Time to consider ‘dropping the pilot’?

Tommy McKearney has a thoughtful piece in the Sunday Business Post. He believes it may be time for Sinn Fein’s class of ’71 to make way for the class of ’94 (ie the post ceasefire generation of Sinn Fein). He enumerates a number of problems with the party’s current trajectory, which whilst far from critical, may make long term progress deeply problematical .

Sinn Fein is anxious to see the Stormont assembly functioning again. In its absence, the party enjoys little influence over local affairs, and has to endure the torment of watching British MPs posted to the Northern Ireland Office take decisions affecting republican constituencies.

In the long term, too, more reflective republicans know that every political party is vulnerable during a prolonged suspension of an administrative forum. They need only look to the SDLP for evidence of this.

A major obstacle to the creation of a power-sharing executive in Belfast is that the DUP believes it cannot even broach the subject with its electorate while the Provo generation of republicans remains in charge of Sinn Fein. The DUP’s Peter Robinson said as much in a televised interview shortly after the last general election in the North.

At the same time, while antipathy towards Sinn Fein is not as deeply held throughout the Republic as it is among Ian Paisley’s followers, the old connection with arms and difficult-to-eradicate accusations of criminality do not help the party in most constituencies.

Further progress in the Republic is an important part of the party’s long term strategy. Whilst there may be other lines of progress open to the party than the apparently drastic one he advocates, McKearney is identifying a source of strong interference with its capacity to communicate new story lines that will enable it to gain purchase outside its current strongholds. It would also help the party sidestep any further revelations of British spys at the top of the current leadership.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    An interesting article but Tommy doesn’t indicate who he thinks should make up the replacement leadership.

  • Shore Road Resident

    That’ll be the end of Tommy’s glittering Daily Ireland career then.

  • Glen Taisie

    De Brun, Gidernew, Doherty, McElduff, McLaughlin, Ruane, O’Caolan, Ferris are non runners.

    Kelly, Maskey and Murphy are the only real Northern contenders with Pearse Doherty the only viable candidate from the 26.

    What about Billy Leonard as an outsider ? (sorry for the pun)

  • paddycanuck

    I am not against there being new faces, from the younger generation in the party leadership.

    However, Tommy seems to argue that there needs to be root and branch change at the leadership level, because the DUP will not share power with the class of 71.

    Since when does the DUP choose who leads nationalism? And does he really believe that the DUP would share power with Nationalists on any level unless they are given no other choice?

    I think he is wrong on the southern situation too. Gerry remains a vote winner among those who are likely to vote Sinn Fein, even though his approval rating is down, and SF have widened their appeal with likes of Pearce Doherty, and Mary Lou.

  • Mickhall

    Its an interesting piece although it looks like Tommy was forced down south to get it published, it would be interesting to know whether it was first placed with Daily Ireland but they spiked it.
    The problem is, SF due to its size, still fish from a comparatively small pond for its candidates for national leadership, thus they are probably not yet in a position to skip a generation even if they wished to, which myself I doubt.

  • Even if SF changed their leadership lock, stock and barrel, it would be naive to think the DUP would sign up to work with them the next day.

    That said, they’re getting on in years. Mitchel McLaughlin is over 60 and Adams and McGuiness are approaching the big six-o also. For all the hype about a vigorous and youthful SF movement, they are starting to look pretty grey. The problem with cult of personality surrounding Adams and McGuinness is how does on replace them. Let’s face it, recent blow-ins like McDonald and Ruane aren’t going to cut it with the rank and file.

  • Sorry, I meant:
    The problem with the cult of personality surrounding Adams and McGuinness is how does one replace them?

  • Bemused

    I always thought that the Shinner’s North Belfast rep. Eoin O’ Broin was pretty impressive. Last I heard he had been packed off to Brussels to run the show for DeBrun/Mary Lou. Billy Lenoard is also pretty impressive. Conor Murphy is a bit too much of a bog-man/GAA-fan for my liking but I’m sure will go down well with the ‘country and western’ voters. Ditto Gildernew. Catriona Ruane has to have one of the most gag-inducing accents/speech patterns/general personalities of any public representative (Sammy Wilson, Jim Rogers, Jim Allister aside).

    Ooops – I’ve just realised – I suppose this is all ‘man not ball’. Don’t worry – I’ll stop right now and go and flagellate myself in the corner.

  • lib2016

    It’s been posted here before but I’ll repeat it. The next leadership generation will come mainly from the South. Sorting out NI may be the most immediate problem but there’s a longterm strategy to be considered.

  • Mick Fealty


    I remember you making that point some time ago. At the moment that looks like a plausible choice of one – ie Mary Lou. She would be a good bet to bridge the constituencies the party needs to maximise it’s long term fortunes.

  • willis

    Jeez Bemused

    An excellent riff, which IMO summed up the current lineup to a tee. Still there’s worse places to be than Brussels, so don’t write off Jim Allister. Eoin O’Broin vs Allister Hmmmmm!

  • The Devil

    Tommy started off a republican became a commie then a dissident then a commie dissident then a passive dissident then a passive republican dissident then back to a passive republican then a passive nationalist, now he’s passive everything and passionate nothing…. how boring the man has more political views than the rainbow alliance and just as meaningful

  • Jimbob

    “That’ll be the end of Tommy’s glittering Daily Ireland career then”

    It’s been a while since you have contributed anything positive to the discussion here. All you seem to do is attack people, their right to have an opinion and the Daily Ireland. Its called free speech. Get used to it.

  • elvisthedog

    My take on that piece was that Tommy knows full well that the top of Sinn Fein is full of informers, and that it’s time to get rid of them.

    Are the class of 94 less fond of a shilling?

  • Crataegus

    Eoin O’Broin is by far the most capable I could not understand his move to Brussels.

    I believe Mary Lou will be contesting Dublin Central where she should take a seat. However in the long run I am not so sure that I would see her in a leadership role particularly in bad times. Many more recent SF members are used to progress and have not been seriously tested by reversal.

  • Fenian Bastard

    The top three younger talent to watch in Sinn Fein are Pearse Doherty (Councillor in Donegal), Eoin O’Broin (Director of their EU Department) and Killian Forde (Councillor in Dublin).

    Pearse is likely to win a seat in the next General Election.
    Eoin could well run as the next SF candidate in the Europeans in the North.
    Killian is the replacement for Mary Lou as MEP.

    With others including the likes of Toireasa Ferris, Matt Carthy and Padraig Mc Loughlin the one area that SF seem secure on at the moment is in their reserve team.

    That said I think Tommy’s article is premature.

  • It always amazes me to see the faith SF put in Pearse Doherty. While Pearse may be a strong performer, I think it’s premature to be tipping him for future leadership. He still has to win has Dail seat, and that’s going to be a tough ordeal. It should be remembered that Pearse is running in a constituency that has been called the most conservative in Ireland.

    Yes, he polled well in the European elections, but much of that was from an anti-government vote rather than a pro-SF. He performed well in the local poll, but was substantially out-pollled by Brian O’Domhnaill of FF- see the link below. This should be taken in the context of the huge european campaign that was mounted on Pearse’s behalf- massive money, near-total postering/leafletting/canvassing and the help of senior SF people including Gerry and Martin knocking on doors for him.

    Gerry Adams was the guest at his selection convention, and Pearse pops up at every major IRA or SF related press conference. I take this to mean that SF sees the position much the same as I do- Pearse will be in with a chance, but needs every bit of help he can get. He’s up against Pat The Cope and Mary Coughlan, two ministers who are outstandingly strong performers, and FG’s Dinny McGinley, who can draw on a very strong vote (which held through the local and european elections).

    Pearse will be a forced in Donegal politics in years to come, but he’s not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination.


  • Mickhall

    Interesting thread, without wishing to put the black spot on him by saying this, but Eoin O’Broin is a useful guy to have about the place, plus unlike many shinners he will argue things through with you without crying mischief maker when he runs out of argument.

    Whatever one may think about the politics of the Adams leadership today, down the years a number of very able activists have emerged from within it. [a fair few of the most able have since broken with him] When I look at those named above as future leaders, I see few from within SFs core constituency within the north. Todays SF was built on the backs of young working class activists from Belfast, Derry and other areas in the north.

    Where are the next generation of working class activists. I do not say this out of any anti education viewpoint, but some of us felt real pride that the SF leadership contained so few graduates, the reason being there was a political party which encompassed people like us.[working class] which is pretty unique these days both in the ROI and UK parliaments.

  • Godsdog

    I dont think SF have or will have any problems attracting good candidates for any position in their party. There is a good generation (all under 40) coming through in Belfast Paul Maskey(west) Tierna Cunningham (north) Stiofan Long (South). Derry has some great emerging talent, it will be interseting to see who the Shinners run there in the next election. Billy Leonard is excellent(although I dont think he is leadership material)Tyrone & Armagh have an abundance of talent when the old dogs like Molloy, McGuinness and Doherty retire. Phillip McGuigan in North Antrim has all the qualities to lead the party. Down, however, remains a problem for SF (your right about her voice Bemused)The sooner the leadership rectify that problem the better!!
    In the 26 counties any of the afore mentioned, Doherty, Forde, McDonald, T Ferris would have the necessary to lead the party.
    Good times ahead for the Shinners!!!

  • Glen Taisie

    “Phillip McGuigan in North Antrim has all the qualities to lead the party”

    Don’t think so!!!!
    Philip is SF spokesperson on Truth Recovery yet never spoke a word in the aftermath of the Robert McCartney when the world wanted TRUTH from the party.

  • Glen Taisie

    typo error

    “Phillip McGuigan in North Antrim has all the qualities to lead the party”

    Don’t think so!!!!
    Philip is SF spokesperson on Truth Recovery yet never spoke a word in the aftermath of the Robert McCartney murder when the world wanted TRUTH from the party.

  • KathyC

    Hi all,

    Something is happpening that the leadership NEVER thought would occure….people talking about maybe there should be a change in leadership. Ahhh such a blow, I’m sure to their ego’s.

    I see that the new leadership (and there will be new leadership) will be from the 97 ceasefire rather than the 94. Did anyone ever read Gerry Adams book….he goes on and on page after boring page about the 94 peace process and cease fire…into so much minute detail…yet the 97 ceasefire he gives one paragraph to? The details of the 97 ceasefire and it’s linkage to the brits not allowing the orange order march down garvahy road…has been kept under wraps by SF….yet it will be this faction that will rise from the old guard.
    And why do I say that…because the events of this year’s marching season will transform the north and gerry adams, martin mcguiness, gerry kelly and alex maskey won’t be able to keep the republicans quite and accomadating the wishes of the british anymore after this years marching season.

  • Crataegus


    “Good times ahead for the Shinners!!!”

    Perhaps but I wouldn’t be so confident. A new leader may not command the same authority as the existing. Let’s imagine a few gains in the next election in the Republic; more TDs with seats to worry about; contestants for leadership and events always events.

  • Henry94

    I predict that Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, PDs, Greens, DUP, UUP and Alliance will all have new leaders before Sinn Fein.

    I’d leave out the SDLP because Mark is so young and so far ahead of anyone else in the party that he will probably lead for life.

  • Crataegus


    Your probably right can’t see any of theSouthern one’s one’s listed lasting the duration of the 30th Dáil and in the North Ford will probably loose his seat next election, Reg can’t deliver an upturn, and Big Ian can’t live for ever. (or can he !)

  • Glen Taisie


    You are right,and that is the biggest trouble Adams is doing a PAISLEY.

    The SDLP suffered because of the length of the hugely popular reign of John Hume.

    New SF are not that impressive. Nationalism has never been weaker.

    Adams knew!!!!!!!!!!!