Rapid response to dissent in the ranks

The BBC are reporting that the Sinn Féin MLA for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy has been suspended from the party, pending a disciplinary hearing, for speaking out, on BBC radio earlier today, against the 7 super councils – as announced by Peter Hain today and officially endorsed by SF. Although the BBC note, in particular, his role as a councillor, Francie Molloy, MLA, is also the current SF Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, as well as previously holding the position of Chair of the Finance Committee in the devolved Assembly. Update Just heard Francie Molloy on UTV describing support for the 7 super councils as “endorsing gerrymandering”.

  • slug

    Strange to suspend someone over the rather small question of how many councils there should be.

    In the Labour and Conservative party, for instance, individual councillors would have very wide-ranging views on matters such as these, while MPs at Westminster would have differing opinions – and vioce them – on wars, education reforms, and so on.

  • ch in texas

    Slug, Strange to say the least. Blair couldn’t even whip his back bench to support him on the 90 day bill, much less control slight comments. Is SF a democratic party or what?

  • Wha

    How long did it take Sinn Fein to suspend no one knows exactly how many members or who over the disgrace that was the McCartney murder cover-up, yet they move so quickly on a radio utterance over the super councils? Priorities?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Smells strongly of ‘any excuse’.
    Why else might Francie have fallen from favour?
    (This is not a rhetorical question – possible explanations gratefully received.)

  • Dublin Shinner

    As a Sinn Fein member this is ridiclous if true and utterly unacceptable for a suspension for something as trivial as this and so quickly as well.

  • missfitz

    Have to say I heard Francie on the wireless this morning, and didnt pick up anything heretical in what he said. Nolan made quite a point of asking him if his views were contrary to party policy, and he agreed. You can listen at radio ulster, on the radio playback its about 10 minutes in to the show, just forward the player.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/mainframe.shtml?http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/ulster.shtml

  • irishman

    On UTV Live he accused those supporting the plan as endorsing gerrymandering. In those circumstances, the party had no choice but to discipline him.

  • Pete Baker

    the party had no choice but to discipline him.

    That’s an interesting response to criticism of the official party line.

  • missfitz

    irishman:

    why do you feel that his use of the term gerrymander neccesitated disciplinary action?

  • Everyone is entitled to their personal opinions and they are entitled to voice their opinions.

    That said, when you are an elected representative and you attack party policy and attack those who support party policy you can expect to be disciplined.

  • Wha

    Whereas if you are a party member and a candidate for local elections and you are witness to a murder you can only expect to probably be disciplined if maybe enough public pressure is made so the party has to be seen to be doing something but then you can expect that the discipline won’t be that bad and it won’t last that long and it won’t be made as public or at least not as starkly so, some confusion will surround it.

  • missfitz

    Well Chris, I dont know. Francie was clearly stating that as a member of NILGA, he had fought hard for 15 councils. I bleieve that many that this was the negotiating position, and that they hoped to make a deal and arrive at 15.

    I dont think membership of a political party should prohibit anyone from expressing their views and opinions, particularly when he was open about his rationale and the basis of his argument.

    It should be seen by any party as a healthy and robust discussion, and should not have been responded to with a knee jerk suspension

  • “I dont think membership of a political party should prohibit anyone from expressing their views and opinions”

    Neither do I but when you are an elected representative and you attack party policy and attack those who support party policy you can expect to be disciplined

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I think the use of the word “gerrymander” is the key detail here. It would be hard to overstate how emotive that word is to nationalists. Molloy went much further than criticise party policy here – his language was incendiary. Let’s imagine we’re a few months down the line and the DUP and SF have done the deal, the executive is going to be back up and running. Then a high-profile DUP assemblyman goes on Talkback and says the DUP leadership are “fellow-travellers with terrorists”.

    Do you think he’d face disciplinary action from the party?

    The G word has the kind of impact within nationalism that the T word does within unionism. So whatever the rights and wrongs of what Francie Molloy said, his political experience is such that he can’t have been in any doubt what the leadership’s response would be. That’s politics folks.

  • Shamo

    I think this issue is of greater signficance than Francie Molloy. What we are seeing here is the beginning of a process of attrition within SF. Post decomissioning, the level of discipline within the party is on the wane. The IRA is slowly fading and its controlling ethos will fade with it. SF members will begin to become more voiciferous and forthcoming in their criticisms. For any normal party, such an opposition as Francie has voiced would be par for the course (how many such outbursts are readily tolerated from FF, British Labour etc. backbenchers?), but for Sinn Féin, with its dogged style of democratic centralism (or benign dictatorship), such opposition from within is tantamount to treachery.

    Gerrymandering is not the same to SF as terrorism is to the DUP. For a start, how many SF activists know he meaning of the word? Personal experience would suggest to me that less than half would, and that’s from a supporter.

  • Adrian

    Just another sign of how the Shinners haven’t got the stomach for real politics. At least they won’t be shooting him for it – I find it difficult to see how they could trump this one up into endangering the life of a volunteer.

  • finn69

    i think francis molloy stepped out of line in a big way on this, nothing happens in NI for normal reasons, and saving money is a normal reason. this is not unconnected to hains speech regarding an all island economy. as security jobs disappear and now civil service jobs aswell, and also with quangos going so will the payroll for “community leaders”. the handouts from the “mainland” are drying up quickly, IF in the near future the only handouts on offer are from south of the border will unemployed unionists, particularily the young, prefer to go hungry or play ball with dublin. tis interesting to note the only party without a vested interest in maintaining this statelet are the only party in favour of these reforms. Molloy had to be rapped on the knuckles for rocking the boat.

  • irishman

    The decision to discipline Francie Molloy was correct. There is a place for debate and different views in Sinn Fein. But where the party must draw the line (in my opinion) is when a party representative goes out of his way to not only contradict the party publicly, but do so using inflammatory language.

    Shamo- I doubt a ‘supporter’ would insinuate that republicans were too stupid to know the meaning of gerrymandering, so your psot can not really be taken seriously.

    I find it heartening that so many enemies of republicanism are concerned with party discipline procedures. Personally, I would have thought you all would have had other things to b@@ch about- namely, how you are all in a state of apoplexy at the prospect of nationalists controlling 3 of the 7 new councils in the north.

  • shamo

    Whatever about the term gerrymandering, they certainly wouldn’t understand apoplexy. I think, Irishman, that your decision not to take my post “seriously” has more to do with self-denial and self-censorship than anything else. As does your curious suggestion that the word gerrymandering is “inflammatory” for a republican. “Terrorist”, yes; “Northern Ireland”, yes; “gerrymandering, no.
    John Kelly suffered a similar fate to Francie for his dissention. Many other republicans, who have since went the route of antagonism towards the RM, were also forced out by this Stalinist, censorious attitude.
    The reality is that senior republicans, including the Dog, have long privately boasted that, in his words, the RM is “not a democracy”. Discussion on party policy may be as adversarial and frank as you want at a comhairle cúige, but the votes are secretly marshalled by the organisation at every turn. There is a military rigour about this which was entirely necessary and admissable in a revolutionary movement fighting infiltrators, touts and agents. Quite simply, we had to be tight.
    However, in a new era of political development and change, there should be change from within as well as without. Vote-rigging happens in every party, as does control by a vanguard, but such oppressive, anti-republican, anti-democratic thought policing as currently pertains in SF is bordering on the paranoid. Adams would have voted for Bertie Ahern in the last Dáil and his social awaeness in many areas is less than admirable; he’s not God, and SF is not the Catholic Church.

  • TAFKABO

    Maybe they disciplined him because telling the truth is contrary to the spirit of the party?

  • if the Soldiers of Destiny can try and wear the Shinner colours then why can’t the Shinners use the FF mantra….”Uno duce, una voce”

  • Glen Taisiie

    During the election campaign I spoke to the eight North Antrim Sinn Fein Councillors and their other three council candidates I can confirm that not one of them supported the Super-7. I wonder will any be brave enough to go public and risk the fate of Francie

  • Alan2

    Funny that ALL the other parties proposed a 12-15 council model but only SF proposed a 7 model version yet the government has gone with the 7 model version which splits 3 Nationalist councils, 3 Unionist and Belfast is hung 50/50. Funny that……

    funny that ALL parties (SDLP, Alliance, UUP, DUP) are opposed to On The Run legislation except SF yet we have OTR legislation going through parliament. funny that….

  • yerman

    Just goes to show what ‘military’ discipline is like!

    While he criticised/attacked party policy, this was hardly on a vital issue for Sinn Fein or any other party. Everyone knows that the RPA is an issue where it was very hard for any party to get 100% agreement on what number of councils there should be and what powers they should have – individuals all have differing opinions and generally the parties tried to come to as best a compromise of these views as possible.

    Not the shinners of course – stray even minutely off the message and you’re gone. Is there anything deeper though? It seems a little harsh even for SF, maybe the ‘nutting squad’ have a little less work these days and need to keep their hand in some way or other with disciplinary action.

  • irishman

    Ahhh, Shamo, a bit of name-dropping does wonders for the reputation, doesn’t it?

    Still doesn’t take away from the substance of the matter.

    Francie was wrong to do what he did- and I believe he regrets it now. Incidentally, he has only been suspended; I certainly wouldn’t envisage him being expelled from the party.

    Republicans are acutely aware of the fact that we face a hostile media on a daily basis. This has always added to the belief that dirty laundry should only be aired in private.

    This is changing- which, in a sense, is a good thing. But parties must maintain discipline as well. We wouldn’t want to become the SDLP or UUP, where individuals publicly stab each other in the back and effortlessly contradict party line when it suits.

    Nor are we the DUP, which, according to media reports, doesn’t have any disciplinary procedures but rather takes its cue from the nod of Papa Doc.

    Sinn Fein is a rapidly expanding party, uniquely reaching into every part of Ireland. In that context, it is important to maintain a standard of party cohesion.

    Mock all you want, but it isn’t Sinn Fein which is facing legal action from a former MLA and the leader’s daughter, nor is it Sinn Fein that is having to dodge PR disasters like that of Maurice Mills.

    Methinks Gonzo’s party could do with some party cohesion, given the very public spat between their rather homophobic councillors in Lisburn and the party leader….

  • Shamo

    “comhairle cúige”

    There is no such structure within Sinn Féin; your “knowledge” is laughable.

    The structure goes

    1. Cumann
    2. Comhairle Ceantair
    3. Cúige
    4. Coiste Seasta
    5. Ard Chomhairle
    6. Ard Fheis

    Your analysis is as suspect as your knowledge!

  • TAFKABO

    Irishman.

    I rather think you miss the point of democracy, which is to argue and disagree without fear of retribution.

    Yes their is much to be admired about the shinner party machine and their ruthless efficiency, but given the choice, I’d opt for free voice any day.

  • Crateagus

    Am I the only one that likes parties with differences and colourful characters freely expressing their views? Real people with real views. Better than government by clones.

    This is not a trivial matter it is about the death of local democracy and efficient governance. Like most politicians here Molloy thinks the proposal naff, political commonality for once except for some in SF who are acting not for the good of NI but a very narrow perception of self interest.

    Who wants full time paid councillors, who wants a councillor in Dungannon making decisions about Belleek? What actual savings and what will be the cost of the disruption and reorganisation?

    Yet another poor decision either from direct rule Ministers who are not up to the job or are acting to deliberately provoke.

    Crateagus

  • Crateagus

    Am I the only one that likes parties with differences and colourful characters freely expressing their views? Real people with real views. Better than government by clones.

    This is not a trivial matter it is about the death of local democracy and efficient governance. Like most politicians here Molloy thinks the proposal naff, political commonality for once except for some in SF who are acting not for the good of NI but a very narrow perception of self interest.

    Who wants full time paid councillors, who wants a councillor in Dungannon making decisions about Belleek? What actual savings and what will be the cost of the disruption and reorganisation?

    Yet another poor decision either from direct rule Ministers who are not up to the job or are acting to deliberately provoke.

  • Equality for All

    This site is daily turning into an anti-SF forum. Is it any wonder that its dying on its feet!!

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    EFA,

    You wouldn’t be the first to note an apparent bias in Slugger’s output. We’ve been too Unionist, too Nationalist, too pro Sinn Fein. Take your pick.

    Personally, I’ve tried not to push any particular orthodoxy. Though the news flows largely dictate what our basic fare is. And that’s been resolutely anti-SF since the bank robbery. But, noticiably, not before that.

    I can’t ask anyone to manufacture good copy where none exists!

    It’s up to each individual blogger to ask questions as they see fit. The only thing I’ve asked each one to do is not to land me in court.

    Outside that, everything should be fair game.

    I’m hoping to have another Republican blogger on board soon. Indeed, without pushing any of our current voices out, I think we need to pull in a few more voices from around the spectrum – and allow some of our timers to retire to Alumnus status.

    If any of you are up for it, then drop me a line!

    As for dying on its feet, well the site will just have to take its chances. There’s growing community of quality Irish bloggers out there that just didn’t exist when we began. In time, that may exact a cost on Slugger, since people now have a choice of good blogging from around the political spectrum.

    But IMHO that’s a price worth paying to have real choice and real diversity. As Mao once said: “let a thousand flowers bloom!”

    Mick

  • The Devil

    Though very strange at the lightening speed that the Adamsites (not to be confused with armalites)can move when a party member utters anything that even remotely differs from Whitehalls thinktank.

    If Francie Molloy had made his comments in the Sri Lanken pig and chicken gazette Adams would have know all about it 10 minutes after it hit the streets.

  • The Devil

    why was that last post censored,

    it was not libelous and has been reported on mainstream media, hell it was on skynews last night and in the Sunday Tribune

    it was sourced from reputable people

    so why the censorship, or has Mitchell McLoughlin taken control of Slugger now too

  • The Devil

    P:S

    And i tought the Shinners moved quick

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    I had to make a call. Without links I had to go on recollection. It seemed to me you’d gone further than the Tribune piece. Can’t speak for the Sky report.

  • TAFKABO

    I hope that Slugger will not be fooled by the subtle attempts at censorship through “crying foul”
    It was bad enough when the excellent Nuzhound was harrassed into removing some stories.

    If republicans want to challenge anything, they are big and ugly enough to do it with counter arguments.

  • The Devil

    Slugger Admin,

    I accept your point that you had to make a call, okay it was the wrong one and we all accept that too…..

    I went through the rubbish bin for Sundays paper and I have in no way went further than the Tribune article… I have not even went anywhere near as hard hitting as it was.

    Hell the I.M.C are investigating it for christ sake….

    THE DERRY WOMENS CENTRE
    THE RAPE CRISIS CENTRE
    THE SUNDAY TRIBUNE
    SKY NEWS
    THE I.M.C

    Now I don’t know about you but that looks like a whole lotta people in the picture to me, with reputations to worry about to get it wrong.

    So can you replace my original post please or are you diliberately censoring because you don’t like the message

  • Dualta

    irishman,
    This isn’t washing dirty laundry in public, it’s a basic policy issue and a normal political discourse around it. Suspending the man is over the top, truly.

    It suggests to me that the leadership is not so firm on its policy ground when it’s behaving like this.

  • Adrian

    irishman, how true. No PR disasters. But 3,000 people were unavailable for comment.

  • George

    Just a thought. Would this have happened if a southern Sinn Feiner stepped out of line in a similar way I wonder?

    I believe Christy Burke went to jail over non-payment of bin taxes while Sinn Fein councillor Mark Daly called for bin taxes to be paid and Don McManus is rumoured to have voted with Fianna Fail in Sligo to bring them in so he could become mayor.

    I have never heard of a southern councillor being rapped on the knuckles by the party.

    Donncha O Seaghdha wasn’t suspended for picketing the home of a journalist – Eoghan Harris.

  • Shamo

    Agreed, Irishman, that republicans must be clever vis a vis the media, and airing “dirty laundry” is rarely a good thing. But Molloy’s point was not dirty laundry.

    Also, we must be aware of the implications of such insularity and paranoia. Look at the Short Strand, where a party MLA candidate and a councillor, both astute young women, nevertheless lied through their teeth (and were caught out) because of their adherence to some unwritten, knee-jeck code of silence. The balloons who killed Robert McCartney were up to no good for years, but were tolerated because of a desire not to air dirty laundry.

    You may laugh, but many good people have been lost because of the censorship within the party – forced out and now vocal critics. Wasn’t it the leadership who ironically told people not to mention dead martyrs at the 1998 Árd Fheis speeches on GFA, because it might be “emotive”. This is what Adams calls his “stewardship” of the Peace Process.

  • shamo

    Re: Comhairle ceantair – you’re right, but you’re probably a newbie, as the comhairle cúige was part of old structure, prior to changes, I think, around 2001??? Anyway pedantic and sad.

  • “Re: Comhairle ceantair – you’re right, but you’re probably a newbie, as the comhairle cúige was part of old structure, prior to changes, I think, around 2001???”

    I have been in the party for 6 years

    You present a weak and flawed argument when you get such elementary facts wrong!

    “Anyway pedantic and sad”

    If you can’t even get the basics right then it’s hardly my fault

  • shamo

    The “basics”, my friend, are your principles, ideals and strategies; the superfluities are the names of party structures and the means of securing self advancement to political office with which so many newer members seem so obsessed.

    Maybe you should stick to telling us more “basics” like Martin McGuinness’s favourite colour or what colour the paint is in Sevastopool Street.

  • Mickhall

    Is this the first time an Irish-republican has been disciplined by a party claiming to be Republican for opposing British policy in Ireland. How fast the wheel turns. [sorry Chris, just could not resist it]

    If SF does not wish the media to exploit party differences, then the leadership should not make stupid decisions which gives the media the opportunity to do so. Molloys statement would have been yesterdays news, only after suspending him did the leadership make it a contentious issue of interest to the wider media.

    If Molloy should not have said what he said, what should he have done, buried his head in the sand or worse lied and made out he supports Hains policy. Christ the Shinners are correctly saying one moment we need a new type of politics, more democratic and open and then they revert to what amounts to democratic centralism.

    Sure you have to have party discipline when it comes to getting legislation through Parliament or the local Council, but what Mr Molloy commented on is not even law yet is it. He might even win a Majority of his party over to his way of thinking, although I doubt it. however unless he can speak his mind how is he to gain support, what is a SF member supposed to do when they have a difference with Party policy or leadership statements.(was 7-Councils Party policy?)

    I would make a prediction, within the PRM there are people who are of the left and right and members who are some-where in between. What has kept them as a cohesive unit is as shamo has said been due to their ‘military’ discipline, which came about due to the nature of the struggle part of the PRM movement was involved in. Those days are now over, thus with such a diverse collection of political viewpoints within the party, there will inevitably be political differences arising. Much the same as happens in most social democratic political party’s or even conservative party’s of the broad church type. If the SF Party does not come to terms as to how they manage these differences politically and not as happened with Mr Molloy, by using bureaucratic means, then one of two things will happen. SF will either implode or it will become a plaything of reactionary leadership clique’s.
    It is well worth remembering that to-date, those Republicans who have left SF in recent years, did so as they felt no other avenue was open to them within the party if they were to keep their often dearly held political principles..

    I recognize that SF is going through a learning curb at all levels of the Party, so mistakes are bound to happen, but perhaps the old turkish saying about never trust a man who when problems arise, seeks to punish.

    Best regards to all.

  • shamo

    Nice Freudian slip Mick – “learning curb” is right.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Francie Molloy is the new John Kelly!

    Heard him on Talkback and he sounded pretty conciliatory though.

    However, I read somewhere earlier that Sinn Fein’s policy on the number of councils had changed from 15 to seven of late. Can’t remember when, but bizarrely, it looks like it was SF that couldn’t stick to its own policy.

    Molloy – who was very senior in NILGA at the time, IIRC – looks like he was left hanging out to dry defending the ‘old’ policy (and that of NILGA’s and every other party actually) while SF changed its position.

    Why did SF do a U-turn? I guess someone got the calculator out, did the figures and shouted: “Eureka! I’ve just discovered wer want MORE partition!”

    irishman

    I was waiting for someone to bring up the Lisburn situation. For the record, I don’t support Seamus’s move there.

    I can see where he’s coming from, but I don’t agree with his position for a variety of reasons, and I think he could have made his point in a better way without alienating so many people.

    But Seamus is Seamus, more Christian Democrat than Liberal, and he sticks to his guns. He’s stubborn and very independently minded and will do his own thing.

    I think he might resign over this… he’s the Roy Keane of Alliance.