“Previously they had the War; now they have our policies.”

Another unsuccessful Sinn Féin candidate, Joanne Spain, disagrees with Eoin Ó Broin’s analysis of the party’s poor performance in the Irish General Election, as noted in the comments zone by Cruimh. As well as “the continued censorship of our biased media” – although the particular example chosen is somewhat contradicted by this online RTÉ report on the day of the press conference she hosted attended – the lack of success of “The Left” throughout Europe is mentioned as are other left independent candidates, Bríd Smith and Joan Collins – “If they are an example of the candidates that left voters turned to then I think we need to question our education of voters, not our policies”. And the main mistakes that are claimed to have occurred echo that dissatisfaction with the electorate

We had high expectations arising from our recent successes in the North. Perhaps we should have considered two things: first, that the North working out may have taken us off the agenda somewhat and second, that talking up the Assembly – a small parliament and something we consider not so important in the scale of our all-Ireland goal – may have been slightly naïve. Perhaps the main mistake we made in this election was that we expected society to move with us before it was ready to accept the progress that Sinn Féin has made and the new left alternative available.

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  • Cruimh

    As I said earlier – time warp politics.
    Do SF have a John Smith/Tony Blair in the background ?

  • Kevster

    One of the biggest mistakes a politician can make when examining a defeat is stating that the electorate simply didn’t understand what we were offering the people, instead of accepting the people’s verdict on what was offered.

    Sinn Fein need to spend some time developing policies more in line with today’s Republic.

  • DC

    “We messed up on taxation – nothing else. This was not a departure from left politics as we know it.”

    A fundamental mess-up, damn it if you can’t be seen to be able to provide the readies which puts the food on the table then you ought to resign let alone stand for election.

    Sinn Fein has to be seen to save its face, as a party which can’t save its own face is a party with no future.

  • kensei

    Bunkum. Aside from the “squeezed” argument, Gerry has been the most sensible person from SF talking on the defeat as yet.

  • Harry Flashman

    Wasn’t there some old communist who when confronted by electoral defeat immediately demanded “change the people!”.

  • CTN

    Joanne Spain asks “is anyone saying Larry O’Toole and Dessie Ellis etc have ceased to be campaigning politicians”

    Answer: Yes the electorate are!
    Why: Because as Fintan O’Toole has said “SF are a party of protest who don’t protest enough”.

    Facts are the Dublin SF membership has been massively reduced- meaning campaigns, leafleting, canvassing and votes are also reduced.

    Its not good enough for the electorate for Gerry to be “below his best”- he was garbage!

    Any party leader who does not have at least a few facts on the economy (always the most important issue in almost every election) is guilty of negligence and arrogance of the worst kind.

    Re-asses your analysis Joanne or SF will continue suffering further defections and resignations….

  • Jimmy Sands

    Harry, you’re thinking of Brecht’s “The Solution”

    “After the uprising of the 17th June

    The Secretary of the Writers Union

    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

    Stating that the people

    Had forfeited the confidence of the government

    And could win it back only

    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

    In that case for the government

    To dissolve the people

    And elect another?”

    Sadly I very much doubt the allusion was deliberate.

  • cynic

    Isnt the real story here that An Phoblacht published a criticism (no matter how mild) of the leader. That smacks dangerously of democracy. Something will have to be done

  • abucs

    For SF to be credible economically to the electorate of the south, they have to move to the right.

    But so many Irish parties have got there ahead of them that there is no room, and they will lose whatever small electoral support they do have from the left.

    I think, unfortunately, with little room to move, they will have to talk doublespeak. Keep talking about inequality and unfairness for one section of the community, while at the same time talking of (or at least not hampering) growth and opportunities for another section.

    In short, the worst of what politicians do regularly.

    Not exactly “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

  • Alan

    Do I detect that “Save Dave” has become “Save Gerry” – only with less of a lilt to it?

  • Re-asses your analysis Joanne or SF will continue suffering further defections and resignations….

    CTN, it’s rather evident from your posts that you desperately want to see SF suffer further defections and resignations – however I think you’re being overly optimistic in expecting this to happen on the basis of Joanne Spain’s personal opinion about our election strategy.

    Justin Moran’s opinion piece in the same Phoblacht is surely worth discussion.


  • Harry Flashman

    Thank you Jimmy, that is what I was thinking of, however not being as erudite or well read as yourself I was unable to find the quotation on the internet.

    That’s why we like Slugger, we can get a boffo political row or an education at the same time.

    (Brecht eh? Now where in the hell did you ever read Brecht, Harry? *shrugs*)

  • Cruimh

    Never mind Harry – have a kit-kat 😉

  • Cruimh

    It is worthy of discussion Wednesday – scratching my head at the rather sad use of the murder of
    Eddie Fullerton – and chuckling at the business of Gerry winning back his seat – in case you missed it they pulled a few rabbits out of the hat 1994 to 2007. Ceasefires, GFA, decommissioning, entering government , joining policing boards. There’s not a lot left to impress the public.

  • curious

    [i]”If we learn the lessons of the 2007 General Election, we will do so again. We will confound our critics, re-organise our party and return again to the task set for us many generations ago, the establishment of an independent, democratic, socialist republic in Ireland.”[/i]

    Justin Martin and all other shinners are living cloud cookoo land. Their leaders Gerry and Martin dont even know what type of government they would have in a [b]36 county independent, democratic, socialist republic in Ireland.[/b] A d’honte system like stormont, or a majority/opposition type government like the present Dail.

    If Unionist TD’s were to be included in a new UI Dail then a d’honte type system would be imperative so Unionists as a minority could be involved in government, like SF are involved in government at Stormont in Northern Ireland at present.

    Can you imagine the citizens of the ROI ever wanting a d’honte type system like stormont in Dublin??????????????? Not bloody likely.

    To have any other form of government than d’honte in a 36 county ROI would be discrimative towards Unionists.

    All comments welcome.

  • curious

    correction typo: last post should be 32 county ROI not 36.

  • BogExile

    The level of self-delusion from Sinn Fein is truly bizzare. They’ll never have a ‘clause 4 moment’ as long as they blame the electorate for their defeat.

    Is there no-one within Sinn Fein who has the capacity to reflect on what the debacle actually means:

    1. Agit-prop politics might work in the northern ghettos with the attendant permissive culture of violence excused as ‘resistance’ but it’s seen for what it is over the border. The whiff of cordite is not as attractive as it used to be.

    2. Unification comes long after bin collection in the conciousness of southern voters. Constitutional autism is not very attractive.

    3. Economic policy is for grown up political parties who understand that money talks and bullshit (ideology) walks.

    4. Televised leadership debates – ‘they haven’t gone away, you know.’ Get someone to front a party who isn’t so thrown by having to sell policy outside the Felon’s club.

    I wonder if there is anyone beyond the usual consituency of ‘my party right or wrong’ apologists on here who recognises that Sinn Fein are not the instrument of unification, they are the obstacle.

    The constitutional position is settled. People North and South will become increasingly tired of politics which subverts everything to the godforsaken national imperative. It will be a bit like having a mad aunt in the attic. Droning on about the spirit of 1916 to the ipod generation. Trying ever more vainly to summon up the perversion of the armed struggle. An embarrasment.

    Wishful thinking? Oh, almost certainly and the sheer tenacity and relentless machine efficiency of the SF ‘project’ is formidable. But someone, somewhere within SF must be thinking, ‘If only we grew up a bit and read ‘economics for dummies’ and, say, made the assembly a success, all those golf club prods might hardly even notice that we’re edging them subtly towards unification of their own free will – and then the world is ours! But then I think of Martina as Director of Unionist disengagement and wake up again.

  • CTN

    Hi Wednes,

    I know you are disappointed, but hey just because someone offers advice doesn’t mean they are out to get you.

    As stated earlier, I actually lent SF a high preference vote.

    Joanne’s synopsis is evidence of an endemic problem within SF- it’s always someones else’s fault and grizzler will save the day.

    Whilst that attitude prevails you will continue dwindling in Dublin….

  • Elvis

    Re 32 not 36 counties
    Actually you were nearer the truth the first time as there are now 29 counties in the Republic. Please do not refer to the 26 counties – they are a creation of the evil Brits – the 29 counties were created by the Dail.

  • curious


    You better let this lot of Republican activists know, because they are following in the evil Brits footsteps.


    32 County Sovereignty Movement was founded at a meeting of like-minded Republican activists in Fingal County Dublin on Sunday, December 7th 1997 http://www.32csm.org/home.html

  • Setanta

    (from Politics.ie)

    For a politics and philosophy graduate, Joanne Spain’s analysis of the reasons for SF’s mediocre performance in the GE is pretty weak. Having seen her operate in Dublin Mid West during the GE I’m not surprised at the superficial nature of her contribution.

    SF’s basic problem is one of relevance to the electorate in the Republic.

    In the North, SF are directly relevant to the strategic interests of the nationalist community and have managed to persuade that community that they are the best defenders of those interests. The primary political dynamic in the North remains one of ethnic political competition and SF play this game particularly well.

    In the Republic, however, SF do not appear to ‘get’ the local political dynamic. Joanne’s rather dated language on left-wing politics and its reception by a censorious media illustrate this.

    There appears to be a central confusion within SF about how it responds to the particular political environment down here. SF is deeply unsure of how to address the Republic’s electorate:

    (a) SF perceives itself as a community-advocacy party, strong on the ground and relying on the personal network and profile of long-standing community activism, but then made the severe tactical mistakes of parachuting Mary Lou and Joanne into two Dublin constituencies. From very early on following her selection it was clear in DMW that Joanne was unable to persuade her local activists, much less the wider electorate, that she had a credible chance of taking a seat.

    (b) SF’s focus on National Unity and the Peace Process simply does not play to anything other than a very limited audience down here. While there is a high degree of supprot for re-unification and latent interest in the North, it is of little relevance when people go to vote. Fianna Fáil learnt this lesson in the seventies/eighties, SF will need to learn this lesson if it is to advance beyond its current limited Daíl representation.

    (c) SF attempts to strike a radical, left-wing posture on economic and social policy completely misreads the economic interests of the Republic’s electorate as that electorate perceives them. The following comment by Joanne Spain democtrates the gulf between fantasy and reality that is SF thinking on this matter (asuming that Joanne accurately represents SF opinion):

    I think we need to question our education of voters, not our policies.

    Failing to provide intelligently costed proposals on, for example, health, reduces the credibility of such proposals. That’s pretty basic political science. If the electorate cannot see how much a radical policy will cost and how it is to be funded then they simply will not believe that you are going to be able to implement it.

    In addition, a political party needs to be absolutely rock-solid on tax. This is an absolute bottom line in General Elections, just ask Enda Kenny after Bertie was able to successfully (mis-)represent his policy on income tax during the latter stages of the election. SF’s unconvincing and confused treatment of Corporation Tax was not just a case of shooting itself in the foot, but rather of filling both barrels and blowing both legs off. It catastrophically degraded SF’s credentials for successful economic management and played a key part in the slump in their fortunes. Just how much, can be seen by the very low priority given by other parties to attacking SF’s economic policies – they didn’t need to!

    SF’s fundamental problem in the Republic is one of relevance to the interests of the Southern electorate. This is a structural weakness in SF in the Republic. Those issues that make it predominant in the North do not play here, e.g. re-unification and its success in ethnic political competition. On those matters which are of principal concern to the Republic’s electorate, i.e. economic and social policy, SF’s devotion to 1970’s socialism is utterly irrelevant to the electorate as they perceive those interests. No amount of re-educating the Southern electorate will change that.

    I’m afraid that SF are looking at long-term political stagnation in the Republic. Their current Dáíl representation is probably a reasonable reflection of that part of the electorate with whom SF policy on the North and Seventies Socialism plays reasonably well. Problem is that it is a ghetto section of the electorate – declining in size and political strength as prosperity increases and the North’s troubles recede into memory.

  • Jonah

    “The following comment by Joanne Spain democtrates the gulf between fantasy and reality that is SF thinking on this matter (asuming that Joanne accurately represents SF opinion)”

    That’s a massive, and deeply, profoundly incorrect, assumption to make.

  • Nigel Trotsky

    ”So comrades, it’s time for Plan B — empty all those arms bunkers we ‘forgot’ about, storm the Dail and proclaim the glorious Socialist Republic we’ve all been dreaming of. If this election proves one thing, it’s this — democracy doesn’t work.”

  • CTN

    Read the article by Justin Moron, it was virtually anti SF bile- from inside the party! Is this guy trying to get knee-capped or what?

    More importantly he neglected to state his party’s vote was down in Dublin especially within his own constituency and why.

    He talked about how well his comrades performed on the ground in spite of Adams’ own goals in the media- well he knows their vote is plummeting in Dublin because most of his old comrades defected to Eírigí or resigned.

    Justin & co now need to make their leadership less autocratic or keep free falling in dreamland….

  • Cruimh

    Afwer all the years of possible splits over decommissioning, Stormont and signing up to Policing, could this election finally do it ?

  • CTN

    Between all the defections to the RIRA, CIRA, INLA & now the new political party Eírigí, its kinda underway already, except this time grizzler is under real pressure from within in a circumstance were he can blame no-one else.

    The lefties will be slapped down and walk or Adams will move the party left.

    I think those media own goals and this election result together with the St Andrew’s shortfall could be a watershed whereby, a new slow burning phase of republican agitation commences against Adams himself- now widely seen as a liability .

  • Cruimh

    I suppose one could say that just as the Southern leadership was out of touch and irrelevent to the
    Northern priority in the mid 80s, Adams could be viewed as a victim of his own success, having to a large extent had a ‘result’ in the North – and now that the South needs “fixed” Adams and the Northern Focus are due to be pushed aside?

  • CTN

    As it’s northern liberation that SF are reputedly after then the “teddy bears head” will be their “priority”.

    Yes Adams is tunnel-visioned, but whether he is pushed before his time who knows.

    We live in interesting times Cru…

  • Cruimh

    I think we’ll hear less in the future about unification by 2016 CTN. Adams is in a bit of a bind – having stomped round Ireland telling folks that the other parties aren’t really interested in rescuing the North and getting the Brits out, the Irish people have shown that THEY aren’t interested in rescuing the North and getting the Brits out! So even if the vote fairy brought him 50%+1 there’s no guarantee that what he doubtless sees as the ingrates of the ROI would say yes. And who could blame them ?

  • kensei

    “So even if the vote fairy brought him 50%+1 there’s no guarantee that what he doubtless sees as the ingrates of the ROI would say yes. And who could blame them ?”

    Look, it’s not a priority in the South, and no one should claim it is. But it’s a Unionist wet dream that the Republic wouldn’t endorse unification. Polls supporting it are consistently high and even if you allow some room for fear near the date, it still wouldn’t get anywhere near threatening 50%+1 in the South. Moreover, if a 50%+1 vote occurred or looked likely in the North, there isn’t a single Irish party that would run a No campaign, and certainly not FF, FG or Labour.

  • curious

    [i]”I think we’ll hear less in the future about unification by 2016 CTN”[/i]

    When is the penny going to drop with shinners, that the Irish government and Gerry endorsed the following clause in the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

    [b]The abolition of the Republic’s territorial claim to Northern Ireland via the modification Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution.[/b]


  • Cruimh

    curious – the shinners only regard the GFA as binding when it is in their interests.

  • Tonelagee

    SF Posters in Dublin Central read “Ceart, Saoirse & Siochain” (Rights, Freedom & Peace). This presumably refers to the North not to the “26-county state” as Gerry Adams calls it. Not a vote-catching phrase in Dublin where we call the country Ireland. Gerry is the only party leader who was not a candidate in the election and who does not live in the ‘state’.

    Do voters in the south want another left-wing party? It is already a crowded field. What makes flag-waving, super-nationalists think they are left-wing anyway? They act more like the nationalist right in most European countries.