Taking it on the chin

From the ecstasy of March to the agony of May, 2007 is turning out to be quite the rollercoaster year for republicans. Whilst the Assembly election results gave Sinn Fein much to cheer, this one’s a big disappointment, and there can be no denying that fact.Sinn Fein entered the election with five seats and a real prospect of doubling that tally- based on opinion polls and advances made in the 2004 European and local elections. Instead, we’ve fallen back by one seat in Leinster House, with a couple of candidates just missing out and others coming in well short of expectations.

In one sense, there’s a need to be philosophical about the results. The legacy of this election will be the drive back towards a bipolar system in the 26 counties, with Enda having nearly as many reasons to be pleased as Bertie after Fine Gael’s leap forward to its pre-2002 seat tally. Sinn Fein weren’t alone amongst the small parties in experiencing the squeeze, though in itself that shouldn’t merit much consolation.

In another sense, however, this will necessitate a rigorous analysis of the way forward for the party in the 26 counties. Concerns about policy positions, leadership strategies and structural development will need to be aired and honestly debated.

Honest scrutiny must be the way forward as anything less would be to repeat the mistakes of other parties who preferred denial to reality when it came to explaining away electoral setbacks- in this regard, let no republican speak of ‘borrowed votes…’

The moment I first realised that we were in for a setback was about one minute past seven on Friday morning, the moment I heard the result of the RTE Exit Poll. With Sinn Fein targeting primarily Fianna Fail and Fine Gael seats across the state, news that both had performed well- coupled with our own sluggish returns from the Exit Poll- suggested that the day ahead wouldn’t be bringing the best of news for republicans.

Whilst the border county vote remains solid- and indeed growing in the case of Donegal- there must be real concern at the failure to retain the voters in the Capital and in the numerous other target constituencies across the state.

My own instincts and experiences ensure I avoid simple ‘after the event’ explanations. In this regard, I’m highly suspect of the media consensus which is promoting the view that Adams’ performance in the ‘First Debate’ was a critical moment in the campaign, for a number of reasons.

Having watched the debate, I came away content with Gerry Adams’ performance. Whilst he did use broad brush language when answering a number of questions, the debate never really got down to matters of fine detail. The post- Count media consensus that Adams somehow got battered by Michael McDowell conveniently ignores the fact that McDowell lost his own seat and that of ¾ of his party in this election- hardly the spoils of victory.
If truth be told, I think there were a number of contributing factors to the poor election result for Sinn Fein. There is undoubtedly a need for republicans to develop and promote 26 county figures within the upper echelons of the party leadership, and these individuals must be equipped with a policy platform which is viewed as being sharp, deliverable and, uniquely, reflective of the all-Ireland character of Sinn Fein.

Republicans are perhaps better positioned now to develop the latter due to the onset of devolved governance in the six counties, where republicans- like all other parties in the six counties- will be increasingly focused on coming to terms with the responsibilities of day-to-day management of the administration and all that entails for policy development.

A feature of this campaign was that, as a small player in the south of Ireland, Sinn Fein was simply cast to the side in terms of relevancy as the campaign spotlight focused firmly on the choice of who to put in charge of the still growing and prospering economy. The fact that Sinn Fein was dismissed by all other parties as a potential coalition partner also played a significant part- in this sense, Fianna Fail’s decision in the final days to forcefully rule out any role for republicans in a potential administration was an excellent tactical move: faced with voting for a party who could lead the government and one dismissed as an irrelevance by all parts of the political mainstream, those floating between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail in the former’s target constituencies decisively shifted behind Bertie, with emphatic results.

For republicans of a younger generation, this is the first significant electoral setback, and I’ve no doubt they will feel absolutely gutted. But for those with longer memories and experiences, there will at least be the comfort of knowing that there was not so long ago a time when returning four TDs and just missing out on another two in Donegal with an increased overall vote would’ve been regarded as an unparalleled success.

But we are where we are, and there’s no room for complacency nor consolation prizes. Sinn Fein can take solace in the fact that 2007 reaffirmed the party’s unassailable position as leaders of the northern nationalist community; but the lesson of the past week is that republicans need to think long and hard about how to develop and expand the party’s appeal across the southern state.

In the 26 counties, there will be local government elections within the next two years, which should provide the impressively young panel of election candidates time to dust themselves down and prepare for the challenge of making that vital breakthrough in 2009 across the state.

Whilst it has been pointed out that Sinn Fein’s appeal and electoral return in the 26 counties broadly reflects the size and mandate of a party of Alliance Party stature in the north, the parallel ends there. The fact remains that small parties have increasingly played a critical, influential role in the governance of the southern state whilst the height of Alliance’s ambition in our new political framework would be to secure a solitary ministry- which in itself remains a somewhat fanciful ambition given their limited electoral appeal to date.
As the northern administration beds down, republican experiences of governance will grow as the lingering hostility to a post-IRA Sinn Fein fades in the 26 counties, factors which should better position the party to attract both first preferences/ transfers and, as crucially, willing coalition partners in the period of years ahead.

In this regard, it is instructive that, although Sinn Fein remain bitterly disappointed at the ‘miserly’ return of four TDs to Leinster House, Fianna Fail looks like being on the verge of entering into government with a party of 2 TDs coupled with a pocket of Independents.
With a distance of five years between today and the formation of the next administration, who would doubt that Sinn Fein would be courted by Fianna Fail if the electoral arithmetic remained the same after republicans had spent five years sharing power in the north and working in tandem with southern ministers in the North/South Ministerial Council?

So, my parting message to fellow republicans out there would be to take this one on the chin: don’t deny it’s a setback, but rather learn from the experience and get better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

  • NeverTooLateToLearn

    A good post, but one that leaves a critical piece of analysis. The absence of strong, workable policy positions will also become apparent in the Six Counties as well. SF in North might not be able to withstand close scrutiny of their policies by the electorate either through time.

    Water charges is one area where there will be a u-turn, just as Martin and Bairbre acted againt party policy and introduced costly private investment initiatives in both education and health.

  • slug

    The language in this post is bizarre – “republicans” used throughout as an exact synonym for Sinn Féin.

  • Peter Harris

    Let’s hope that this is the beginning of the end of Sinn Fein, and that people recognise them for the terrorist scumbags that they are

  • James Mrsic-Floegel

    Sinn Fein’s electoral position in the North is no more unassailable than that of the SDLP a decade ago.

  • IJP

    Bad year for Republicans?

    Not really. FF’s Leader oversaw the return of devolution in the North, and then pulled off a fine election win in the South.

    A fine year from the Republican Party, not a rollercoaster in sight.

  • Indeed, an excellent, thoughtful and provocative post.

    There needs to be a whole rethink across the radical left (for once, I’m being generous to SF in that inclusion).

    The election went to the conservative-right for all sorts of reasons, but principally because “it’s the economy, stupid”. And it’s the bourgeoisie who go out and vote.

    However, the Left needs to be planning for the resumption of normal service in the middle-term.

    Furthermore, the centre-left is far too fragmented, and SF has little chance of establishing a stand-alone presence there. In any case, what is a “nationalist” party doing, trying to butt into our party?

    It’s ironic, but Adams was, in his fuzzy and ineffectual way, echoing the real question: how do we ameliorate the social chasm between the haves and the hopeless? between the privileged and those on the wrong side of a two-tier health “service”, those who were not in on the property boom, those left behind, those who stumble off the educational ladder?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Chris,

    As a fan of Grizzly myself I was disappointed with his performance in the RTE debate. But I suppose all Mc Dowell had to do was mention Columbia and Gerry was going to be in trouble. It is one thing for Gerry not to mention his IRA past for whatever bizzarre reason he has but it is another not giving a credible explanation of what the hell was going on in Columbia?

    Surely somebody in SF must realise that although the FARC may claim to be left wing they aint the kinda company to keep. Whoever sanctioned that operation should have been booted out – the fear must be that it was an Army council job. If and when that story is told those responsible for it in the south will be kicked out of office if they happen to be there. If that coincides with the next election you can forget it.

    That is the first lesson SF should learn from this election – the botany story aint gonna wash even with lukewarm supporters like me.

  • zen

    143,000 1st preferences confirm that whilst the result was a setback, this was certainly not a wipe-out.
    I sense a mood among our activists that they are up for the challenge of building on this base through hard,hard work at community level.
    5 years down the line if we fail it won’t be for the want of trying.

  • Ginfizz

    Suddenly 2016 seems awfully close. LOL!

  • The Devil

    Jesus it’s a proud time to be Irish when the people of Ireland turn out in their masses to hand a ball-kicking to the Sinn Fein trash and grab squads.

    Old Gerry had no idea what was going on in the rest of the island because he is a lazy bastard that thought he could just smile stupidly like he does and talk the same shite that he writes in the fucking bore me to death columns in rags that hold either a Sinn Fein agendas or where Sinn Fein hold the purse strings.

    He looked stupid, he sounded stupid, but thankfully unlike the arseholes that live in the North the electorate in the South weren’t stupid enough to vote for the tosser.

  • Ginfizz

    The Devil

    You’re not Keith M in disguise per chance?

  • Diluted Orange

    Don’t worry about it Gerry sure what do those bloody Mexicans know anyway?

    You’re better up here anyway, where gangsterism is appreciated by the electorate.

    Viva Northern Ireland eh?

  • GavBelfast

    Were Sinn Fein not invited onto ‘Questions & Answers’ tonight to “take it on the chin”?

  • Hillview

    Why dont the people who represent the bile-filled sinn fein critics on this site run in the south? They might be close to a lot of the west brit electorate.

  • Hillview

    gav belfast, have you not noticed the policy of the mainstream media in the south? keep sinn fein out of the public eye at all costs. Comes fro the likes of mr a o reilly,Sir Cathal goon, geraldine kennedy etc.

  • GavBelfast

    Were they not invited to take part, or did they shy away?

    Maybe they’re all to busy taking their UK Bank Holiday.

  • Hillview

    i imagine they would have taken part if invited!

  • Hillview

    one of your heroes is speakin gav

  • GavBelfast

    I’m watching the programme about Hillsborough on BBC ONE NI. Wendy Austin is a good presenter / journalist, but a hero?

  • forlorn fairy

    Chris your alliance party analogy falls short. SF have moved from the left to centre politics, but looking at Gerry on RTE the other evening was embarrassing,he didn’t know if he was left or up the left, and all the dusting down in the world won’t cover that up. Not only the Columbia story, but jumping in there without even being asked, and claiming he drew the average industrial wage was gonna come back to bite him. If McDowell hadn’t done it, the newspapers would have jumped all over it. He got off light. Truly if you came away thinking Gerry did ok, maybe you were tired, it was late. You can’t claim he knew what he was talking about.

    The southern people may like him, maybe even admire him in many ways, but that doesn’t mean they want him in government. It’s going to take a long time to forget the past and see SF post IRA. It may never happen. Your post is depending upon things staying good for SF whilst in power in the north. Can’t see that happening, this time they will be judged on their policies, not the constitutional question and lets face it they haven’t done to good on policies in the past. They were always a safe pair of hands when in power for the status quo.

  • Hillview

    good man gav. im going to bed. oiche mhaith

  • Grizzly

    He looked stupid, he sounded stupid, but thankfully unlike the arseholes that live in the North the electorate in the South weren’t stupid enough to vote for the tosser.

    Yes ‘The Devil’, you instead voted for the man of the people, soon to be indicted in one of your interminable tribunals (or at least would be if there was any justice in your attempt at a State. One would think you might have learnt your lesson after the whole Charlie Haughey thing. Get the bailer twine and that Toyota Starlet out of the mothballs you might be needing them sooner than you think.

  • seanzmct

    This poster accepts that SF are to the South what Alliance is to the North. Maybe now (though I doubt it) SF will rein in its triumphalist yob element and show a bit more respect to Alliance (and other opponents) in the North.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Chris writes :

    The post- Count media consensus that Adams somehow got battered by Michael McDowell conveniently ignores the fact that McDowell lost his own seat and that of ¾ of his party in this election- hardly the spoils of victory.

    How does the fact that McDowell lost detract from the point that he hammered Adams in this debate ?

    Adams didn’t actually stand for election. Maybe he should have stood against McDowell and we could have seen then exactly where we stand on the matter.

    The fixation you guys have with McD borders on obsession. This is a party which went into the vote with a smaller proportion of the vote than SF, and yet you guys had your pals and media attack dogs constantly going at the guy, instead of ignoring him as an upstart.

    Whilst it has been pointed out that Sinn Fein’s appeal and electoral return in the 26 counties broadly reflects the size and mandate of a party of Alliance Party stature in the north, the parallel ends there. The fact remains that small parties have increasingly played a critical, influential role in the governance of the southern state whilst the height of Alliance’s ambition in our new political framework would be to secure a solitary ministry- which in itself remains a somewhat fanciful ambition given their limited electoral appeal to date.

    This is all to do with the mechanics of the STV system. In the case of the RoI, everyone hates Sinn Fein so nobody wants to go into government with them. In NI, everyone hates Sinn Fein, but the political setup forces people to go into government with them. It may be considered convenient by some people that SF opposes ending a forced coalition in NI, whereas Alliance supports it.

    Political parties come and go, Chris. There was a time when Alliance had ~15% of the vote up here; and there was a time when SF languished below 10%. In the same way that you have overestimated your hand in the RoI (although I think the way you are confronting it is noble and pragmatic), I think that in time you will also be seen to have overestimated your vote in NI because you are banking on your stewardship of the Peace Process ™ sustaining you in power.

    Sinn Fein is in serious danger of suffering from the Gorbachev effect; you can claim some credit for pacifying the IRA and paving the way to normal politics here, but will people want you to be the ones to take up the reins of power ?

  • O’Cadhain

    “143,000 1st preferences confirm that whilst the result was a setback, this was certainly not a wipe-out.”

    In this election SF recieved 6.9% of the entire 1st preferences which was less than one point (.04) of an increase since 2002 (when they had 6.5% of the 1st preferences). And of course they lost a seat this time around.

    SF right now, will hold 2.4% of the power of the Dail.

    I think it was a very big wipe-out. They did not move forward with an increase of seats but have moved backwards by losing a seat in the capital itself! SF has achieved very little to nothing and will have zero influence in the 26.

    It is no one’s fault but SF’s fault by not offering policies and politicans that appealed to the voters of the 26.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    A fair enough post Chris — we feel your pain and emphasise with your aspirations.

    But can you tell us exactly what SF are for in 2007? They’ve signed up to the consent principle, endorsed the police and unholstered the weapons.
    They’ve been roundly rejected in the ’26 counties’, possibly because they have no coherent or workable policies, no possibility of securing a yes vote to a UI and a back catalogue of misdemeanours that will be biting their backsides for years to come, often at the most inconvenient times.

    Being the second largest party in a state you’re not allowed to say the name of is a somewhat pyrrhic victory don’t you think? And playing at power in a nursery assembly with British money isn’t going to impress anyone. You’re in there being patronised to stop you misbehaving.

    It all adds up to one big word — irrelevancy.

  • Rory (South Derry)

    Having read the article very carefully it clear that our friends in Provo Plc are trying to spue as much shite as they can out to cover up for the fact that they get found out!

    The party is so out of touch with reality on the ground in the south and is believing its own propoganda that they can not see that half the civilised world thinks they are politically inept.

    They in the Provo leadership are more interested in self gain and not that of the country as a whole.

    Lets face it Adams will have to a long way to get the ordinary man in the street in the south to listen or even acknowledge his drvel.

    Gerry you conned volunteers but the Freestaters arn’t daft!

  • “The fact remains that small parties have increasingly played a critical, influential role in the governance of the southern state whilst the height of Alliance’s ambition in our new political framework would be to secure a solitary ministry- which in itself remains a somewhat fanciful ambition given their limited electoral appeal to date.”

    Well you obviously don’t know much about Alliance Chris in respect of the above. I imagine Alliance ambitions would be to rip up the Assembly and replace it with one that didn’t operate on the basis of ethnic nationalism, I really don’t reckon a ministry in this rotten Assembly would ignite the party but would in contrast only serve to corrupt it for working in support of its ethnic operations.

    “Honest scrutiny must be the way forward as anything less would be to repeat the mistakes of other parties who preferred denial to reality when it came to explaining away electoral setbacks- in this regard, let no republican speak of ‘borrowed votes…’”

    Honesty is something republicans have failed to deliver. How about this – a victims forum set up with the chance for victims to seek answers post The Troubles. Republican philosophy has always been adept at looking at the bigger picture but focus a little closer and pay attention to the sum of the parts, be they fallen comrades or victims, as they make up the whole regardless and ought to be given the chance to play a role in this ‘honesty-seeking’ exercise.

  • mchinadog

    Chris
    I do not have any cause for tears for the bad situation Sinn Fein finds itself in the Southern elections if you have. I sincerely hope that the nationalist / soft republican voters in Northern Ireland will be more discerning and will see Sinn Fein/IRA for what they really are at the next elections in Northern Ireland. It was obvious that the voters in the South saw through the attempt of Gerry Adams and his ilk to say that they would make changes to everything in the South and work for a UI. It was obvious to all the press and the electorate were able to see that they did not have any policies, either economic or otherwise it was just the same old rhetoric that they spew out in Northern Ireland. The voters up here are brain washed into their support for the cause of a UI this does not seem to interest the voters south of the border.

  • PaddyReilly

    The voters up here are brain washed into their support for the cause of a UI this does not seem to interest the voters south of the border.

    Wrong. An immediate interest in ending partition and electing Sinn Féin extends into all the neighbouring counties of the Republic and even slightly into Meath and Sligo. But beyond that it gradually peters out.

  • Harry Flashman

    “26 Counties”, “Leinster House”? And yet still the poor deluded fools can’t see why voters in the Republic of Ireland constantly reject them.

    I swear to God these fellas make the Scientologists look like open minded rational thinkers.

    Free State go Bragh!

  • Crataegus

    Chris

    Mercifully I missed that election, been going over the coverage. Several points
    1 In 2002 SF and Greens gained because FG’s decline helped create openings.
    2 In 2007 Labour in an act of utter stupidity enabled the revival of FG.
    3 SF was squeezed, as were everyone else, because it was viewed as a contest between FF & FG.
    4 Adams was plain awful in the debate with Pat, Ryan, M. McD. He was definitely the weakest link by a long way.

    In that context one could take the view that SF didn’t do too badly, but equally one could argue that the election neatly illustrates how irrelevant SF actually is in the Republic. Mary Lou should have taken a seat in Dublin Central given the media coverage and inherited SF strength in previous election.

    I can’t stand M.McD but I think Parliament is poorer without him. Likewise Higgins and Dan Boyle. These people had something to say, I may not agree with them, but they had cogent opinion and positions. Quite seriously what earthly difference would it make if none of SF’s TDs got elected, would anyone actually miss them?

    In all probability FF will cut a deal with Labour or the Greens, ( SF holding the balance of power ho ho) and the next election will be in 2012. So at that time how many SF seats, 6, 8, 2? It is highly unlikely to be 20! Next time round is the background leading up to that election likely to be any better than this one? All the hype about the peace process will have gone and with government (even the fairy land NI Assembly type) there are decisions and problems. In the North in the next Assembly election there isn’t much room for expansion so where is SF heading?

    In the south SF is of limited appeal and if it goes to the centre it loses its traditional base, but if it stays to the left it is stuck on the margins. Perhaps SF belongs in the history books, perhaps you are flogging a dead horse? Perhaps the basic concept is as flawed as the concept that created the Women’s Coalition?

    If I were you I would pursue my career in Law and review how the land lies in a few years perhaps even consider another political party. What is the purpose of SF? Can its aims be achieved? Does its existence help or hinder those aims?

  • Cahal

    Crataegus, thanks for the laugh.

    First, you have the wrong Chris (law?).

    Secondly, I fear the news of SF’s death to be greatly exaggerated.

    No doubt they will struggle on until a UI is achieved, at which point they will dissapear into the night.

    Until then I’m afraid those frothing with glee over the first loss of a SF seat in decades will need to deal with the fact that the Shinners remain the only choice for pro-UI Irish people in the north, and non-partitionists in the South.

    Or should we all just go home and wait for FF to deliver a UI. Let’s be honest, they couldn’t give a toss.

  • Jim Kemmy

    Chris: Take it on the chin. Take it up the arse if like. But just realise the Provos are not wanted. There are no vacancies for child rapists, kidnappers or cop killers right now. Also get rid of Gerry Adams. The only good thing about his awful accent is it makes his drivel harder to understand.

  • Brian Boru

    The fact that the PDs suffered in the election does not negate the fact that McDowell inflicted serious damage on SF in that debate – even if it was FF rather than the PDs who benefited from it. The election became a somewhat presidential affair focused on who would lead the govt – hence the smaller parties became squeezed. The reality regarding the PD squeeze is that in large part it was also because huge numbers of FF voters refused to transfer to the PDs because McDowell had created – by his shennanigans – doubts in their minds that the PDs could be trusted to stann by FF in Coalition. Parlon would likely have been elected otherwise in Laois-Offaly. I think if the PDs can repair this relationship it will result in a friendlier disposition from FF voters by next time. Harney is far more popular with FFers than McDowell – who comes from the FG gene-pool anyway.

    The debate damaged SF because Adams came across to many as not having much of a clue on the Southern economy – preferring instead to rant on about the Peace Process. With all due respect, the Peace Process – while wonderful – was not what we were voting on. We were voting on how the South was going to be governed for the next (hopefully) 5 yrs. Adams’ holiday home calls into question his ‘working class’ image carefully cultivated over the yrs by SF. McDowell’s ‘tearing into him’ over Columbia likely had an effect too. It made people totally unwilling to transfer lower-preferences to SF helping to cost them Seán Crowe’s (who topped the poll in his constituency in 2002) seat. As such, SF marginally increased their vote to 6.9% (from 6.5%) but lost a seat. It was so terribly disappointing for them having polled 10% shortly before polling-day – but I’m absolutely delighted. I don’t want their clapped-out, Marxist, distain for private-enterprise wrecking our economy. It’s all very well for Northerners – their executive doesn’t control taxation – and even if it did, the cross-community consensus provisions would prevent the Shinners imposing further Statism on the Northern economy. And anyway, the South has not been through 30 yrs of conflict and as such, I do not believe we are being hypocritical by calling for SF to be allowed into govt in the North while saying No in the South.

  • Brian Boru

    And one more thing – SF does not have a monopoly on Republicanism. FF’s slogan is “The Republican Party” and they are the largest Republican party on this island and are constitutional which SF has only been very recently.

  • curious

    ‘I don’t want their clapped-out, Marxist, distain for private-enterprise wrecking our economy. It’s all very well for Northerners – their executive doesn’t control taxation – and even if it did, the cross-community consensus provisions would prevent the Shinners imposing further Statism on the Northern economy.’;

    Exactly BB, the NI assembly is a 2nd rate form of government under the control of westminister. Unlike the Dail the NI assembly have no control over taxation, defence, foreign affairs and policing. Gerry Adams showed his ignorance over such matters concerning the economic wellbeing of the ROI on the RTE show.

  • Wilde Rover

    “Having watched the debate, I came away content with Gerry Adams’ performance.”

    Are you one of the “trusting Northern voters” Chris Gaskin was gushing about on Balrog?

    Another one of the delicious ironies to emerge from this election is that while SF supporters seem to think they own the copyright on the word “republican” their supporters behave exactly like slavish monarchists.

    If there were real republicans Gerry Adams would be shafted for his spectacular own goals.

    But no, all rally around the king.

    Getting back to SFs dual-monarchist roots, I suppose.

  • kensei

    “In the south SF is of limited appeal and if it goes to the centre it loses its traditional base, but if it stays to the left it is stuck on the margins. Perhaps SF belongs in the history books, perhaps you are flogging a dead horse? Perhaps the basic concept is as flawed as the concept that created the Women’s Coalition?”

    Please, what you saying is that it is impossible to move towards the centre without retaining an appeal to the working classes which is complete and utter nonsense. Being a left of centre party will limit SF for the foreseeable future in the South to an extent, but not to the point of irrelevancy – Labour have 20 seats and in the medium term SFs goal should be taking over from Labour as the voice of the left. They should be moving from old style socialist rhetoric to more European style social democracy. And it’s been clear that’s where they’ve been headed for years.

    As for the premise, no the idea of a 32 county republic is not flawed, no the idea of trying to make the state more fair and more protective of the weaker in society is not flawed and even the idea of merely increasing All Ireland links has intrinsic merit, especially for the border counties.

    Any party who’s strategy rests on constantly moving forward without any setbacks ever is clearly not in it for the long haul. Just like any other party, SF need to go back, re-examine policy, presentation and strategy and try again. Their future success rests on how good they are at that process. I realise that some people have been waiting a long time for a setback and can’t help themselves, but god, the only mature responses here have been from SF members. Maybe this is the beginning of the end, but we are at least ten years away from being to make that statement definitively.

  • Hillview

    Eds: play the ball.

  • A thoughtful post, exactly what’s needed from some other parties too at this time.

    SF has 3 problems at the moment, I think. Ideology, leadership strategy, and the North:

    1. They’re not sure where to go ideologically EXCEPT as nationalists: they have a left-wing approach in the South, but are far more pragmatic in the North where they have political power and also have a middle-class vote of sorts. Hence Adams’s problems in the leaders’ debate about how to position the party relative to others.

    2. They have exposed the leadership problem that a 2-jurisdiction party faces – other parties may also have to deal with this in future. Adams had very little credibility in that debate not just because his performance was poor – it really was, you know – but because he wasn’t standing for election himself and was actually a member of another legislature. 2-jurisdiction parties need a ‘leader’ in each territory to front up their elections. This also means spreading your able people more evenly between North and South.

    3. SF just don’t get that Southerners don’t give a shit about the North. The only way they would want a united Ireland would be (i) peacefully, and (ii) at no extra cost.

  • George

    Chris,
    Firstly, I agree with Kensei that there is more of a place for Sinn Féin in European Social Democracy rather than Socialism.

    If they stick to Socialism pure, they not only risk never making a breakthrough in the Republic but alienating many of their current voters north of the border.

    Secondly, I agree with Harry Flashman in that you really have to give up on the “Leinster House” and “26 counties stuff”.

    You seem to forget that southerners are perfectly aware that the IRA, an organisation that Sinn Féin praises from the rooftops on a regular basis, refuses to recognise the Irish State or its parliament and has as one of its aims its violent overthrow.

    Now we have you and other Sinn Féiners using the same terms as the IRA would while you discuss how Sinn Féin can get more TDs elected to a parliament you are incapable of even calling by its name – Dáil Éireann.

    All this SF ambiguity regarding democracy in Ireland has to go if the party wants to represent a broad segment of Irish society and accordingly exercise real power.

    Live the reality not the dream and the reality is Dáil Éireann.

    Finally, I have said this time and time again, the IRA has to go if Sinn Féin want to become any kind of force in the Republic.

    Sinn Féin has to divorce itself totally from the IRA or the IRA has to disband.

  • Crataegus

    If your prime aim is to create a united Ireland is SF the best way of achieving it?

    If that is not the prime aim what are the objectives?

    What can SF realistically expect in the South in the next 5-10 years?

  • Whatever Next

    A very comforting analysis there for all of us opposed to narco terrorist, sectarian killers. Why? Because it’s a sleepwalking over the edge of the cliff one. Just look at the sheer degree of wish-fulfillment: in the South, everything is fluid, with everything therefore to play for; whereas in the North . . . “Sinn Fein can take solace in the fact that 2007 reaffirmed the party’s unassailable position as leaders of the northern nationalist community”. Real democratic politicians understand that no party is ever unassailable.

  • I sense a mood among our activists that they are up for the challenge of building on this base through hard,hard work at community level.

    Do you think youse are fighting the SDLP down there or something? There is nothing, nothing on this earth, more ruthless and single-minded than a Fianna Fáil candidate aiming for Leinster House. Hard work at community level? They’ll spend years attending funerals of people they never even knew for the sake of a third preference.

    So knocking a few doors outside election time will not startle people they way it does up the Antrim Road.

    The odd Southern politico travelling North to help the SDLP elections has had an eye-opener seeing the Shinner election machine in full flow. But I think more than a few of the massed busloads of Northern Shinners got a quare gunk when they say the Fáilers at work.

    Oh, and why is your canvassing so duff down South? Youse never saw this one coming. Torrent Strategy not working to well in the Free State or something?

  • Being a left of centre party will limit SF for the foreseeable future in the South to an extent

    So ditch what you’ve always believed for the sake of a few extra seats and maybe the chance to implement some of the more crudely nationalist (in the general sense) elements of your platform.

    What’s the point in that? You might as well have all joined Fianna Fáil and the SDLP in the first place. And what were the thirty odd years of war for? No wonder some of the true-believing nutters in Dublin have flown the coop to Eirigi.

  • Dewi

    Oh, and why is your canvassing so duff down South?

    Everything points to a late move away from SF……linked to that stupid debate I suggest….Opinion Polls moved late also.

  • Garibaldy

    Sammy,

    You think they ever believed in the left of centre stuff in the first place? I doubt it.

    As for Éirigí, I admire CTN’s commitment to propagating its cause, both here and on Indymedia, but the reality is that their great idea on launching was to hand out copies of the 1916 Proclamation. I really can’t see how such an out-of-touch attitude is going to take them very far, either in activist or electoral politics in the South. When the Provos themselves are taking a hammering for having no policies, this group is even further away.

  • SF had, really, only one trump to play, and it didn’t. SF, the Greens and the Trots are the only parties who have been left off the roundabout of power all these years. Therefore they were the only parties credibly capable of arguing for “change”.

    We now know, the last thing on the popular agenda was “change”. But:
    … the present pleasure,
    By revolution lowering, does become
    The opposite of itself
    .
    And then?

    There has to be an opportunity for any party which can cobble a convincing programme to cope with after-the-boom, when the appetite for “prosperity” is sated, when the economy turns. At that point, the place to be is outside the tent pissing in. At the moment I do not see any party capable of that posture.

    And another point, which may chime here, comes from Seán O’Faoláin, writing in 1969:
    time was when common words on every lip in every Irish pub were partition, the civil war, the republic, the gun. The vocab of the mid fifties and sixties was very different — the common market, planning, growth, rates, strikes, jobs, education opportunities or why this factory failed and that one flourished.

    We didn’t recognise it at the time, but that was happening in the Dáil of the early ’60s: the old men were still challenging each other about which side they and their fathers had fought in 1922: the younger sparks (and newspaper columnists) were rolling their eyes, and backing the Whitaker Plan. That’s why the RoI moved on, while too many in NI didn’t. Forty years on from O’Faoláin, the “vocab” of SF and anyone else trying to occupy the radical left, north or south, needs to adapt again.

    And that is why my reading of Adams in the debate was somewhat different. He didn’t have, or didn’t know, an economic policy. He vainly tried to shift the argument to social policy. (SF’s social policy looks somewhat threadbare too, but let me leave that aside.)

    There is a case to be made for a new social programme: social inequality is growing; there is a two-tier health service; Ireland (pace the UN Development Programme) has the highest level of poverty in the Western world, behind only the US; a fifth to a quarter of the population are functionally illiterate; and Ireland is observably becoming a less tolerant society. (I wonder myself why I leave corruption out of that list.)

    The opportunity is there: there is no evidence of SF or anyone else capable of grasping it. Reform, then, will come slowly as the mainstream parties absorb and apply it just sufficiently to survive.

  • Daisy

    “The only good thing about his awful accent is it makes his drivel harder to understand.”

    Besides the factors previously mentioned, this kind of bigotry is another part of the reason SF fared poorly. There’s a significant anti-north element in ROI (I’ve been subject to it a few times myself). Many people just don’t want a northerner about the place.

  • kensei

    “If your prime aim is to create a united Ireland is SF the best way of achieving it?”

    That depends on your politics. If you are right wing, no.

    “If that is not the prime aim what are the objectives?”

    A more equal and just society should also be part of the objectives.

    “What can SF realistically expect in the South in the next 5-10 years?”

    They are pretty much where they were before the election, but now 5 years behind. If they get their act together, get some decent policies and push the Southern party more, then there is 8 to 10 seats are available at the next election. They would probably also be less toxic next time around, and more able to point to some Northern governmental experience. That might be enough to be king makers; it would certainly give them some influence. Over ten years – consolidate that positions, try to push a little further so you are more 10-12 than 8-10, so you can have platform to try and attack Labour as the voice of the Irish Left.

    If they don’t get their act together, obscurity.
    I know SF seem to invite madness, but they are a political party like any other. The same rules apply.

  • hillview

    sorry, just felt the comment was unjustified and without a basis in truth!

  • kensei

    “Real democratic politicians understand that no party is ever unassailable.”

    Real democratic politicians are a ruthless sort who know when the opposition is hopeless and will go for the throat. there is, as yet, no evidence that the SDLP are going to get anything other than another kicking. And I’ve yet to see any SDLP posters be as candid as some of the SF bloggers have been.

    Sammy

    “So ditch what you’ve always believed for the sake of a few extra seats and maybe the chance to implement some of the more crudely nationalist (in the general sense) elements of your platform.”

    Oh, please Sammy, that’s not worthy of you. Where did I said that they should ditch what they believe? The need to update policies in the face of new realities (both economic and political) is a challenge faced by left wing parties just about everywhere in the world. Individual policies should not be sacred at any rate, rather the principles that underline them. SF should be developing costed, sensible, centre-left policies. So they want universal health care, an end to the two tier system – they need to rethink how that can be implemented. Unless there is a true crisis, it probably won’t be done in one go, and claims of uncontrollable costs are easily banded about to frighten people, so they are probably better starting with a few key policies that are progressive, tightly costed and appeal to a lot of people to gain trust. And so on with other areas. That isn’t ditching principle.

    Power without principle is bad, certainly. But principle without power is utterly and completely useless. A bit like the Alliance Party, really.

  • gram

    The election shows that only 6.9% of the southern voting population see partition as the number 1 issue.

    If SF are to make further progress they need to begin engaging the other 93.1% of voters on the issues they are more concerned about. The big question is wherether they have the talent within the party to do this.

  • Hillview

    you would be surprised how many people vote for FF for the same reason. the southern electorate are not avery smart bunch!

  • againtthehead

    ‘the southern electorate are not avery smart bunch! ‘

    lol – that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time – because they don;t vote for SF??

  • J Kelly

    There is no doubt that last weeks results were a setback but thats what they were last weeks results and Sinn Fein will look, analyse and learn. Sinn Fein will take it on the chin but they will not blame the electorate like the SDLP and barrowed votes or the UU our vote stayed at home. The Sinn Fein vote on this island is 223OOO and needs to be built on. Sinn Fein will examine why many people said they would vote Sinn Fein didn’t when it came to it. By reading through these posts and other articles many would believe that Sinn Fein were ready to head off into the sunset no chance. We are in for the long haul and if no government is formed we will fight the next election having learnt the lessons of this one. It was disappointing but it wasn’t the end of the world. That was last week and now thats off my chest its time to move forward.

  • DK

    Having read a lot of the stuff posted here since the election, here is my summary and interpretation of the reasons for Sinn Fein’s apparent failure in the elections, in no particular order:

    Keep FG Out: The SF fantasy reason. The electorate were too busy voting FF to keep FG out that SF didn’t get a look in. This reason is slightly undermined by the SF vote remaining steady, except in Dublin where FG seem to have been as likely as anyone else to benefit.
    Volunteer fall off: Policing, while welcome in the North, as the assembly showed, may have been less popular in the South where the need for the PSNI is not seen and SF supporters can remain more idealistic – which they have shown by leaving SF and joining dissident republican groups, like Eirigi. While these groups are tiny, so are the numbers of volunteers willing to do the door-banging essential to boost the vote, and the most fanatical are the most valuable to lose.
    United Ireland not important: The Unionist fantasy reason. The Southern electorate are no longer interested in a united Ireland and so don’t vote Sinn Fein. More likely they are still interested in the idea, but it’s slipping in priority.
    Adam’s performance: As if one wobbly TV showing should decide the election, but maybe it can – the US elections are full of examples, from Nixon’s stubble to “Read my lips”.
    NI is sorted, isn’t it?: An inverse bonus from peace in NI: If NI is apparently sorted, with Sinn Fein in power there, is there any need for them in RoI – surely they can do the United Ireland job themselves now they are in power.
    FF stole NI glory Bertie running around the Boyne with Paisley gave the impression that he was the man of the hour for the successful implementation of the Assembly here (also helped by Tony): thus FF get the peace-dividend vote, at SF’s expense
    Baggage: Reminders of Columbia and the timing of the release of one of McCabe’s killers may have prevented the breakthrough as potential voters are reminded just why SF are unwelcome to so many. This could also be filed under “Blame the media”.
    Don’t rock the boat: In my opinion, the most important reason of all. Ireland is doing great – why change? The PD’s have also felt the affect of this – they, like SF, are also a radical party and the electorate are not in the mood for radical now.

    Also, in my opinion, the way ahead for Sinn Fein is fairly clear: Radicals will only prosper in a radicalised society. The republic is not that society. Sinn Fein need to ditch the left-wing stuff (which is largely tacked on to the rather more central UI stuff) and concentrate on delivering in areas that the other parties are ignoring: Immigration, development, tackling dublin-centrification, loss of culture. A re-birth as a party of Real Ireland, the rural Eire of poets and GAA warriors might be a way forward – a truly nationalist party, but care needs to be taken that it doesn’t just end up as an Irish version of UKIP.

  • Whatever Next

    Gosh, the realism’s coming thick and fast today: “re-birth as a party of Real Ireland, the rural Eire of poets and GAA warriors might be a way forward – a truly nationalist party” – poetry, eh? Oh well, if nothing else, at least it’s one more Republican poster we can expect no longer to p*ss about pretending that the GAA ain’t politicised to the nth degree.

  • Hillview

    if you dont believe me go anywhere in the world and you will see that the most stupid, fat and ignorant tourists are the irish. we have a lack of educated people on the island and by that i mean that people dont know anything outside their own special area.

  • DK

    WN: “at least it’s one more Republican poster we can expect no longer to p*ss about pretending that the GAA ain’t politicised”

    Except that I’m not a Republican. If anything, I’m a unionist as I would not be interested in a United Ireland (and I live in Northern Ireland). So stick your presumptions up yer hole.

  • Wilde Rover

    “There is nothing, nothing on this earth, more ruthless and single-minded than a Fianna Fáil candidate aiming for Leinster House. Hard work at community level? They’ll spend years attending funerals of people they never even knew for the sake of a third preference.”

    Careful Sammy, I imagine some Soldiers of Destiny read Slugger. You may be in danger of getting drafted 😉

    Sinn Fein

    If you want to be radical and relevant to the people of the majority of the island, disband.

    Set up a new party.

    (With actual policies this time)

  • Kensei,

    Sinn Féin’s history wasn’t being just another democratic socialist party in the line of British Labour/German SDP/Spanish PSOE/whatever. So any reinvention of itself that SF pursues is unlikely to be in the same vein that those parties have done.

    Ditching socialism and moving on to a new, post-socialist left wing project is frought with difficulties, even for established left-wing parties. The post-socialist left millieu is an overwhelmingly middle-class one. Social democractic parties across the democratic world have haemhorraged working class membership just as trade unions and the political power and capacity to integrate the working class within left-wing politics that came with them have declined. That seems to lead to a fairly rapid fragmentation of the traditional voter base.

    For Sinn Féin, any move to the territory of the post-Socialist left is even more fraught. This is a party that was a component of a movement that fought a bitter and unpleasant armed struggle for 30 years because they rejected the very existence of the two Irish states. The Southern one as well as the Northern one. Adams has been masterful in keeping his base intact while butchering sacred cow after sacred cow, but at what point do the Shinners end up looking to their own people like just another set of scheming politicos?

    There’s an old saying that, when confronted by a choice between conservatives and liberals masquerading as conservatives, the electorate will always vote for the genuine article. In your case, the danger is that when the electorate are confronted by a choice between Fianna Fáil and Shinners masquerading as Fianna Fáil, they will go for the larger and more successful party with less skeletons in their closet.

    Sinn Féin in NI stand out as probably the only political party in Europe that still succeeds in mobilising the working-class en masse to support it politically. Are any steps that Sinn Féin take to expand their base in the South going to jeopardise that base in the North? It’s not a question I have an answer to, but I’m glad I’m not having to sit in the Shinners’ shoes and grapple with it.

    You might argue that principle without power is pointless, but power without principle is unarguably repellent. That’s the way you end up like backbench Labour MPs, supporting a government that happily tramples over everything you hold dear for the sake of the Office Costs Allowance.

    Oh, and Alliance are a hell of a lot closer to a share in power in the North than Sinn Féin are in the Republic. We only need to gain 2-3 MLAs. You need to not only convince the electorate that you deserve another half dozen TDs, but you need to convince the political class that you aren’t, as the Germans say about the NPD and the like, koalitionsunfähig.

    Your base in the North is secure and you can reasonably expect to make further gains from an SDLP living in denial, but that can’t be enough for a party whose whole raison d’être is to end partition.

  • kensei

    Ok, a lot to deal with there. I’ll try to put it into some reasonable order.

    1. SF are right now, just another party. That is the lesson from the election last week. In terms of development and violent past; you’ll find plenty of others kicking about in Ireland, merely with greater distance.

    They have no magic powers. They did well in elections previously because they picked the right issues, came across as strong and understood their electorate. They stalled last week because they got those things wrong.

    2. I am not suggesting that SF should cease to be a party of the left, or lose principle. “Socialism” has unfortunately been tagged with negative connotations, and “social democracy” is a much more friendly term these days. The crux of the matter, as Mick, pointed out is that SF want to shift Ireland from an Anglo-American model to a Nordic one.

    There are all kinds of problems with that. While we’ve seen the expected rise in inequality, crime and social problems from the system, it has been generally good to Ireland. The centre of gravity is right. Money has been wasted and people feel there is enough in the system. In this kind of environment it is simply impossible for that goal to be achieved in one go.

    So you have to strip things down to the core principles and work backwards from principles to goals to policies that can be achieved in the next election. Ideally you are looking for something with a good appeal, addresses a particular issue, is strictly costed and easily explained e.g. UK Labour’s 1997 commitment to reduce class sizes. When you’ve built trust you can do more. This is particularly true when you get hammered by everyone else for pie in the sky policy.

    New Labour gets a bad rap and in many ways they deserve it, but they got a ton of money into the public services by that strategy, in a way they probably wouldn’t have been able to sustain if they had have just promised a ton in 1997 election.

    3. In terms of the working class base, I think it is simply a matter of keeping a strong on the good presence, not moving too fast and having good policy. You have to remember that there are a lot of working class votes they could target in the South, and a lot of middle class votes in the North.

    4. Power without principle is repellent, which is one of the reasons SF fared badly in the last election. the “Ready for government” stuff smacked of it. But in general you need to find a balance between what you want and what is achievable. Very few governments get the opportunity to do most of their wish list.

    5. The Alliance might be near the Assembly, but near any real power? Pffffff. It’s the North we’re talking about here.

    6. I’m not a member of SF! I am merely a Northern republican who wants to see progress on the National Question. Right now, SF are the only show in town in the North. If FF moved up, I’d be interested to see what they had to show.

  • middle-class taig

    Sammy

    To my mind, last week’s results present the Shinners with plenty of questions, but at least one answer.

    The principal question, for me, is can SF ever hope to be more than bit-part players to the FG/FF punch-and-judy? Sure, occasionally, such bit part players have real substantive influence, and wield real power (to wit, the PDs, 1997-2007); but they also act as a wind-break to the big players and can be punished brutally by the electorate (to wit, the PDs, 2007- ? ). Can SF really justify the distraction caused by the inevitable vicissitudes of such a role from SF’s primary role – pursuing a United Ireland?

    The more minor questions, to my mind, all revolve around how SF increases its electoral appeal in the south, prevents the media plausibly portraying it as a bunch of illiterate gangsters who are ill-suited for government and gets its project back on track. The answer to at least some of those kind of questions must, to my mind, lie in the compact recently formed with the DUP. SF must look to its base in the six counties (where it REALLY knows the issues and the lie of the land) and deliver excellent government. It must show itself capable of difficult compromises and wise spending, prepared to bargain hard for points of highest principle and ready to do the hard work of exercising power humanely and efficiently.

    In short, SF’s future fortunes in the South, to my mind, depend in no small measure on how well it runs the North.

    Btw, I hope you’re enjoying the Alliance Party slegging.

  • barnshee

    Jasus Gerry have you seen this ? –it looks as if we only exist because of partition- slow down on the UI carry on fer fecks sake— we will all be out of a job- those FF and FG bastards would stand up here not to mention those greens etc — A new slogan???
    Feck what about no surrender? or has someone already got that one?

  • I hope you’re enjoying the Alliance Party slegging.

    The heat is hardly on us this week, is it…

  • kensei

    “The heat is hardly on us this week, is it…”

    Oh come on. The heat being on you you requires some kind of significance or relevance.

  • The heat being on you you requires some kind of significance or relevance.

    Given the amount of time and effort you and other republicans spend attacking us on Slugger, I’d guess we’re significant and relevant to you then…

  • kensei

    “Given the amount of time and effort you and other republicans spend attacking us on Slugger, I’d guess we’re significant and relevant to you then…”

    Nah, it’s just a wee hobby for larfs. 2016 is a long way away you know ;).

    Though I should have said you are so wet the heat wouldn’t matter anyway….