Sinn Fein’s activists in ‘deep denial’?

For those with some Irish, this interview with Eoghan Harris on last Monday’s Blas is well worth a listen. But so is this piece from Liam Clarke, who witnessed Harris’s performance at West Belfast Talks Back. Considering his claim to political consistency is his opposition to the Sinn Fein project, he was, by most accounts fairly gentle in his criticism. What seems to have struck Clarke more than anything Harris said was that “Sinn Fein activists are in deep denial. They won’t even admit where they are politically. If you don’t know where you are now, it’s going to be hard to find a way forward.”By Liam Clarke

Could Sinn Fein and Christian churches become new projects for Eoghan Harris, a newly appointed senator in the republic? Speaking as part

of a panel at the West Belfast festival last Wednesday, he proclaimed his intention of re-creating and redefining republicanism for the 21st century and referred on a number of occasions to the importance of Christian values.

The Christian bit was a surprise. The last time Harris wrote about spirituality it was to recommend the message of Tibetan Buddhism. All the same, he has a strong record of spotting and shaping trends in public opinion.

He doesn’t always get it right,

of course. While working as an

adviser to Fine Gael he famously introduced an off-colour comedy sketch by Twink into one section

of party leader John Bruton’s

televised address. Overall, though, his record is impressive. He generally calls Irish elections right and often throws in his lot with the winning side.

Harris spotted Mary Robinson’s potential to win the Irish presidency when few others did, and gave her the crucial advice she needed to kill off her frumpy, woolly jumper image. He groomed Proinsias De Rossa for government and, in the most recent election, spotted the fact that Fianna Fail could win and intervened to give Bertie Ahern crucial backing on the Late Late Show. Last week a Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post showed one-fifth of Fianna Fail voters said they had been influenced by his statements.

That’s why the notion of a Christian republicanism emerging in

Ireland cannot be discounted. Neither can Harris’s bold prediction that Sinn Fein will lose all its seats to Fianna Fail in the next Irish general election and that the party should concentrate its efforts on the north. It was bitter advice, especially since Gerry Adams, who masterminded Sinn Fein’s southern election strategy, was sitting in the audience.

The statement brought Dr Jude Collins, a University of Ulster academic and former Daily Ireland columnist, to his feet and Sinn Fein’s defence. Collins waved a £100 note (assuring everyone it wasn’t from the Northern Bank) and offered to bet Harris was wrong. Harris took the bet. “What odds will you give me? I suggest you start at 10-1,” said Collins.

“I’ll give you 10-1,” Harris replied. “I’d have given you 100-1 if you had asked for it.” Collins, no mean debater, was left asking if he could have 100-1 after all. “Not now you can’t,” replied Harris, laughing.

The suspicion that Harris might be right about Sinn Fein’s fate deepened when Catriona Ruane, Sinn Fein’s Mayo-born education minister at Stormont, predicted Sinn Fein would go from strength to strength, but then refused to put any money on it. Harris goaded her: “In the southern election you were put out of business.” Ruane told Martina Purdy, the BBC journalist chairing the event, that she didn’t gamble.

Adams, who won money from Barney Eastwood when he took his West Belfast seat from the Social Democratic and Labour party’s Dr Joe Hendron, also kept his hands in his pockets.

The next step in Adams’s strategy involves a breakthrough in the south. That is why he did not take a ministry in Stormont. Instead, he visited every constituency in the last Dail election and dominated Sinn Fein’s slots on RTE’s party political broadcasts.

Last week, though, Sinn Fein’s contribution to the debate looked increasingly tired and formulaic. The party appeared lost and fell back on slogans. One man in the audience proclaimed, with a cheer, that the British Army had admitted “the IRA was unbeatable”.

Edwin Poots, a Democratic Unionist minister who might have been expected to react with apoplexy to that boast, instead gave an unemotional account of the main phases of the IRA campaign before pronouncing evenly that “by the late 1980s the IRA was stuffed”. He said it was no surprise they hated Special Branch so much, given the extent to which it had infiltrated the IRA.

Poots went on to praise Adams for giving Ian Paisley most of what he had asked for. Harris also praised Adams for his “epic” achievement in bringing the IRA campaign to an end and weaning his supporters away from the gun.

Harris went on to refer to his key role in weaning the Official Republican movement away from violence and said it made him admire Adams’s skill in achieving the same thing with a larger movement.

It wasn’t all sweetness and light. Martin Meehan, an IRA veteran from Ardoyne, described Harris as an embarrassment, accusing him of being ashamed to admit he had taken the IRA oath. Meehan, a republican legend in his day, compared his life of violent struggle and his years in jail to that of Harris, drifting from one political home to another.

The directness of Harris’s reply was cruel. “What’s bothering you is that you did not get what you wanted to get after 30 years. Now you are taking out your spleen on someone like me who copped on early that this was a dead end,” he said, denying he had ever joined the IRA.

Several IRA veterans, including Jim “Flash” McVeigh, the last OC of Provisional IRA prisoners in the Maze, sat in the audience. Not one of them stood to say the campaign had been worthwhile or that their years of violence, jail and sacrifice had been justified by the outcome Adams had negotiated. Harris’s advice was to move on, put it behind them and focus on the political opportunities ahead rather than the wrongs of the past.

There are no signs Sinn Fein is prepared to take this advice just yet. Today Adams will be the main speaker at a “March for Truth”, which culminates in a rally at Belfast city hall. Held under the banner of the National Hunger Strike Committee, it will attempt to conjure up the sense of purpose felt by republicans during the 1981 hunger strike, by wearing the black armbands used back then by supporters of the prison protest.

In the past, holding such an event in the centre of Belfast, highlighting collusion by the security forces with loyalists and ignoring the fact the IRA killed half of those who died in the Troubles, would have sparked outrage from unionists. Today, even in the August silly season, commentators are predicting neither trouble nor much interest.

When Adams was interviewed about it on the BBC a caller asked him how he expected to be taken seriously when he called for a truth commission when he wouldn’t even admit he had been in the IRA. Judging by the debate, Sinn Fein activists are in deep denial. They won’t even admit where they are politically.

If you don’t know where you are now, it’s going to be hard to find a way forward.

First published in the Sunday Times…

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  • slug

    Well of course I am not going to make any predictions. We could well have a general election in less than 10 months in NI and it will be interesting to watch the SF vote. Something tells me that SDLP will not win any off them.

  • Garibaldy

    Anyone else wondering what Gerry Adams was thinking when Meehan attacked Harris for being too ashamed to admit he had taken the IRA oath?

  • Elvis parker

    Slug – I suspect youre right SDLP will not win any seats from SF. But will SF’s vote hold up? Does anyone think Ruane can now beat McGrady? I doubt it.

  • oldruss

    Well, where is SF, politically?

    In the north, the picture is clearer than in the south, stating the obvious. But SF’s position in the north should not be minimized. From the 1801 Act of Union, at least, the six counties of the north have been governed by the British and Unionists comprised in large measure of members of the Orange Order. Not a particularly healthy arrangement for any nationalist in the north.

    Today, in those areas which have been devolved to the assembly, SF’s concurrance is required before Ian Paisley can enact any legislation. That in and of itself is a long, long way from the dark days when Unionists held a stangle-hold on Stormont, and the nationalist community was all but disnfranchised in every way.

    The south is a different kettle of fish, but has been since Partition. Fianna Fail’s hold on the Dail may seem almost insurmountable, but Bertie Ahern had to cobble together a coalition to retain his position as Taoiseach, just as he had to do in the last Dail. While it is a reasonably firm coalition, and an early general election isn’t likely, IMHO, that gives SF five years, give or take, to reformulate its message so that it appeals to a wider electorate in the south.

    If the economy remains robust, which is no sure thing, FF will in all likelihood do well in the next general election too. But given the vagaries of world economics, some slow down is bound to occur, and with it, some slippage from FF’s vote.

    The south has never been overly concerned with the plight of the nationalist community in the north, but SF can grow in the south by focusing attention on problems there, that are bound to sprout like toadstools after a good rain in the coming years.

    The republican movement has a long history in Ireland, and I for one, would not be tolling its death knell just yet.

  • Mick Fealty

    There’s a lot in all of these comments. If SF has lost the roadmap, then the SDLP is surely still looking for the front door. If SF’s problems are all medium to long term, SDLP’s are decidedly existential.

    In NI, it’s a cinch. But 32 county force? Maybe. But largely by the same kind of arms length patronage as their Unionist partners will seek to exert in Dublin.

  • Dewi

    Sounded a fascinating meeting. Truly astonishing how far people have moved that such sentiments can be expressed freely and safely in such a forum.

  • dublinsfsupporter

    I expect that Sinn Féin will win many seats in the Dail next time. The strong candidates are there including Mary Lou McDonald, and what will be different next time is (i) that Sinn Féin will have proven their economic competence by presiding over a successful period of economic growth in the six counties (ii) that the Greens and FF will have become very unpopular and (iii) FG will be unable to capitalise on that because FF voters will switch SF before FG.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I expect that Sinn Féin will win many seats in the Dail next time.

    I remember you predicting that last time. I also remember you suggesting that Mary Lou should be party leader.

    that the Greens and FF will have become very unpopular

    Of the 22 governments that have existed in the Irish Republic since 1937, Fianna Fail have been in 17 of them. No amount of corruption, mismanagement, economic backwardness, or anything else has ever managed to keep them out of government for long. Why do you think things will change ?

  • páid

    God, isn’t hindsight great altogether.

    Is this all-seeing sage Eoghan Harris in any way related to the Eoghan Harris who was a leading light in the Workers’ Party?

    You know, the one that foresaw class revolution led from the Phoenix Park foundries they planned. The Soviets, the Workers’ committees, the Stalinists, the greatest misreaders of history God put on this earth after the Waco mob?

    Harris is against the Provos because they won out in the split.

    Now he claims he knew all along what was happening.

    The only consistency in his arguments is the arrogant I’m the smartest boy in the class preening.

    And if that’s playing the man, well according to Harris there’s no ball – just himself on the pitch, An Saoi gan Locht.

  • Richard Dowling

    Good point. Well spotted, garibaldy2@hotmail.co.uk .
    The problem for the Shinners (as far as we in the South are concerned) is that they always wanted to call the tune — while others always had to pay the piper. Sometimes with their lives. Sometimes with the loss of their OWN unique identity.

  • mick hall

    “Of the 22 governments that have existed in the Irish Republic since 1937, Fianna Fail have been in 17 of them. No amount of corruption, mismanagement, economic backwardness, or anything else has ever managed to keep them out of government for long”

    Comrade stalin,

    Any thoughts on why the above is so?.

  • Aquifer

    Fianna Fail and the British Tories did not bother much with policy, and it did them no harm. Maybe theoretical consistency is overrated.

  • There’s an amount of truth in what Eoghan Harris says, that SF in the north are the powers that be in the north, as far as nationalists are concerned, and will be for the forseeable future. Down south,it’s more difficult. Ideological politics is giving way to the more managerial type politics of the US/UK – ie no discernible difference between the parties on fundamental policy grounds – and that creates a problem for SF. They need candidates with more credibility and look to be going in the right direction with the likes of Piaras O Dochartaigh, Padraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald. Those three by themselves are not enough to challenge Fianna Fáil, replete as it is with university graduate types on the make but with no ideals as to how Ireland should be governed.
    So what to do? Well, I happen to believe that Irish democracy is best served by the emergence of a viable left wing in the south – and that includes Labour/SF/The Greens. “Left” wing is perhaps too descriptive a term – I’m looking for a genuine alternative, politicians who are competent – none of this electronic voting, aer lingus / transport chaos/ falling education standards/health chaos etc – and straight. I don’t believe Fianna Fail have competent or straight politicians. The best you can say to them is that they are ‘presentable’ but once you get behind that smooth exterior, well, you only have to look at Haughey, Ahern and co to see that what you’re getting is more than you bargained for.

    My optimism for the future is tempered by the fact that the Greens are in bed with FF/PDs, who are to Irish government what Mr Burns is to the Simpsons. There’s a great deal of political building to be done by SF to get to the position to where they can challenge FF. Whether they do that before the FF machine eats them up, that’s another question.

  • Crow

    Regardless of your persuasion and even allowing for the fact that five years is a millennium in politics, 10-1 is pretty good odds. Unless they kick the bucket or radical boundary revisions orphan them, it’s hard to see O’Caolain and Ferris not being returned. Put me down for a tenner.

  • Sean

    The only thing remarkable about Hariis is that he seems quite willing to abandon any and all principles for the sake of a ride on the new hobby horse. If you look at all the “dark horses” he has backed the most obvious thing that comes to mind is how diametrically opposed his new set of principles are to his old ones. Add to that a good mind for the bon mot and people start to over estimate his fore sight in picking who to back and what the new fad is

  • Rory

    What is this IRA “oath” and why is yet again again being paraded as if some mystic, bloodcurdling ritual?

    Volunteers on admission to the IRA made a simple declaration of allegience to the Irish Republic, as proclaimed in 1916, and undertook to follow the properly constituted orders of the IRA relayed through their commanders.

    Oaths of allegience and fealty might be necessary for the conscripted and press-ganged wretches of the armies and navies of nervous monarchs but free willed, free hearted men volunteer their service to the struggle against human dignity without need of such loathsome surrender of spirit.

  • cynic

    “Today, in those areas which have been devolved to the assembly, SF’s concurrance is required before Ian Paisley can enact any legislation. That in and of itself is a long, long way from the dark days when Unionists held a stangle-hold on Stormont, and the nationalist community was all but disnfranchised in every way.”

    …but that cuts two ways. If Sinn Fein want to do anything they need DUP support. So what SF have got is that they can do things only as long as the extreme edge of Unionism agrees. Otherwise the status quo holds (which Unionism is generally quite happy with).

    Even then, they can only do this in “in those areas which have been devolved to the assembly” ie handed down by the hated Brits who control the whole show anyway, albeit now at one remove and usually after a quiet chat with Bertie.

    Result!

  • The Dubliner

    “Any thoughts on why the above is so?” – Mick Hall

    I’d be more interested to know why he thinks that a government that is characterised by “corruption, mismanagement, economic backwardness” could produce one of the world’s most economically successful and multicultural and pluralist societies in record time from a post-colonial starting point of absolute penury.

    The logic seems to be that bad governments produce great economies. Or perhaps it means that brilliant economies are self-creating entities that exist independently of the management of government? In which case, it doesn’t matter who we elect, does it? Either way, I suspect a Nobel Prize won’t be far from this thread.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Am I right in understanding from the above that Harris gave the guy in the audience 10/1 on SF getting at least 1 seat in the next Dail election. Just one at 10/1???

    Why didn’t the whole audience get in on the act & bankrupt him?

  • Alan

    “Slug – I suspect youre right SDLP will not win any seats from SF. But will SF’s vote hold up? Does anyone think Ruane can now beat McGrady? I doubt it. ”

    Interesting, I assumed Ritchie had got the Ministry so she could challenge Ruane with her Ministry.

  • cynic

    “I’d be more interested to know why he thinks that a government that is characterised by “corruption, mismanagement, economic backwardness” could produce one of the world’s most economically successful and multicultural and pluralist societies in record time from a post-colonial starting point of absolute penury. ”

    Governments can bad through action or inaction. Perhaps in the Irish case it was because they did so little, just created the right conditions for business (lots of brown envelopes available that way) and let those who knew how to do it get on with it and create the growth. Sure there were some social casualties – but, frankly, what the hell, there always will be be and perhaps there were fewer than there otherwise would have been.

    Anyway, if the money keeps rolling in and the electorate feel good they will be reelect whatever shower is in power no lmatter how venial, morally bankrupt or corrupt(cf the UK).

    That’s real politics. (Almost) everyone wins.

  • Dewi

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seán_Lemass

    Dubliner – Sean Lemass never gets enough credit IMHO. A fascinating life, from one of Collins assassins to the single most important catalyst of Ireland’s prosperity.

  • The Dubliner

    Cynic, waffle much?

    So, if I correctly understand your theory on how to create a successful economy, it is that governments should not formulate and implement economic policy, national development strategies, legal frameworks, regulate taxes, promote vocational or third-level education, et al, but should sit on their backsides while citizens “get on with it” in a state that is de facto devoid of functioning government but where, for examples, laws miraculously appear on the statute books and international trade policies and agreements just spontaneously appear out of nowhere? Interesting.

    If governments have nothing to do the success or failure of economies, then their management of them is redundant, isn’t it? I think it’s a bloody disgrace that we have been paying “that shower” for decades and we haven’t yet copped on the truth of your theory. Out with the lot of them!

    By the way, does the same ‘management is irrelevant’ principle apply to industry or, say, a sporting organisation? Just wonderin’ as I think a lot of companies would make more profit if they reduced costs by firing their management and just, sorta, “get on with it.”

    Dewi, I never click Wiki links! But most of us know how important the actions of government are to our economy without citing the example of Lemass – one of Ireland’s greatest. Haughey, as hated as he is by many, was a similar genius, doing for finance what Lemass did for industry. Ahern is another genius. Derided as FF politicians are, many of them are exceptionally capable people with keen strategic vision.

    I think a lot of this is rooted in a colonial legacy from the inoculation feelings of inferiority into the Irish in order to suppress their nationalism and desire for independence. Success is often put down to “the luck of the Irish” rather than ability. Even now we won’t accept that we are responsible for our success, attributing it to mysterious market forces or assuming it is transient and illusionary – and claiming that we had nothing to do with (even at government level). Ergo, we still need the British to guide us. 😉

  • Alan

    Alan

    Your right to a certain degree, Margaret Richie is on the executive in order to bring up her profile,

    Ruane is in the executive for the same reason,

    they are both going afterthe south down seat, but in my honest opinion i dont think that Ruane will succeed! Even in the assembley election the SDLP vote was ahead of the SF.

    i think the seats will remain as they are now, witht he exception of maybe Fermanagh South Tyrone, in think Foster may get it ahead of Gildernew, it will be very close! as will south belfast, tho i think Mcdonnel has done enough work to re-tain the seat.

    look for the SF vote to stay the same, and the SDLP to rise a lot more than its assembly showing!

  • JD

    “There’s a lot in all of these comments. If SF has lost the roadmap, then the SDLP is surely still looking for the front door. If SF’s problems are all medium to long term, SDLP’s are decidedly existential.”

    Spot on – the one thing SF will have going for them in the North for a long time to come is that the SDLP is their opponents

    “I expect that Sinn Féin will win many seats in the Dail next time”

    They expected to win 10 in 2007 and got four. This was against a background of the successful establishment of a powersharing executive with Paisley. In 2012 SF will be even less in the news

    “The strong candidates are there including Mary Lou McDonald”

    Mary Lou will have a tough battle holding on to her MEP seat in Dublin. The 2007 GE figures show this. Given that the Dublin Euro constituency will probably go from a four seater to a three seater this is even a bigger ask

    “and what will be different next time is :
    (i) that Sinn Féin will have proven their economic competence by presiding over a successful period of economic growth in the six counties”

    Southerners don’t give a damn about the Northern economy and like in the 2007 debates if SF tries to rely on their Northern record in a South election it will be read as they don’t really know about the bread and butter issues here

    “(ii) that the Greens and FF will have become very unpopular”

    That could prove just as fertile for the Labour Party as SF. FG-Labour believed in a similar strategy for years and they got nowhere

    “(iii) FG will be unable to capitalise on that because FF voters will switch SF before FG”

    FF have been in a centre right coalition with the PDs for 10 years. Much of the soft FF support is centre to centre right and their middle class soft support will look to FG first as an alternative government leader and centre-right party. The safe middle class soft Fianna Fail vote have as strong an antipathy to PSF as Fine Gaelers – why else did Bertie feel the need to rule Sinn Fein as a coalition partner?

    Sinn Fein has become a successful catch all centrist party in the North like Fianna Fail is in the South and is blessed with weak opponents in the SDLP. The centre ground is already crowded in the south and the “left of Labour niche” which Sinn Fein had used as a base from the mid nineties onward is a narrow and fickle constituency – breaking out of it and retaining it at the same time is nigh impossable

    Sinn Fein might well retain a presence in the border counties but after their drubbing of Fianna Fail in the 2004 local elections in Dublin by Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail will remain focussed on rooting out Sinn Fein in their heartlands now that the Peace Process is not longer there to restrain them attacking Sinn Fein. The Southern Economic “debate” will continue to revolve on a Fianna Fail v Fine Gael/Labour axis.

    Sinn Fein are now a better organised and all Ireland version of the SDLP. It is an impossibility for their activists to face up to this ideological reality – they’ll stay in denial.

  • Alan

    Looks like I’m talking to myself again !

    But the assumption was correct that McGrady wants a well earned rest? I wonder if Ruane / Ritchie isn’t a tighter battle, however.

    The assembly result saw just 328 between SDLP and SF. It may come down to tactical voting across the divide.

  • Cuchulainn

    Alan,

    soz about that, put ur name on that instead of mine!

    it will be indeed a very close contest for south down,

    it will be similar to the Newry and Armagh battle in 2005, with SF taking the seat after Seamus Mallon retired,

    the difference being that Richie has a bigger profile for the sdlp, than Denis Bradly had in 2005,

    id even say so much that she has our preformed Ruane so far in terms of publicity and the like,

    i think that along with McGardy supporting her on the cmapigan, she just nip past the post!

  • oldruss

    Margaret Ritchie may have a higher profile ministerial appointment, but that may not be to her benefit. Given the damed if she does, damed if she doesn’t quandry she faces in handling the UDA’s money, the publicity she garners in the next six months or so may not do her any good.

  • Cuchulainn

    shes not going to be damned if u do, damned if she doesnt,

    the uda arnt going to get the money, but she will get the money to thoses areas that need it badly!

    her profile will just keep building,

    ruane is getting a good profile, but i dont think enough to get south down!

    and the SDLP as a whole i predict a sudden stop to thier declineing vote, and maybe even an increase in places liike, armagh and newry, mid-ulster, sotuh beflast, foyle, north antrim

  • lib2016

    I´d like to see the SDLP hang on long enough to become the Northern wing of Fianna Fail but they´ll need to attract cross-community support if they are to do so and I don´t know if it´s not too early to expect that.

    It depends on whether the new face of the DUP can start attracting those elusive garden centre Prods or if enough of them finally start to give up on the union.

    Definitely the DUP have a future as the Northern ally of Fine Gael which is a real and welcome surprise to me at least.

    That would give us two large rightwing blocs and a small leftwing group consisting of the Green/Labour/Sinn Fein/Independents holding the balance of power.

    Sinn Fein are the only group outside Dublin with any credibility in the estates and they are slowly getting the right candidates in at local level.

    I admit that I don´t know the situation in Dublin but the Labour leadership is old & middleclass so I would expect a similar situation there, particularly with Harney in health. Not much chance of FF getting any ´progressive´ votes and disillusionment has to set in sometime even among those who just don´t want to rock the boat.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Neither can Harris’s bold prediction that Sinn Fein will lose all its seats to Fianna Fail in the next Irish general election

    That would require FF to be able to take:

    4 seats out of 5 in Cavan-Monaghan
    3 seats out of 5 in Dublin South Central
    3 seats out of 4 in Louth
    2 seats out of 3 in Kerry North (assuming it remains unchanged in terms of seats)

    I’d say the chances of that happening are slim to __ all. Whatever the chance of SF losing seats to other parties (Labour in Dublin SC, for example), the likelihood of FF picking them up are zero.

    No doubt Harris will try to finesse his way out of the bet when the time comes, though.

  • lib2016

    ´No doubt Harris will try to finesse his way out of the bet….´

    If Sinn Fein does well expect Harris to announce that it was because of his contribution to the political debate.

    There has been comment that Bertie didn´t appoint the usual unionist voices this time around. My view is that by appointing Harris Bertie is simply moving ahead of the game.

    In the next few years the distance the DUP have travelled in realising that they have friends south of the border will become clear. They certinly know that they have no friends in Britain.

  • North Belfast View

    Can I add my contribution;

    Sinn Fein I predict will do well in the next general and assembly elections. This is on the condition that their ministers can resist the temptation to do something silly like close more rural maintained schools or remove hospital services in mainly nationalist areas, or are seen by their power base to be indulging the Unionists and the Unionist population/electorate.

    None of the existing ministers at Stormont has made any important decisions so the next few months will be interesting.

    The economy will inevitably grow steadily in Northern Ireland and prosperity will filter out to the now economically disadvantaged. If this is slow to manifest or is not sustainable their will be an inevitable electoral backlash.

    The area I think will be the main issue is that old Northern Ireland chestnut of housing.
    If the young nationalist republican electorate can’t get housing for whatever reason it will be reflected in individual election results. That is why the most high profile Stormont minister is the SDLP’s Margaret Richie. Promising loads of houses Margaret Richie is buying some time for the SDLP and when she delivers, they will take the credit. However if she fails to deliver are the electorate going to blame that particular minister or will they pass the blame around and Sinn Fein will be tarred with the same brush.

    I predict growing resentment at the Sinn Fein perceived prosperity by the people on the margins, and the trappings of power will also be increasingly difficult to give up for Sinn Fein so they will keep onto the trappings for as long as possible even at the detriment of their power base.

    The increasingly wealthy nationalist republican electorate will see the SDLP as a safer pair of hands and their credibility over their personnel prosperity will not be a factor.

    We can witness the start of the loosening of the pulling power of Sinn Fein in action in the Sinn Fein march for truth. We would have seen a few short years ago tens of thousands there bleating and ranting. However, there were only a few thousand and the TV and radio reports, reported that there was not much interest in the march and it was very subdued, can this be the start of the long march for Sinn Fein into the political margins.

  • cynic

    Dubliner

    “If governments have nothing to do the success or failure of economies, then their management of them is redundant, isn’t it? I think it’s a bloody disgrace that we have been paying “that shower” for decades and we haven’t yet copped on the truth of your theory. Out with the lot of them! ”

    Quite. The problem is that some politicians (and especially economists) think that they really can “formulate and implement economic policy, national development strategies” that will work. It’s an expensive illusion.

    The reality is that, in trying to operationalise these grand plans, Civil Servants try to micromanage things….but cant. The plans often dont evolve, cant cope with the rapidity of change in the economy or (especially in a state like Ireland) end up as hamstrung, political horse-trades between interest groups. Perhaps France is the current great European example.

    I am not saying that Governments dont have a role. They do and they can have great impact with ‘light touch’ policies to create the conditions for growth (including provididng a well-educated / skilled and flexible labour market). It’s just that very often the macho announcements that politicans like to make to give the impression of firm control are often counter productive or simply dont work.

    By the way, you seem surprised at the notion that Governments are often not very good at governing. Are you a politician?

  • Dewi

    “think the seats will remain as they are now, witht he exception of maybe Fermanagh South Tyrone, in think Foster may get it ahead of Gildernew, it will be very close! as will south belfast, tho i think Mcdonnel has done enough work to re-tain the seat.”

    Demographic change in FST working fairly rapidly in Sinn Fein’s favour (400 net people of a catholic tradition turning 18 every year)

    In Belfast South it’s fairly tragic I know but I doesn’t matter how much work the MP does – it’s entirely determined by how the Unionist vote splits – Althogh in 10 years time both Belfast South and North will be very fianely balanced demographically.

    Dub – didn’t know that much about Lemass till fairly recently but his life is like out a Spielberg film. Even his brother getting murdered by the Government – still laughing about your Hegelian pipe smoking – brilliant !

  • Dewi

    “However, there were only a few thousand and the TV and radio reports, reported that there was not much interest in the march and it was very subdued, can this be the start of the long march for Sinn Fein into the political margins”

    Or could be a sign that peace in itself is reducing tension ?

  • Inn Former

    Edwin Poots, a Democratic Unionist minister who might have been expected to react with apoplexy to that boast, instead gave an unemotional account of the main phases of the IRA campaign before pronouncing evenly that “by the late 1980s the IRA was stuffed”. He said it was no surprise they hated Special Branch so much, given the extent to which it had infiltrated the IRA.

  • IJP

    What is all this “northern wing of FF” nonsense? It has absolutely no heritage in the North.

    The basic lesson from this year’s elections is that parties don’t do well outside their own jurisdiction.

    Anyone who fails to recognize that is in denial too…

  • slug

    IJP what would you say are Alliance’s top three target seats for the next assembly election or (building up) the one after?

  • George

    Lib2016,
    for someone who likes to look ahead you really are living in the past.

    The closest thing to Fianna Fáil north of the border is the DUP. They are the natural allies.

    Dewi,
    One more thing about Lemass. He is the man that reminded the Irish Supreme Court that they were the guardians of the Constitution and pointed them in the direction of the US Supreme Court.

    Until Lemass’ intervention the Irish Supreme Court was a lacky of whatever government was in power. He was the one who truly achieved the separation of judiciary and legislature and for that alone he is a top man.

  • Turgon

    I sort of feel that I should not be posting on this thread as it prevents republicans from talking to themselves (and Dewi of course) but since others have started.

    I doubt SF are really that stuffed in RoI. Yes they had a bad election but there seem to have been a number of reasons, such as the good economy, Adams’s incompetence, Ahern being popular, stuff like that.

    A down turn for the RoI economy and a more sensible strategy especially on economics and of course a competent leader and they could do better. The hope for 10 seats may be optimistic but expecting no seats seems even more optimistic / pessimistic dependent on one’s view.

    North Belfast View’s views seem logical. I would have though recent stuff like the march for quarter truth is designed to help prevent a loss of core vote.

    Dewi,
    I agree completely re FST / South Belfast. FST will be hard for unionism to get back especially if Gildernew has a successful tenure as Agriculture minister. I think Arlene Foster’s best chance was last time but the UUP stopped that. I would, however, be a little surprised (though not amazed) if South Belfast does not go back to unionism next time unless of course the UUP manage to cause yet more chaos.

    lib 2016,
    I do not know about an alliance between FG and DUP. If and of course we would disagree on this but if there were a united Ireland I would have thought unionists (okay let’s be honest Prods) would be in a better position being a separate block. They could demand concessions and threaten to disrupt debate etc like Parnell, Redmond etc. and ally themselves temporarily to one side or another. To nail their colours to the FG mast would probably be counter productive. Why hitch your wagon to the smaller star? Also can you imagine people like me voting FG? I might quite enjoy being in the Dail and just causing chaos, getting thrown out and stuff. It would be like QUBSU all over again. Sadly due to my lack of looks, talent and everything else I suspect no one would vote for me. Ah well the flight of the intolerant beckons. Prince Eoghan can I have refugee status.

  • Aquifer

    Rory

    “Oaths of allegience and fealty might be necessary for the conscripted and press-ganged wretches of the armies and navies of nervous monarchs but free willed, free hearted men volunteer their service to the struggle against human dignity without need of such loathsome surrender of spirit.”

    But the IRA had an oath, right?

  • Dewi

    Turgon – I’ve got a spare room !

  • Turgon

    Rory,

    I have just re read your post thanks to Aquifer. I suspect that it refers to the IRA. We agree completely they did indeed “volunteer their service to the struggle against human dignity”. They were very good indeed at “struggling against human dignity”, especially that of anyone they decided they did not like. And by so doing they reduced their own human dignity very successfully as well.

  • Turgon

    Dewi,

    Thanks but what about my wife and children?

  • Dewi

    Elenwe will be Ok and the kids will have the obvious benefits of Welsh medium education…. in fact what are u waiting for ?

  • Sean

    I think any party of the republic that hitched its wagon to the DUP would be signing their own warrant of relegation. No matter how well they poll in nIreland they still have a serious nd unquestiones anti-catholic bent and no one in the republic(well almost no-one) would be willing to isolate 90% of the republics voters.

    As for Sinn Fein I think too many people on here view SF as a strictly anti-british party and ignore the pro nationalist back ground. Thats where the SDLP are truly falling down on the nationalist electoral front, they believe they only need to be anti SF instead of pronationalist and they have proceded to make many smarmy side deal with unionists to one up SF and gain a temporary leg up over SF in local politics. If any party is appearing to put its own needs ahead of its community it is the SDLP and I would suggest that come next election this will be thrown into their faces at every opportunity.

    In fact it would seem to me the secondary parties from both communities are spiralling down into the sea under their own powers. It is really too bad for both comunities as it is good too have both major parties kept in line with a strong opposition

  • Prince Eoghan

    Turgon.

    >>Prince Eoghan can I have refugee status?< >“Oaths of allegience and fealty might be necessary for the conscripted and press-ganged wretches of the armies and navies of nervous monarchs but free willed, free hearted men volunteer their service to the struggle against human dignity without need of such loathsome surrender of spirit.”<

  • Dewi

    Spoilsport Prince – I was quietly preparing the ground for that precise suggestion !!!

  • Turgon

    Elenwe claims in good evangelical fashion to be disgusted but is obviously most flattered. She laughed even more though at the prospect of me being a handyman, more handless man.

    PE, I know I should not indulge you but in a united Ireland I agree unionists could help decide elections and that would be a major motivation for having a block of their own and not being with FG. If they united with FG surely due to the nature of NI there would be a strong tendency for nationalists to vote with, or their party to side with FF so leaving them in a worse position than if they were separate. Even without that motivation I suspect most northern nationalists would either vote FF or FF supporting organisations.

    In fairness to lib 2016, I think he would like to put unionists into a genuinely united state where everyone votes on lines not dictated by sectarianism but let’s be honest that would not happen. Indeed (and I do not want to raise to many howls of protest) might I suggest that until recently some people in RoI voted dependent on who their grandfathers supported in the civil war.

    Sean’s analysis of the problems for FG with linking with the DUP seems pretty close to how such an alliance would be thrown up in FG’s face, I do not mean that as an insult Sean, I think it is exactly correct.

    I should really leave you all on this thread as I found it more interesting when you were discussing republicanism. Also I now need to fear for my wife’s morals!

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>Elenwe claims in good evangelical fashion to be disgusted but is obviously most flattered. She laughed even more though at the prospect of me being a handyman, more handless man.< http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/the-cost-of-running-slugger/P25/

  • Turgon

    It’s well that it was 4.28am and a fair bit of drink may have been consumed. Sadly now when I am up at 4.28am it is usually cleaning up vomit and changing sheets because of children’s illnesses.

  • IJP

    Slug

    Were an Assembly election held tomorrow, they would be East Belfast 2, North Down 2 and East Derry 1.

    In 2011, we may be looking at a different picture, depending on precise boundary changes, development of the youth wing, etc.

    But as per my earlier post, it is exceptionally difficult for a party to break through in an area where it has little or no tradition.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dubliner:

    I’d be more interested to know why he thinks that a government that is characterised by “corruption, mismanagement, economic backwardness” could produce one of the world’s most economically successful and multicultural and pluralist societies in record time from a post-colonial starting point of absolute penury.

    The answer is fairly simple : by happy accident. The first five decades of the existence of the Irish State, which were dominated by Fianna Fail, were characterised by backwardness, economic sluggishness, and of course very high emigration. You can’t praise the government for fostering an economic boom without blaming them for their failure to do so for decades.

    The logic seems to be that bad governments produce great economies.

    Robert Mugabe might have something to say about that.

    Or perhaps it means that brilliant economies are self-creating entities that exist independently of the management of government?

    I wouldn’t argue that it is that simple. But it is even more simplistic to give FF the credit for today’s economic success.

    In which case, it doesn’t matter who we elect, does it?

    It certainly doesn’t seem to matter to a certain section of the Irish people, who would vote for a dead sheep if it sported a Fianna Fail rosette.

  • CTN

    Where are SF now- simple;

    1. Under a penetrated, corrupt and incompetent leadership.

    2. Losing party activists.

    3. Melting down in Dublin.

    4. Trapped in Stormont.

    5. Getting beaten to a pulp by INLA members in pubs.

    The McGuinness/Adams autocracy- not quite master strategists after all…

  • Aquifer

    Their activists are not lined up for long jail sentences as far as we know. That is an improvement.

  • CTN

    Fair enough Aq- but that didn’t stop them losing 27,000 votes in Dublin during the last 3 years…

  • northsider

    Does it really matter a damn whether Eoghan Harris has been totally consistent in his politics over the last half-century?
    There has been enough underlying continuity in them for, at least, the past 35 years. He has been utterly and consistently opposed to the sectarian warfare waged over most of that time by Republican paramilitaries. The Irish public know that about Harris – and couldn’t care less about what he is alleged to have once thought about North Korea, or bank nationalisation, or whatever else.
    He may have shifted allegiance in the past couple of decades from Fine Gael to Fianna Fail – but, given that those two parties have almost identical policies on every issue, that hardly represents a great deal of political volatility.
    Some of his political predictions have been way off target – others have proved to be highly accurate and perceptive. At any rate,
    he has never simply formed part of the media consensus – which is one of the reasons that so many journalists hate him.
    His analysis of the present position of Sinn Fein seems to me to make a lot of sense.
    In the North, Sinn Fein, as a political party, could be said to have done extremely well out of the conflict of the past 40 odd years. Whether the Catholic/Nationalist community as a whole has done as well is, of course, another question. The representatives of that community might well be in government in Northern Ireland by now in any case – without all those years of bloodshed and misery.
    The main winner of the current settlement is clearly the Unionist community. It lost the last vestiges of its former political power in Northern Ireland more than 35 years ago – and now has got a fair share of it back again. In the process, the Unionists have also witnessed a conclusive end to almost 90 years of Republican paramilitarism – and the threat to the existence of the Northern State is effectively over.
    They have also paid a price for this, but it is one they can live with – and, whatever way you look at it, Sinn Fein is now firmly inside the tent of Northern Ireland.
    But, just as the Hunger Strikes were a watershed for the political advances of Sinn Fein in the North, so, I believe, the last election will prove to be a turning point in the party’s fortunes in the Republic. They fought the election in the best possible circumstances – and still managed to lose votes where it mattered. In this context, the personal exposure of Gerry Adams, the President of an supposedly all-Ireland party, as someone who lacked a basic familiarity with the political culture of the Republic, also revealed the key structural weakness of his party.
    Harris is probably wrong to predict that Sinn Fein will lose all their remaining seats in the Dail in the next election – but that is not really the point. Almost 90% of the Southern electorate voted for Fianna Fail or Fine Gael this time out – the remaining votes were shared out between Sinn Fein, the Greens, the Progressive Democrats and sundry Independents.
    In these circumstances, the very most that Sinn Fein can realistically hope for, in the decades that lie ahead, is to become sort some of parliamentary ginger group – with the outside possibility of holding one or two junior ministries in some future coalition government.
    That role more or less suited the PDs for the past 20 years or so – as a party which was always only a few steps to the right of its partners in Government. But it is completely unsuitable for a party that sees itself as some sort of radical national liberation movement.
    The likely future that Sinn Fein can expect in the decades ahead is scrapping it out for the last seat in half-a-dozen or so (mainly border) constituencies. In other words, the party will be forced to retreat back to its traditional bases of support.
    One of the contributors to this discussion apparently believes that the spectacle of Sinn Fein ministers working well in the Northern Government – as I have no doubt they will do – is likely to swing voters behind Sinn Fein in the next Southern election. That is, with respect, a complete fantasy. As the recent uproar over the re-location of Aer Lingus services to Belfast has shown, voters in this State simply do not think in that way. The notion that large swathes of Fianna Fail voters would rather vote for Sinn Fein than Fine Gael also exposes a fundamental failure to grasp the changes that have taken place in the Republic over recent years. For all his apparent inconsistencies, Harris has showed himself to be much more in touch with those changes than have most of his critics.