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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty