Sinn Fein Fears Electoral Challenge

Today’s Irish News front page: “Former Sinn Fein assembly member John Kelly, and west Belfast republican Brendan Hughes, allege that the party has tried to silence people “who seek a wider debate on the policing matter”.
“We are concerned that in a bid to stifle wider discussion within the republican community, Sinn Fein leaders are pursuing a strategy of threat against dissenting voices.
“They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to these voices.
“Such voices are healthy in a re-publicanism un-afraid of critical self-examination.”
Mr Kelly, a former Mid-Ulster as-sembly member, and Mr Hughes, who led IRA prisoners during the first Maze hunger strike and was once closely connected with Gerry Adams, claim the party is frightened that disillusioned republicans will challenge them at the next election.
Although they claim to have “no position on electoral intervention one way or the other”, the men say: “Those who wish to discuss all matters relevant to republicanism including an alternative electoral strategy to Sinn Fein’s must be both free and safe to do so.”
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “This is total nonsense. It has no basis in fact or reality.” ”

Full texts follow the jump.FULL TEXT OF LETTER:
Sinn Fein trying to smear ‘dissenters’
letters
By Brendan Hughes and John Kelly, No More Lies

A number of years ago a body of republicans came together in support of open debate and an end to a range of sordid practices that had brought republicanism into disrepute. The group, while loosely referring to itself as a congress, came to be known as No More Lies.

It aspired to offer some form of moral protection to those republicans who felt they wanted to push back the party censors and thought police.

Today it seems that the need to refute lies and offer moral protection is as great as it was then.

Of particular concern are certain allegations being peddled by the Sinn Fein leadership.

Supported by the PSNI, it claims to be under physical threat from some people opposed to its partitionist policies and its eagerness to embrace the PSNI.

In our view there are threats being made. But they are coming from Sinn Fein and are directed against republicans who seek a wider debate on the policing matter.

A number of people have been warned by Sinn Fein that they must not attend independent meetings organised by republicans around the policing issue.

It is not the threat of physical attack that Sinn Fein leaders fear.

This is evident from the way they continue to go about their daily lives. It is the possibility of republicans fed up with Sinn Fein lies and deceit deciding to mount an electoral challenge that sends shudders of anxiety through the leadership circles. We have no position on electoral intervention one way or the other. We do not know if any electoral challenge has been discussed. But those who wish to discuss all matters relevant to republicanism – including an alternative electoral strategy to Sinn Fein’s, must be both free and safe to do so. We are concerned that in a bid to stifle wider discussion within the republican community, Sinn Fein is pursuing a strategy of threat against dissenting voices. They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to those voices. Such voices are healthy in a republicanism unafraid of critical self-examination. They must be protected against Sinn Fein leadership threats and smears used to undermine their credibility.

Let the debate take place and the most honest participants win.

Under no circumstances should it be prevented from happening.

FRONT PAGE ARTICLE:
Sinn Fein ‘threatens’ objectors to policing
By Claire Simpson

A founding member of the Provisional IRA and a former hunger strike leader have claimed Sinn Fein is threatening republicans who oppose moves to support policing.

Former Sinn Fein assembly member John Kelly, and west Belfast republican Brendan Hughes, allege that the party has tried to silence people “who seek a wider debate on the policing matter”.

In a letter to The Irish News they say: “A number of people have been warned by Sinn Fein that they must not attend independent meetings organised by republicans around the policing issue.”

Sinn Fein last night described the claims as “total nonsense.”

The party is preparing for a special ard fheis later this month at which it is expected to give formal support to the PSNI and Garda.

Kelly and Hughes reject Sinn Fein claims that senior party members are under threat from dissident republicans.

“It is not the threat of physical attack that Sinn Fein leaders fear,” the letter reads.

“This is evident from the way they continue to go about their daily lives.

“We are concerned that in a bid to stifle wider discussion within the republican community, Sinn Fein leaders are pursuing a strategy of threat against dissenting voices.

“They are disguising their own menace by attributing violent intent to these voices.

“Such voices are healthy in a re-publicanism un-afraid of critical self-examination.”

Mr Kelly, a former Mid-Ulster as-sembly member, and Mr Hughes, who led IRA prisoners during the first Maze hunger strike and was once closely connected with Gerry Adams, claim the party is frightened that disillusioned republicans will challenge them at the next election.

Although they claim to have “no position on electoral intervention one way or the other”, the men say: “Those who wish to discuss all matters relevant to republicanism including an alternative electoral strategy to Sinn Fein’s must be both free and safe to do so.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “This is total nonsense. It has no basis in fact or reality.

“A number of Sinn Fein members have attended these meetings.”

Mr Kelly, who supports the Good Friday Agreement, left Sinn Fein in 2003 amid claims that it was a “control dictatorship”.

He claimed the party was un-happy at his decision to speak to dissident republicans in Magha-berry jail and his attendance at two rallies organised by Marion Price of the dissident-aligned 32 County Sovereignty Movement.

  • Quaysider

    Today’s Daily Mirror suggests that ‘independent republican’ candidates could actually boost SF’s vote by causing SDLP supporters to lend the Shinners a first preference.
    The spooked stoop vote has to outweigh the dissident dinosaur vote, surely?

  • Mick Fealty

    Sounds like an interesting ‘take’. Can you clip some of that and paste it up here?

  • Seán

    Another day and another story of those opposed to the current strategy of Sinn Féin and the same repetitive letters appearing in the papers ,its all very boring and played out at this stage

  • parcifal

    When you take a new direction, you’ll inevitably loose a few stragglers, and its always acrimonious. People fear change.

    When Gerry Adams says:

    As part of this we have to secure a new peaceful accord with our unionist neigbours based upon equality. The new Ireland cannot be built solely on our terms. This is the context in which we must approach the issues of policing and justice.

    Together with

    Despite major advances in recent years Sinn Fein does not yet command
    sufficient political strength to realise our primary and ultimate aims.

    Its difficult to challenge the simple, clear-cut reality of these statements.

    So its, all the more likely then that dissidents are grumbling with umbrage; as they’ve no real way to counter this logic; bar sniping, scowling and smearing.

    SF have nothing to worry about.

  • Ulster boy

    The Hearts and Minds poll showed that nearly 1 in 5 of SF supporters think they should never sign up to policing.
    This has the potential to mainfest itself in votes for dissidents or (more likely) absentionism. Even if a minority of that 18% vote dissident or abstain it will affect the results.
    So SF posters can pretend they are not worried. If they are truly not worried then they have only succeeded in fooling themselves.
    Sinn Fein are discovering that democracy is difficult esp when you are holding a weak hand that gets weaker by the day.

  • Quaysider

    It’s not on the Mirror’s website – it’s only a short piece anyway, what I’ve posted is the gist of it.
    My guess is that if any of these guys stand they’ll poll votes in the low hundreds, which is why they’re still dithering over whether or not they will stand.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Quaysider. Though it seems to me that trying to guage the effect of any of this is complicated by the fact that we don’t know who if anyone is likely to emerge.

    Davy Hyland might run, or he might not. Whilst there is no love lost between him and the local SDLP, I cannot see many SDLP voters being motivated to jump to help keep him out, since he is clearly ‘a devil they already know’.

    The pattern of these latest rumbles suggests that something interesting could also break in Mid Ulster. As I have said before, I cannot see it turning into a more widely based revolution but this is trouble at the periphery that the party could have done well without. In effect the party is sucking in negative media attention, when it seems desperate for attention to be shifted to Dundela Avenue.

    The interest is in what it says about the climate inside the party rather than how it will effect electoral performance. My guess is that they would not have undertaken such an obvious ‘night of the long knives’ if they had not calculated well in advance that they were already home and dry.

    It is a shame that the party is not narrating these changes more convincingly themselves. Each deselection raises the same set of questions, partly because of the resounding silence from Connolly House.

    The Belfast Telegraph has the current total of ‘de-selections’ at five (though there are whispers that Pat O’Rawe will now be reinstated). There may be even more to come. All of the people concerned, so far as I can see, are first timers in the job. In none of these cases have we heard from the party why they were axed.

    In which case, the claims of the dissenting Republicans themselves are all the rest of us have to go on.

  • Mick Fealty

    Found it. It was Newton Emerson.

    SDLP supporters could switch their first-preference votes to Sinn Fein if they feel that the party is under threat from extremists.

    Moderate nationalists have a long history of lending their support to Sinn Fein during tricky periods and few switch back if their support is rewarded with progress.

    Independent republican candidates are to run against Sinn Fein in marginal constituencies.

    Thanks to Stormont’s multi-seat proportional representation system they pose a real threat.

  • Yokel

    If the dissenters do stand in any strength they won’t win any seats in Stormont but they may prevent Sinn Fein from winning some.

  • Nationalist

    The whole point of holding these meetings with all forms of Nationalism is to listen to the concerns that people have. At the same time it ios important that John Kelly and Brendan Hughes keep their eye on the goal and listen to the strategy being placed before them.

    We are now in the 2007 and world opinion no longer accepts the past methods of revolution via the use of arms. Whether people like it or not we must face the fact that armed revolution brought us all to a stalemate situation. The IRA could not defeat the British militarily and the British could not defeat the IRA.

    Are wish to reunite with the rest of the country is also longer for by those South of the boarder however they have made it clear they want that reunification to be based on mutual respect and via the will of the people in the Ballot Box.

    For the sake of all the poeple on the Island we have a duty to look at the current situation we find ourselves and ask the question “Is it better to continue a war which cannot be won or better to build bridges with the knowledge that the Nationalist people will be in the majority in 10-15 years time?”

    The Census report in 1991 which had a Catholic population of 38.38% has by the end of 2004 risen to 43.8%, a rise of 5.42% overall. Given that the Unionist population is in a majority only in the over 55yrs age group and those people are falling off the register each year than it is easy to see that the swing in the coming 10-15years will be greater.

    With a peaceful situation we and our children will be able to vote our way into the reunification we yearn for, hopefully without the need for any civil war, which would be the case if we were to follow the dissident way.

    Whilst the strategy takes everyone down a peaceful road it must be borne in mind that every community requires a police force, and one which reflects and is accountable to all sides in society.

    In order to bring about the peaceful change we need therefore to support a police service and the rule of law. From within the Policing boards and law structures it will be possible to change all those institutions, in the same manner as it will be to change Government and the opinions of Unionists from working the Government Departments to the advantage of all.

    It is time to let the past go and turn to a new chapter in order to bring about a true peaceful reunification.

  • Crataegus

    The whole handling of this issue seems to be yet another indication of the SF spin machine losing its touch. I would have thought that it would have better served its purpose to have admitted widespread internal difficulties, and taken the line that whilst acknowledging such difficulties the majority view in the party is to move forward. In that manner they would look as though they have difficulties, but their commitment to peace was resolute. Indeed looking forward to the likely difficulties ahead I would not have indulged in a purge of sitting MLAs whose views run counter to perceived wisdom. Rather than a hindrance it is may be useful to keep these people on board.

    However as it is coming out at the minute it creates the impression that the dissidents are being stood on, are the victims, that there is no free speech whatsoever in the party, that divergence will not be tolerated, and their denials simply confirms in many minds that they are a pack of compulsive liars. It creates the impression of SF as a Stalinist type outfit and reinforces preconceptions.

    The idea among the politically naive is that it is better to get rid of dissenting voices in one go, if you have the chance, but this seldom works. What you risk is creating a body that can cause real pain. They become a symbol for a section of the electorate and justify the feeling of unease. Even if it is done quietly and doesn’t leak out you have axed committed members all of whom have friends and families and you are without doubt weaker. Political activists generally are thin on the ground and to axe people of known commitment is a move that you take at your peril.

    The counter argument that by retention you end up in the UUP position with sniping from the likes of Donaldson really doesn’t hold. Donaldson was only effective in destroying the UUP because of the existence of the DUP. Unionist voters had an alternative. In the case of Republicanism there is no such party but there may now be the early makings of one.

    The way this is being handled will cost SF some votes with little gain from other sources. I don’t think it will be a big loss of support in this election but it could be significant in some areas. It will also increase dissatisfaction with the party. With time politicians tend to lose touch with their support base and with success complacency can set in. Increasingly people may vote for SF, but do so simply because there is not an alternative. That’s a dangerous area to be in.

    Nationalist

    I agree with the thrust of what you say, but surely all the more need to keep a wide church of opinion on board and in the political arena. Also it may be that this issue runs a little deeper than Policing! There are perhaps many who now find they are by instinct ideologically adrift from a wider set of policies.

  • heck

    Nationalist

    “In order to bring about the peaceful change we need therefore to support a police service and the rule of law.”

    The police service (PSNI/UVF) and the rule of law are two different things and it is possible to support “the rule of law” without supporting the PSNI/UVF.

    If the rule of law is to mean anything then it must hold agents of the state to the same standards as “members of the public” (doesn’t that phrase say it all?).

    The system of “law” in nor iron has singularly failed to do this, and this is why the issue of collusion is so tied into support for “the rule of law”. If the justice system cannot treat all equally (state and citizen), then “the rule of law” does not exist and the law enforcement system does not deserve our support. To quote Brigadier General Frank Kitson, the law is just “a propaganda cover for disposing of unwanted members of the public.”

    Pete has documented Peter Hain’s contempt for the court system and if you or I lied to a court in the way he has we would be in jail.

    The BAE bribery scandal and the actions of the Honest Tony’s consigliore, the attorney general, show that British “justice” in not about “the rule of law” but the power of the state.

  • páid

    Bhuel,
    tá na Shinners ag maíomh go bhfuil athraithe “seismic” in a bpolasaí ó thaobh póilínteacht de.
    Níor airigh mé ariamh faoi crith-talún gan gortach.

    Is sular dtosaíonn na hórangies tacht ar bhur cuid bpopcorn, beidh an discipline and slimming down ag teastáil ón dtaobh eile, gan mórán achair.

  • 2050

    Well put Nationalist and I would add that alot more needs to be done to sell reunification to the Protestant community. Reunification is not a threat to their faith or a threat to them in anyway. We are all human at the end off the day and just want the best for our children and ourselves through live.

  • 2050

    life

  • Florrie Binn

    Whilst we have deviated somewhat I wish to return to Davy Hyland… Davy taught me politics and apart from being a grammar freak, he was a gent and somebody who had real intellect and political principles. What is going on now in SF is akin to the cultural revolution in China where the leadership is trying to wipe out all forms of intelligence and opposition within its ranks. What we have then is ‘nodding dogs’ syndrome, where everybody has to buy into the cult of Gerry.
    When I see the calibre of some of the SF candidates – who seem to be intellectual flyweights – I despair. Lets sum this up 1) Partaking in a Stormont Government of the Six Counties; 2) Recognition for a neo-sectarian policeforce; 3) Recognising the right if Britain to govern Ireland … Some may argue that we are entering a new phase but in the name of God where are the principals of republicanism…. The PURGE OF DISSEDENTS IS ON! Roll on a mediocre unagreed Ireland!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Davy – go for it!

  • 2050

    FB

    I wouldn’t go as far as a SF cultural revolution. Its common sense and an intelligent change in strategy to a long term peaceful one that will achieve the same goal. Any desenting voices who want to come up with a better strategy I’m sure will have their say. Any that want to suggest a return to violence know fine well it’s a none runner with no support.

    I’m not a republican put support their final goal as I believe its best for all of us.

    Regarding your sum up. Intelligent people take some bitter pills if it makes things better.

    1. Sitting in Stormont is no big deal in terms of the big picture. It’s just another building.
    2. Significant changes have taken place in the police service since the GFA and more significant ones are ahead no doubt.
    3. Britain has committed to leaving Northern Ireland when the majority of people here consent to unification and this strategy is part of building the conditions and a New Ireland for that consent to take place.

    A smart strategy and SF will have my vote come the next election.

  • mickhall

    “We are now in the 2007 and world opinion no longer accepts the past methods of revolution via the use of arms.”

    nationalist

    What a small world you live in, what you are really saying is the powers that be no longer support armed insurrection, well mate they never did, they were against it in 1916, they were against in in 1969 and they have been against it when ever people have risen up and demanded justice. In any-case few dissidents support armed struggle at this stage, but not for the reason you gave, what we all agree on is that all oppressed and occupied peoples have to right to use arms to remove their satraps if the situation demands it.

    When armed struggle is not a viable option what revolutionaries do is expose and oppose the state at every turn, what they do not do is support its armed wings and help to make both them and the State they serve more efficient.

    As to twaddle about the rule of law, well heck has demolished such rubbish, the rule of law, in any State, when push comes to shove represents the best interest of the power elite’s within the said state. The rule of law is a very fickle and unjust thing, ask saddam, for Iraq under the old monster was built on the rule of law, it was just that it worked to his advantage as he made the law. Now who made every single law that is currently on the statute book in the north? the Brits and you want republicans to administer these laws, unbelievable.

    Heck was spot on with the bribes scandal in England for it exposes perfectly your rule of law, which you seem to see as some perfect god given thing which is independent of those who make the said laws. A single mum doing the double for a bit of pin money ends up before the courts, whilst thief’s who have bribed their way around the globe has the UKPM stop the investigation, nuff said!

    Any one would think there was collusion going on, ah, that’s were we all came in. When is Gerry going to defecate on all the families who lost sons and daughters to murder gangs working in tandem with the UK state, I suppose you will support that whilst coming on slugger telling us that we all must, as it will lead to reunification.

    By the way, Im sure John and the Dark are well able to keep their eye on the prize, it is just that what Adams is offering is the booby prize and they see no need to compete for it as if they were demented celebs in the big brother house.

    Nationalist let me conclude with this, if and when the northern State-let is a fully functioning democracy, in which equality is the watch word and all parties respect without exception the electoral mandates given up at the ballot box, you might just have an argument to put to republicans and socialists about supporting the rule of law, but as things stand all you are offering is yet more sack cloth and ashes, with out a dam thing in return. In other words you are doing what perfidious albion has been at for 700 odd years in Ireland.

  • Nationalist

    Florrie Binn,

    1) The taking part in a Stormont Assembly has a number of advantages at this stage. Firstly it will allow Sinn Fein to bring North South legislation into line and introduce more co-operation in infrastructure.

    You have to realise that should there be united Ireland tomorrow the laws in the North would still be same and it would take time to change these without causing chaos.

    Running Stormont Departments will allow the Unionist people to see that they have nothing to fear from entering a United Ireland and that laws and decisions will be taken for the good of all the people and not just for ourselves.

    It is far better to follow this road and ensure a peaceful transition than one of a civil war, which is where the dissidents would seem to be wanting to take us to.

    A proper thought out starategy based on the Population numbers and ones which brings peace for all our children is worth the risk and effort.

    2) The PSNI is now less than 5000 members and has slightly over 20% Catholic representation, which with the resultant stamp of approval by Republicans will see greater numbers joining – especially from the republican community.

    Given the shear reduction in numbers from the 15000 Full time at one stage this is a great improvement. Anyone being honest would have to say that the PSNI is not the RUC of old and with Republican and Nationalist involvement the changes to come willbe greater.

    3) It is clear from the strategy that no-one is giving Britian the right to rule Ireland and everyone must be clear that this is not a final solution but merely the final stepping stone across the river to re-unification.

    The Nationalist population at the end of 2004 stood at 43.8% up 5.42% from the 1991 Census figures. With the Unionist majority only in the over 55yrs age group. Clearly the swing will increase as the elderly die and the under 25s which hold a 65% Nationalist majority starts to kick in.

    All Nationalists need to see that what is being aimed for is a peaceful transition as the numbers will be in our favour in less than 20 years.

    Whilst some things seem hard at the moment it will be easy to take when looking back in the future.

  • mickhall

    Heck,

    I have just re-read your post no 12, it really does sum the situation up perfectly and is one of the most precise posts I have every read on slugger, cheers.

    Best regards.