Attempt to fast track FF’s Northern Irish representation…

All talk of an imminent move across the border for the big guns of Fianna Fail died with the SDLP’s unexpectedly resilient performance in last year’s Westminster election. But Adam Maguire’s been catching up with one Northern Irish party member who plans to organise an unofficial Cumman in Mid Ulster are well underway. Eddie Espie is keen to fast track the mainstream party’s plans to organise north of the border ‘when the time is right’. However, the main party seems to determined not to take its eye off the southern election ball.

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  • Henry94

    Within the next 10 years I would like to see a three-way merger of Fianna Fail Sinn Fein and the SDLP. One single national movement would be best placed to move the nationalist project forward.

  • Yokel

    Henry, nice pipe dream but its not going to happen. There’s mroe chance of unionist unity than that, and thats unlikely as well.

    If FF want to come up and contest, good luck to them, a party with a nationalist philosophy yet somewhat on the right economically would be an interesting proposition and might help movement away from our totally insular view of the planet. What I find surprising is why it hasnt happened, is there potentially a lack of enthussiam amongst many in HQ in Dublin?

    In the short term, however, I’m more interested in whether the rejectionist end of the republican movement can get their their act together to field canadiates and effectively campaign in upcoming elections. A peel off of a mere 1 in 10 current Sinn Fein voters would represent not much in sheer numbers but potentially significant decent amount in seats.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘A peel off of a mere 1 in 10 current Sinn Fein voters would represent not much in sheer numbers but potentially significant decent amount in seats.’

    Even in a contstituency where SF garner 30k votes such a scenario (however speculative) would allow the ‘rejectionists’ 3,000 votes. Given that they would be able to achieve much by way of transfers the likelihood of them gaining even one seat is there remote.
    Your analysis that about achieving a decent amount in seats is deeply flawed.

  • Maitiú Ó Garmaile

    Fianna Fáil had their chance to organise in the north 80 years ago. Who would stand for Fianna Fáil? Disaffected SDLP men probably.

    A merger between those 3 supposed nationalist parties would be disastrous. It’s best to have the choice there.

    However, I would like to see more co-operation between nationalist parties but it’s clear there is only one electable republican party and that’s Sinn Féin.

  • Yokel

    Pat

    I was talking about Sinn Fein’s potential seats lost, not any won by the rejectionsist factions, who I wouldnt expect to win any.

    I hope that makes more sense.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Yokel,

    yip, no problem. Though I don’t believe there is sufficient organisation to effect a widespread campaign. Though a constituency by constituency analysis on the 1 in 10 scenario may make interesting reading.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    FF are nothing if not pragamtists, they’ll wait to see if the wannabe FFs have any electoral success. If they do, they’re in, if they don’t they’ll be politely ignored.

  • George

    TS,
    I agree. Nobody in Fianna Fáil is going to buy a northern pig in a poke.

    I would say Yokel’s question about a lack of enthusiasm amongst many in HQ in Dublin has to be answered in the affirmative.

    There isn’t much to be gained by FF in setting up north of the border at the moment.

    Awkward and potential vote-losing (south of the border) questions could be asked by northern members for a start. It’s one thing having back-benchers, it’s another having de facto ones in another jurisdiction. Too many imponderables.

    And before someone brings up “The Republican Party”, the harsh reality is that it’s power first, principles second for any party worth its salt these days.

  • carlosblancos

    A FF move north is inevitable. While Labour have more to fear from the imminent rise of SF, FF will one day need also to seek representation across the 32 countries. Thankfully, Espie and his ilk will not be the boys to do it.

  • Mickhall

    Without a merger between the SDLP and FF surly this is not a runner, as they would be both after the same section of the electorate and the winner would be SF, who would need to do nowt as there opposition vote would have been split for them.

    There is a more interesting point here though and it is this, if Bertie and his people truly believe that the GFA will lead within a comparatively short space of time to a re-united island of Ireland. They will be looking in the near future to get a foothold in the north. but if they believe the opposite, i.e. that the GFA has set partition in stone, why would they bother with the north.

    interesting ah.

  • Within the next 10 years I would like to see a three-way merger of Fianna Fail Sinn Fein and the SDLP. One single national movement would be best placed to move the nationalist project forward.

    A unity like that is completely impractical on any divide in the political spectrum (be it Nationalist/Unionist or Liberal/Conservatives etc.) because each side of the spectrum has so much room for slightly or wildly different ideologies to come about; in NI it tends to be a divide between moderate and extreme parties within each ideology, and the same applies in the Left/Right divide on the rest of the island (the PD’s compared to Fine Gael, Labour compared to the Socialist Party or the Greens etc.). What’s interesting is that there is so far no real right-wing nationalist party (FF could be called centre-right at this stage, so that could change if they did move North), and no big left-wing Unionist party, so both aspects of the political divide seem to have merged in that sense…

    I think FF are probably happy to wait for things to normalise in Northern Ireland, which could take some time (even with a working Assembly in March next there’ll have to be some bed-in time too), and even then it mightn’t be worth their while unless there’s a wide opening there for them. I
    also don’t see an SDLP/FF merger happening either; as people said to me while I was working on the article, the SDLP is a mixture of FF and (Irish) Labour-type voters, so there are SDLP people who wouldn’t touch FF with a barge poll… if anything FF HQ might make their move if the SDLP does even worse next year than last time (and even then they’d wait until after the next Irish election too).

    Thanks for the link by the way, Mick.

  • Cormac

    “so there are SDLP people who wouldn’t touch FF with a barge poll”

    And it also helps the SDLP to have a sort of floating allegiance between the two largest parties south of the border. Too close a link to FF may not be in their interest if Fine Gael were in power in the 26.

  • Mickhall

    Adam,

    What exactly is an extreme Party in media-speak, those who opposed the reunification of the island, which was originally brought about by force of arms; plus support the war in Iraq, which most people around the world seem to see as both illegal and immoral, [i e the UU] are portrayed as moderate.

    Whereas those who oppose the war in Iraq and argue democratically against partition are written about as extreme [SF]

    Is in reality the media’s weather vane on this that which is set by the UK establishment.

  • lib2016

    To try to combine in one ‘catch-all’ party would be far too restrictive if we are to have a really inclusive new Ireland. For one thing it wouldn’t cater for the post-unionist crowd who would be attracted to the SDLP if only for the pleasure of opposing Sinn Fein, while Fine Gael has already shown how easily it could absorb elements of the Reform group in the South.

    The whole point of PR is to be able to provide for a multiplicity of voices. That won’t and shouldn’t be given up.

    The one good reason why Fianna Fail should organise in the North is that one Fianna Fail cumann operating on full throttle would counter-balance the entire crew of amateurs operating from a certain new building at Palace Barracks. 😉

  • What exactly is an extreme Party in media-speak, those who opposed the reunification of the island, which was originally brought about by force of arms; plus support the war in Iraq, which most people around the world seem to see as both illegal and immoral, [i e the UU] are portrayed as moderate.

    Whereas those who oppose the war in Iraq and argue democratically against partition are written about as extreme [SF]

    No media-speak here, I’m giving my opinion.
    Firstly, why do you think I consider SF as extreme?

    The term extreme and moderate are objective terms and there meaning is not automatically an ultimate definition.
    For example, SF are not the most extreme party in Nationalist quarters and the DUP are not in Unionist quarters however, they’re both more extreme than others in their communities (SDLP and UUP) be it on the issue of unity, dealing with Republicans or even the normal policies like Education, Economy, Health etc.
    Going back to the examples I gave for Ireland; the PDs are more extreme than FG in their respective ideology, but the PDs aren’t even nearly to the far right on the majority of things (especially when compared to international examples like the US Republicans, UKIP etc.); they’re just more right than another party.

    You also compared the UUP to SF; firstly I purposely made comparisons within each political divide and didn’t compare DUP to SF, UUP to SDLP, SF to UUP etc. and secondly (going back to the subjectivity of the term ‘extreme’) a UUP supporter wouldn’t see their views as extreme, but would see SF and even the DUP (perhaps the SDLP too?) as such, while a SF supporter would see all on the other side as extreme, and even some on their own side as the same.

    Is in reality the media’s weather vane on this that which is set by the UK establishment.

    That is true. If you go to the UK establishment website you’ll actually see a graph and colour chart (like the terror warnings) that tells the rest of the media who is extreme today and who isn’t.

  • URQUHART

    What’s this talk about a ‘catch all’ party?? Catch all what? There will never be an SDLP / PSF / FF party because PSF hate SDLP/FF even more than they hate the unionists. Given PSF’s history, the feeling is probably mutual.

    And thank God for it.

    The coverage over the weekend about Morgan and Espie was depressing – these are two malcontents who are pissed off with the SDLP and are trying to remain in the limelight. What we have seen and heard from them doesn’t point to any similarities with modern FF policy or organisation – which is maybe why FF want nothing to do with them.

    Flailing around, trying to find a greenish hook to hang their hats on and setting up an ‘independent northern FF’ against the wishes of FFHQ shows exactly what the agenda of the two lads is – a wee bit of profile. The only impact of their antics will be to turn off those who would otherwise be interested in FF looking more closely at the North.

  • lib2016

    “What’s this talk about a ‘catch all’ party?”

    It may interest unionists (and others?) to learn that Sinn Fein was originally set up as ‘more than a political party’ but rather as a national movement by Griffth in 1905, according to the foreword to Feeney’s history of Sinn Fein (2003?).

    It’s not a new idea, and Henry who is well informed would be aware of that fact. The SDLP and Sinn Fein worked together well enough when circumstances dictated that they should or we would have no Peace Process.

    For myself I continue to have faith in both Durkin and the leadership of Sinn Fein. We are on the cusp of national unity at last but the shortest path between two points is not always a straight line when it comes to politics. We must have a republican party opposed to Sinn Fein in the North if we are to have a functioning system.

  • jaffa

    Seems to me there are different natural coalitions on economic, constitutional and social matters and different approaches to politics which can be taken.

    On economicss

    Laissez-faire
    Distributist
    Socialist
    Environmentalist

    On sovereignty

    Nationalism
    Integrationism
    Unionism

    On social affairs

    Conservatism
    Liberalism

    On approach

    Militant revolution or reaction
    Constitutional reform

    So thanks to our extra choices on national identity and approach we’ll need at least 48 parties (4 x 3 x 2 x 2). Good news for manifesto printers.

  • Gum

    Would anyone actually put an ‘X’ beside Espie’s name? Both he and Morgan quickly became jokes. Socialists who want to run into the arms of Fianna Fail (who seem less than enthusiatic about these two’s master plan)? Come on.

  • saminon

    Im a UU Student and have yet to vote for any party. I am nationlist in terms of my economic beliefs and thats it. I was born outside of the start of the troubles and so my views on all parties are simply politcal. However the reason why I have never voted is because the SDLP who I belive have that right policies for me are the most pathetic in representing me. Have a look at their attempt to engage with my age group…http://sdlpyouth.bebo.com

    Sinn Fein I feel nibble at the heals of everyone so much so that there is little or no representation. A clean persective is needed for nationalists, and I think Mr. Espies suggestions are the best way forward through a horrible mess with our country.

  • NC2

    I dont know were Gum gets his information from but the only jokes in northern politics today is the SDLP.

    I applaud this article and its about time we get a real alternative and a real party that will stand up and speak.

  • One Off Sixty Thousand

    Seems to me like the SDLP’s anti-Espie propaganda media machine is running in overdrive at the mere thought that the guy, “hasn’t gone away – you know”. Never in a million years would I put an “X” beside Eddie Espie or Martin Morgan nor would either of them want anyone too. Because, Eddie Espie, would never stand in any Westminster election anyway. But should Espie be asking for a preference in the new Super-Council model. That would be an altogether different matter or for that matter a preference in the Assembly.

    Attempting to blacken the guys name because of the different ideological approach to reunification is an infantile, pathetic, childish and contemptible but well trodden path, and the trademark of the our of touch, and apparently soon to be out of pocket, West of Britian party the SDLP. We can only wonder what the real reason behind the SDLPs decision to put back their party conference, this year really was – Damage Limitation, surly not., One thing is for certain the move Espie is planning will almost certainly be more popular to their own dwindling electorate then the grey man of Irish politics, (Mark Durkan) could ever, in a millon years, deliver.

    Mr. Eddie Espie!, “Where do we sign-up”?.

  • Jabbers

    To describe Espie and Morgan as socialists is a tad bit of an exaggeration…… I think that their attempt to get Fianna Fáil to organise in the north is going to be a tricky one seeking as that party seems to be only concerned with the south at the moment, but if they want to stem off the growth of SF they will have to. I think that there are many people in the north that would think of joining FF, but announcing that a General Secretary of sorts has been elected gives the impression that the initiave to outside observers that its now a closed stop. If I were Espie or Morgan I wouldn’t want that to happen seeing as their organisation is a very very fledging one! As a former SDLP voter and now a SF voter, I would need to see FF in the south get back to their ‘old school’ Republican roots before voting for them; Reynolds seemed to be the last of that breed but I’m sure Dermot Ahern and others will be watching this development closely…..

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    The SDLP are a fcuking joke. They had seriously better amalgamate with Labour. Then many of the others would go to FF.

    With the exception on John Hume, the SDLP are seen in the South as a strange breed. Most people in the South don’t like SF but at least they know what they stand for.

  • Seana

    I agree with, Darren Mac an Phríora. Maybe not the terminology but with the sentiment. Clearly the stoops want to brand their two former party heros as nobodies. I think that is a mistake, the SDLP could be taunting and/or blackening the two men for now but I get the impression that at some point someday the stoops will live to regret that immature move. BTW, love the Bebo site, http://sdlpyouth.bebo.com. If thats the best the SDLP can do, then maybe its time to close the door.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Henry

    Within the next 10 years I would like to see a three-way merger of Fianna Fail Sinn Fein and the SDLP. One single national movement would be best placed to move the nationalist project forward.

    I don’t agree. I think it’s more likely that in ten years time the SDLP will be a memory and Fianna Fail and SF will be the two republican parties in the north. There won’t be any more “nationalists” – we’ll all be republicans then. (Though of course there’ll be a hell of a debate going on about just what that means…) The creative tension between the two will be much more beneficial to the project of reunification than one big party would be. After all, the republican project is to reunite all the people of Ireland – and that means that those battles must be fought in places like east Belfast, Bangor and Ballymena, not just Newry, Omagh and Derry. Fact is, SF are toxic in those parts – FF is not SF can be ignored in these parts. FF, a party of government fighting elections in an increasingly joint-ruled north, could not be.
    Ten years from now we could have a FF Taoiseach canvassing for his candidates in Holywood or Larne, and he’ll be saying: “Vote Fianna Fail – we hold the purse strings”. None of the infantile parties in the north can say that. None of them understand a damn thing about power – FF do.

    The only way to achieve reunification is through the ballot box, and the best way to get a pro-unity majority is through two competing republican parties – particularly if one of them is a real party of power.

    Yokel

    “What I find surprising is why it hasnt happened, is there potentially a lack of enthusiasm amongst many in HQ in Dublin?”

    Just politics, I’d say. My guess is that the overwhelming majority of FFers are emotionally in favour of the idea and I’ll bet that if the issue went before an Ard Fheis in principle, it’d be carried unanimously. However, applying a principle to reality requires someone to actually roll up their sleeves and actually get on with it. FF in the south are most likely too busy running one of the most successful nations on earth – and indeed making sure that FF remains one of the most successful political parties in the democratic world.

    If Fianna Fail is going to get organised in the north, it’s up to FF members in the north to build the momentum. I think there has been for too long the assumption that HQ would one day simply make an announcement and that, hey presto, FF would be a reality in the north. That’s not the way it works. The northern members will have to get themselves organised and registered. They’ll have to bone up on party policy and cut-and-paste the FF party constitution, northernising where necessary. They’ll have to set a target – local elections in 2009 seems a good place to start – and then start evangelising. They’ll have to build a party membership of at least a couple of thousand in the north, they’ll have to identify potential financial backers and they’ll have to see if they can poach a few existing elected representatives. And all the while they’ll have to walk a tightrope with the party hierarchy who, though ideologically in favour of the move, will in practice find it an unnecessary headache. There will be friction between FF Tuaisceart and party HQ, and the onus is on the northerners to stay onside – because if HQ pulls the plug, it’s game over.

    The aim should be to ensure that after the 2009 elections FFT will have enough councillors on the new super councils that they’ll become an attractive proposition for FF headquarters. At that point the leadership will fall over each other to claim credit for the success, and then we’ll finally be able to say that Fianna Fail has arrived in the north.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Maitiu O Garmaile
    “Fianna Fáil had their chance to organise in the north 80 years ago. Who would stand for Fianna Fáil? Disaffected SDLP men probably.”

    Perhaps, but I also suspect there’s a chance that others who haven’t previously stood for election might come forward. The fact is that for many in the nationalist community, the SDLP are unattractive because they have become a) a shambles; b) spineless; and c) have given up on a united Ireland. Meanwhile, though Sinn Fein are well organised, talk about a united Ireland often and are clearly no pushovers, they are also unattractive to a lot of people. I can think of a few well-known local councillors in my own town and neighbouring towns whom I know, and frankly, they’re scary. This is not true of all, or even the majority, but SF still has an ugly side, with ugly people who have done ugly things, and it’s not some unionist fantasy to observe that a good chunk of nationalists feel uncomfortable about it – and indeed that a section of the people who have been voting for Sinn Fein these last few years sit uncomfortably in that camp and would happily jump ship if there was another republican party that was genuine about advancing the cause of reunification.

    “However, I would like to see more co-operation between nationalist parties but it’s clear there is only one electable republican party and that’s Sinn Féin.”

    I agree – though Fianna Fail would make it two.

    Pat McLarnon
    “Though I don’t believe there is sufficient organisation to effect a widespread campaign.”

    Certainly there isn’t at present, but I’d say there is the potential to build a widespread political organisation. I’d say a majority of nationalists would be natural FFers – after all, they’re made of much the same stuff as those south of the border who have made FF the natural party of government these last 70-odd years.

    Tochais Siorai
    “FF are nothing if not pragamtists, they’ll wait to see if the wannabe FFs have any electoral success. If they do, they’re in, if they don’t they’ll be politely ignored.”

    I agree. It’s a big challenge for the northerners. All they can reasonably ask of HQ is that they aren’t hindered, suppressed or disowned. Beyond that, it’s up to the northerners to show that they have something to offer the party as a whole – and that means taking the first few steps on their own.

    George

    “There isn’t much to be gained by FF in setting up north of the border at the moment.”

    Again I agree – it’s a headache that just doesn’t seem worth the effort. That’s why the northerners have to: do the “setting up” themselves. They’ll have to build a viable political operation virtually independently of the leadership, and they’ll have to walk a tightrope every inch of the way, to ensure that they remain within the party fold even while they are in a slightly curious semi-detached state. Their very existence is an annoyance to the party leadership, so trying to stay onside whilst at the same time being visible and having things to say will be a minefield. But if they manage to pull it off and achieve some sort of breakthrough, when the time comes they’ll have to hand over control of the operation to HQ, and will just have to grin and bear it while the leadership takes all the credit for “setting up” in the north.

    But hey, that’s politics. What matters will be that FF will have arrived in the north.

    “Awkward and potential vote-losing (south of the border) questions could be asked by northern members for a start. It’s one thing having back-benchers, it’s another having de facto ones in another jurisdiction.”

    But remember these same party members in the north would then be subject to internal party discipline. Sure, northerners could still shoot their mouths off and go on solo runs but the party would have the means to rein them in. Who knows – perhaps the loud-mouthed nordie of the past and present might become a more circumspect political animal altogether?

    “And before someone brings up “The Republican Party”, the harsh reality is that it’s power first, principles second for any party worth its salt these days.”

    Absolutely. That’s why the only way Fianna Fail is ever going to get organised up here is by people up here making it happen, and giving FF HQ a real stake in power here. Principle can be used as an argument to prevent them from strangling the project in the cradle, but beyond that, it’d be naive to expect that principle would have much to do with it. As you say, it’s about power – and that’s why the prospect of FF fighting elections here could be the most exciting thing to have happened to politics here since partition.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick Hall

    “Without a merger between the SDLP and FF surly this is not a runner, as they would be both after the same section of the electorate and the winner would be SF, who would need to do nowt as there opposition vote would have been split for them.”

    I don’t think all this craic about “splitting the vote” is relevant. In PR elections, having three nationalist parties rather than two would be more likely to increase the nationalist vote overall, and through transfers, would likely maximise the vote for all three. As for Westminster elections – who cares? There’s nothing more significant than bragging rights at stake anyway.

    Of course that might change if northern MPs were granted speaking rights in Dail Eireann – something that a FF-led government might look upon favourably if it was an issue of accommodating their own party members and elected representatives from the north, as opposed to being framed as an issue that’s all about Sinn Fein. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – by the time all this come to pass the SDLP will most likely have passed from the scene anyway.

    “There is a more interesting point here though and it is this, if Bertie and his people truly believe that the GFA will lead within a comparatively short space of time to a re-united island of Ireland. They will be looking in the near future to get a foothold in the north. but if they believe the opposite, i.e. that the GFA has set partition in stone, why would they bother with the north.

    I think it’s up to northern members of FF to – in the nicest possible sense – force their leader’s hand. The issue shouldn’t be about whether FF should “set up” in the north – as though the north was a colonial dependency of Dublin. After all, the FF cumainn in Galway and Cork and Sligo and Waterford aren’t there as a result of the Dublin HQ “opening up” there – they exist because people on the ground in Galway and Cork and Sligo and Waterford have built those organisations up. People in Belfast and Derry, Down, Antrim, Tyrone, Armagh and Fermanagh are just as entitled as anyone else in the country to join Fianna Fail – though only as independent members. They cannot join a cumainn because no such thing exists in their areas. Well, it’s up to those people to change that.

    The trouble is that life would be simpler for HQ if people in, say, Belfast, did no such thing. They cannot reasonably object on principle, but let’s be honest here – they’d jump at the first opportunity to jettison what is, to them, an unnecessary headache. Who can blame them? The trick will be to build up FFT without upsetting HQ so much that they disown the whole operation. Hard? Yes. Damn near impossible? Perhaps. But them’s the breaks.

    Cormac

    “And it also helps the SDLP to have a sort of floating allegiance between the two largest parties south of the border. Too close a link to FF may not be in their interest if Fine Gael were in power in the 26.”

    Yes but FF are in power most of the time. Having a direct line to government more than offsets the disadvantages of the time FF spends out of government. Imagine if there were people standing for election in the north whose party leader was the Taoiseach. Imagine if the Taoiseach’s party was fighting elections here, and the government therefore had an electoral stake in the north. Just think of the electrifying effect that might have on politics here.

    The Irish government have recently announced they are to build a motorway between Derry and Aughnacloy. They recently paid for the refurbishment of City of Derry airport. They are considering co-funding the new police college in Co Tyrone. These examples represent the tip of the new cross-border iceberg.

    Now imagine in the future, when the Fianna Fail Taoiseach has to concern himself with whether his party can hold its seats in Fermanagh. Imagine when the elected representatives from, say, Tyrone, can go to the Taoiseach or Minister for Finance, not as representative from another party coming with a begging bowl and a list of things he wants, but as a party colleague going to his leader and explaining what he, and therefore the party, NEEDS to deliver to the people of Tyrone.

    Now, that’s the way real power works, and that’s the thing that’s most exciting about the idea of FF organising in the north. It’s by this method that a republican party can show that its ideas on governance are the right ones – and it’s by this method that a republican party might even conceivable win support from the erstwhile unionist section of the population.

    Lib2016

    “The one good reason why Fianna Fail should organise in the North is that one Fianna Fail cumann operating on full throttle would counter-balance the entire crew of amateurs operating from a certain new building at Palace Barracks. ;-)”

    Not sure I get this?

  • George

    Billy,
    your enthusiasm for this makes me think you are on the verge of setting up your own FFT cumann.

    I agree with a lot of what you say about the dynamic effect it could have although as yet I have not seen any indication that there are the dynamic people present to get this project going north of the border.

    I could be totally wrong as I am only looking on from a distance.

    Maybe when, as expected, the Irish government announces next month that a billion euros is going north of the border in the next national development plan, which runs 2007-2013, it could be the spur for some north of the border to say it’s time to organise.

    After all, this is probably only the beginning of the Republic’s economic muscle flexing exercise (and it could do itself a hernia if some of the property doomsayers are right and spend the next decade in rehab) so it’s a brave new world we are entering into.

    There is also one other way I can see FF setting up north of the border and that’s if Sinn Féin do enough to be considered fit for government south of the border.

    The unionists have a point when they say this bar is set higher south of the border than it is north of it. SF are still a long way off.

    If that happens and SF cross that rubicon, then FF will have to be a bit more pro-active.

    But it’s probably a chicken and egg scenario, FF will probably only have a presence north of the border when SF are in a position to be in government south of it and vice versa.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    George

    “I agree with a lot of what you say about the dynamic effect it could have although as yet I have not seen any indication that there are the dynamic people present to get this project going north of the border.”

    I think the relevant thing is that there are an awful lot of very dynamic, young people north of the border for whom Fianna Fail would be a natural choice. I suppose the challenge for FFT will be to harness some of those people – people of energy, intelligence and character who just wouldn’t be comfortable in SF and wouldn’t see the point in joining the SDLP. People who want to be republicans, to argue for republican objectives and still be able to look their Protestant friends in the eye. Hell – people who want to win over erstwhile unionists to the republican cause. I can’t see anyone else but Fianna Fail achieving that, and though it will be a monumental challenge, it is at least a possibility.

    Jesus, I might just try and set up that cumann myself after all….

    “Maybe when, as expected, the Irish government announces next month that a billion euros is going north of the border in the next national development plan, which runs 2007-2013, it could be the spur for some north of the border to say it’s time to organise.”

    Bingo.

    “There is also one other way I can see FF setting up north of the border and that’s if Sinn Féin do enough to be considered fit for government south of the border.”

    I think the only way FF “setting up” north of the border will play out (and I know I’ve made this point already) will be with the party leadership accepting to within the fold an already-functioning quasi-independent political going concern. HQ and southern members can offer support (though I’d say the best the northerners can hope for is that they don’t impede them) but at the end of the day, only the northern members can really build FF in the north.

    None of which has much to do with whether SF make the breakthrough down south. That said, if SF did find themselves within or near government, and if it was perceived that their 32-county organisation was part of their appeal, then I think that might cause a shift in FF HQ attitudes to the northern issue. Then their attitude towards FFT might change from passive forbearance to active support. But I still think the onus is on FFT to demonstrate to HQ the good, positive reasons why the north IS worth the hassle.

    “But it’s probably a chicken and egg scenario, FF will probably only have a presence north of the border when SF are in a position to be in government south of it and vice versa.”

    FFT is essentially a new party, just starting out. All that’s different about them is the FF brand – though that is, of course, a potentially huge difference. Their success or otherwise, at least at the beginning, will be dependent on their own efforts. Their success or failure will be judged by the same criteria as that of any other start-up party – can they perform or can’t they?

    If they can, FFHQ will be interested. If they can’t, HQ won’t. It couldn’t be simpler really.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    How many Unionists would seriously not like to see FF- and FG- stand in the North?

    Unionists know that they have nothing to fear from FG and, although they are republicans, FF are totally consitutional when it comes to the North.

    Opening up the arena would not disbenefit anyone, except SF.

  • slug

    Darren, a good point, the only worry would be the levels of financial corruption in FF.

  • I have never given FF a first preference. I am a Labour voter. If FF were to organise in the north-east (even quasi-independently as Billy suggests) they could count on my first preference for the rest of my life. Reunification is the single most important political topic for me personally. Sinn Féin are the only all-Ireland political party, but they can *never* have my vote as they are economic nutcases, not to mention dripping in blood. I want reunification, but I’d like it to be a true democratic Republic when it happens.

    It’s not true to say the FF and the SDLP will split the “moderate” vote. SF has soaked up a lot of the “moderate” (read non-violent) vote since the GFA. It has taken this vote because it is seen as stronger on reunification then the SDLP, who are a pale green, slightly west British party (or viewed that way). I think FF could take an awful lot of SF’s vote, especially those who don’t feel all that comfortable with SF’s history. I think this would have a positive affect on FF’s vote in the Republic (they’d have mine for a start).

    The main worry, which hasn’t been addressed here yet, is if they do manage to cripple SF electorally, will SF take it on the chin, or throw their toys out of the pram and start buying guns again?

  • URQUHART

    Slug: “the only worry would be the levels of financial corruption in FF”

    You’re ‘aving a larf!

    If ANY of the political parties up here were put under the same scrutiny that FF has been under these recent years, we’d be welcoming them up the road with open arms.

    Which reminds me, has there ever been any word of the money for peerages investigation making its way to these shores???????

  • DK

    In 10 years, my preference would be to see a merger of the SDLP, FG and a Northern Nationalist party originating from the Protestant community.

    It is obvious to me that Protestants will only be won over to the idea of a UI by progressive leaders from their own community. I also firmly believe that we will see such a party.

    The Protestant community generally view the SDLP and FG as green but decent. SF are seen as ugly and dripping in blood, as commented in an earlier post. FF are seen as complicate with the Provos campaign.

  • Urquhart-

    “If ANY of the political parties up here were put under the same scrutiny that FF has been under these recent years, we’d be welcoming them up the road with open arms.”

    Perhaps, but why has FF been put under such scrutiny? Put it this way- Charlie Haughey was no charity worker 😉

  • George

    DK,
    just wondering if FF would be a step too far for you, who do you think nationalists can look on as blue, white and red and decent and not compliant with the various unionist/loyalist campaigns carried out in Northern Ireland over the past 8 decades?