Sinn Fein and its agnosticism for either state…

John A Murphy casts a sceptical eye over the ‘policing debate’ that has been raging within Republicanism (ie, despite his opening questions, not simply that going on within Sinn Fein). He starts with a number of questions, not least its enduring agnosticism regarding the legitimacy of the state (north and south):

WHAT has the policing debate told us about Sinn Fein now? What light does it throw on the organisation’s mindset as it prepares to contest two elections in the next few months? In particular, what points should be noted by citizens of this republic?

According to Murphy, the parameters of the SF debate were prescriptively tight:

The basis of the great debate was the ard chomhairle motion of January 15. Its characteristic self-righteous tone persisted throughout the ‘town hall’ meetings that followed. Everybody except Sinn Fein was blamed for the situation, and the prevailing view was that the party would be doing the PSNI a great favour by accepting it, in order “to hold the police and criminal justice systems, north and south, fully to account”. After the ard fheis, SF continued to insist that the PSNI would have to gain its trust, not vice versa.

But he argues, the result was never in doubt: not least because Sinn Fein, in realistic terms, had nowhere else to go, but the “political wilderness”. Only “southern Shinners and Ogra Sinn Fein opposed the motion because they could enjoy the academic luxury of ideological purism”.

He went on to note that throughout the debates:

…the SDLP was castigated for accepting the PSNI too soon, though Mark Durkan’s party claims credit for bringing about the policing changes which enabled SF to make its move. At the ard fheis, Conor Murphy MP vilified SDLP councillors for “wining and dining with senior RUC officers”. The accusation of selling out for the fleshpots is a classic (and cheap) charge, periodically levelled by strident nationalists against their more moderate opponents. One thinks of jibes against the Redmondites for dining in the Viceregal Lodge, or Michael Collins for living it up in London during the Treaty negotiations. The SF leadership, in turn, was accused of betraying the cause for “houses in Donegal”.

The line being taken consistently was: “power-sharing was the quid pro quo, followed by the restoration of all-Ireland institutions. On Sunday night last on the RTE’s The Week in Politics, Pat Doherty claimed that the ard fheis heralded the endgame – “reunification”. This bizarre sequencing caused Ian Paisley Jnr to guffaw heartily (am I alone in finding the Shinners’ use of “Ian Og” skin-crawlingly absurd?)”.

Which remark occasioned him to question Sinn Fein’s contradictory approach to the only people likely to effect the political unification of the island by consent: the unionists:

SF’s approaches to the unionists are contradictory. The emphasis on inexorable progress to unification is hardly calculated to inspire trust at the levels of policing board, assembly or executive. There is scant SF respect for the North’s constitutional position within the UK, which for unionists was the redeeming feature of the Belfast Agreement. And then there is the curious SF “charm offensive” (the terrorist offensive didn’t work) designed to persuade unionists that, if only the scales fell from their eyes, they would realise they are Irish like the rest of us. This is an old nationalist approach – Gerry Adams employed it in the transitional assembly in December, arguing disingenuously that since some Presbyterians were United Irishmen in the 1790s, their descendants today should renounce their Britishness. This cut little ice with Paisley and Co.

Finally, he notes that Sinn Fein’s provisional acceptance of policing in Northern Ireland may raise it’s electoral fortunes in the Republic, but that its agnostic attitude towards the state itself, will raise a number of concerns for its wider citizenry:

The party may be well advanced on the journey to full acceptability, a journey completed in their day by Fianna Fail, Clann na Poblachta and SF the Workers’ Party. But as of now SF is still constitutionally ambivalent and it yet has to show that “loyalty to the State” which the constitution (Article 9.2) enjoins on all citizens. If itholds the balance of power after the next election, if it has enough seats to keep a minority government in office (whether its support is sought or otherwise) concerned citizens will be worried by a potentially disruptive and destabilising presence in our body politic.


  • middle-class taig

    [You can do much better than that – Moderator]

  • Levitas

    [Ad hominem text removed- Moderator]

    No Ian Og is no more absurd than Ian Paisley Junior, they mean the same thing, but for Murphy it’s confounded insolence.

  • Henry94

    It appears Slugger now highlights any and every anti-Sinn Fein article while ignoring the fact that the political pressure is now on the DUP.

    It’s becoming a bit of a bore which is a shame because as normality takes hold it doesn’t have all that much time left as an important political site.

    Take a leaf out of ATW’s book and try to have more than one obsession.

  • irishman

    Vitriolic vilification of the SDLP has become expected from SF. THe irony is that SF now want to replace them (the SDLP) as the moderate voice of Irish Nationalism. Sadly for thyem (SF), it ain’t gonna happen…., not now…., not never. Why?

    The SDLP will never be more GREEN than SF.
    SF will never be more MODERATE than the SDLP.

    Never the twain shall meet? No.

    The SDLP came out of moderate Irish Nationalism, fighting for civil rights.
    SF came out of the IRA tradition of bomb and bullet and the indiscriminate murder of their fellow countrymen.

  • Mick Fealty

    Now lads (MCT and Lev). We’ve not blogged anything from the Sindo for months (mostly because they have stopped writing about NI), so I think a modicum of self control is the least we can ask for.


    Are you seriously holding Slugger to account for the repetitive character of our politics? I don’t blame DV for diversifying in the way he has, but we have always been more narrowly prescribed than ATW – although I hope that is something we can relax after this next election/further negotiation period.

    That should allow us to move outwards to other things, and indeed toward covering deeper policy issues close at hand. Most of us who care about politics hope the semantic games that have characterised the latter stages of this peace process will cease and our politicians finally make themselves properly accountable to the local populace. But in the meantime, we can only turn over the political ground our parties present us with.

    As it happens, attention to detail is crucial to ‘get’ what is (or is not) happening. Some will find it fascinating, others not.

    As for our importance being short lived: you might be right. I have never taken Slugger, or its highly diverse readership, for granted. Given it requires a huge amount of (unpaid) work every day, seven days a week, it is difficult for any of us working on it to take it for granted. If we are important now (and you say it, not I), we might not be in two weeks time, never mind two months.

    As for SF vs DUP, if we are missing something important, let us know. Either here in the comments zone, or by email. Otherwise, I am not sure what you mean.

  • voice of reason

    There are too many SF-TROLL type posters here on the SLUG so why not give Mick a break?

  • Henry94


    Well one wonders what Peter Hain has to do to get a mention unrelated to the appointments scandal. He had a meeting with the Taoiseach in Wales today and gave an important interview this morning.

    He is saying Unionists have no excuse for not joining the Executive

    Yet we get Davy Adams and John A Murphy!

  • Henry94

    The Guardian has more detail on the Hain story,,-6393091,00.html

  • Mick Fealty


    With the greatest respect, that is just another ‘holding statement’ from the Secretary of State. It’s certainly an accurate repetition of what he has said before, quite a number of times. It’s also (strangely for some perhaps) entirely consistent with the DUP’s own restated position.

    But I am not sure what it has to do with Article 9.2 and other untouched issues raised by Murphy above?

  • Abdul-Rahim

    Just wanted to comment on the realization that the standard of writing on Slugger is really high and intelligent. I found myself laughing at loud at some of the comments made in the above peice.

  • Henry94


    So a direct placing of the ball in the DUP court by peter Hain is nothing new but the repetition of John A Murphy’s anti-Sinn Fein position is news.

    I think you are completely wrong on that.

    There is no issue whatsoever with Article 9.2 and if anyone thinks there is then there is nothing to stop them bringing a case to the High Court to vindicate that position and asking for what ever order they think is appropriate.

    It would be laughed out because it is the people who elect the Dail and their is no conceivable basis for the courts to interfere in that

    Murphy is talking through his hat legally, constitutionally and politically.

    But it’s anti-Sinn Fein and that makes it hot news for slugger?

  • Mick Fealty


    I did not say that. The DUP’s position (as I understand it) is power sharing is fine, without preconditions on the devolution of P&J powers to the Assembly. Happy to stand corrected though.

  • páid

    So Hain says 26 March is crystal clear, devolution or dissolution. Boy cries wolf, methinks.

    Come 26 March, there’ll be a new wrangle about oaths, the police, exactly what gets devolved when or some other bull, followed by five sheds full of blamegamery.

    Endgame, my arse. There’ll be 20 years of this.

  • The Dubliner

    Mick, I agree with Henry84 that Slugger has an anti-PSF bias, mostly manifested in the form of articles/issues which you and Pete choose to highlight. Naturally, you will dispute this. I can’t prove it without getting all Noam Chomsky on your ass and counting all references to SF, grading them positive or negative, and comparing them to other competing news items which you could have included, etc. We both know that neither I nor anyone else is going to do that, so you can deny it safely. That said, it’s your Blog and you can use your power of inclusion/exclusion to sever any agenda you wish, so it’s not a problem as far as I am concerned.

    Regarding the article from John A Murphy: when using his academic status to proffer political messages, he should try to avoid glaring errors in his reasoning such as stating that only “southern Shinners and Ogra Sinn Fein opposed the motion because they could enjoy the academic luxury of ideological purism”. If the integrity of one’s political analysis is compromised by “the academic luxury of ideological purism” as Prof. Murphy claims, then it instantly follows that the integrity of John A Murphy’s political analysis is compromised in the same manner; and ergo, his article should be disregarded as flawed.

  • Pete Baker

    “Mick, I agree with Henry84 that Slugger has an anti-PSF bias, mostly manifested in the form of articles/issues which you and Pete choose to highlight.”

    Without getting all Chomsky on your ass… try addressing the issues raised, all legitmate questions, rather than adopting a pose of ‘it’s all anti-republican/anti-SinnFein rhetoric.’

    Because there are facts at the heart of the posts you seem to be criticising that don’t fit with the otherwise accepted narrative..

  • Henry94


    It is as legitimate to question the raising of an issue as it is to address the issue. To say that we should only address each individual article on its merits and ignore the pattern of bias is not credible.

    As The Dubliner rightly points out it is Mick’s blog and he can do what he likes with it. I’m just pointing out the obvious.

  • jfd

    I believe it’s perfectly legitimate to question SF’s brand of ‘Republicanism’ and it’s relationship with the modern Republic.

    I find the use of ‘The South’ or the out-dated, innaccurate ‘Free-state’ are a real indication that SF is incapable of recognising, finally, that a two-state solution with a shared emphasis of respect for cultural/political identities and the rule of law is the preferrable settlement of the vast majority of population in the Republic.

    I agree with the poster who predicts another 20 years of this dance.

  • lib2016

    “..a two-state solution………is the preferrable (sic) settlement of the vast majority of population in the Republic.”

    It seems remarkable that in the runup to an election not one political party in the South includes anything resembling such a committment in their manifesto. In fact all the major parties have made it quite clear that they favour a peaceful reunification of the country.

  • Sean

    I dont find it amazing at all because by doing so they cede the legitimacy of Sinn Fein and they are losing ground to them already

  • The Dubliner

    “Because there are facts at the heart of the posts you seem to be criticising that don’t fit with the otherwise accepted narrative.. ” – Pete

    There are always facts that “don’t fit with the otherwise accepted narrative.” Indeed, propaganda cannot be effective by any other means. I doubt you are that naive about how media operates, so I assume that you are simply affecting naivety in-order to give the bogus impression of angelic innocence.

    A media which proffers a hidden agenda must conceal it (clue in the word ‘hidden’). One of the principles ways of doing this is to include content which contradicts the hidden agenda. So, a paper that, for example, seeks to serve the realm by propagating the realm’s message that no purpose is served by the state investigating its crimes of state murder will purposefully include articles calling on the state to be investigated, so that it can point to those articles as refutation of the claim that it is actually serving the hidden agenda. It works best when media is permitted to say what it wishes in opposition to the state as long as it stays predominately on-message for the important messages. Don’t you know this, Pete? 😉

  • aquifer

    “(SF’s) enduring agnosticism regarding the legitimacy of the state”

    and the legitimacy of Sinn Fein?

    They got more seats in 1919 in a campaign including intimidation, but there were still more votes cast for parties working within the then constitutional framework. i.e. Not enough votes to pass a change in constitutional status by simple majority.

    REM 71% for the GFA

  • Pete Baker


    Pure sophistry that could be deployed in defence of absolutely any argument and which deliberately fails to address the actual topic. I hope you don’t expect a round of applause.