Dougan issues statement: “It’s the policing, stupid.”

It’s not long, but given the speculation in the comments section as to her position, it is a side note worth making.
“I have decided not to put my name forward for re-selection due to both personal reasons and concerns I have over the direction Sinn Féin is taking on the policing issue. It has been reported that I remain a member of Sinn Féin. While this is true at present, if a special ard fheis mandates Sinn Féin to support policing and the judiciary while still under British control in any shape or form, membership of that party would be untenable for me as an Irish republican.” – UTV has more.

UPDATE: SF’s New Dissidents
Middle Class Taig (#4) articulates a point also made elsewhere by Malachi O Doherty (#23) and Pat McLarnon has expressed similar sentiments on a variety of threads, i.e., a lack of sympathy for new “dissidents” because where did they think this was all going, anyway? MCT writes: “Did the people currently dissenting within SF not realise that this nettle was always going to have to be grasped? The strategy of get everything you can before holding your nose and jumping ultimately requires a leap.”

  • time will tell

    Fair play to ya…. late but better late than never

  • fuiseog

    Is that clear now? … Crystal !!!

  • Yokel

    No no, personal reasons only. She does not speak for Geraldine Dougan, only Sinn Fein does.

  • middle-class taig

    Honourable, in a blinkered, inconsistent way, but ultimately stupid.

    It has been SF policy for a long time that they would accept the police and judiciary if the arrangements in place or promised offered a new beginning. Did she not read those press releases? Did Davy Hyland not listen to Gerry’s speeches?

    Did the people currently dissenting within SF not realise that this nettle was always going to have to be grasped? The strategy of get everything you can before holding your nose and jumping ultimately requires a leap.

    Moreover, there seems to be a sense that SF would have to endorse the PSNI absolutely and adopt an entirely uncritical stance towards future excesses by PSNI, a la SDLP. That’s simply not the case. All that the Ard Fheis motion requires is an acceptance that current arrangements are capable of offering a new beginning. SF will remain entitled to hold the PSNI to account for political policing and mistreatment of nationalists.

  • Dualta


    I’m not so sure that all rank and file Sinn Fein members did believe that they would accept the PSNI somewhere down the peace process line.

    I remember talking to a SF councillor about the issue over three years ago and he was adamant that the party would not ever support the PSNI. Even then I saw that it was a necessary and logical step for SF to take in its project.

    But it would not be the first time that the leadership told the rank and file that something would never happen which ended up happening, decommissioning being a prime example.

  • Joe Romhar

    MCT is on the ball – they should have known. But of course they didn’t. Part of it is down to the leaders swearing internally it was just a tactic, that they would never actually be signing up. Just look at how many idiots on this site swore they would leave the party if it ever supported the PSNI – now all the backtracking. Where MCT is on soft ground is in thinking Sinn Fein will hold the police to account. As a general rule police don’t hold police to account anywhere in the world. Sinn Fein is not demanding the police be brought to account on the Scappaticci affair. In fact there is one possible agent on the boards still trying to cover for Scappatici. Sinn Fein failed to impress in the health and education where they brought in PFI.

  • mickhall

    Joe is absolutely correct, the fact is this whole process has been sold to SF rank and file on the basis of fingers crossed and indeed it still is. [see Ms fitz report of a radio broadcast] The rubbish they have fed their members is unbelievable, one shinner told me with a straight face and a knowing wink that no arms were actually decommissioned, because the General was set up to be caught having sex with a volunteers wife and was blackmailed into not actually descommisioning any arms; and this was why he was so disheveled etc when he came back from decommissioning.

    In any normal political party in which the members behaved in a rational manner, such things would be unbelievably, but SF is leader fixated, indeed the leadership are always demanding of their members that they must trust their leaders, it is almost fascistic. As to are the leadership continuos anthem of self praise. We deliver, We deliver, We deliver, they cry it out so loudly no one seems to pause to ask what the hell this leadership actually delivers, beyond sack cloth and ashes by the lorry load.

  • middle-class taig


    If the SF leadership has been reassuring people that inevitabilities would never come to pass, it has made quite a rod for its own back. My feeling is that people have been hearing only what they wanted to hear. SF activists need to decide if they want to remain a party of protest against the forces that be, or if they want to be a party aspiring to government with a view to effecting meaningful change on public policy throughout Ireland. There’s a certain amount of agitation that can be done even in the latter scenario, but the time has come to be a party of good government as well as a party of revolution.

    In my view, the game was up on policing when the SDLP and Irish Government dropped their trousers and accepted “Patten minus 40%”. SF has been exposed and isolated on this issue ever since. They’ve done what they can to make of the sow’s ear a purse, even if not a silken one. What’s on offer now is as much as is ever going to be on offer. Take it, move on, fight the next fight.

    Joe Romhar

    Clearly, SF is not the Police Ombudman. It can’t hold the police to account in a legal sense other than by going to court. However, it certainly can (and indeed it does) criticise the PSNI when, in SF’s view, it is guilty of political policing at the behest of unionists, it incompetently mounts prosecutions against nationalists for political purposes, it fails to investigate crimes in order to protect loyalist informers and it acts in an inappropriate manner towards nationalists and republicans. The envisaged endorsement will not prevent SF from making public such criticisms, and from doing so aggressively.

    So you weren’t impressed with SF’s ministers in devolved government. I have to admit, I wasn’t delighted with PFI (ie, sell the people’s assets back to the people). However, it’s pretty much the only show in town as regards public funding for new schools and hospitals. I expect SF ministers to have ideals, not to be hidebounbd to those ideals.

    As a matter of interest, can you think of any government ministers anywhere in Europe in the last 20 years who you were impressed with?

  • middle-class taig


    Leaving your unverifiable anecdotes and unhelpful vitriol to one side for a moment, the SF leadership’s key role at the moment (as far as I, as a republican and nationalist, am concerned) is to deliver four things:

    1. an end to direct rule in the short term;

    2. increased input into public policy North and South for republican communities;

    3. continued electoral success, North and South; and

    4. advancement of the republican project.

    Accepting the police now is critical to achieving 1 and 2 (and possibly also 3). I would argue that 4 cannot be achieved without 1, 2 and 3.

    It’s pretty clear you don’t like the SF leadership. Bully for you. But from where I stand, neither you, nor any of the various anti-SF republican commentators on here, nor anybody writing in the Blanket at the moment is doing anything on 1, 2 3 or 4 or shows any prospect of developing a strategy to achieve 1, 2, 3 or 4 (or indeed any other strategy, other than to criticise the SF leadership). So it’s hard to listen seriously to your criticisms of the SF leadership.

  • mickhall


    You are a strange one, you claim you cannot take what i and my colleagues at the Blanket write seriously, but then spend your time replying to one of my posts, weird.

    I tell you what in return I will not take you seriously either, then in the future I will not feel the need out of politeness to reply to your toadying

    Let me be clear about what you are saying, the only way the cause of Irish Republicanism can be advanced is to accept the writ of the UK State and all its agencies within the north of Ireland. Mmmmmm, what a strange Irish republican you are, myself I have never come across this line of Republican thought, did Wolf Tone write on this, Pearse or Connolly, Mellows perhaps, or maybe Sean Garland even? Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me have your sources for your kind of Republicanism.

    [By the way, as to your ‘Republican Project’, where did you get this terminology from, there are those within the UK LP who believe that is was an individual by the name of Oatley who first suggested to Peter Mandleson that he should use the term ‘New Labour Project’, which was then shortened in Blairite circles to The Project.]

  • snowball

    middle class taig
    there are logical flaws in your argument – one is the assumption that 1), 2) and 3) are consistent with achieving or advancing the republican goal of a united and independent ireland. in fact they are consistent only with advancing the goals and ambitions of the sinn fein party and its leadership, an entity that many would argue nowadays pays only a lip service to republican ideology. it is rather like saying that success for new labour in britain will advance the cause of socialism because new labour is socialist when in fact it no longer is. the second and more significant flaw in your argument is based upon the premise that support for republicanism amongst the north’s catholic population has always been fuelled by the conviction or belief that it was impossible to get a square deal inside a british northern ireland and therefore the only way to achieve it was to destroy the state and create a new 32-county entity. two of your goals, 1) an end to direct rule and 2) increased input into public policy for republican communities may well achieve 3) increased electoral support for sinn fein but their political effect is fundamentally reformist whereas republicanism is revolutionary. the effect of such a programme will be to accommodate northern catholics to the northern state, dull opposition to the northern state, reform and stabilise the northern state and effectively undermine the reason why people have embraced republicanism. that is what is wrong, from a republican viewpoint, with the adams strategy and it is also why opponents are not required to provide an alternative. when you ask dissidents do they have anything better to offer you are actually asking whether anyone has a better or more efficient way of selling out! you shouldn’t be surprised therefore when you get no answer.

  • middle-class taig


    So, you’ve decided not to take the opportunity offered to advance a “strategy to achieve 1, 2, 3 or 4 (or indeed any other strategy, other than to criticise the SF leadership)”. Why am I not surprised?

    If you take a deep breath and look at what I wrote again, I didn’t say I didn’t take you seriously, I said it was “hard to listen seriously to your criticisms of the SF leadership”. This is in no small measure because you offer no alternative strategy whatsoever. Not even a flawed strategy – no strategy at all.

    Republicanism finds itself in a position where it can grow the movement, advance its goals and effect meaningful change in the North and across Ireland. But it can only do so by being prepared to accept certain compromises. I think accepting the PSNI at this point would remove the obstacle to power-sharing, leading to devolution of ministerial control over policing and justice, an end to unaccountable panjandrums from London making decisions for Irish people, a reduction in political policing, a start to effective civic policing for nationalist areas, progress on enhanced local democracy through the super-councils (which I see as a key vehicle for advancing republican goals), greater scope for cooperation with unionists in the running of our country and a reduction in the culture of endless and mindless hostility towards the republican project. In turn, this would put a goal-keeper in front of some of the open goals left by the republican movement in relation to political and electoral advancement in the 26 Counties.

    If you want to characterise this as saying that the only way the cause of Irish Republicanism can be advanced is to accept the writ of the UK State and all its agencies within the north of Ireland, so be it. I would characterise it as saying that the only way the cause of Irish Republicanism can be advanced is to make certain compromises aimed at securing republican participation in government. One thing I can tell you for certain, the cause of Irish Republicanism shows no sign of being advanced by the shroud-waving fantasism and Adams-hatred cultism prevalent on the Blanket. Mine may well be a counsel of distatsteful pragmatism and compromise. Yours, my friend, is a counsel of despair.

    Btw, I’m sorry if you have “never come across this line of Republican thought”. I couldn’t care less what Tone, Pearse or Connolly would say about it. And frankly, you have no idea what Tone, Pearse or Connolly would say about it. I don’t need to provide “sources” for my political thinking and I don’t need to have it vetted by the Holy Ghosts of absolutist republican theology. I’ll do my own thinking, thanks very much.

  • middle-class taig


    As I see it, there simply is no effective vehicle for the advancement of “the republican goal of a united and independent Ireland” other than the SF party. If anti-SF republicans want to set up a political party offering an alternative strategy for advancing that and intermediate goals, then I’ll take them seriously. Until then, I’ll continue to view republicans criticising SF as doing republicanism more harm than good.

    You seem to see potential (and no more than potential) stepping stones along the way to the ultimat goal as being somehow inconsistent with that ultimate goal. I think that’s wrong-headed. Reformism is not inherently repugnant to Irish republicanism if the reform is capable, incrementally of advancing republican goals. We must fertilise the political and electoral soil in which we wish to plant republicanism if we expect to see it grow. I think a political landscape in which SF is a party pushing for government North and South, advancing an aggressive 32-county agenda, delivering effective governance at local and “national” level is a much more fertile one than a landscape in which republicans are forever on the margins, forever dismissed as criminals, forever criticised as absolutist agitators and forever excluded from the levers of power. I disagree fundamentally that the desire of Irish people for independence and self-determination will be dulled by interim participation in power-sharing with unionists in the running of the northern state.

    How delightfully convenient that dissidents need not articulate an alternative strategy. I don’t see a strategy requiring certain compromises as “selling-out” (by the way, talk of “sell-out” smacks of Paisleyism). I’m not surprised that I don’t get an answer to my call for alternative strategies, but not for the reason you suggest.

    By the way, I never mentioned Catholics – you did.

  • tony

    Gotta say as a nationalist, i was unsure about supporting any police service within the 6 counties.But on reflection, i’m quite happy that Sinn Fein are following the present course.

    Get in there and bring the whole failed entity to an end.

    I’ll vote Sinn Fein, but never support any 6 county police force or institution.

    In the absense of an alternative, lets get them in and see what they can do.

    The northern state will never be acceptable to many, so lets see what the Shinners can do to wrteck the shithole from within.

  • snowball

    middle class taig
    i guess the problem is that you’re not too bright – either that or you understand too well and seek to obfuscate;
    when you seek to reform rather than to destroy an entity it follows that you are reconciled to the continued existence of that entity – this is what sinn fein have done with the north – they seek to reform and make the state workable whereas the customary republican position seeks the destruction of the northern state and its replacement with a united, 32 county republic – in this sense they have crossed an ideological rubicon and find themselves, willingly it must be said, on the same side of the river as the SDLP and the Officials who both accepted the consent principle long before sinn fein – sinn fein can still claim to be republican, as some in britain’s new labour also claim still to be socialist, but both claims are sheer bunkum and i suspect that you, middle class taig, fully know it – once you accept the tactic of reform rather than revolution then you are implicitly accepting the continued existence of that which you set out to remove or destroy, viz the northern state.
    it is instructive that you use the phrase ‘stepping stone’ to describe the current sinn fein strategy – you will know of course that michael collins’ men were called ‘stepping stoners’ after the 1921 treaty for they argued that accepting lloyd george’s deal was a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of an irish republic – rather as collins’ project failed to achieve a united irish republic so will sinn fein’s project fail as well if only because it is in human nature to accept what you have gained, even if it be very little, rather than continue to suffer to achieve what may be unachievable;
    the fact remains that people joined the provisional ira and fought with it for many years because they sincerely believed that the northern state was rotten and irreformable and had to be destroyed in order to make way for a decent, civilised society – now that the leadership of said provisional ira have embraced reformism instead, one can only assume that they no longer think the state irreformable or rotten; and as these reforms work their way through society then the antipathy of northern nationalists to the state, especially those in the middle class, will diminish in direct proportion to the improvement of their own lives; once that happens why should they want to destroy the state or support those who advocate such a course and upset their lifestyles? this is the remorseless logic of ‘stepping stonism’ and it is where sinn fein is – no amount of obfuscation from you can disguise that; the logic of the peace process, the logic of the sinn fein strategy is to normalise and stabilse the northern state not to undermine it;
    as for the use of the term ‘catholic’, it first began to appear as a substitute for ‘republican’ in sinn fein rhetoric, post-peace process, not mine

  • pot, kettle, whatever

    By the way, I never mentioned Catholics – you did. sez the Middle Class Taig.

  • Garibaldy

    “the fact remains that people joined the provisional ira and fought with it for many years because they sincerely believed that the northern state was rotten and irreformable and had to be destroyed in order to make way for a decent, civilised society”

    I’d say a hell of a lot of people joined the Provos because they were sincerely sectarian, driven by hatred of a large segment of the people of Ireland.

    As for northern Catholics or nationalists (noting that they have been used interchangeably by Snowball as they have been by the Provos since their inception, and in Irish political culture before that) all turning into reformists accepting the state because the PSF leadership does, I think it’s the other way around – the Provos became reformists because the majority of people who want a united Ireland want it to be achieved through peaceful means, and want to make NI more to their tastes in the interim.

    Snowball thinks reforms will drain support for change, the logic being that the less reforms and the worse a time people have it, the more likely they will want to overthrow the state. Maybe we should go back to the pre-1969 days and /she would be happy then. Snowball is a well chosen name. Orwell used it for Trotsky in Animal Farm. Many Trotskyists thought Thatcher’s assault on Britain’s industrial base and union movement would produce a revolutionary proletariat, rather than a demoralised, disorganised and atomised one. What a successful analysis that was.

  • Joe Romhar

    MCT, if only what you said was correct there would be hope for the project you outline. But SF do not criticise the PSNI in all instances you refer to. Think of the attempt in Newry-Mourne to undermine the call for an inquiry into Brogan-Carroll. They have yet to call for an inquiry into Scappaticci. To use your own words Sinn Fein are not saying anything about the failure to investigate crimes when it comes to protecting informers such as Scappaticci. Sinn Fein have been very silent on the McKevitt case in the South. Sinn Fein will have to support the PSNI as they arrest republicans who bomb furniture stores as Bobby Sands once did. Sinn Fein may criticise the PSNI as a means to hit the unionists but not because it is right in itself. I understand fully why you can support them and don’t think you are inconsistent. It is because they have been so inconsistent and have become the strand of political thought you have always adhered to. No, there have not been many government ministers I have been impressed with over the years. But I was more impressed with Paddy Devlin than McGuinness. I was more impresed with McGuinness than with Austin Currie. I think there are ideals politicians should be hidebound to – the ideal that torture should never be permitted in any society for example. You probably agree with that. But why set up opposition to torture as an ideal but not to PFI? As for your comments about Mick Hall and the Blanket – there is a lot of rubbish on the Blanket but it provides a range of views and seems to censor nobody. Should the articles there not be in An Phoblacht? I think they should. Keep writing MCT – it is always good to see a case that has a logic to it unlike the rubbish the yes men spew out. It is strange that it takes somebody who seems pragmatic and not a yes man to put a more persuasive case for SF than the flunkeys ever could. Why can the rest of them not just put it as you do? I disagree with it but at least I can see the logic of it.

  • Dualta

    Middle-class taig

    This list you posted:

    [i]1. an end to direct rule in the short term;

    2. increased input into public policy North and South for republican communities;

    3. continued electoral success, North and South; and

    4. advancement of the republican project. [/i]

    The only thing the SDLP had not achieved in that list the electoral success in the south.

    Had it not been for militant Republicans we would have had devolution here a long time ago with Nationalists having a say in policy and administration.

    Had there not have been the deeply divisive armed struggle the advancement of the national project could have been hastened considerably, insofar as the conditions for persuading Protestants of the merits of all-island independence would have been well in place.

    Now we see ourselves starting off with the legacy 30-odd years of vicious violence like a dead mule on our backs.

    You make it sound that the SF leadership are pioneers in doing all of the above, when in fact they are playing catch-up with the rest of us republicans on this island. This is a fact which can’t reasonably be denied.

  • Reader

    Snowball: the effect of such a programme will be to accommodate northern catholics to the northern state, dull opposition to the northern state, reform and stabilise the northern state and effectively undermine the reason why people have embraced republicanism. that is what is wrong, from a republican viewpoint, with the adams strategy
    So, put your alternative before the electorate. Write a manifesto that says you want to make your voters, and everyone else, so miserable that they will vote for your Republic (or kill for it, perhaps?) as the only way out of the wasteland you plan to build here.
    However, I’m not sure you’ll get a lot of support. So the next question is, do you have a right to proceed *without* support? Does 32 county Republicanism trump Demcracy?

  • Joe Romhar

    Reader, you pose an interesting question to Snowball even though I am not sure you and he/she are talking about the same thing. But proceed to what without support? Challenging the popular doesn’t get much support but it is necessary.

  • Reader

    Joe Romhar: I am not sure you and he/she are talking about the same thing. But proceed to what without support?
    I wasn’t hinting at anything too sinister. It looks like Snowball wants mainstream Republicanism to act as wreckers (In essentially economic terms, this decade at least). But there’s no way that’s a mainstream position. Who votes for their children’s prospects to be trashed – SF didn’t get their current votes on that position. Of course, Snowball may be a southerner, and it would only be other people’s children.
    In short, it’s the same old question that always upsets dissidents – what’s the bleedin’ plan, then?

  • middle-class taig

    Dualta, Joe Romhar, snowball

    Thanks for your interesting responses. Sorry I haven’t been able to respond before now. Today has been one of those days you wish had not dawned. I’ll seek to respond during the evening.

  • mickhall


    You angered me somewhat yesterday, hence my sharp reply and that worried me, I thought over your comments during the night, but not only has Joe R got there before me with a similar conclusion to my own, but has done so far better than I I’m sure. [post 18] What you set out was a perfectly acceptable centre-left reformist position and I to agree people need to be represented politically, where-ever they live and imo it is better a centre left party does the job that a party of the right.

    However as far as the north is concerned that cannot be an Irish Republican party, due to its philosophy and for the very reasons Joe has pointed out. I wondered if your experience of politics has been in the south or elsewhere, for there is an argument that could be put that an Irish republican party in the RoI could metamorphose into a left republican reformist party, which could eventually become part of a progressive block in the south. Greens, SP, indies, éirígí and others.

    The sticks eventually understood the logic of this argument and most of them have ended up in the LP, but perhaps that is more of a generational thing. The logic of your argument and the honest way you make it deserves respect, what amazes me is that you can give your loyalty to a man who has acted in such an immoral and dishonest manner, still that is not for me.

    Adams had no real need to lie to the electorate about his project, because we all understand at this stage as far as accepting a left reformist party is concerned, he is pushing at an open door in the northern nationalist WC communities. Thus I wonder do you not feel if anything he is discrediting your project with his lies, lack of trust in both his membership and the wider nationalist working class electorate, let alone his bitterness.

    As to the dissidents, in my judgement if Adams had put his left reformist project openly, few would have objected, some would have joined, whilst others would have stayed republicans and gone their own way, or gone home and shut the door to political activity. What the dissidents hate is the dragging of republicanism through the sludge of lies, pretense and deceit, most of which has been totally unnecessary, as Mr Adams will not be the first republican to take the reformist road, now will he?

    Although as far as Adams is personally concerned, few beyond the ranks of SF today believe that he intends it to be a left reformist party, seeing his intentions for the Party as being much darker. It cannot be an accident that he has hardly ever written on his economic, cultural and social hopes for a future Irish nation, in truth the big picture he keeps going on about is in reality more of a miniature 😉

    best regards

  • seabhac siulach


    “In short, it’s the same old question that always upsets dissidents – what’s the bleedin’ plan, then?”

    This is a variation of the cry that usually goes up when discussing Adams and his ‘strategy’ on this board: what is the alternative? To me, this is a too-easy attempt to pretend that there always was no alternative. When starting out in August 31st, 1994 there was a whole world of alternatives out there, not all leading to the present state of affairs. It is akin to someone painting themselves into a corner and then blithely protesting, ‘but there was no alternative’? There, of course, always was, and, perhaps, still is, an alternative if a modicum of skill and imagination had been (is) applied. The provos have not shown themselves very adept at political negotiations (being out-manoeuvred at every turn). And, in terms of alternatives, I am not talking of armed struggle…or the type of immoral armed propaganda the Provos engaged in from at least 1986 to 1994 under Adam’s tutelage…

    Can we say that the reality of today was the best that could be achieved in terms of realising republican aspirations? Hardly. Accepting seats in Stormont, the first(?) Provo Sinn Fein capitulation post-1994, could never be in the long-term interests of republicanism, stabilising as it did the hitherto ungovernable statelet. What exactly is the long-term republican strategy of accepting these seats, of stabilising Stormont long-term? It cannot be said that they are taking seats in Stormont as a step to the republic, as this is illogical. The republic the Provos killed and died for, and claim legitimacy from, was already in existence since 1919…so all this talk of steps to a republic is a nonsense and profoundly dishonest on their account. The ‘steps to the republic’ approach was tried by Collins in 1921, and look how well that turned out (i.e., badly). Constitutional structures once set up quickly take on a permanance, perhaps not originally intended, e.g., the 26 county free state. While all is relatively fluid (constitutionally-wise) at the moment, it is well known that once constitutional questions are ‘decided’, once institutions are set up, that they are set in stone. Set up Stormont now, and it will be in place for decades or longer…it is the end of any hope of political unification.

    Of course, reformists (like the SDLP and now the Provos(?)) will want Stormont in place, but republicans were never supposedly in favour of reform, but the overthrow of the state and the implementation of revolutionary ideas. Preventing water charges or educational reform is all very well but what has that to do with unifying the country, for example? These issues could be taken care of in councils, without the need for constitutional support to be given to the state.

    An obvious alternative for the Provos at the time of the Good Friday Agreement negotiations (and more so now) would have been to refuse to take seats in any Stormont assembly and instead to push for greater powers to be transferred to local councils, e.g. the seven super councils. Nationalist/republican control in at least three of these will do more to promote republican objectives objectives than sitting in a Stormont talking shop with recalcitrant unionists (in a de-facto permanent majority). These super-councils moreover could push independently for greater cross-border links with the 26 counties, something that is likely to be frustrated by the unionists in Stormont. In short, an off-the-top-of-the-head alternative to the Stormont route would be (or would have been) to push for power to be devolved not to Stormont but further down to the seven super councils. Devolve policing powers to each of these super councils also, placing it in the hands of the smaller groupings and further from British state control. Of course, this would still require the acceptance of British law…still troubling for many, but at least, the application of the law would be more in the hands of the local authorities. Perhaps closer cross-border links in terms of policing could be accelerated in those council areas with nationalist/republican majorities, blurring the difference between Irish/British law/justice (not sure how constitutional this would be). The 26 county govt. could, furthert, be encouraged to fund cross-border projects in areas with nationalist councils, thus promoting the benefits of unification.

    Perhaps, those ideas are ‘pie in the sky’ but my point is that there are always alternatives. The present ‘result’ is far, far from the optimum that could have been achieved (politically) back in 1994. Who back then would have accepted where we are now?

    My question then is, how does stabilising Stormont further republicanism? I will answer it…it does not.

    By all means, let us talk about alternatives…

  • middle-class taig


    I’m quite sure that the problem is, as you say, that I’m not too bright. However, setting aside that hypothesis solely for the purposes of debate…

    I think it’s fair to say that SF is reconciled to the continuing existence of the northern State; not to its permanent continuing existence and certainly not to the legitimacy of its inception, but to its existence in the medium term. In that context, yes, they have adapted their position from a revolutionary stance to one of reformism. In case you didn’t notice, the revolution fell short of its ultimate goal.

    In that context, Republicans have two choices:

    (a) Stay aloof from any involvement with the machinery of the northern State and devise a new strategy to secure the success of a new revolution, or

    (b) Work the status quo to advance your intermediate goals, while trying to develop political support and build the structural infrastructure necesary to achieve the ultimate republican goals.

    It seems to me that Irish republicanism does not begin and end with the achievement of the 32-county republic. Certainly that is the principal goal, but I’m not even sure it is the ultimate goal. On the way there, there are numerous intemediate goals – repairing the damage done to nationalist areas by centuries of neglect by British goverments, seeking to dissolve the lime-crust of sectarian mistrust towards republicans and nationalists which is so prevalent in modern unionism, re-establishing economic, political and cultural links between border regions, building a greater all-Ireland identity and thwarting the inncipient 26-county nationalist identity, developing the Irish language, etc, etc.

    To my mind, these intermediate goals are too important to await the final triumph of the revolution whch may never come. Moreover, these intermediate objectives will, in my view, fertilise the ground for the argument to come on reunification. Therefore, let’s use the machinery of the partially reformed northern State to advance republican goals, intermediate and final.

    To my mind, one can take a political position of pocketing reforms, pushing for more reform and all the while canvassing for unification. In so doing, one remains a republican.

    I’m perplexed by your antipathy towards the language of stepping stones. Military victory was not achieved. Therefore, republicanism either seeks a gradualist political strategy or it folds up its tent and goes home. The 1921 steping stoners did not achieve The Republic, but they did achieve a republic and a limited measure of Irish independence. They have failed to conver the final stepping stones. Surely that’s what SF’s 32 country strategy is about – regenerating interest in the final stepping stones. You say SF’s project will inevitably fail. Perhaps it will. certainly it will if you define success in terms of impossibilities. However, to the extent that it increasingly empowers nationalist and republican communities, to the extent that it helps secure greater rights for workers, to the extent that it creates greater economic anc cultural links between regions currently divided by the border and to the extent that it breaks down sectarian barriers here, it is succeeding. Gradually.

    You point out that “people joined the provisional ira and fought with it for many years because they sincerely believed that the northern state was rotten and irreformable and had to be destroyed in order to make way for a decent, civilised society”. That is unquestionably true, and I think Garibaldy’s sneering above says more about him than it does about the volunteers you refer to. But ut is a fact that there has been a significant measure of reform in the northern State. It is by no means perfect, but it is transparently partially reformed and further reformable. I don’t think the conditions for war could honestly be said to persist. In that context, a strategy other than military must be pursued. It’s not 1969.

    Having said that, I don’t believe that the nationalist and republican people of the North will be satisfied with that measure of reform. In assuming that they will ultimately settle (in an “I´m all right, Jack” way) for a partially reformed North, you do them, us, a disservice. I think they want self determination, I think they want partnership with their unionist neighbours, I think they want to have the role to which they are entitled as a part of the Irish nation, and I think they’ll vote for it given a chance. I think a united republican movement focussed on delivery for those communities and outreach to other communities, and eschewing the destructive and self-indulgent omphaloskeptic nostalgia prevalent among the Blanket crew, has a real chance of leading them there. The Blanket crew show no sign of leading them anywhere.

  • middle-class taig

    Sorry for the length of that last post – these are difficult issues. Brevity is not a gift with which I’ve ever been accused of being overburdened.

    Joe Romhar

    I think you’re right that SF will find it difficult to support PSNI arrests of dissident republicans. It’s hard for republicans to support the criminalisation of former comrades. However, notwithstanding concerns about ongoing discrimination, injustice and political policing, the conditions for war are not there. SF will have to have the courage of their compromises (for supporting the PSNI is clearly not a conviction), and humbly encourage dissidents to follow them along a political path. It won’t be easy for them.

    There’s some truth in what you say about SF having moved to represent my own political views, which were somewhere between SDLP and SF in the 1980s. I’d like to think that I was right all along, but I think the whole republican family is on a journey. It’s by no means clear where that journey will take us, but it would be better if we took it together, hurtful compromises and all.

    I find the Blanket fascinating. I find no political enlightenment in there, although it certainly affords a forum for voices not otherwise heard in mainstream republican discourse. Personally, I’m disheartened enormously by the rifts in republicanism. I feel deeply saddened that republicans like Darkie Hughes, John Kelly and Dolours Price feel unrepresented by SF. Part of the fault for that is undoubtedly SF’s as it tries to achieve a degree of media manipulation and on-messaging more appropriate to a political party than a grass-roots movement. But I wish some of those individuals who complain most loudly would, from time to time, consider whether there is ANY political party structre which could secure their allegiance on each and every issue. Perhaps they are life’s natural agitators. If so, they are no loss to SF qua political party and electoral machine.

    As to your point on a lack of frankness in SF about its own pragmatism, I think a lot of Sinn Fein activists wish the war had been successful, and resent that it wasn’t. They need to stop kidding themselves that their current policy is utterly consistent with their policy circa 1985. It is not. It has been adapted to changing circumstances. Honourably so. Move on. Go with what works now!

  • middle-class taig


    As you may know, I have said on a number of occasions that I used to vote SDLP (including for Hendron in 1992, God forgive me!).

    Ultimately, they lost my vote (and, to be honest, they will have to work for my preferences in future) because their agenda became insufficiently nationalist. I don’t mean the nasty, right-wing, close-the-gates nationalism of mainland Europe and the UK; I mean the liberationist, internationalist, egalitarian all-Ireland agenda which I see SF pursuing today. I don’t see SDLP as pursuing any national project whatsoever. A letter from Mark Durkan to Bertie on the occasional referendum simply doesn’t cut it for me. When you say that SF is playing catch-up with the SDLP, I’d say thre’s some truth in that (save that they’ve kept their eyes on the end republican goal). But when you say that they’re catching up with “the rest of us republicans on this island”, I have to laugh (more out of sorrow than contempt). The DUP has a more joined up All-Ireland agenda than the SDLP.

    I think I also became concerned that John Hume was more interested in jobs in Derry than in Irish self-determination. The whole “post-nationalism” thing fed into that. These fears were born out when the SDLP jumped on policing before there was any evidence of impartial, apolitical policing and before it was clear that the Patten reforms were being put in place effectively with a view to responsibility for policing and justice ultimately moving from London to Ireland. This was never going to be too damaging for nice middle-class nationalists , but it was critical to the quality of life of people living in republican areas. It never seemed to me to matter much to a kid from Ballymurphy if he was getting his head kicked in by a St Malachy’s boy in uniform rather than a Campbell College boy in uniform. The SDLP should have fought harder on policing. I’ll never forgive them for failing to do so.

    I think I also grew tired and angry at the SDLP’s constant sectarianising and demonising of the armed struggle. I don’t think people joined the IRA because they were bigots (although clearly a number of sectarian acts were committed under its auspices). I think the SDLP did republicans the deepest of disservices with their attitude towards those who felt that force was justifiable. Even today, most SDLP rhetoric is anti-SF rather than aimed at developing an All-Ireland agenda and confronting discrimination and mistreatment of nationalists.

    You are right that the legacy of the troubles is an albatross around the neck of the republican project. Personally though, I’m not convinced that there would be a republican project at all had it not been for the spirit of resistance whose attempted crushing led to the Troubles. Oppression begets violence. The armed struggle was (deeply regrettably given some of the atrocities it led to) an historic inevitability.

  • Garibaldy

    How dare I sneer at the people who carried out Kingsmill and numerous other sectarian murders all of which were bold stepping stones towards uniting the people of Ireland and achieving an independent Irish republic. Don’t know what I was thinking.

    Of course what my response might say is to point out the gap between the rhetoric of those pseudo-leftist former members of the Provos who now accuse them of selling out socialism and the reality of the actions of the Provos while they happily were members and supporters of it.

    Republicanism is nopt sectarian. nor has it ever been

  • Joe Romhar

    omphaloskeptic – that’s some spake MCT. The rest I could understand and felt that at least here is something from the general SF camp that makes sense even if it is not for me. In my view republicanism has collapsed and republicans, all of them, have no way out. The choices are to persist with the revolution which each day it goes on testifies to its own failure; or go for an internal solution. You clear up one point pretty well – the current position of today does not sit easily with the 1985 position. I don’t read everything on the blanket but fromw hat I do I don’t see them as being of the same mind. But they provide insight and ways of looking at things. I think they write rather than try to lead. It also seems to be talked about everywhere there is discussion on republicanism.

  • Reader

    seabhac siulach: …to push for greater powers to be transferred to local councils, e.g. the seven super councils.
    Isn’t running councils under British law and funding still a concession from the ultra left or ultra green? And in practice, what’s in it for anyone other than re-partitionists? How much would Gerry Adams impress anyone as a blow-in councillor in Omagh, or as a lonely flag waver east of the Bann?
    And that’s supposing Republicanism could deliver that alternative. If you can’t get a time machine to go back 10 years, what’s the leverage to achieve any of the above starting here and now? Could SF argue that it has a veto on the formation of an Assembly because it used to get 24.3% of the vote before it upset moderate nationalists all over again? So – it’s back to abstentionism then?

  • Sean

    Last time SF faced this kind of internal dissent was at the Ard Feis of 1986. Here is how Gerry handled matters back then:

    1.Claim that there will be an open and frank debate, yet bus supporters into the meetings and have them shout down opponents.
    2.Accuse his opponents of running to the press while doing exactly this very thing himself. (See Secret history of the IRA – by Ed Malony)
    2.Claim that there have been threats made against the SF leadership
    3.Send a few lads around to the homes of dissenters for “discussions”.
    4.Belittle the past republican record of those who oppose them
    5.Denying some Cumans the right to an ard feis vote for “technical” reasons
    5.Anonymous,threatening,late night phone calls to the relatives of internal opponents.
    6. If the 1986 ard feis is anything to go by, then Gerry’s Ard Feis opponents should expect to be taken into a side room and have some bullets put onto the table.

  • Crataegus

    Middle class

    It is a well put argument for a way forward and one in which many Unionists could have commonality of purpose. Basically it is an argument about working constructively for the common good whilst respecting divergence of opinion and aspiration. Politics is about the achievable and that is achievable if enough people show good will.

    Your acceptance of the inevitability of the past condones the utter barbarity of it on that I would disagree. There is no excuse for blowing up or shooting innocent people be it by state or freedom fighter. It is murder plain and simple.

    Also post GFA we have had little progress on the road that you outline and indeed endless delay. That delay has soured the political landscape and SF had a large role in that delay and carry much of the responsibility.

    I agree that for Nationalists and Republicans the political choice is poor, as it is for Unionists. The SDLP have in many ways lost the main salience of what their position should be. One gets the feeling of a party in slow decline though it has shown surprising resilience. But none of this negates the short comings of SF. SF comes with baggage and for your aspirations to work requires trust and goodwill. It will be a very long time before many trust SF and with good reason.

    Also the reality of its role in the South is over played and I cannot see it being a major player in that arena under current leadership or with current policies. Therefore I cannot see delivery of a two pronged approach properly financed that would be necessary to redeem many of the problems that separation of the island has caused and I would emphasise that the mending of many of these fractures is in my opinion in the interest of Unionists and Nationalists.

    It is a pity there is not a more nimble player in the field for Nationalist votes.


    I’d say a hell of a lot of people joined the Provos because they were sincerely sectarian, driven by hatred of a large segment of the people of Ireland.

    I have absolutely no doubt that hate rules supreme in many areas Unionist and Republican and in many cases there is reason. What we need to do is to try and address the causes. I don’t pretend it will be easy or quickly achieved but we have to try. (I’m not optimistic!)