on the violent path to opt for peaceful means. I think that is a considerable achievement.

    I would also give credit to those on the British side who realised they could not win a military victory either. And those in the south who outgrew the sterile politics on condemnation and faced up to their responsibilities.

  • joe

    If awful murders are committed in your name and on your behalf with which you disagree the right thing to do is to condemn them and dissociate yourself from them. To my mind that is not the sterile politics of condemnation. It is standing up for what is right and moral and rejecting that which is wrong. The sterility was elsewhere.

  • Ringo

    I’d agree with the main.


    The main Dail parties FF and FG also emerged from the armed republican tradition as did the leader of the Labour Party.

    Which had popular support in the Republic.

    SF on the other hand come from an armed republican conflict that didn’t attract popular support. Quite frankly I don’t see how I’d ever vote for any SF’er – certainly until the last of the generation who were active participants in the troubles were in their graves.

    Yet you don’t seem to give any credit to the political leadership of republicanism who convinced those who were on the violent path to opt for peaceful means. I think that is a considerable achievement.

    On balance it I don’t see how too much credit can be given to those that opened pandora’s box for closing it.

    outgrew the sterile politics on condemnation
    What was condemned was rightly condemned. Every one of the killings was wrong. The periods of complete disengagement by Dublin governments were those of the supposed Republican party, Lynch and most notably the Haughey, despite his ‘blood sacrifice’ rhetoric. Reyonld’s was clearly an exception. Compare that to Garret and even John Bruton. Engagement and condemnation were not related.

  • seedot

    The main Dail parties FF and FG also emerged from the armed republican tradition as did the leader of the Labour Party.

    Which had popular support in the Republic.

    How much support did the particular faction of armed republicanism that Pat Rabbitte crawled out of have?

    The armed republicans who entered the Dail in 1927 were not supported by a majority until they had moved away from armed struggle.

    So, in addition to the statute of limitations (everybody dead) there seems to be some, non-majority, level of support that legitimises groups. But who can honestly say the Officials had more support than the provos do today?

  • Ringo

    How much support did the particular faction of armed republicanism that Pat Rabbitte crawled out of have?

    Fair point. I had forgotten about the merger.
    That said, the have no track record (De Rossa excepted) – Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte with guns?

  • Joe

    Attempts to taint Rabbitte and co will not convince as he is implacably opposed to political violence and always was as far as can be discerned. He and his colleagues left the Workers Party in the early 1990’s because of suggestions that remnants of the Official IRA still existed. The Workers Party had evolved into a constitutional socialist party from the previous official Sinn Fein. It might have been unwise for constitutional leftists to have been in there in the first place until all and any ambiguity was removed but at least they made the break eventually. Finally Rabbitte is an upright man and a straight talker – he never “crawled out” of anything.

  • Brian Boru

    But Joe, how can we get the DUP to enter government with SF if we rule it out down here? Remember FF in 1932 and the Red Scare campaign by Cosgrave? History repeats itself I believe.

  • fair_deal


    “(though I hardly think unionists will pick up on this nuance).”

    Could you try to be more condescending and insulting to Unionists the next time?

    I think you will find the first language of Unionists is English and can spot the difference between:
    “SF are a bunch of terrorists and criminals not fit for government in Eire”
    “SF are a bunch of economic marxists who will destroy the celtic tiger so cant be let into government”

  • Joe

    Brian it’s a valid point you make but I don’t believe the historical parallels are so clear. I’m not sure which red scare you mean or which Cosgrave. There was a subtle Lynch red scare in 1969 directed against Labour which is the only one I know about. It’s a different situation up north which is a proposal for a strictly limited regional Government. If SF and DUP both want regional Government up north they will find a way to achieve it but both must want it and find ways to compromise to do it. The stakes are very much higher in the south. Our first priority is the stability and well being of the ROI and I don’t believe it is partitionist to say that. There are important issues of principle involved as well as the wild economic policies. Too much can be made of the 1932 FF example – they had firmly split from the then IRA. The FF leaders were straight men compared to the current SF leaders who are full of provo-speak and are too tainted by the a campaign of violence which went on for too long, was too repulsive and was rejected by the Irish people at large and by the Irish State which had not existed prior to 1922. Listening to Adams and co and reading their literature for years I get no sense of any loyalty to it or sense of responsibility or ownership of this State – just contempt. This on top of all their terrorism which was times directly targeted at the State for example the wanton killing of Gardai and diplomats and bomb attacks on the courts. Their media outlets talk about “Dublin” and the” twenty six counties”. Our institutions are rubbished. When Aenghus Ó Snodaigh’s election agent was convicted by the courts recently his reaction was to rubbish the courts rather than accept any responsibility or offer any explanation – this from a TD! The SF embrace of the Palestinian, ETA, FARC and Castro causes are irresponsible self-indulgence. They still seem to want to bring about an anarchist ferment of some sort in which a 32 county entity will emerge with themselves in the driving seat. That is fraught with risks even if terrorism were not employed to bring it about. The ROI has a large reasonability to help the situation in the north and this it does all the time and has done for years. But the line should be drawn at admitting SF to Government here as an example to the DUP or for any other reason. I’d be wary of SF propaganda – the more can they can draw analogies between the PIRA and 1916 etc and between SF now and FF in 1932 the more it serves them and obscures their basic amorality.

  • George

    As another southerner, I’m with Joe and agree there is a huge Moby Dick group, outlined by Harris.

    SF have to do a Dev and break fully with the IRA and accept the will of the people.

    If they really believe in the Good Friday Agreement, then they must accept that it usurps the Second Dail mullarky trotted out to justify the IRA’s existence.

    The IRA have lost their “mandate”, even for militant Republicans. Or do all-Ireland votes of 95% south of the border and 66% north not constitute a mandate?

    Last time I looked in the Irish Constitution, there was still only one Oglaigh na hEireann and private armies were banned.

    SF have to come out and say the IRA have now (better late than never) no right to exist. They can argue that they exist because of certain conditions (threats to northern Catholics etc.) all they like.

    Until SF come out and accept this, then they will never get into power south of the border. It doesn’t matter if they win 20 seats in the next Dail.

    I predict even Fine Gael and Fianna Fail would go into power together to stop SF getting their hands on the reins of power.

    And the country would thank them for it.

  • Brian Boru

    Joe, by Red Scare I meant in the 1932 election campaign when W.T. Cosgrave regarding the campaign of hysterical witch-hunting against FF, including linking them with Communism and gun-men.

  • Ronald Binge


    Dear oh dear, wearing my pedants hat “Eire” is only correctly used in the Irish language, not English and is viewed as being patronising/used with snide intent (delete as appropriate) down here. “The Republic” offends relatively fewer people if a distinction must be drawn.

    Eoghan Harris is right. There is a hard core vote, of which I am part, that will vote all the way down the ballot paper and give their last preference or no preference at all to Sinn Fein.

    Now, much as it pains the Shinners to notice this, an awful lot of people worked hard over the last twenty years to bring the Irish economy into the place where it is. A hell of a lot of us either were over in Britain at the height of the “recession” in the eighties and early nineties and experienced first hand the fear and suspicion that simply being Irish created in our work colleagues and neighbours as a direct result of IRA actions.

    No amount of rhetoric or well-meaning speech making from Gerry Adams will change that.

    How much harder therefore will it be for Republicans to attempt to build up sufficent trust with Unionists in order to create the necessary environment for a united Ireland to happen?

    No amount of “persuasion” by the governments will force anyone to trust people who are blamed rightly or wrongly for the deaths of loved ones. If Sinn Fein want to do the spadework for a united Ireland theres a few crucial tips they need before they have a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving power in Ireland.

    1. Drop the Left wing rhetoric about taxing the banks. It doesn’t wash at all down here. If the IFSC rolls up its tents and goes then we are all fecked down here.

    2. Publically acknowledge that if the IRA killed or injure someone’s family member, no matter how “justified” you see the “struggle” you might as well hiss in the wind for that family member’s vote.

    3. “Building an Ireland of equals” works both ways. Northern Catholics are not the most oppressed people ever and there are a hell of a lot of people in the North who never materially benefitted from partition and surprise, are not Catholics. The richest Gombeen men in the south are not Blueshirt b*stards either.

    There’s a hell of a lot more but I couldn’t be bothered.