Sinn Fein does a flip, flop, flip?

There are of course some delicate issues around protocol and procedures that must await either some kind of resolution in-house, or fuller disclosure. But one question that the legal advice (delivered to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on Tuesday morning) raises is where does Sinn Fein stand politically on all of this? Martin McGuinness last night noted that, “…there was no vote whatsoever on her statement in the assembly. There was no vote whatsoever on the Conflict Transformation Initiative. In fact, there was trenchant criticism by all ministers but the decision was taken by Peter Hain in the first place to fund the UDA.” Now contrast that with this question to the Minister from Caral Ní Chuilín, well into the afternoon of the morning her party colleague Mr McGuinness had been fully appraised of both sets of legal advice Ms Ritchie had received:

“Does she agree that, as someone who is in the public eye, she, as Minister for Social Development, and her Department funded the UDA?”


    They’re all over the place. It’s embarassing.

    And we haven’t even looked at Conor Murphy’s water charges yet.

  • inyourdreams

    Wishfull thinking URQUHART. Hain started the process, Ritchie continued.


    “Wishfull thinking URQUHART. Hain started the process, Ritchie continued.” – inyourdreams

    Did you not get the memo that the position taken on Tuesday was a mistake? You’ve moved on from that one now – the new argument is that Margaret is an hyterical woman who has lost the run of herself and can’t be trusted. It’s equally untrue, but at least try to keep up.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Umm… I think she stopped it, unless the last three days have been a figment of my imagination.

    SF look clueless – backing Ritchie ‘in principle’ not to fund the UDA-linked project, yet siding with the DUP over the minutes. They look like they’re in this for cheap political, unprincipled advantage. Whether any legal challenge to Ritchie’s decision succeeds or not, if Gordon Brown had called an election, Ritchie would have wiped the floor with Ruane.

  • BOM

    Pity they wouldnt flip right over the edge and let the sensible people govern!

  • Nevin

    London and Dublin both have a ‘cosy’ relationship with paramilitaries – in this case loyalists:

    “A spokesman at the Department of the Taoiseach in Dublin confirmed it was helping to fund the memorial: ‘The aim of the fund is to assist and encourage the development of local organisations. The Taoiseach approved a grant of €4,000 for a piece of artwork to commemorate the link between the 16th Irish and the 36th Ulster Divisions,’ the spokesman said.

    Towards the end of the Troubles Mount Vernon became synonymous with violence, collusion, drug dealing and intimidation. The area was home to ousted UVF figure Mark Haddock, exposed this year by police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan as a police agent.

    The Observer can also reveal that an official of the Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Aine de Baroid, who was subjected to a loyalist death threat, met the UDA on Belfast’s Shankill Road this month. The groundbreaking meeting took place at a community centre near the Lower Shankill, heartland of exiled loyalist boss Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair.

    Loyalist sources said it was held on 10 July to discuss how the Irish government could revive loyalist working-class areas. The two sides also talked about the loyalist marching which turned out to be one of the most peaceful in decades.

    Several UDA commanders from west and north Belfast attended the discussion with Irish officials including De Baroid. She has engaged with the UDA leadership for several years but was subject to a death threat from extremists. This time, however, members of the illegal organisation stood guard outside the community house on the Shankill Road to ensure her safety.

    UDA leaders including overall commander Jackie McDonald have a strong relationship with De Baroid and her team. However the UDA is still riven by factionalism which threatens to erupt into violence. The mainstream UDA is in conflict with the south-east Antrim brigade which refuses to recognise McDonald’s leadership.” .. Observer, July 22, 2007

    Ritchie has stepped outside the comfort zone that her former boss, John Hume, helped to create ie the Adams-Hume ‘process’.

    Not only, it seems, were paramilitary feathers not to be ruffled without political clearance, they were to be kept warm.

  • DC

    The people of the Republic of Ireland must be comforted that Sinn Fein performed so badly in the recent elections there.

    Could you imagine the farce of them trying to handle more weightier briefs!

  • Nevin

    Perhaps, I should add that Ritchie appears to be following in the footsteps of that SDLP ‘maverick’, Eddie McGrady, MP for South Down. His contributions to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster tend not to pull punches when its comes to highlighting the fascism and mafiaism of loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

  • Gum

    Aye Nevin, when he bothers himself to turn up. An Eddie McGrady sighting, let alone a speech, at Westminster is a rare occurrence.

  • Frank Sinistra


    I’d be wary of judging any electoral impact coming from this as some SDLP supporters are doing, they have convinced themselves they’ve given the shinners a bloody nose in the past on similar issues – OTRs and MI5 but when push comes to shove they lose more ground. If she achieves something – the ending of CTI funding – it might rate with the electorate but screaming about the shinners on these issues has never benefited them by even a single vote in the past.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The Shinners looked utterly wrong-footed on both those issues, so I doubt if they gained any votes over them either.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Indeed. Though the assumption many are making that the SDLP benefit in the eyes of the electorate from their handling of these issues is proven incorrect. I’d suggest delivering an outcome over criticising others many be a more beneficial goal, the shinners seemed to sky-rocket once they pretty much ignored the SDLP’s contributions. Might be a lesson in there, forget about the attacks and get on with promoting yourself?

    Not that it’d inspire me to vote for any of them. If they want my vote they’d have to do something radical like being a socialist voice in the Assembly (and a bit more) – say opposing things like PFI and Water Charges but I’m cleary living in some sort of Marxist utopian fantasy land.

    And I’m hoping that Ritchie manages to find a mechanism to remove the money, if at first she doesn’t succeed I hope she tries again with a Section 75 tack.

    Hopefully, someone pisses on the UDA’s chips at some point.


    Frank Sinistra talks about this latest move being in same line as the SDLP’s position on OTR’s and MI5. I agree – it’s another example of the SDLP being practically alone in realising what is actually going on and how woefully inadequate SF are at representing the interests of the wider community.

    Where I disagree is his view that the SDLP is doing it because they see some electoral advantage. Don’t assume your motives in others. Has it occurred to you that some politicians make decisions because it’s the right thing to do?

  • Frank Sinistra


    You’re reading more into my comment than is there. I didn’t question motive, I questioned the repeated tactic of turning these issues into a full-frontal on the shinners over a clear presentation of their own policy and objectives. I’m saying the anti-shinner focus so beloved of the SDLP of late has brought no tangible benefit and they may be better off working on presentation of their own platform instead of looking for lash out opportunities.

    I do agree with the ‘losing the run of themselves’ comments. You are a demonstration of it in cyberspace – right issue, wrong focus. Or so my reading of past handling of similar issues and electoral outcomes seems to indicate. Maybe this time it’ll work out for ‘you’ but it never has before.

  • Frank Sinistra


    A prime example in this instance, criticising the shinners for voting with the DUP comes across an appeal to tribalism. Instead of dealing with the issue it becomes about who the shinners vote with not the substance of the vote.

    A desire to slap the shinners on every aspect leads the SDLP into what is essentially a call for sectarian solidarity. Bad tactic around the right issue, imo.


    Frank, you’re missing the point of my contribution. I mentioned SF here only because you brought up the examples of OTRs and MI5, which were other examples of how SF put their sectoral interests ahead of the WIDER community interest.

    If I’ve singled out SF hypocrisy elsewhere on this subject, it’s only in response to what appears to be a fairly cynical attempt to make the ‘hysterical woman’ label stick.

    The issue here as I see it is Peter Robinson trying to dictate the terms and decisions of the Executive. It has fallen to Margaret Ritchie, and now Reg Empey to stand up and challenge it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This just reminds us about how centrally-run Sinn Fein is. It’s obvious that decisions about what line to take are made centrally, and then all the party’s spokespersons and elected reps slavishly repeat the line when prompted. That’s exactly what we saw in the Assembly earlier this week.