Party manoeuvres

It seems Bertie Ahern wants Fianna Fail to head north to prepare to take on Sinn Fein in its electoral heartland with the absorption of/amalgamation with the SDLP possibly part of the long-term plan. On the Unionist side, the UUP have agreed to open talks with the DUP on an electoral pact and one of its MLAs, Billy Armstrong, has called for the DUP and UUP to amalgamate but his Mid-Ulster electoral maths is rather optimistic. Rumours of a new Unionist party continue to circulate. UPDATE An SDLP official comment does not reject the idea. UPDATE Yep FF are going to do it.

  • Cuchulainn

    FF have been privitaly helping the SDLP here and their, but i think they would benifit from a more public backing, it would do a lot of dmaage to the flighty sdlp/sf voters,

    and absorption/amalgamation wouldnt happene, simply cause its just a FF take-over, doesnt matter how u put it!

    doesnt matter if its closer links or a take over, i think SF would be under pressure in areas such as west tyrone, fermanagh south tyrone, south down, places that could see a sergue in SDLP vote, but who knows!

    all southern partys come up to help the SDLP anyway! SF being treated like the outsider, that must be bullied out of the playground! boo who! lol

  • ronan

    looks like bertie ahern and dermot ahern are behind this. Dermot Ahern goes on the record in the article so this is real and not the gossip and off-the-record stufff we have had before now.

    improtantly ff make this move from a position of strength having mutilated SF in the last election.

    This is really bad news for SF

  • Dawkins

    Anything that breaks the DUP/SF electoral duopoly is to be welcomed. That new Unionist party could be very interesting indeed.

  • Bob

    Interesting thread over on the Young Unionist website on Billy Armstrong’s calls for Unionist unity.

    http://www.youngunionists.org.uk/2007/09/senior-ulster-unionist-calls-for.php#comments

  • Frank Sinistra

    2006 – “Wolf!”

    2005 – “Wolf!”

    2004 – “Wolf!”

    And you say there’s a wolf coming? I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Ciaran

    Yesterday’s telegraph carried an article about the Northern Ireland constituency council of the Irish Labour Party securing the support of Jan O’Sullivan (one of the contenders for deputy leadership of the Labour) for the motion at their party conference to allow their members contest the local elections in 2009.

    Surely the SDLP will break their link with the Labour Parties to align themselves with FF – Ronan is right this isn’t the off the record gossip we had got used to the past few years.

    Fianna Fail mauled SF earlier this year but they need to undo the damage SF did to them in the 2004 southern locals. Are the southern locals in 2009 at the same time as the Northern ones?

  • Harry

    Of course this has nothing to do with deflecting attention from the fact that Ahern is being found out increasingly to be a [edited by moderator] in the tribunals. ‘What’s the one thing we can announce that might rival the tribunal story and knock it off the headlines – I know, let’s say we’re going north to create a 32 county party.’
    I doubt this initiative will yield anything but waffle for several years to come. Fianna Fail won’t even agree to allow speaking rights to northerners in their parliament, yet now they’d have us believe they suddenly want to come stroming north? Piffle, I’d say.

  • Dawkins

    Harry,

    “Ahern is being found out increasingly to be a [edited by moderator]…”

    LOL! And a mod censored my last post.

  • Dave

    Maybe someone could put me on the right track on the north/South politics.

    How can a member of a political party (Fianna Fail) from the republic of Ireland stand for election in another country? Northern Ireland?

    Would Fianna Fail or the DUP be able to stand for election in say France or America? or cornwall for that matter.

  • Dawkins

    Dave,

    Sure. Isn’t Arnie [gasp!] Governor of California?

  • ronan

    bearing in mind that sf fell more than 35% between the locals and general election in the south (in terms of 1st pref votes). the question needs to be asked will adams follow rabbitte now and step down.

    FF – the daddy of republicanism – moving to all-island status – puts sf on the back-foot. The political story on northern nationalism now moves to “the rise on FF” inctead of the old “rise of sf.”

  • Mick Hall

    “Aren’t the SDLP and FF economic policies totally out of whack?”

    Beano

    Yes, just like FF policies and the Green Party being out of sync or SF and the DUP, but when it comes getting one’s bum into a government limo seat, what’s a little bit of selling out those who voted for you matter. Real politic as practiced by arseholes throughout the world.

  • CTN

    This is all very interesting as its seems the predicament of SF is having a strong influence over the directions of other parties, be it the formation of a new monster raving unionist party or this supposed FF/SDLP merger.

    The SDLP have friends in all parties in the 26 and have even been endorsed by Michael McDowell during northern elections.

    A decision to affiliate with just one party rather than 3 or 4 for will cause a headache for many of its members- especially those associated with Labour or even Fine Gael- (lets not forget about the Austin & Vincent Currie factor either).

    SF’s future in the 26 is precarious particularly so in Dublin were more and more members are leaving but they could also bounce back and take two new seats in Donegal with Mary Lou looking probable in Dublin Central if Bertie hangs up his boots, this result would leave them with one more TD than the Greens have now.

    Their problem is that the 2009 locals will do them big damage in Dublin were their constituency machines are limping into the oblivion and it is that outcome which would make it all the harder for them in the following GE.

    With a recalibration of Unionism and Constitutional Nationalism possible and SF in such a state of flux it can’t be said that we do not live in very interesting times….

  • Bretagne

    Beano –

    Aren’t the SDLP and FF economic policies totally out of whack?

    I think all the Northern Ireland parties have not had to grasp the economic nettles that hard to date, though to be fair, P Robinson has has a good crack balancing the books. The early scrum in the assembly to give the elderly free healthcare etc, showed that representation without taxation is nearly as bad as the reverse. (not that I dislike the elderly – but someone needs to pay)
    I am coming to the SDLP …

    The DUP place themselves on the right of politics – so there are huge swathes of unionist folk, voting for a party that in economic terms
    is miles from its suport base. The sad thing for unionism is that it cannot move past the Lundy mentality, so that debate is likley to be stifled at birth.

    This move will damage SF, and rescue SDLP (in some form) whose policies in economics terms, are high on atmospherics and low on specifics. Where are the key programs they are looking to put in place to drive the economy in NI?. I give you Flag Watch, and North South Makes Sense – not a single costed program therein.

    Lets break this into an example – to build the road infrastructure to make up the gap quickly with GB/Rep Ireland requires that you bring in private finance in some form. Can you imagine the howls of derision from all sides for the first party honest enough to grasp that nettle – and bring in road tolls/or some form of road pricing?

    Ultimately a maturing electorate will decide. The FF move will develop the SDLP policy program (which currently is in limbo), and show up SF more and more as having no grasp on the economy and therefore no role in the Ireland (north and south)
    of the future. They will be a party of protest –
    the difficult trick facing unionist parties, is not to become parties of protest.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Aren’t the SDLP and FF economic policies totally out of whack? I don’t follow politics in the Republic that closely but I thought FF were economically (and socially?) conservative :\

    FF have no policies in particular, beyond sustaining themselves and their cronies in power while expertly projecting an earthy “man on the street” image that seems to be the core requirement of success in Irish politics. Rain or shine, whatever the mood of the Irish people is, FF will somehow be able to present themselves as the embodiment of it.

    On the subject of a new unionist party, and intra-unionist alliances, it is worth noting that unionism has never really been able to sustain a credible third party. Unionism reminds me of the Dark Lords of the Sith. Always there are two – the master and the apprentice. The apprentice spends his time honing his powers and trying to acquire an apprentice of his own so that he can overthrow the master. The master is on the constant lookout for another apprentice who can defeat his existing apprentice and consolidate his own power.

    I think that powersharing has become the accepted norm within the broad mass of unionism who have now accepted that the IRA really has gone away; the anti-agreement people are now on the back foot and have been since McCartney’s utter wipeout in the elections. The ongoing activity of the UDA, and the IRA’s silence, makes it more difficult for dissident unionists to credibly go on claiming that the IRA is the biggest threat.

  • IJP

    Frank is right. On the Nationalist side, it’s nonsense. FF has no heritage here. As I’ve said before, you can’t make serious electoral gains where you have no tradition (i.e. particularly not outside your own jurisdiction).

    Comrade is also right. On the Unionist side, it’s nonsense. Again, there’s no heritage, nor is there any case. That’s why McCartney was wiped out. That’s why Allister will be wiped out. What’s the other option? (According to Allister it’s “traditional Unionism” – i.e. a return to majority rule – which hasn’t been an option since 1968.)

    As I’ve said before, we’ve had the same five parties for more than a generation, and there’s zero evidence that’ll change.

    (By the way, reports of what Billy Armstrong saide illustrate my point about weak journalism. He never called for a ‘merger’. Yes, he believes there should be one Unionist party. But only in the same way most people believe in integrated education. But when it comes to making the compromises to achieve it…)

  • CTN

    Some good points there Stal- especially when it’s considered Allister’s one point of difference with the DUP is only that SF were getting accepted into govt too soon.

    The DUP can easily counter this new bunch of nutters by stating that with Allister’s approval SF would be in govt by now anyway, meaning they will be kept as you say “on the back foot” with no honest, credible convincing or realisable alternative to St Andrews…

  • FushPot

    But only in the same way most people believe in integrated education. –

    dont you mean state education? there are no religious requirements for anyone to attend a state school

  • Truth & Justice

    Unionists need another party like a hole in the head these wing nuts need to catch a grip every time unionism says no it gets weaker Unionism needs to get wise. Jim Allistair has no alternative except to lead unionism to joint authority catch yourselves on.

  • hib

    Does this not mean that Labour affiliates in the SDLP would make a demand for the Irish Labour party also start up north in order to give them a home and compete with Fianna Fail?

    Also does anyone know if its the case that the Irish Labour party youth wing had its AGM in Belfast last year and requested that Labour started organising up there?

  • JD

    There was an artical in yesterday’s telegraph about Labour Deputy leadership contender Jan O’Sullivan supporting the Irish Labour Party’s Northern Ireland’s constituency council motion at their annual conference to contest the council elections. Here’s the link:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/article2962406.ece

    The Northern party system will evolve somewhat from what it is now. It did when the settlement of the 1920s broke down in the late 60s

    The SDLP are now being cajoled out of their relationship with the Labour Parties (both are taking members in the North) and will come looking for a new nationalist partner (Fianna Fail). Fianna Fail are finished with the peace process and taking back ground it lost in the south to the shiners – no doubt a northern section is to distract the shinners and keep the grassroots happy.

    Even if the party names change from SF,SDLP, UUP & DUP to SF, FF & United Unionist the policies will by enlarge remain the same. All of this will take place in the context of compulsory coalition and as with everything in the north it will proceed at the pace of a glacier.

    No change but a few new banners (and within existing traditions) – yawn…

  • Dewi

    What is going to be interesting is the Fine Gael response. Pete posted a thread on the Collins commeraration speeches. Enda Kenny did last year’s speech:

    http://www.generalmichaelcollins.com/Beal_na_Blath/BealnaBlath_2006/Annual_Oration.html

    Thoughtful and concise – No natural allies ?

  • Frank Sinistra

    Spot the difference between the Sindo story and this one from 2005

    A high level committee discussing organising in the north as a means of challenging SF based on a 1999 Ard Fheis motion.

    Maybe going into government with the Greens has inspired FF to become keen recyclers?

    I can’t believe this nonsense gets covered every time it is raised when it never, ever makes it beyond the exact same point as last time they said the same thing.

    At least the new Unionist party story is new and might actually come to something.

  • CTN

    Point taken that this will take time JD but it may crystallise within the lifetime of this new assembly I also agree that if it happens it will happen within the same constitutional framework with its mundane mandatory coalition.

    However the next few years could provide interesting new factions and fissures which could not possibly be anymore lackluster than what we have now….

  • ronan

    Frank Sinistras point about recycling seems to be dealt with directly by dermot ahern in the article when he says may 8th changed everything ie now theres no worries about upsetting the peace process to stop FF.

  • john

    so a more hardline DUP? Do u believe this report?

  • The Dubliner

    There are quite a few reasons why FF won’t enter into NI politics beyond opening a few more cummans, such as the one opened in Derry.

    In relation to a merger with the SDLP: this idea assumes that the SDLP’s grassroots and stalwarts would be supportive of FF, ignoring the salient detail that a significant number of them are closer to Fine Gael (with Austin Currie, for example, being a former FG presidential candidate and FG TD) and to Irish Labour. It also assumes that SDLP would be prepared to hand the key to its castle to FF, since they can be damn sure that FF has no interest in being either an equal or subservient partner. It would be, quite simply, a takeover, not a merger.

    Other reasons are fairly obvious, but for example: a political party’s policies must be formulated on the basis of the local dynamics that are applicable. Policies that work in Ireland would not be appropriate in the UK. Ergo, there can’t be one set of policies for two separate (and very different) countries. And since one party can’t have two sets of policies, it rather obviously follows that one party cannot operate effectively in two jurisdictions. Which rules out exactly that. The only available option is FF North and FF South: two parties with two leaders, et al. And that, folks, simply isn’t going to happen.

    Too much pain for feck all gain.

  • The Dubliner

    One other point: it has nothing to do with weakening SF in the south (they’re a non-entity down here). It is more to do with weakening them in the north (by propping up the SDLP), where they are rightly seen by the Irish government to be parasites on the politics and people of NI, seeking only to further their own selfish interests at the expense of those they proport to serve – and who are foolish enough to vote for them

  • IJP

    The Dubliner

    Helpful points.

    Basically you’ve added the detail to my intro!

  • Bretagne

    Dubliner –

    “It also assumes that SDLP would be prepared to hand the key to its castle to FF”

    Sand castle maybe – SDLP will very very likely (unless something happens) have one MP left after the next election.
    It would be hard to lose the one minstry under D’Hondt – but if anyone can, Durkan can.

    “since one party can’t have two sets of policies, it rather obviously follows that one party cannot operate effectively in two jurisdictions.”

    agree -that is the crux – can FF morph the SDLP into a useful chassis for itself, while having an arms-length relationship?

    It does look difficult to reconcile….but of FF says as it does (Bertie at any rate) that the constitutional issue is settled – then it would be possible to run different policies on a long term covergence trajectory.. Accept that partition is a reality and work on all the other facets of convergence – transport,tax, energy, etc.
    Have two FF task forces- North and South working on convergence. They could do all of this without contesting an election as FF in the North, at least for several years.

    The next issue is – are SDLP closer to FG than FF. as you say = “ignoring the salient detail that a significant number of them are closer to Fine Gael”.

    Maybe – but power corrupts as the say, and FF look to be in the box seat. The SDLP are facing wipe-out in all but Foyle next time out, and a plan – any sort of plan may look good.

    Of overarching all this is the next NDP. Last time around this included a couple of sweets for the North – but a more expansive NDP as far an North/ South is concerned driven by FF ((and FF/SDLP), then SF are f***ed – demonstrably ineffective.

    As for the dowry? -a few senate seats for the SDLP (Bertie kept them back this time – clever bugger), and the promise of re-election not anihilation by SF, should see the maiden melt.

    “Too much pain for feck all gain” – good approach to question motive – cui bono?

    In Leinster house, this strategy would stand a very good chance of isolating three of the four SF TD’s – so good for FF. And maybe kick the lovely Mary-Lou out of Europe. It brings an absolute FF majority in LH within grasp.

    In the North this could bring the balance of power within nationalism back into equilibrium. If SDLP are the only Northern party actively working on an integration/convergence/unification plan (albeit over 20 yrs), with access to Taoiseach’s office, input into the NDP to attract more support for road, airport and rail north of the border, access to No 10, invited to address the FF parliamentary party, address the Oireachtas, etc then SF are playing catch-up all the time. Working with FF will give them credible costed plans, unlike the
    stuff produced today, and access to a full-time professional machine, and access to funds (however circuitously to begin with) – of a full time political party.

    Finally, it gives SDLP a vehicle to stop the greying of the party and energise the
    young – I would call it the Unification Generation (apols) and organise on a 32 county basis.

    I wouldn’t dismiss it. Bertie kept back senate seats, and speaking rights in the Dail – he will give them up to take SF out – “Thanks for the ideas Gerry – just take the tunnel and keep going”!

  • kensei

    “One other point: it has nothing to do with weakening SF in the south (they’re a non-entity down here). It is more to do with weakening them in the north (by propping up the SDLP), where they are rightly seen by the Irish government to be parasites on the politics and people of NI, seeking only to further their own selfish interests at the expense of those they proport to serve – and who are foolish enough to vote for them”

    Yeah. I am sure that is exactly their logic.

  • Fraggle

    “where they are rightly seen by the Irish government to be parasites on the politics and people of NI, seeking only to further their own selfish interests at the expense of those they proport to serve – and who are foolish enough to vote for them”

    Have you any idea how ironic that sounds when you’re talking about the present irish FF government?

  • Jeremy

    Some impressive claims are being made about the results of any FF merger / acquisition of SDLP. FF are strong in the south because they have the most formidable constituency machine nation wide. They wont have that in the North and would have to rely on the SDLP foot soldiers. Thats hardly a recipe for success. I also think “the republican party” would be loathe to risk its all-ireland credentials by running candidates under the FF banner to only see them defeated. There will be talk of alliances and days out at respective Ard Fheiseanna but I am afraid all the hot air wont raise this lead ballon.

    Also the timing is inspired – steady the troops while Charlie mark 2 is in the dock/

  • JD

    “FF are strong in the south because they have the most formidable constituency machine nation wide. They wont have that in the North and would have to rely on the SDLP foot soldiers. Thats hardly a recipe for success.”

    You are right and that’s why FF won’t rush in. The only possable reason for a FF-SDLP link would be:

    1) The SDLP trying to stave off FF competing with them
    2) The SDLP having to break the link with Labour if Labour run candidates against them.

    I think the SDLP will stagger on for a few years while FF circle them like vultures.Any FF-SDLP “alliance” will only be to cover FF not having to contest the assembly until they are ready. The real target for FF is SF and they won’t move until SF has become as smug and complacent as the SDLP became ten years ago.

    The SDLP had no credible competition for years and were too lethargic when the Shinners moved away from violence and fully embraced politics. SF faced by a feeble SDLP will become as lethargic in the fullness of time.

    FF will in a very focussed and determined fashion target the shinners in the south and weed them out of their hartlands before the contest any northern elections.

    Sinn Fein are now little better than a well organised version of the old SDLP with a southern section. FF will smash the southern section first and when SF is nigh indistinguishable from the SDLP circa 1999 FF will then move in.

    It could be ten years, but FF will do it in stages:

    1) weed the shinners out of their back yard
    2) build up a council presence in the North
    3) contest the assembly and wind up the SDLP

    It won’t happen overnight. It won’t set the world alight. It will be the largest all Ireland nationalist party in a partitionist settlement in compulsory power-sharing with the unionists – what Sinn Fein had hoped to be.

  • Harry

    A moment’s thought will reveal more risks than advantages in such a strategy for Fianna Fáil. Besides being probably rejected by the majority of nationalists who suffered alone down the years while Fianna Fáil were lining their corrupt pockets like the slobbering me féiners they are, there is still the fact that Fianna Fáil are the party that has profited most from partition of all the parties on this island – they will be unlikely to risk their position by changing the foundation upon which it is built, partition. They are an inherently conservative party that chooses lip-service and hypocrisy over facts and reality at all times. Taking Sinn Féin on on Sinn Féin’s ground and according to Sinn Féin’s terms – that is, in n. ireland – might be the greatest tactical blunder that Fianna Fáil could make. It could be the undoing of what has been the ground of their power for over 70 years and is against the principles of combat known to all competent generals – to wit, force the enemy onto a ground of your choosing and into a fight fought on your terms. Fianna Fáil are very unlikely to transgress this principle.

    It is much more likely that Ahern is seeking to distract from the tribunal of enquiry into his increasingly evident shysterism and corruption by sending out this press release and by playing ‘mr. statesman’ again as he did in his party political broadcast before the election. He is being helped in this by his cronies in Fianna Fáil such as the ‘high powered’ (hmm) Dermot Ahern et al.

    Fianna Fáil are scum; this is just another of their scummy strategies for covering up the attention, in this of all weeks, that should be paid to their utterly disgusting and cheap brown envelope gombeenism.

  • JD

    “Fianna Fáil are scum; this is just another of their scummy strategies for covering up the attention, in this of all weeks, that should be paid to their utterly disgusting and cheap brown envelope gombeenism.”

    Harry you are right as to why the announcement was made.

    I think the SDLP-Labour link is in trouble as that might well r4esult in a FF-SDLP link that would take on a life of its own over time.

    “Taking Sinn Féin on on Sinn Féin’s ground and according to Sinn Féin’s terms – that is, in n. ireland – might be the greatest tactical blunder that Fianna Fáil could make.”

    True and they won’t do it on SF’s terms. This will proceed at the pace of a glacier.

  • sammaguire

    FF would probably be better off going it alone in the north. Plenty of votes to be picked up from the greener wing of SDLP and also from Sinn Fein.
    I can remember meeting an SDLP voter once who didn’t want a united Ireland as the roads were better up there. That wing of the SDLP wouldn’t be particularly welcome in FF!

    Nationalist voters on either side of a border neither wanted don’t actually differ too much from each other culturally or politically. The farmer in Fermanagh who votes SF may well be more socially and economically conservative than his FF voting cousin down the road in Cavan.

    FF’s detractors love to paint them as a party of the right. Interesting then to see a previous post predicting who’ll take Bertie’s seat. The PDs? Perhaps Immigration Control? Not really…

    “…with Mary Lou looking probable in Dublin Central if Bertie hangs up his boots” (CTN)

    Mary Lou seems comfortable enough in SF despite all those years in FF. What about a FF/SF merger then? Forget the left right guff because that’s all it is. Adams very quickly moved to the centre on the issue of taxation at the last election when he realised votes were at stake. The main difference between the parties is over the legitimacy of violence during the Troubles. And SF seem to have come around to the FF position on this one too.

    Interesting times ahead!

  • john

    Its instructive that virtually the entirity of this thread has been about a story claiming that ff are going to set up in the North. This story has been around since about 2003 in various guises yet nothing has ever come of it. But the other story about a split and the formation of a new unionist party, quoting a named DUP figure as saying it is imminent, has been ignored almost completely! I wonder where the political ‘loyalties’, and the bias, of the contributors here lie???

  • Harry

    Compare Hugh O’Neill, who was known as ‘taoiseach’, with Ahern, known in our day by the same word. What comparison is there between the two?

  • IJP

    Ah yes, the “energize the young” line – give them something funky and they’ll all join up.

    Nonsense.

  • JD

    “This story has been around since about 2003 in various guises yet nothing has ever come of it.

    But the other story about a split and the formation of a new unionist party, quoting a named DUP figure as saying it is imminent, has been ignored almost completely! ”

    I think there’s an inevitability about the party system re-adapting.

    Ever since Labour merged with the stickies eight years ago (and was then taken over by them) the SDLP-Labour link became more strained and unsustainable with the Labour Party allowing organisation in the North. This along with SF’s eclipsing the SDLP would eventually cause the SDLP to come knocking on FF’s door and FF having to look north.

    Ever since the DUP displaced the UUP as the largest unionist party the DUP was going to find it difficult to retain its new voters and retain the die hard Free Presbyterian wing. A bankrupt UUP would evntually need to form a new party as well as a newly ascendent DUP having to retain its dominance shorn of its hardliners.

    We’ll be taking about these re-alignments for years, but bit by bit they’ll inch forward. They’ve been inching forward over the last six or seven years. There’s no reason why they won’t take as long again if not further to inch along to their conclusion.

    If the UUP & DUP merge would there be many UUP defectors to the Alliance Party or even the Tories?

  • Some impressive claims are being made about the results of any FF merger / acquisition of SDLP. FF are strong in the south because they have the most formidable constituency machine nation wide. They wont have that in the North and would have to rely on the SDLP foot soldiers. Thats hardly a recipe for success.

    I say what he said.

    FF being strong in the South means feck all up North, any more than SF being strong in the North meant anything down South. I think I was in my teens before I knew there had even been a Civil War down South, and that’s pretty typical of Northern Taigs.

  • sammaguire

    If this is true Northern Taigs should ask themselves a few questions. Are they ungrateful to the many Southern Taigs (including relatives of two friends of mine) who gave their lives opposing the partition of the country. Or were these people just mugs? Maybe the unionists are right. Maybe the North is a foreign country…

  • USA

    My gut feeling is that if FF come north they will suffer successive defeats at the hands of Sinn Fein and then retreat back down south after 2 or 3 years. They have done far too little for the northern nationalists over the years to win many hearts and minds – not even speaking rights in DE to this day – won’t cut it all, Sinn Fein will destroy them.

  • sammaguire

    “Compare Hugh O’Neill, who was known as ‘taoiseach’, with Ahern, known in our day by the same word. What comparison is there between the two?”

    Posted by Harry on Sep 16, 2007 @ 10:37 PM

    Two great Irishmen. Bertie shades it in greatness as he was democratically elected taoiseach three times and I’m a big fan of democracy. We can be sentimental about the Flight of the Earls and all that but in truth they had more in common with unelected British royalty. As a republican I have no time for cr*p like that.

  • sammaguire

    Taking Sinn Féin on on Sinn Féin’s ground and according to Sinn Féin’s terms – that is, in n. ireland – might be the greatest tactical blunder that Fianna Fáil could make.

    Posted by Harry on Sep 16, 2007 @ 09:50 PM

    “n.ireland”?? We in FF generally use the term “the occupied six counties”! Think you’ve been hanging out with the First Minister too much!

  • Are they ungrateful to the many Southern Taigs (including relatives of two friends of mine) who gave their lives opposing the partition of the country.

    The Civil War didn’t mean all that much in Belfast; we had our own bad shit going down here at the time. And we have a more recent war more at the front of our memory. And our political system hasn’t been fossilised by the Civil War for 80 years keeping things that would otherwise be a matter for historians at the forefront of political activists’ minds (ours has been fossilised worse, by other things).

    FF aren’t so much a party as a tribe – and a very, very, effective election machine. Not many of us Nordies belong to that tribe. There are only two sorts of people who really want FF to come North – Stoops desperate for a lifeline, and Shinners who think (accurately in my view) that the demise of the SDLP will give them another 5% of the vote overnight.

    If I were a Fáiler, I wouldn’t touch this place with a bargepole!

  • his Mid-Ulster electoral maths is rather optimistic.

    I don’t think maths was Billy’s best subject at school. But then again, I don’t think any subject was Billy’s best subject at school. Not a bad oul’ spud, really, but not exactly a titan of political strategy anywhere outside the Ulster Unionist Party.

  • Briso

    FF would transform nationalist politics West of the Bann. Bertie is tremendously popular and a formidable campaigner. He would clean up SDLP votes and add a significant number of SF votes if they stood tomorrow. There may be FG’ers among the party officers, but there are almost none among the voters.

    Please Bertie, go for it.

  • DK

    FF up North would not make any impact on Sinn Fein: SF are largely a party of the urban and rural poor – what have/can FF offer these people other than some vague “look we’re the republican party too” line, and some smart fellas in suits that just won’t fit in.

    In my opinion, SF get more votes for being the best at putting the boot into the unionists than for any United Ireland/Socialist rhetoric – FF are even worse than the SDLP at booting the unionists: they have nothing else to offer.

    FF up North would mean a split in the SDLP with some going to Labour (UK version), some going to Alliance and more going to Sinn Fein. How is this in FF’s favour?

    As for the “new” dissident unionist party. It will occupy the same ground as multi-bob and will share his electoral fate. It’s not a viable runner, that’s why no-one cares.

  • Harry

    “We in FF generally use the term “the occupied six counties”
    You in Fianna Fáil will say whatever you feel will put you in a good light and bring you advantage, all without actually engaging in any meaningful reality or risky adventure which might give substance to your vacuous and self-serving waffle. Gutless, third-rate, profoundly dishonest, sneering and bullying – a collection of people whose ascendancy in the politics of Ireland has been a disaster for generations and who still, true to form, manage to turn a time of opportunity into a time of lost opportunities, who manage to turn a time of potential wealth into a time of burdensome debt and rackrenting for huge numbers of people. A collection of unimaginative self-congratulatory half-pints. Intellectual and economic mediocrities and pocket-lining slobbering goons.

    And pertinently, perhaps also a party that is as riddled with british agents as sinn féin itself. After all it was and remains critical for british political/military policies on this island that they have a sympathetic and reliable partner in the government in the south, otherwise managing the situation over the last 40 years and managing the peace process over the last 10 years would have been well nigh impossible. Moving agents into the upper echelons of the southern political elite would have been paramount. We know the british were operating agents in the garda special branch and that they influenced the irish media. We also know they came to agreements with the irish army at baldonnell airfield. We know section 31 was introduced. It would stand to reason that as part of their policy in the north, securing influential positions of state to their side in the south would be at the very least helpful if not in fact imperative. They may even have been doing this since 1921. In any case having agents in the universities, the trade unions, the RNLI, the media, the gardai, army and civil service would have been a logical extension of their attempt to isolate the IRA and secure the union of n. ireland to britain.

    Travelling frequently to england as a ‘fan’ of Manchester United would be good cover for an agent. And indeed having an Irish cabinet minister on the payroll would be a very significant boon to british influence in ireland and they would be most interested in meeting up with someone so inclined. Especially at the beginning of a very sensitive and volatile ‘peace process’ in ’94. An interesting selection of foreign exchange transactions – including sterling – showing up around the place. If one were to make up cock and bull stories to explain such FX transactions, then who or what real source as yet unidentified might one be trying to hide?

    One wonders…

  • CTN

    Sammaguire- I agree M.L. is comfortable in SF and it is within that party I believe she could take a seat in D.C. if Bertie retires.

    One point being slightly overlooked here is that if the FF takeover occurs, it must be borne in mind that the 16 SDLP MLAs are already successfully elected candidates and not some almost foreign entities from the south with no back-round in delivering for their constituents.

    With all politics being local this should assist their morphing into FF and their successful re-election under a new banner which in turn could considerably bolster FF’s initial first steps northwards.

    However I think that this possible realignment could also result in SDLP defections to Labour and FG who may feel forced to move with the times and copy FF’s move over the border.

    F.G. debated a motion in their Ard Fheis last year to rename them F.G. “the United Ireland Party”- this tag was mistakenly added on to a website or advertisement before official clearance from party bosses and was subsequently corrected.

    As JD says I think we should prepare for slow but sure realignments over the next few years.

  • pia lugum

    “but not exactly a titan of political strategy anywhere outside the Ulster Unionist Party”

    Sammy Morse
    It was interesting to see Billy Armstrong rolling over yet again, this time espousing the merging of the UUP into the much larger and currently dominant DUP. Empey must be soooh happy that his Mid-Ulster genius is taking over the lead in promoting the new UUP policy of tickle-my-belly!

    Billy, methinks, would appear to me to be over-confident that the DUP would ever select him anyway to run under that party’s ticket at any future election. [edited by moderator – play the ball not the man].

    Now however would be a good time for the sad rump of elderly UUP ruling members still left in Mid-Ulster [edited by moderator] They owe it to the rest of the province’s loyal UUP members to drag themselves out from their hidey-holes and set about selecting a properly able and dependable UUP candidate for the next election.

    Otherwise a well polished third party will be well placed to absorb the votes of all those unionists who are well & truly scundered with the UUP and irretreivably betrayed by the DUP. Jim Allister may be the key, but certainly not with the motley crew of disgruntled ex-DUP councillors that are presently trying to slink in behind him.

  • RSR

    In Billys defense, if anyone actually seen the piece on the Politics Show yesterday he said he would like to see one united unionist party, he never mentioned that the DUP and UUP should merge.

    However it was stupidity to come out with such a statement that could be misconstrued by the media and the general public alike. Again he did say he was speaking in a personal capacity but still, as he is a elected representative of the UUP it comes across as a UUP plan.

    With regards to the electoral pact between the DUP and UUP, the UUP do not have much of a choice to to meet the DUP and see what their thinking is on it. However, the way in which the DUP announced this make it look like another PR stunt. Having it released to the press before Sir Reg Empey had even read it himself leaves many UUP members thinking the same way. But if the UUP don’t respond and dismiss this as a PR stunt, when it comes to the next elections and certain seats are lost because of two unionist candidates, the blame will fall at the door of the UUP.

  • DK

    Harry: “And pertinently, perhaps also a party that is as riddled with british agents as sinn féin itself. After all it was and remains critical for british political/military policies on this island that they have a sympathetic and reliable partner in the government in the south”

    Hahahaha – does this get any better? Yes it does:

    “In any case having agents in the universities, the trade unions, the RNLI”

    Damn them securocrat lifeboat crew. Have you noticed that they only pull drowning prods out of the water? The brits are everywhere.

  • Grouch

    Here we go again, some of our unionist politicians using the hardy old rant that the Union is the only agenda and that it is at risk unless we join together. What a load of total codswallop. Can’t you see what is happening.

    There is a big threat to the DUP that Jim Allister is going to drain support away from the DUP to his potentially new anti-agreement party. The DUP are panicking and see a merger, or at least a pact, with the poor naive UU to offset any possible loss of votes. By doing so, they not only negate Allister, but also become a much stronger DUP (with UU eventually subsumed within its ranks). It is now time that political parties, Unionist more so, stopped putting their single focus of the Union as the bedrock for all political decisions, such as Health, Economy, Education, etc. By doing so, they are unable to make the right decisions for Northern Ireland. This alleged threat to the union is manifest in everything the DUP do, and they whip up a frenzy of unionist support to keep in power. These are tactics no different to the Shinners from a nationalist perspective. Let’s hear them now squeal about FF wanting to come north.

    I for one would like all political parties in the North, whether new or existing, to stand on their own principles and test their support through a proper and full democratic election, not just some scaremongering tactics by the extremes.

  • Turgon

    I suspect there is concern within the DUP regarding Allister but not panic.

    Allister is a relatively well known figure and seems to not have Bob McCartney’s special brand of negative charisma. There is, however, a problem of the lack other generally well known faces for a new party. If a new party is set up, the councillors who have left the DUP will undoubtly be protrayed (by the DUP and media respectively) as disgruntled because they did not get jobs etc. or barmy bigots.

    I have little doubt, however, that there is a constituency out there for a new party. I am sure it would be larger than McCartney’s because some voted DUP last time convienced that Paisley would not sell out and some abstained being convienced he wouild but not being prepared to vote for McCartney (OK Elenwe and myself respectively).

    On a sort of DUP related note. I was at two different Free Presbyterian church services yesterday (we were visiting relatives) and there was absolutely no mention of politics. I think there are people who think the FPC spends its time preaching politics in church and as far as I can see such a thing must be very rare.

    In terms of FF standing here in Northern Ireland it might remind Paisley and co that Ahern and FF are actually nationalists (nothing wrong with them being nationalists) and as such have an opposing long term vision (albeit apparently very long term) of the future of Northern Ireland.

  • Sean

    The whole FF moving north is just a blinder played to take the heat off paisley’s buddy Vertie. As someone quite rightly pointed out their policies arent compatable with the six counties Nationalists. They would definately take the heat off SF’s poor showing in the Republic by havinbg an abysmal showing of their own, I don’t think too many northern nationaqlists will forget them sitting on the hands while the english government was allowed to slaughter them with out any objections from FF

    It is however encouraging that so many loyalists are still predicting the anialation of SF at the hands of some future force. Just proves how out of touch unionism is with reality, they are there to stay for a while yet so you might as well reach accomodation with them because you no longer have the ability to gerrymander them out of power

  • I’m sure that Sluggerdom is way before me, but … a thought. First, though, a warning: I’m not quite sure how this posting is going to work out, except in an alphabetti-spaghetti of abbreviations.

    FF is currently associated with some very curious bedfellows in the European Parliament. The Union for Europe of the Nations (i.e. the conservative right) and FF are incompatible (who, for heaven’s sake, wants to be in bed with the Italian Northern League?). In the Council of Europe, FF prefer to consort with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (nearest known cousins, the UK Lib Dems), where they sit more neatly.

    Of course, FF’s natural home is with the European Peoples Party-European Democrats (but FG got there first). As I recall Marion Harkin breaks bread with that lot, too. That’s the EPP-ED from which Diddy Dave Cameron is bailing his Tories out (to considerable distress among some sitting Tories MEPs). Confused: we should be; but the EPP-ED is the nearest thing the Euro Parliament has to a “natural party of government” on the centre-right.

    The SDLP and Irish Labour Party are both in the Party of European Socialists, along with the UK Labour Party. Which, of course, is the other “natural party of government” (or would be, if Blair’s lot hadn’t been screwed so badly last time round).

    SF (that’s Mary Lou and Gerry) are in with the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (and therefore semi-detached from the Commies in the Parties of the European Left).

    Why am I bothering with this garbage?

    Well, I’ve just read the Irish Times report, and still cannot see where we’re being taken. I cannot see what FF has to gain from taking a drenching in NI, and that’s surely what’s in prospect under existing conditions.

    Where it could matter, in the Euro-theatre, Ireland (26 +/- 6) is dissipating its clout in the European Parliament (where, in any case, there has to be some consolidation of political interests if the damn thing is every going to count for anything). And there there is scope for some FF-SDLP argy-bargy.

    So, is this whole thing a bit of kite-flying for Euro 2009?

  • Stewart

    Fianna Fail are Ireland’s version of British New Labour. There’s no reason why FF-SDLP couldn’t be a member of the PES. Sure didn’t Bertie decribe himself as a “Socialist”?

  • Allister is a relatively well known figure and seems to not have Bob McCartney’s special brand of negative charisma

    In true pantomime style: oh yes he does!

    It is however encouraging that so many loyalists are still predicting the anialation of SF at the hands of some future force

    Actually, Sean, most of those ‘uns are Stoops or southern anti-Shinners. But you just keep living in that realm of self-delusion and righteous persecution. It’s so much nicer than dealing with reality.

    BTW, Briso, Bertie’s popularity is in large part linked to the economic boom in the Republic. With the world economy looking a bit green around the gills, the Republic is in for a rocky time economically at which point people will be less inclined to turn a blind eye to Bertie’s business dealings.

    I think you grossly overstate the potential vote for FF West of the Bann, and in any case they will be annihilated in Greater Belfast and Derry City.

  • kensei

    Noises coming form the SDLP too:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6998543.stm

    I think there might be more in it this time. The context is changed slightly, with the Assembly looking stable and SF looking to be plateauing rather than on an up curve as in 1999 or 2001. Moreover the SDLP is fairly low down, and even a halt in the decline and small growth could be used as a positive for FF.

    What I can’t see, though, is how it works if FF just subsumes the SDLP. It’s a change of branding which would help, and possibly some sense in election strategy, but to be truly effective it would require either a change of leadership or a change in policy, or both. The first doesn’t seem possible, and the second might not go down too well and runs into the kinds of problem that SF have crossing jurisdictions.

    I think having another serious party would be a plus for Nationalism, though.

  • kensei

    “I think you grossly overstate the potential vote for FF West of the Bann, and in any case they will be annihilated in Greater Belfast and Derry City.”

    An SDLP merged FF would probably do alright in Derry. Greater Belfast, with the possible exception of South Belfast, would be a kicking.

    But then, what’s new? In the short term, all FF have to do is SF’s momentum. Oh, and even running a non headless chicken campaign could deliver a few extra seats for them. I still can’t get over 3 SDLP running in West Tyrone.

  • grouch

    So, the FF move to the North is confirmed, but for Assembly only. How can this work? If there is to be a merge with the SDLP, how can they say that they don’t want to contest Westminster elections? Will they leave the way open for SF or Independents? I do not see it pushing the Unionists into a pan-unionist coalition as they, like the SDLP are not in the habit of doing deals with SF, therefore ruling out a pan-nationalist front (as the DUP keep trying to scare unionists with).

    One to watch with interest. Only the electorate will prove whether it is a good move or not.

  • páid

    All that is happening here is that the parties are re-organizing themselves around the loyalties of the people. Which haven’t changed.

    Labour politics has never been the natural home of the small farmer patriots of Ireland, North or South. Your Derry GAA man is much like your Kerry GAA man. Their natural home is in a merged FF-SDLP.

    As religion slowly fades from view, the other tribe of Ireland, made up of the Norman Fine Gaelers and Ulster Unionists will narrow their differences. Take a generation, though.

    As for the Shinners, they never really understood the difference between Nationalism and Republicanism, but I think they’re gonna find out soon.

  • The Dubliner

    “BTW, Briso, Bertie’s popularity is in large part linked to the economic boom in the Republic. With the world economy looking a bit green around the gills, the Republic is in for a rocky time economically at which point people will be less inclined to turn a blind eye to Bertie’s business dealings.” – Sammy Morse

    Bertie was popular long before he along with McSharry, McGreevy, Haughey, et al in FF, devised the economic policies and provided the management that underpin the “economic boom.” It’s also not a case of turning a “a blind eye to Bertie’s business dealings.” Those matters are being diligently investigated by a Tribunal, so it’s ridiculous to claim that a blind eye is being turned when they are being inspected under a microscope on behalf of the citizens and the state by said Tribunal and a pack of lawyers and a judge. It’s a case of waiting until the Tribunal reports before any conclusions are drawn. That, incidentally, is what mature democracies and their electorate do – also called being innocent until proven otherwise.

    Kensei, I don’t see any realistic option other than an alliance with the SDLP (and for no purpose other than to neutralise SF). If they go for a merger, then it will be two seperate FF parties, one north and the other south. That may not be a bad thing for 32-county nationalism, as it will inevitably force unity onto the political agenda.

  • Grouch

    Still haven’t answered the question about how the Westminster elections will be organised if FF aren’t interested in running. A northern FF as The DUBLINER suggests wouldn’t work within these parameters.

    Who knows?

  • kensei

    “Those matters are being diligently investigated by a Tribunal, so it’s ridiculous to claim that a blind eye is being turned when they are being inspected under a microscope on behalf of the citizens and the state by said Tribunal and a pack of lawyers and a judge. It’s a case of waiting until the Tribunal reports before any conclusions are drawn. That, incidentally, is what mature democracies and their electorate do – also called being innocent until proven otherwise.”

    I’d humbly suggest that if the economy was taking a dive at the time of the last election there would have been a bit more anger directed at Bertie. I’d suggest the Republic’s electorate are actually more or less like everywhere else’s.

    “Kensei, I don’t see any realistic option other than an alliance with the SDLP (and for no purpose other than to neutralise SF). If they go for a merger, then it will be two seperate FF parties, one north and the other south. That may not be a bad thing for 32-county nationalism, as it will inevitably force unity onto the political agenda.”

    An alliance short of a merger won’t work, especially if they are still branded SDLP. Really, what’s changed in that event? It’s not even symbolic. They’ll get a kicking from SF and probably won’t even halt the decline.

  • The Dubliner

    Grouch, I have to agree that it doesn’t make sense. SF don’t take their seats at Westminister, so they have no advantage over a FF party which won’t contest them – only the SDLP can claim that advantage. However, does FF really expect the SDLP to give up its Westminister seats if it merges? Hardly. And not merging will only take votes from the SDLP, working to SF’s advantage. There simply is no advantage to FF in going north – just don’t underestimate the contempt that certain FF’ers hold SF (and the role that might play). We’ll just have to see how it all pans out. It sounds like Dermot is thinking aloud – not smart politics.

  • The Dubliner

    Kensei, it could be that most people don’t think he has a case to answer beyond how he has already answered it and that most of the rest are prepared to wait for the Tribunal to report – if for no reason other than reasoning that it is a waste of money having a Tribunal if you condiser its findings to be a mere surplus appendex to the public grilling. 😉

  • páid @ 04:17 PM:

    Labour politics has never been the natural home of the small farmer patriots of Ireland, North or South.

    May I politely query that as an omnibus statement?

    Some patches in FF’s coat-of-many-colours borrow from Labour. Consider Diarmaid Feriter’s The Transformation of Ireland, 1900-2000, page 412 in the paperback edition:
    ‘The mainstream Labour Party failed to develop into a political force capable of challenging the two larger parties, partly because Fianna Fáil had stolen many of their ideological clothes in the 1930s. Indeed, many Fianna Fáil members were to maintain throughout the century that they were in effect the real Labour Party of Ireland.’ This is the basis of Bertie’s 2004 claim, and repeated by Charlie McCreevy on 6 Nov 2005 (see earlier in this thread).

    It is notable that, when FF stumbles, Labour surges (historically, that was most notable in 1943, when there was a mushroom growth of some 600 new Labour Party branches). To a lesser extent, something similar happened in the 1960s, but was out-flanked by Sean Lemass’s party-management (and not helped by the cynicism of FG’s attempts to look leftish-of-centre).

    There is the curious ability of Labour to survive (and even prosper) in Wexford and Kerry (OK: the Spring feudal fiefdom).

    Then there is the oddity of Clann na Talmhan, which began as a know-nothing movement, became an organised political party in 1938, and survived into the 1950s. That’s surely symptomatic of a radical tradition in the small-farmer community. It’s certainly a tendency that FF has needed to be assiduous in tending. What killed the Clann was not the lack of rural radicalism, but the depopulation of the countryside.

    And what about the whole co-operative movement, all the way from the social-Catholicism of the early 1900s via Fr McDyer at Glencolumcille to the present day?

    I suggest that we need to be careful in distinguishing the Labour Party from a wider view of “Labour politics”. Across Ireland (and Europe) the small-farmer has shown a tradition of radicalism. FF may have been adept at harnessing the “small farmer patriots”, but rarely been oblivious to their mindset.

    If — if — FF and the SDLP (or any other combination of the political elements, 26 +/- 6) can act as a focus for, say, the public service, agriculture, the employed, the aspiring suburbans, that’s a potent and unbeatable force. But I doubt that narrow “nationalism” will feature as the glue in such a coalition.

  • The Dubliner

    The outcome of a FF move north would inevitably be a new dynamic that urges FF in the south to promote a unity agenda, if for no other reason than FF candidates in the north would want FF in the south to be more focused on that aim in order to increase their own voter base. Since the current policy doesn’t envisage a border poll occurring until after the northern economy and its political institutions are stabilised in a couple of decades, at the earliest, doing anything that would promote a unity agenda beyond promoting peace and prosperity seems to conflict with the current policy.
    In relation to Bertie, I always think that it is blackly comical when SF supporters talk about the need for politicians to not only have a scrupulous moral character, immaculate political judgement, and irreproachable integrity, but to be seen to have all of those things. They seem oblivious to the fact that they elected criminals, smugglers, bank robbers, extortionists, black marketers, murderers, and sociopaths of the first rank. Whatever ‘errors of judgement’ may afflict one or two Irish politicians, they don’t involve the Irish people “turning a blind eye” to people who engage in 25 million pound bank robberies for purely private gain, training FARC terrorists for millions of pounds in tax free profit, or supporting a sectarian mass-murder campaign, just so long as they get an Irish Language Act – or whatever the price of turning a blind eye to the characters of those they vote for involves.

  • kensei

    “If — if — FF and the SDLP (or any other combination of the political elements, 26 +/- 6) can act as a focus for, say, the public service, agriculture, the employed, the aspiring suburbans, that’s a potent and unbeatable force. But I doubt that narrow “nationalism” will feature as the glue in such a coalition.”

    I think you are too quick to dismiss patriotism as glue that binds disparate groups together. Not enough on its own, certainly these days, but there were points in the past where it would have been close.

  • kensei @ 05:38 PM:

    Nationalism is undoubtedly our legacy from the past.

    And, noting the wider history of Europe over the last century or so, not one to cherish greatly.

    I, like many of the older generation, was indoctinated with the mantra of “land is life”. I now see that is Karl Marx writing on Fenianism in 1867, citing a Justice Blackburne, and (with some justification) convincing himself that Ireland was substantially an agricultural country.

    Such was the basis of the nationalism of 1916, when the “blood sacrifice” gave Irish Nationalism that extra toxicity. Exactly 100 years after Marx, Tommy Makem’s metaphor of “four green fields” indicates its lasting potency (despite Dominic Behan’s comment on Brookeborough, 1957, warning us of its dangers).

    As late as 1997 Ireland was one of only three EU15 countries with 10% employed in agriculture. I see that only 5% of the RoI working population are now described as “farmers”. In NI, only 15% of the population are “rural”.

    My inference from that is the link between land and nationalism becoming less immediate, less relevant, though not yet void. Most people’s notion of “land” is now a 25-year mortgage on a semi in the suburbs.

    We are employed in and by multi-nationals. Our horizons are necessarily wider that Makem’s in 1967.

    Every Dubliner may daily recall Parnell’s Cork speech of January 1885: ‘… no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. No man has a right to say to his country: Thus far shalt thou go, and no further; and we have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland’s nationhood, and we never shall.’

    I think it’s time also to remember his immediately-previous sentence: ‘It is given to none of us to forecast the future, and just as it is impossible for us to say in what way or by what means the National question may be settled, in what way full justice may be done to Ireland, so it is impossible for us to say to what extent that justice should be done.’

  • Bretagne

    “There simply is no advantage to FF in going north”

    Agreed ,if they were to do it one fell swoop.

    But over the long term and the softly softly approach – it may be worth doing. It is worth exploring from an FF point of view. They are on record as saying they won’t contest elections (for Westminister at any rate) – so what is the prize they are weighing up?

    First I think this is aimed at isolating SF in the Border belt. To do that they could it is important to protect Foyle and South Down for the SDLP at the next, yes, Westminster election.

    Secondly, an agreed (SF/SDLP) candidate in West Tyrone, stands a chance of replacing Kieran Deeny and running Pat Doherty very very close. Defending two seats and even taking West Tyrone would stop the SF bandwagon on the border. Seems to be to be a prize worth going for , as for the Dail, this strategy would stand a very good chance of impacting three of the four SF TD’s, who only got elected in the 9/10th count. It also brings an absolute FF majority into play.

    Not winning West Tyrone would not be a disaster…as FF could position it as early days (and disengage if hey thought there were going to look stupid prgogressing with the plan)

    A win though would changes the momentum significantly. It means leaving Belfast for the longer term – but so be it. As DK would out it ” SF are largely a party of the urban and rural poor” This move reinforces that.

    On the reverse side – doing nothing will leave leaves five SF Wstminster seats along the border belt, no long term partner for FF north of the border, and SF with the chance of 2 TD’s in Donegal next time around, as the Bertie factor will no longer be in play.

    An active strategy by FF may take SF to one TD, the do nothing may leave SF with 7 TD’s. The smoke and mirrors, up North may be hiding the real prize of consolidation of FF stranglehold down south.

    I am struggling to see how this would split the SDLP if it starts with a lose association – and a split now would leave more, than the rump that would be left be after the next Westminster elction.

  • rural deweller

    Pia Lugum
    I too heard about Armstrong’s poor performance at the Rainey [edited by moderator play the ball not the man].His call for unionist unity must be someone elses idea.
    Why he now wants to talk to the “chuckle chumps” I will never know.The Dups have sold their soul for “twenty pieces of silver” just as Big Ian put power before god.Watching and listening to what McCrea does.

  • páid

    Malcolm,

    Your view of the situation is more or less mine.

    Class politics and Socialism never had the roots of dark, satanic mills in Ireland, outside of Belfast.

    And I agree that FF, like the plain people of Ireland have always had a strong communitarian streak, forged in the 19th Century land struggle perhaps, and threatened today by the tiger.

    A good example of FF outperforming Labour IMO is the current Limerick renewal situation, where whole sink estates are being completely knocked and rebuilt.
    Not hamstrung by ideology, not tolerant of criminals, and not short of money from the economy, stunning amounts are to be spent in order to get the place contributing instead of draining.

    Labour would send in social workers, the Tories would send in more police, FF have the commonsense approach.

    I don’t vote for them BTW!

    And I realise my statements are omnibus and tabloidy, put that down to laziness. I admire your erudition.

  • Bretagne @ 07:04 PM:

    Yes, I see where you’re going to; and it has some logic.

    On the other hand, I had a quick flick at the May 2007 figures. SF’s problem was that they could not attract the transfers, virtually anywhere. As long as the electors were offered alternative routes for their later preferences, they took them.

    That leaves SF with two options:
    * build the first-preference vote (“D’oh!”) and/or
    * somehow achieve a lifeline from transfers.

    In the case of that second option, surely we need to hear the other shoe drop.

    By that I mean there has to be some re-alignment on the Left. We don’t know the electorate’s more-considered view of the Greens in bed with Bertie. Nor what they will make of Labour’s retreaded-virginal shriek of “No, no! A thousand times no! I’d rather die than say Yes!”

    Either of those re-appraisals means options for transfers open up or close.

    As for the other option, maximizing first preferences, we need to look at the constituencies.

    Only Cavan-Monaghan delivers an “over-the-top” result. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin hit a neat 100% of the quota, on a 20% share of the valid vote, 2.5% up on 2002 (but dwarfed by Brendan Smith’s 6% leap). Any update on Kev’s present state-of-health, by the way/

    The seat SF could have, and perhaps should have taken was Donegal SW, with 21.2% of the valid vote, 85% of a quota. Pearse Doherty ran close, but no cigar. That seems to me the main target seat. However, it seems that Bertie has already beefed up (no pun intended) FF’s status in SW by giving Mary Coughlan rights of agricultural and fishing largesse.

    Nor do I see that the other three “border” constituencies offering SF much hope, without something nuclear occurring. SF had 15% of the vote, 75% of a quota in Louth; 11.7% of the vote and just 47% of a quota in Sligo-Leitrim and a dismal 8.4% of the vote, and 33.7% of a quota in Roscommon-Leitrim. Admittedly, all these run a bit ahead of their national performance.

    North and west of the border, SF no longer have the kudos of being the opposition. If government is making choices, it’s also having to take the blame as well as the credit for those choices. All the research I have seen implies that a party in government sees its natural level of support decline by 1 to 1.5% a year. We are likely to see whether that rule-of-thumb (which, remember, is supposed to be the measure of what stick is acceptable for wife-beating) applies to SF and the DUP.

    All in, then, I don’t see Bertie being motivated by any fear of SF.

    It isn’t possible, is it, that he’s actually capable of altruism?

  • fair_deal

    Commentors are reminded of the play the ball not the man rule

  • páid @ 08:52 PM:

    Thanks for the undeserved nasturtiums.

    As for Limerick getting the demolition ball, not before time, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving spot.

    I like your neat one liner of the party approaches (your fifth paragraph). I fully expect to recycle it it due course.

  • kensei

    “And, noting the wider history of Europe over the last century or so, not one to cherish greatly.”

    Nope, don’t buy it. Ranting against Nationalism is just like ranting against religion – it has produced both good and bad in great measure, and I switch off if you go a rant about how it causes all the world’s ills.

  • Bretagne

    Malcolm – great post

    Last bit first – Bertie is to altruism, what I am to ballroom dancing!

    Looking at the transfers – as you say “As long as the electors were offered alternative routes for their later preferences, they took them”. I’d forgotton what a desert Donegal SW was for SF transfers.
    I agree – that I am ahead of myself based on the current results – but maybe this, is the scenario Bertie is trying to kill at birth . I am struggling a bit to see the strageic value in organising North, except to save the two SDLP seats, and going after P Doherty.

    And if we discount my dancing capability – Berties must see these seats tranferrring some value south of the border – but what is it?

    I’m tuning into Q&A’s on RTE in a sec to find out.

  • kensei @ 10:28 PM:

    Ah, yes, the heady mixed aroma of religion and nationalism! Just what we need for a juicy Armageddon!

    God heard the assembled nations sing:
    “Gott straffe England!” “God save the King!”
    “God this!” “God that” “God everything!”
    … “My God!” said God,
    “I’ve got my work cut out!”

  • The original Sam Maguire

    Bretagne, as a West Tyrone man I can say – without a shadow of a doubt – there’s absolutely no chance that Pat Doherty or any West Tyrone SF candidate will be beaten in a Westminster election. The SDLP seem to given up the ghost in the area and there’s a distinct possibility they will be down to 1 councillor in the current Strabane DC area and 2 in Omagh DC area after the next local election.

    As for Foyle and South Down, it’s difficult to see the SDLP losing either.

  • Bretagne

    “Bretagne, as a West Tyrone man I can say – without a shadow of a doubt – there’s absolutely no chance that Pat Doherty or any West Tyrone SF candidate will be beaten in a Westminster election.

    Agree it is a long shot – though lets look at the numbers from 2005.

    @Pat Doherty (Sinn Fein) 16,910 (38.9% -1.9%)
    @Kieran Deeny (Independent) 11,905 (27.4%)
    @Thomas Buchanan (DUP) 7,742 (17.8%)
    @Eugene McMenamin (SDLP) 3,949 (9.1% -19.6%)
    @Derek Hussey (UUP) 2,981
    Electorate = 43,487

    I agree the 2007 assembly election was implode for the SDLP fileding three candidates, and that is nearly the impossible hill to climb for any non-SF candidate.

    Adding in Deeny and McMenamin would give an absolute maximum non-SF vote of 15800 – lets say there are 800 or so unionist in there.

    So the gap is 2000 (best case for SDLP). In reality I would accept it is more likely 5000+, asssuming the SDLP voters get out and vote – and the question is how can that gap be decreased. (or defended from an SF point of view).

    Now in comes Berties lads with the deal -(sorry, manifesto) for West Tyrone

    I go for a road upgrade tween Castlederg and the N15 onto Transport 21… even dd a modest through pass of Castlederg as it is a shocker to drive though. (say £3m) Its in T21 alrady so a minor change could improve access to services etc.
    About 5 miles single carraigeway needs realigned from memory.

    A plan to use some services in Omagh Hospital paid for by Dublin – may be even a border area hub with the Donegal Community Hospital.

    As an out of the sky suggestion, I suggest the extension of the the Bio-energy Establishment Scheme to western border regions.

    Now this is about positioning – is is possible to win West Tyrone in one hit? That depends on when Gordon calls the election – but a list of 10-12 costed ideas such as above would dent Pats’ lead – particulary if Northern FF/SD MP’s were considered part of the FF parliamentary team in the Dail.
    Hard, very hard, yes, I wouldn’t say never.
    And even it it fails first time out – it puts SFon the defensive in the North. Strategically that may still be worth it.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    This is going to make me look like a SF sycophant, but just because I’m realist doesn’t make it so. Bretagne, I don’t know if you’re from West Tyrone or not, you seem to know a fair bit about it but you seem to have no idea how inept the SDLP organisation is in WT.

    West Tyrone is as safe a seat as Mid Ulster or Newry & Armagh for SF now. I’m not sure where this idea came from, but there seems to be a notion that Pat Doherty is a weak candidate despite having a 5,000+ majority in ’01 and ’05. This seems to stem from ’97 when he was beat into 3rd place by Willie Thompson and Joe Byrne.

    That was a SF faux pax. Parachuting someone into a constituency only works when said individual has the necessary profile and this wasn’t the case 10 years ago. I mean the news and editorial staff of the main nationalist paper in West Tyrone didn’t even know Doherty was the SF VP the day after his candidacy was announced in 97. They were more shocked that it wasn’t Barry McElduff or Francie Mackey.

    Anyway, the crux of your argument seems to be that all Deeny and SDLP votes are non SF votes. Possibly, but looking at the local election results on the same day, I could suggest that 2000 Deeny voters that day also voted SF locally and that would be equally valid.

    In the long term could an FF / SDLP alliance lead to a resurgence in WT? I’d never say never, but the SDLP haven’t even hit rock bottom yet. Allow me some leeway to speculate.

    Castlederg is up there as one of the most, how shall we say, ‘divided’ towns in the North. The Nationalist community of the Derg and Aghyaran are so staunch I wouldn’t be surprised if half of Joe O’Neill’s vote in the assembly election came from the Derg area alone. The SDLP had half a quota in ’05 – the promise of a new road *might* keep their vote static, but if they’ve 300 total votes in 09 in the Derg they’ll be doing well.

    In Glenelly and Mourne, whilst Eugene McMenamin has the profile and in all probability at least 1 quota in Mourne, the same can’t be said in Glenelly, where the SDLP are now under a quota and this a trend that is unlikely to be reversed in the near future.

    Now that’s Strabane District Council for you and if they go down as low as a single councillor then I’m afraid that’s the end of the road.

    Omagh just isn’t as critical YET. There’s a safe quota in Omagh for Jo Deehan who’ll be around a while, but if Pat McDonnell or in a more likely scenario Seamus Shields don’t stand they SDLP will be in serious bother in Mid Tyrone and West Tyrone. They had 6,000 odd votes in this year’s assembly election, by the time of the locals I’d estimate their vote will be somewhere in the region of 4,500-5,000. And if Deeny continues to talk about running candidates in the local elections then that might be overly optimistic.

    The ONLY chance for a recovery in my humble opinion is Deeny throwing his lot in as the candidate in a FF / SDLP coalition then it could be in interesting, but I think there’s too much bitterness around from this years assembly elections for that to be a factor in the short term.

  • Bretagne

    Original Sam Maguire –

    Great post – comprehensive and apologies, I thought I had posted earlier

    “The ONLY chance for a recovery in my humble opinion is Deeny throwing his lot in as the candidate in a FF / SDLP coalition then it could be in interesting,……”

    Agree – this is the only chance- its not that I think Pat Doherty is weak, it just the alternative is terrible. I think the thrust of where I ended up, is that with FF coming North – the benefit of being an MP in Westminster is less and less, as the power lies in Stormont, and more in Dublin. Really an MP is more window dressing that anything else, for SF at any rate. That being the case, it is really how much has Pat Doherty delivered – (little as an MP), and how easily voters can be bought (Bertie is rather good at this).

    People voting for Deeny as a FF/SDLP man, with access to the FF parliamentary party, and a long list of Berties “promises top pay the voter on demand” is a different proposition…..

    If we take the current differential as 7000ish (by adding in your 2k ish), how much could that be dented?

    With the lure of a few roads, maybe even rail etc for Derry- Lifford, Strabane and Omagh, ie how long would the shopping list need to be to dent SF vote? Raises uncomfortable questions about buying the vote – but thats FF’s record. Its also a strageic weakness for SF, that they wield no power as MP’s, whereas a FF/sdlp MP would (through Dublin), and SF have no sweeties to distribute. .

    SO you arrive at a point that says (maybe)- I can lend my vote to FF/SDLP in West Tyrone for Westminster, as its abstentionist anyway, doesn’t hurt SF in the council or assembly, but we get a sweetie bag from Bertie”. What is the strageic value to FF in coming North if not to head SF off at the pass?