Sinn Fein: down but not quite out…

Alex Kane reckons that after twenty years with the political wind at their backs, Sinn Fein will never again have it so good. It’s not that he thinks Sinn Fein cannot make a decent go at good government at Stormont, but that its recent rejection by southern voters leaves it in a place it not expect to be, and in a position within the UK that increasingly looks devoid of a credible exit strategy. He believes the party faces four critical challenges:By Alex Kane:

The one thing you can be certain of with Sinn Fein is that they won’t let an electoral or political hiccough distract them from their overriding purpose. In 1992, when Adams lost his West Belfast seat to the SDLP’s Joe Hendron, and Sinn Fein’s overall vote fell to 10 per cent, a number of commentators argued that their “electoral bubble” had been burst. Yet fifteen years on, it is the SDLP which has the problem of long term survival.

And while it is true that Sinn Fein performed appallingly at the recent Irish election, it would be a huge mistake for unionists to gloat too much. We got a lucky break this time, with Ahern doing very much better than had been expected; and that lucky break means that we have been spared the immediate prospect of Sinn Fein inside an Irish government. But who knows what could happen in a mere five years? In the meantime, Sinn Fein will reassess its position and review its tactics, calculating what it must do to keep the unification project on the road. It will have four main priorities.

First, it must prove that it can make a difference for the better in Northern Ireland. The up and then down again nature of devolution between 1998 and 2006 meant that it was never really tested in government and never got the chance to prove what it was capable of. This time will be different. Martin McGuinness will remain on a permanent charm offensive (helped, immeasurably, by the genuinely good relationship he has with Ian Paisley), while the three Sinn Fein ministers will concentrate on crowd-pleasing measures and looking efficient. The aim, of course, is not to frighten unionists up here, while, at the same time, proving to southern voters that they can be trusted in government.

Second, and this may prove more difficult, they have to convince their republican heartlands that power-sharing with unionists in a British sanctioned Assembly in the United Kingdom can still be interpreted as ongoing progress towards a united Ireland. The task is made a little easier by the fact that Sinn Fein has seen off all electoral rivals and that there doesn’t appear to be a credible replacement for the IRA. That said, they still need signs of progress, and that’s why an Irish Language Act and control of three super-councils west of the Bann will remain on their agenda.

Third, they have to accept that they aren’t going to make an impact south of the border by relying on “A Nation Once Again” and hand-me-down Marxist economics. For all of Sinn Fein’s talk about building a “New Ireland,” it would seem that the Irish electorate believe that it was built by the Belfast Agreement and endorsed by the changes to the Irish Constitution. So, if Sinn Fein is going to make electoral progress in the Dail, it is only going to do so if it plants itself on the soft-left of the political spectrum and tones down the unification rhetoric.

Finally, it will continue with its “Charter for Unionist Engagement,” which it launched at Stormont almost a fortnight ago. Now, in my opinion, no unionist worthy of the name would have attended the event; but my opinion counts for nothing among those woollier minded ninnies who believe that a politically motivated rapprochement with Sinn Fein is, of itself, a “good thing.” It isn’t. I have very grave reservations about the “Shared Future” approach to our problems (which I will write about next week) and I am utterly opposed to unionists being sucked into Sinn Fein’s deliberate and cynical wooing of our professional softies.

Republicans have always played the long game. Let’s face it, 800 years of whingeing about British oppression has conditioned them to that sort of game. But they also believe that they are probably closer now than they have been for over a century to realising their ultimate goal.

As it happens, I believe they are actually further away from that goal than they have ever been. I detect no signs from either the British or Irish political establishments that they regard the Assembly and the Belfast/St Andrews Agreements has anything other than permanent. It is clear, also, that the Irish electorate has no great desire to embrace the social, political, constitutional and economic consequences that would accompany unification. They certainly don’t want the nightmare of thirty or so unionist TDs forever holding the balance of power in the Dail!

Again, as far as Northern Ireland is concerned, if Dublin and Washington have taken their eye off the ball and most internal republican demands have been met, then where is the motivation for unification? Adams’ generation is aging and the upcoming generation will have no hard physical evidence of the brutality and one-party rule which acted as the recruiting call for the IRA.

The only useful card that Sinn Fein has left is that of a border poll; and it will want to play it at some stage. But for that card to be truly effective it will require a smaller than expected turnout from the pro-Union electorate. And that is why Sinn Fein will be so keen to prove itself in government; it is why Martin McGuinness will smile a lot; and it’s why the unionist engagement project will continue.

The only way that unification can happen is if Sinn Fein can prove that there is a majority mandate for it in Northern Ireland. That will not happen in my lifetime. Indeed, it won’t happen at all if the pro-Union arguments are clearly made and properly deployed. Sinn Fein has had a good run since the early 1980s, but the unpleasant reality for them is that their day isn’t coming after all.

First published in the Newsletter.

, ,

  • Yokel

    This is the same Alex Kane who a number of months back was doom & gloom for unionists.

    Something changed Alex? Like Paisley & the rest of the DUP having a great laugh at Stormont?

    I have no idea what Paisley & the DUP types in Stormont are so jolly about but its almost disturbing.

  • Pól

    Good points by Alex Kane but as Mick has repeatedly pointed out nobody knows what will happen.

    Nothing can be taken for granted and I as a republican certainly dont take it for granted that there will be a united Ireland.

    It has to be worked for.

  • the Emerald Pimpernel

    As so many southerners have pointed out, the reason there is no screaming in the south for a united Ireland is because they just accept it as manifest destiny. So why unionist think the goals of the republic are not the goals of the republicans is beyond my simple mind.
    I would put it to you that United Ireland has never been closer and to say one election finishes Sinn Fein is to stick ones head in the sand and claim the problem has gone away

  • Todd

    Is Kane only going to live 10 more years!

  • Pól

    Would he not have to be dead before 1916 Todd?

    Only 8 years left!

    I am a southerner moving to the north in a couple of months to work. One more vote for united Ireland.

  • Spongers Utd

    A Unionist trying to predict the mindset of the ROI voters through the results of the last election always leads to kooky conclusions.

    Just because SF was defeated in the ROI, doesn’t mean that the whole idea of a UI has been defeated. It just means that people rejected SF’s method of a UI over FF’s methods.

    As EP has stated, we believe a UI will occur naturally, so there’s not need to scream about it from the roof tops.
    The last poll done on the UI issue, last year showed that 77% of the population in favour still.

  • kensei

    Alex spends a lot of time discussing how the setback for SF should be put in context, how they will probably take stock and try again, and how they play a long game which is the first time I’ve seen any sensible Unionist comment on it. But he then just comes out with a conclusion disconnected from the rest of the piece.

    It’s inexplicable. The truth is really that, we have shifted in some ways closer to a United Ireland and in some ways further away. Either side can find examples. I would also love to know at what time in the past he thought us near to a UI. The long term demographics and politics aren’t clear at the moment, and the lesson of the first half of his piece, for Unionists, is that they will have continue to adapt and espouse their position, because SF is definitely going to give theirs.

    But, hey, I’m all in favour of Unionists telling themselves they have it sown up. Complacency is a wonderful thing.

  • flaminglip1

    It’s basically Kane saying “DON’T PANIC GUYS FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE DON’T PANIC, WHY ARE YOU PANICKING???? STOP PANICKING”

  • curious

    [i]”That will not happen in my lifetime. Indeed, it won’t happen at all if the pro-Union arguments are clearly made and properly deployed. Sinn Fein has had a good run since the early 1980s, but the unpleasant reality for them is that their day isn’t coming after all.”[/i]

    Good article Alex,

    Maybe a UI might just come in 2116 instead of 2016. Having waited 800 years, another 100 years wont do SF any harm.

  • overhere

    I think the UI will not necessarily come from the politicos but from the business community and a general blurring of the border through trade. There is no way the British government will give NI special treatment in on business tax issues, they would have to give it to Wales and Scotland as well.

    The business community will gradually see that closer ties with the ROI looks better and the British population as a whole are getting older and begining and will become even more of a strain on the national budget, leaving less money for everything else.

    So as they say you never know and it ain’t over till the fat lady sings

  • Porlock

    Yes, I agree with most of what Alex Kane writes in this piece.

    Sinn Fein has been stripped of everything but rhetoric. The only thing they ever wanted was a United Ireland and it looks an unlikely prospect. Obviously they—along with some posters on this thread—will continue with the pretence, but I don’t see where they go from here.

    Re Yokel’s first post, I still detect a degree of pessimism in Kane’s writing when it comes to how unionists handle themselves, but on Sinn fein’s present dilemma I reckon he is spot on.

    Porlock

  • Irish Republican in America

    overhere,

    I agree-it’s the business community that is more likely to “unite Ireland”. Money has a way of changing some minds. People don’t want to have to make a decision with a gun to their head.

  • slug

    The good thing if Kane is right is that Sinn Féin will now want to appear unionist friendly. If they do then life for the DUP is much easier under powersharing; and the DUP can take the same approach in reverse. Charm offensives all round from these two parties will result in a better political climate.

  • slug

    Has Kane been moved from Saturday to some other day? I missed him recently in the Saturday Newsletters.

  • michael

    ndeed, it won’t happen at all if the pro-Union arguments are clearly made and properly deployed.

    why hasn’t anyone ever made this arguement to me. My friends who attend a protestant church either, know very little about politics (even sectarian) and so can make any arguements (apathy perhaps), or claim to be unionists but then say things like ‘why is god save the queen our national anthem, what has she got to do with us?’

    now that second statment, i will admit is debatable, you do get British republicans, but thats not what this particular individual meant!

  • newsletter-reader

    Slug > his column is now in the paper on a Monday.

  • Rory (South Derry)

    Not being the biggest fan of Alex Kane

    I must say that he needs to go to Sevastpol Street and tell the muppets in the Provos exactly what he has written here!

    It seems that Mr Kane is attempting to goad the SF PLC mob with his comments.

    He is hitting at the real raw nerves within the party

    The PSF mob are:-

    (1). Signed up to the continuation of the British
    state.

    (2). Part of the British State machine

    (3). So far down the river that their drowning in
    tide watching the 32 solution sail away.

    Yes they will continue in the 6 Counties to fight and probably retain their status but this will fade when the Nationalist community realise that these egotistical morons have no chance of delivering the promised land of a United Ireland.

    AND HISTORY WILL NEVER FORGET even if West Belfast Can.

    So much for their Day Has Come – It’s gone in the blaze of hype they call strategy.

  • “I agree-it’s the business community that is more likely to “unite Ireland”

    What world do you people live in, so the very people who have supported partition either actively or silently since the state-lets formation are now going to be at the fore of reunification. Unbelievable, you will be telling me next it will be the business community who will bring democracy to Iraq.

    The only way the local capitalists and their international robber baron pals will support a UI, is if it is a low wage, low tax, high-exploitation economy. If that is the sort of nation you wish to live in, cheer them on, thank christ must republicans have higher ambitions for their nation.

  • De Sade

    Sorry to disappoint, but cross border business is not a new invention in Northern Ireland or anywhere else. This happens all over the world and commerce has blurred financial boundaries due to the internet etc. Of couse links will strengthen with the country to the south, as they should with any good neighbour. The USA enjoys a good trading relationship with Canada, but there is no sign of this eradicating the US/Canadian border. Even though the Irish Republic may enjoy a slightly better GDP per capita than the UK, people in Northern Ireland have never been as financilly comfortable as they are now. SF’s co-operation in Northern Ireland (and it’s continuance of British Government policy in it’s individual departments) as a semi-autonomous part of the UK like Scotland and Wales has made it’s position within the union more secure than ever. They know that as well as anyone – they realise they might as well have a slice of the cake because they are sure as hell not getting the whole cake.

  • Glen Taisie

    John Hume always talked about uniting the people being more important than uniting the territory.

    His argument is as correct today as it ever was.

    Humespeak moved then moved to the notion of an agreed Ireland. A much more sensible approach with which to engage Unionism.

  • Cruimh

    “the Nationalist community realise that these egotistical morons have no chance of delivering the promised land of a United Ireland.”

    The nationalist community seem less fussed about unification these days. Plenty of lip service, but that’s really all it is.

  • Rory (South Derry)

    Cruimh

    The nationalist community seem less fussed about unification these days. Plenty of lip service, but that’s really all it is.

    Yes you are right!

    The Business Community & the European dimension will have UI brought about as the Brits clearly state that they have economic or strategic interest in the 6 Counties & the Provos do not have the ability to do so.

    We all need to be aware that SF PLC will try to latch on in any event so Gerry & Co can take the plaudits.

  • Cruimh

    Rory – there may be unification via the business community and the EU – but it won’t be a sovereign nation state, let alone a socialist republic.

  • parcifal

    SF will not deliver a united ireland but I will 🙂

  • kensei

    “The nationalist community seem less fussed about unification these days. Plenty of lip service, but that’s really all it is.”

    There is really no evidence of that. Unless you believe violence is thew only way to express desire for a United Ireland?

  • Cruimh

    “There is really no evidence of that.”

    of course there is – the vast majority of votes these days go to partitionist parties sitting in Stormont. It’s no coincidence that as SF have moved to accepting and participating in partition their vote has risen.

  • starbuck

    #SF will not deliver a united ireland but I will 🙂
    Posted by parcifal on Jun 12, 2007 @ 10:13 PM

    so tell us Parcifal – a Postie, Courier or Dacktor ?

  • kensei

    “of course there is – the vast majority of votes these days go to partitionist parties sitting in Stormont. It’s no coincidence that as SF have moved to accepting and participating in partition their vote has risen.”

    You are at cross purposes. Nationalism favours Constitutional Nationalism. They vote for parties that have Uniting Ireland as a goal. There is no other mechanism to express the desire. The SDLP claimed to be a “post nationalist” party and it has particularly helped them.

  • CTN

    If unity is dependent on SF success then we have two things to consider.

    1. They will probably increase their representation the next G.E. with two seats in Donegal.

    2. But they could meltdown in Dublin.

    All eyes on the griz- to see if he can pull it out of the fire in what has always been a main battlefield….

  • the Emerald Pimpernel

    Why Can’t you see that the set back in the south will make SF more dangerous! You are perfectly correct SF were on coast mode expecting to have things served to them on a silver platter but now they know better and they will dig harder and be smarter on both sides of the border.
    I would never guess about their success in the south but you are being fools if you expect them to fade away

  • Bigger Picture

    How can they rebuild and launch again whenver the majority of Ireland has rejected their ideas for the future?? If ever there was a time for SF to make gains in the south this was it!!

    CTN

    We were told they were GUARANTEED 2 Donegal seats at this election and never got close. How after such a drubbing are they going to come back??

    Has the meltdown in Dublin not already started?? One TD gone and the other having to fight hard or his seat??

    Seems to me that there are people on here trying to play up SF for the future down south.

    Reality check – This was billed as SF’s election, this was their time to strike (just read pre-election posts on this site) We were told on a bad day they will get 10 seats and on a sensational day 16/17! People rejected them on their policies and ideas and once people here are able to judge them on their record and not simply retoric it may all change.

  • Gerry Kelly

    During hte 1960s, the Republican Movement burned down the holiday homes of foreugners in Germany, Kerry and places. Now that Grizzlky has been given the finger, will his Donegal mansion fall to the arsonists or the CAB, or will he just be allowed continue making a fool of himself on TV? For Sinn Fein to have a future in the South, they must abandon all their Northern leaders, Grizzly’s female groupies (Hello Mary Lou) and inarticulate slum dwellers (Kehoe, Ellis, Burke). Expect more splits in the ranks. Stickies mark 2.

  • kensei

    “We were told they were GUARANTEED 2 Donegal seats at this election and never got close. How after such a drubbing are they going to come back??”

    Oh for fuck sake. On the scale of World Electoral Disasters, this would feature at position #45737. We are talking about the difference between 4 seats and 10 in a parliament of 166. Even “success” wouldn’t necessarily mean power. Conservatives in Canada were basically wiped out and now form the government.

    It may be that it is the key point in halting the rise of SF. It might be another 1992 style blip in a longer term trend. No one knows at this stage.

  • Gerry Kelly

    It’s the end of the world as we know it. Paisley has his compliant, house trained Catholic lapdog in Martin of the dopey grin and Berie has his token Protestant in Trevor of the bad hairdos.
    Thus far shalt thou go and no further.

  • Sean

    you know what i say you unionists are absolutely right!!!

    In the next general election Sinn fein will only win one seat toal, south Armagh!!!

    I hope you believe that I really do

  • Cruimh

    “On the scale of World Electoral Disasters, this would feature at position #45737.”

    However on the SF electoral disasters this is position #1.

  • iain

    Sinn Fein are in a government though, even if it is only in Northern ireland. it’s not like the British-nationaist/unionist parties will ever be in power at westminister either, is it? So for all the unionist gloating, sinn fein are now guaranteed ministerial positions in governement through agreements partially brought about by unionist parties. Is that really a unionist success?

    In fact, you could argue that the stormont assembly benefits Sinn Fein more than any other party as it will provide publicity for them in the Republic. Southern voters will be regularly seeing Sinn Fein ministers in some form of government, so they may get past any doubts they might have about SF’s ability to govern.

  • kensei

    “However on the SF electoral disasters this is position #1.”

    And? The fundamentals remain the same. It was bad, but not catastrophic, especially outside Dublin. They have the opportunity to go back and rework their policy and strategy. They might be more successful next time. They might not, and predictions of doom might be right. It’s far too early to say.

  • Cruimh

    “And?”

    and it puts your tantrum “Jun 13, 2007 @ 01:57 AM”
    into it’s proper place – really kensei – you shinners have to realise that you are no longer that important on the world stage. #45737 is probably right. Before decommissioning SF was a lot more important in the world – because of it’s active army of terrorists. Now you are just another bunch of petty provincial politicians with delusions of grandeur.

  • Globetrotter

    “Now you are just another bunch of petty provincial politicians with delusions of grandeur”.

    Pretty much sums up all our useless shower.

  • Cruimh

    So true Globetrotter – our politicians are like last series Big Brother contestants. Had their 15 minutes of fame, now rapidly sliding down towards the Z list.

  • kensei

    “into it’s proper place – really kensei – you shinners have to realise that you are no longer that important on the world stage. #45737 is probably right. Before decommissioning SF was a lot more important in the world – because of it’s active army of terrorists. Now you are just another bunch of petty provincial politicians with delusions of grandeur.”

    First up, I am not a Shinner. I merely vote for them, and wouldn’t do so if there was a better Republican option.

    Anyway, what you have said there, is exactly what I was telling you. SF are just another party, which means they have to be assessed in the same manner. So, yes, it is a moderate hiccup to a minor player in the South. Why are you repeating it back to me like some kind of revelation? If the Greens had have had a similar result, which they weren’t a piss in the pot away from, then no one would be talking about the ultimate destruction of Green politics. Similarly, the impact of this setback for SF will only be able to properly assessed in 5, 10 years time, when we see how they react and the ultimate outworking of it. Is it the end of the whole project? Might be. Is it a key point which forces SF change their policy and strategy enough to make them a small but important player in the South? Might be. It’s far too early to say.

    So: have you actually anything new to add?

    And, as an aside, I should point out that SF had their best ever election results in the North in March and have one of two mutual vetoes over the whole shebang here, so whatever happens in the South, you’re completely stuck with them. Enjoy gloating through MMG’s questions next week.

  • Steo

    “A Unionist trying to predict the mindset of the ROI voters through the results of the last election always leads to kooky conclusions.
    Just because SF was defeated in the ROI, doesn’t mean that the whole idea of a UI has been defeated. It just means that people rejected SF’s method of a UI over FF’s methods”

    I write this as a Dubliner who has lives in Tallaght where Sinn Fein lost their Dail seat.

    Your point is very true, but the adoption by Sinn Fein of Fianna Fail’s variant of Republican-Nationalist ideology is the core of SF strategic dilemma. Many contributors pointed out how SF should in a more focused fashion target the soft left in the south (in effect trying to replace the Labour Party). That will not be possible as Fianna Fail lite.

    While the Irish hard left would by enlarge have a doctrinaire take on Connolly’s writings on a 32 county socialist republic the southern soft left is by enlarge post nationalist and recoil at Fianna Fail’s nationalism let alone Sinn Fein’s. The Irish Labour Party while encompassing both traditions would probably be two thirds of a Post Nationalist/Stickie/Fine Gael view on the national question. This would be similar to the Labour Party support base. Sinn Fein would have to divorce themselves from their northern nationalism to appeal to these people and that ain’t going to happen.

    The Fianna Fail route for Sinn Fein we now know is an insurmountable mountain. While Sinn Fein’s nationalism will appeal to the Fianna Fail base they are organisationally incapable of supplanting Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein have replaced the SDLP in the north in turn garnering as wide an electoral base in the North as Fianna Fail has in the South. Fianna Fail supporters are not going to plump for a tenth rate version of Fianna Fail in the South. The only way Northern Sinn Fein can join with the broad Republican-Nationalist community in the South is to form a partnership with Fianna Fail in the South.
    This won’t happen over night. However as the Stickies challenged Labour seeking to supplant it and then later aligned with Labour with much of their key personnel going to join and lead the Labour Party they originally sought to destroy and replace – Sinn Fein will now have to travel the same road with Fianna Fail should they wish to realize their political ambitions.

    Sinn Fein is kidding themselves if they think they win Dail seats on the basis of their performance in the North. In truth most Southerners don’t give a damn about northern politics and daily life. The North is seen as a self absorbed failure that could be a financial millstone round the South’s neck if they let the northerners have their way. In Tallaght in 2002 Sinn Fein had a better clientelist machine than Fianna Fail did. Sinn Fein was unable to sustain this and lost in 2007. What will win over southerners is hard headed politics that puts money in their pockets and fulfills their private aspirations – that’s the modern nationalist base.

    Can Sinn Fein offer them what Fianna Fail pragmatism does rather than misty eyed pie in the sky?

  • kensei

    Steo:

    You assume that SF can only take votes off either FF or Labour. Regardless of where in the world you are, that path is madness. Their aim should not be to try and ape one or t’other; it should be in trying to carve out their own niche – some combination of Republicanism and soft-left politics that will pull some votes off both and win some transfers. It’s a tough challenge, but different to what you are saying.

    Trying to be some kind of proxy for FF would be catastrophic for SF, I think. You can’t position yourself as a party of opposition and change while cosying up to the Government.

  • Cruimh

    “First up, I am not a Shinner. I merely vote for them”

    That makes you a shinner – just as someone who votes for a Unionist party is a Unionist.

  • kensei

    “That makes you a shinner – just as someone who votes for a Unionist party is a Unionist.”

    No, it would make me a Nationalist or a Republican. In order to be a “Shinner”, I’d have to join the party, just as you’d have to join the UUP or DUP to be a “UUPer” or “DUPer”.

  • delta omega

    There is a very simple way to an United Ireland – all you have to do is to tell Ian Paisley that he will be Taoiseach and he and his DUPed party will sell out all their ideologies for the trappings of power, just like they have done in NI.

  • Cruimh

    I reckon there will be a lot of people like you kensei – rushing to distance themselves from the party they once so enthusiastically supported 😉
    Not that I blame you – I’d want to dstance myself from them as well. Nobody likes failures.

  • Spongers Utd

    Cruimh,

    Are you going to add anything to this debate, or are you going to constantly snipe from the corner with ill-thought out comments on other posters?

  • kensei

    “I reckon there will be a lot of people like you kensei – rushing to distance themselves from the party they once so enthusiastically supported 😉
    Not that I blame you – I’d want to dstance myself from them as well. Nobody likes failures. ”

    I am not distancing myself from anything – I vote SF as they mostly closely represent my views – Republican and Left and I don’t apologise for it. But they have done some stupid stuff, too.

    But I have no particular loyalty or ties. If the SDLP merged with a Southern party and did a good job, they might get my vote. If FF organised up here, they might get my vote. I’d prefer a situation where I had options, to be honest. It’s better for Nationalism to have competition of ideas.

  • Cruimh

    Sorry Kensei – for some reason I thought you were in the ROI.

  • CTN

    To B.P. re- Has the meltdown in Dublin not already started?? One TD gone and the other having to fight hard or his seat??

    Indeed it has, but whether you like them or not- they still have time to reverse it, however unlikely that looks now with potential new resignations over a newly required economic policy inter alia.

    In regard to Donegal, they increased their vote substantially and will gain new councilors at the ’09 elections- that said if the FF/PD/Greens put in a good 5 year term with local TD’s working hard, then SF will fall short again.

    You are correct in regard Adams/McGuinness predicting this would be SF’s election- clear proof that these guys are very disconnected.

    For the first time in SF A/McG. are feeling mortal- if most of their opponents had not left before now they may well have been chased…..

  • Wilde Rover

    “Again, as far as Northern Ireland is concerned, if Dublin and Washington have taken their eye off the ball…”

    And Ian and Martin did sit out on the grass, sipping tea, answering questions, and they did reminisce about how good it was to be away from the flashing bulbs and the cameramen of the corporate giants shouldering each other for position like the midfield at the throw in of an All-Ireland, or the line out at Twickenham with men in green pressing for an unexpected victory.

    And they did feel relieved that they did not have to mind their Ps and Qs whenever the phone rang, in case it was Bill or George, or John or Tony, or Albert or Bertie, or Nelson, or Kofi, or that nice fella, John from Canada, or a host of others, when all they were doing was “touching base”, the feckers.

    And they did comment that they were relieved that their every moment was not consumed by journalists from far flung lands hoping to scoop an interview, for it was tedious to be pestered so.

    And they both did nod gravely in agreement at the idea that it was a good thing to walk into a room of strangers and not hear as many whispers or gasps, or see as many heads turning, or see the rabbits in the headlights overcome by the fact they had walked into the room.

    And they both did commend the lowly hack from the local rag for their annoyingly circuitous route to the main question, and the following day’s headline.

    And as the question of water, or wampum, or some other such triviality reared its ugly head, their eyes glazed over ever so slightly, and they recalled the passion and vigour of youth, and the energy of their charisma as they dazzled a crowd, and shadows of tears appeared.

  • Steo

    “You assume that SF can only take votes off either FF or Labour. Regardless of where in the world you are, that path is madness. Their aim should not be to try and ape one or t’other; it should be in trying to carve out their own niche – some combination of Republicanism and soft-left politics that will pull some votes off both and win some transfers. It’s a tough challenge, but different to what you are saying.

    Trying to be some kind of proxy for FF would be catastrophic for SF, I think. You can’t position yourself as a party of opposition and change while cosying up to the Government”

    I hear what you are saying Kensei.

    You are right in saying Sinn Fein can’t position yourself as a party of opposition and change while cosying up to the Government but I believe that will be the outcome of their work on cross border ministerial councils etc. I don’t think that is a bad thing but it does knock on the head the “left of Labour” protest position it had adopted on the southern political spectrum. While I understand that Sinn Fein would like to base its appeal “some combination of Republicanism and soft-left politics that will pull some votes off both” Labour and Fianna Fail that isn’t really a big niche in the Southern electorate.

    There is a hard left Republican niche near Labour and a populist right Republican niche near Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein has in the past decade successfully taken votes from both but as you can appreciate this is an incoherent and small constituency. The southern “soft left” are a different creature and by enlarge liberal post nationalists that are an anathema to Northern Nationalists and vice versa. Sinn Fein is evolving towards being a very successful northern version of Fianna Fail (hence the increased appeal in the Southern border counties and its simultaneous decline in the Dublin left). However such a party has very little room within the southern party system.

    Trying to build a powerful enough southern niche to complement the successful northern party is no easy task and may well be an impossible one. I don’t see the “soft left” strategy as getting anywhere. Most of the southern soft left tend to dislike Fianna Fail’s nationalism and by extension despise Sinn Fein’s even more.

  • hotdogx

    Alex,
    Unionists should not fool themselves into thinking that the republic doesn’t want a UI. everybody knows it would be a mere rubber stamp. People in the republic dont want the country to go to ruin with the marxist ideas from SF. We need experts with experience. SF comse across to us as out of touch and a party that is fixated on the northern issue but seriously if they want to get anywhere they are going to have to ditch this marxist nonsense.

    So would some unionist please tell me what has the union or the brits ever done for us, since 1801 or since ever!
    lets hear the pros and cons!

    I dont believe SF will bring a UI although they may lay the ground work but when fianna fail organize north it will all be over for unionism.
    When the roads get built and the railways reappear that were shut down by unionism people will soon realise that what happens in dublin is simply more important. Who better to legislate for ireland than the irish, even big ian agrees.

  • the Emerald Pimpernel

    Hotdog

    I think right now most peoples of the republic view themselves as upwardly mobile and on the verge of being wealthy when the inevitable down turn in the economy they won’t be singing the praises of Fiana Fail and the rise of the left will be inevitable! Whether that includes Sinn Fein or not is the ultimate question

  • Pingpong

    The shinners would need a ‘miracle’ to make any headway in tne South of Ireland or whatever Conor Murphy would like it to known as.
    An All Ireland Party – thats a JOKE

  • lib2016

    There are already murmurings about the fact that Stormont is not a ‘real’ parliament. The lesson in pragmatism and sheer lust for power demonstrated by the Greens in Dublin is being totally ignored.

    There is no ‘Orange Card’ in British politics but the possibility of the unionists in government in the Dail seems to be becoming much more realistic. If British politics becomes the cold house for unionists which it has always been for Irish nationalists then whatever the DUP morphs into post-Paisley may well have nowhere else to go.

    Bertie will be around for another five years and he’s a non-threatening master of the art of the possible.

    The Scottish economy is stuck in a rut and they are frantically eager to engage with the Irish, North and South. None of us, the DUP included, owes Westminster anything. In fact it seems likely that the DUP will have to get involved in Dublin politics ‘in order to put the unionist case’.