Exclusive: Sinn Fein councillor ‘suspended without prejudice’

Slugger understands that Fermanagh Sinn Fein Councillor Bernice Swift has been suspended from the party ‘without prejudice pending review’. Ms Swift’s offence? It would appear speaking out against the party line on policing and District Police Partnerships. Pete blogged her fairly cogent arguments, originally carried in the Impartial Reporter, earlier in the month:

The DPPs possess significantly less influence than the limited powers of the policing board. The Patten recommendations, (and indeed subsequent similar legislation), states that the views of the DPPs would only be ‘taken fully into account’ by the police and it also makes clear that these bodies would have no power to investigate police activities or to approve policing plans for their areas?

The lack of powers possessed by these boards and sub boards means that meaningful control and accountability by the community is impossible, as the control and accountability mechanisms rest elsewhere. These accountability mechanisms may have been tweaked recently but it is quite clear to me that such activist as those of MI5 will not be subject to any interference from these boards.

This interesting for a number of reasons. It is absolutely true that political parties are in effect collective enterprises all be it made up from lots of different minded individuals. They have a right to expect members to toe the line. The trouble here is that Ms Swift’s arguments reflect the feelings of those in other parties and are borne out by the fact that DDPs have struggled to retain the interest and enthusiasm of represents from as far apart as Fermanagh and North Down. Though Ms Swift’s arguments take a much wider purview than the usual grumblings about DPPs just being ‘pointless talking shops’.

That her remarks have warranted such a censorious response may be because her critique goes to the heart of misgivings shared by a lot of people in Republican heartlands: that the deal brought Sinn Fein back from St Andrews was no better, and indeed possibly a good deal worse than the previous deal the party so heavily criticised the SDLP for, which at least gave local politicians some sense of what the Intelligence Services might be up to.

What should worry insiders is the potential loss of a talented local councillor. No party (on any of these islands) is so awash with talent that it can let go of its best people cheaply. Indeed, as last week’s poorly managed parliamentary attack and the disappointing performance of some of its key Ministers demonstrates, such top down micro management of dissent is not necessarily the best way to build up a coalition of talent, never mind a new generation of leaders.

As one commentator suggested to Slugger, it is as though the party has no coping mechanism to help it manage the enormous changes it’s going through.

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  • Belfast Gonzo

    Also, from yesterday’s Irish News:

    Sinn Fein councillor Marie McKeegan formally resigned her seat in Moyle Council last night. Ms McKeegan, from Cushendun, announced she was stepping down at yesterday’s council meeting although she will stay as a member of the party. A by-election is expected to be held in early December after Sinn Fein Ballymena representative Padraig McShane and independent James McCarry were put forward as possible replacements.

  • The Raven

    Wonder how long it will be, before St Anne of Dungiven or some of the other usual suspects get the heave-ho….?

  • missfitz

    I know Bernice to be an articulate, intelligent and gifted individual. She is also one of the most hard working councilors in Fermanagh, whose dedication and enthusiasm is inspiring.

    Getting shafted in such a fashion by Sinn Féin is indicative of quite a few things, not least a lack of appreciation of talent within the ranks. Or perhaps there is a recognition by some, prompting such action by those who feel threatened.

    I am more inclined to this idea of a lack of ability to cope or deal with situations outside the remit of the upper echelons. We saw that last week when the MLA’s were unable to deal with an unexpected statement from Margaret Ritchie.

    So here we have a bright young thing making a fairly sensible pronouncement getting suspended by the party elders.

    What does this tell us about Sinn Fein and what should we try to learn? Well, to begin with, we have a young aprty who dont know what to do outside the obvious scripted responses to practical acts of opposition. In other words, a party who were more used to physical disobedience such as car theft, dangerous driving or other criminal acts. It was easy enough to take alternative action in such cases and accept the ceasefire as a reason to prohibit physical force reaction.

    But what of the mind police? The dangerous ones who try to control thought and action, who cannot cope with original ideas or challenge? Calling out the mind police in this fashion speaks of an immaturity and inability to deal with Real Politik that is frightening. How they hope to govern that cannot accept debate is beyond me.

  • Frank Sinistra

    A shot across the bows to the rest of the elected reps and membership?

    As SF u-turn on policy after policy and drift further from promises and expectations maybe the only way to keep people on message is by a very clear warning to all that no matter what your ability and commitment, no matter how clearly you see the emperor’s nudity, if you mutter one word off message you are out the door.

    Or is there no dissent in SF on issues like implementing PFI and Water charges along with issues like running interference for the PSNI? Bernice a lone voice of dissent and integrity? The rest silenced or nodding along in agreement with the complete change in direction and policy?

  • saveus

    Further signs of the party imploding, with more to come, there was absolutely no change managment process within the party for what has been happening, nudge, wink and side of the mouth speak still rule the roost, with ideas, intelligece and talent,treated as a threat to the newly installed “leadership”, and ruthlessly put down,expelled or isolated.
    More to come, and in a few years the party will only be inhabited by former soldiers and wannabees.

  • Garibaldy

    No big deal. Wasn’t Francie Molloy chastised recently without any major effects? Fairly normal political practice, though applied with more consistency and ruthlessness than most.

  • Mick-

    “the deal brought Sinn Fein back from St Andrews was no better, and indeed possibly a good deal worse than the previous deal the party so heavily criticised the SDLP for, which at least gave local politicians some sense of what the Intelligence Services might be up to.”

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. The SDLP was repeatedly attacked by SF for going onto the Policing Board and DDPs for a numnber of years. How often did we hear the tired ‘you jumped too soon’ accusations? Then all of a sudden the SF leadership does a u-turn and likewise the wider party falls lock, stock and barrel behind the policing structures, no questions asked. Why? Did SF get a date for devolution of policing powers, a provision that they claimed needed to be in place before they joined the PB and DPPs? No. Did they get any major expedition of the implementation of Patten? No. They did however hand over oversight of the operations of British Secret Services.

    So where does that leave us? Clearly one would assume that SF is not full of automatons (although the 180 degree u-turn on policing by the leadership and the ensuing domino-like endorsement by SF supporters for the change would arguably suggest otherwise), so those members capable of independent thought are going to find themselves vexed at the complete lack of basis for SF’s change in policy on policing.

    Swift has merely voiced the ‘old’ SF position which was so strongly promoted prior to the extraordinary ard fheis. In the absence of anything to have made her change her mind on the issue of the policing structures, one would have thought that her comments would be quite legitimate from a SF member. However, for SF representatives it appears that logic must be jettisoned in favour of political expediency- Swift made the mistake of getting it the wrong way around, and has therefore found herself at the receiving end of provisional disciplinary wrath.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Garibaldy,

    You think? SF seem to operate on the outer edge of democratic centralism which is bizarre for a party happily endorsing mandatory coalition and ideological compromise at the top end. The willingness to compromise or accept alternate views is fine for leadership and not permitted by the base.

    Twisted logic to me.

  • CTN

    Another backfiring blunder from the most boneheaded, arrogant and disconnected “leadership” in the world.

    One wonders were the same words uttered by Scappitici or Donaldson would their mates be so quick with the big stick.

    3 Councilors have stood down in Dublin in the last week.

    I agree with saveus completely – a dictatorship ran shambles which is set for more implosion and we won’t have to wait too long for it to intensify….

  • hib

    A henchmans club through and through with no space for anyone outside the lackey circle- shame on you McGuinness and Adams you are beneath contempt!

  • CTN-

    “Another backfiring blunder from the most boneheaded, arrogant and disconnected “leadership” in the world.”

    I wouldn’t say that. The provisional leadership, over the course of 25 years or so, has managed to turn the ship around completely in every respect, successfully bringing the bulk of the leadership with them and managing to do extraordinarily well in northern elections. The mark of failure will be if there are many more ‘Swift incidents’, defections and a drop in support at the polls.

    Much as I reject the provisional analysis, one has to hand it to the leadership for the way they have successfully managed to change utterly everything their organisation once stood for.

    Where they go from here is another question…

  • Frank Sinistra

    Or, with a limited focus on socialism having to play out the Leninist-Bolshevik-Menshevik-Stalinist debate decades after everyone* else worked out Menshevik was right all along.

    *well, democratic socialists

    I apologise if the references above are going above the heads of some.

  • Outsider

    Swift wont be missed around Fermanagh a terrible councillor and quite lazy as well.

  • Former SF member

    In relation to this intervention by the thought-police against Bernice Swift, its worth pointing out that the late John Kelly said in a interview with the Irish News’ Stephen McCaffery some time ago that “I began to feel that within Sinn Féin republicanism there was no room or no space for people to have an opinion that was different from the leadership’s opinion, and I felt that was contrary to the whole spirit of republicanism. It was contrary, not only to republicanism, but to the whole concept of the civil rights movement where people living in a police state had been denied the right to have a political opinion that was contrary to unionism….Sinn Féin are a very controlled organisation,” he said.
    “Some of my republican colleagues referred to them as a benign dictatorship. That’s their cynical view of it. It is a ‘control dictatorship’ with all the elite at the top. Everything has to be filtered through that and no-one else is to be given space to express an opinion…..I think there are people who would be echoing what I am saying, but who at the end of the day would do what they were told,” he said.
    “So there was a distinction between whether you wanted to go along with that, or whether you wanted to – not be your own man – but to at least be allowed the dignity to express your own opinion.
    “And not to be treated as someone who is incapable of having a political opinion, or doesn’t have the intelligence to have a political opinion.”

    I’m sure Bernice and others can now the wisdom of John’s words.

    Bernice is a not your ordinary SF cllr. She is also project manager with Firinne, a group which works on behalf of victims of state-sponsored violence throughout County Fermanagh. Firinne have three people employed who are currently working with the victims and their families, helping them to address their trauma and counselling needs and also in the pursuit of their legal cases to find out the truth about collusion in County Fermanagh.

    She is also, along with the DUP’s Lord Maurice Morrow, one of the two alternate members of the Committee of the Regions set up by the EU in 1994 under the Treaty on the European Union, as an advisory political assembly representing local and regional authorities in the European Union. The two full members are two ministers- Conor Murphy and Edwin Poots. So clearly, SF believed that she had future potential.

    Interestingly, in February Póilín Uí Cathain resigned as a councillor from Sinn Féin in the aftermath of the special Ard Fhéis on policing. At the time she was quoted as saying “I sincerely hope that my reservations regarding Sinn Fein`s support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be proven wrong. I believe that this decision is now irreversible. Thereforewhile I can afford to be wrong, I don`t believe that SinnFein has that luxury.”

    Both Bernice Swift and Poilin Uí Cathain were elected in May 2005 for the Erne West electoral area of Fermanagh Council which includes Belcoo, Garrison, Boho, Cleenish & Letterbreen, Derrygonnelly, Derrylin, FlorenceCourt & Kinawley

  • missfitz

    Garibaldy
    Are you suggesting that a prohibition on airing a political view is ‘normal practice’? Like, seriously!

    The point being missed I think is that the areas raised by Swift were not hinges of the political platform. They were fairly low grade questions on the efficacy of the local DPP.

    Ironically, the DPPs as they now stand will probably be abolished by 2010 to fall in line with the new DCU’s which were meant to align with the never never RPA structures. So, it is in many ways much ado about nothing

    Which underscores my core point that this party is not dealing in a fair, open and democratic fashion with debate among the members, and such stringent measures will do nothing but ultimately destroy the party.

  • truth,hurts

    what a dictatorship, cllr swifts comments seemed to have hit a raw nerve with the leadership. i wonder will this tactic rebound on the party? im sure she was speaking what alot of other cllrs and members are thinking? Maybe sinn fein should look to bring back SECTION 31 BROADCASTING BAN but only on party members with there on mind and brain? the rest of the sheep should be ok.

  • slug

    “Wasn’t Francie Molloy chastised recently without any major effects?”

    Yes, in his case he was opposed to the 7 council model, whereas SF were in favour.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Miss Fitz,

    This is an a rerun of a debate had before any of us were born. How a ‘revolutionary’ party transforms once they stop fighting the war.

    I’m happy to be be in the minority ‘Mensheviks’. The Bolshies just lead to Stalinism.

    Hooray for Bernice. Good to see at least one willing to say no to the Bolshies.

    Though her card is marked as always.

  • Lamaria

    As per usual there are those that are attempting to predict an impending “implosion” of Sinn Féin from a fairly insignificant episode. It is absolutely ridiculous and way off the mark.

    Sinn Féin is not about to implode because the party has reprimanded a Fermanagh councillor.

    Sinn Féin has survived the policing challenge with a series of carefully, crafted well-managed maneuvres that were only made with the support of the vast majority of Sinn Féin grass roots. The criticism of the SDLP came when this grass root support wasn’t assured – it now is.

    SF survived all the policing debates at a potentially harmful time politically (i.e. there was an election campaign). Does anyone remember Davy Hyland, Kathy Stanton? – these were higher profile names than Swift and former MLAs of course.

    “The potential loss of a talented councillor” is not going to overly worry “insiders”. There is a raft of young, up and coming talent in Sinn Féin at both council and Assembly level, particularly in comparison to some of their political rivals – The UUP and SDLP are rather lacking in comparison.
    SF has survived the potential policing crisis with an increased share of the vote and an increased representation in the Assembly.

    Imminent implosion?? Where will the votes go? to the SDLP…? to a new Republican party…? There is absolutely no sign or evidence whatsoever of either of these situations happening and for anyone to infer that it will happen from recent events is to seriously underestimate the strength of Sinn Féin’s party political machine.

  • Outsider

    Hooray for Bernice. Good to see at least one willing to say no to the Bolshies.

    Frank Sinistra

    Behind all the rhetoric from Swift the simple fact is she wont support the police force and it seems she would much prefer to go back to old Sinn Fein policies of simply killing police personnel. I don’t applaud this she is a pathetic public representative and has no role in a civilised society. How many people like her exist in Sinn Fein and continue to pour scorn on the police, quite a few I would assume and many of these know who killed the young man at the weekend.

  • missfitz

    Lamaria

    I can understand that this makes uncomfortable reading for people, but I am approaching this from a more academic perspective, as are many of the other commentators.

    While there is obviously the individual situation of Bernice Swift to consider, there are wider and more significant implications for Sinn Fein as a party who want to continue to attract voters and remain within the democratic framework.

    Yes, certainly, it is hard to point and say that voters can go to alternative parties at this particular point in time. Having said that, I think we are seeing a continuation of a hardline and non-participatory approach to politics that cannot continue indefinitely.

    This may not be a loud implosion, but it may indeed be the beginning of the end.

  • Outsider

    This may not be a loud implosion, but it may indeed be the beginning of the end.

    Missfitz

    The end of what, Sinn Feins aspirations for a United Ireland?

  • Frank Sinistra

    MissFitz,

    Don’t sound the death bell yet. I’m deeply encouraged by the growth of éirígí in the north.

    Us ‘hardliners’ ain’t beat yet.

    – to steal from a northern ireland fan – Onwards and Upwards.

  • truth,hurts

    ‘no role in a civilised society’

    OUTSIDER you surely are an outsider of fermanagh, your character assassisnation attempt on cllr swift is disgraceful, she is an excellent cllr for the people of fermanagh and has represented all people of all areas in fermanagh. im suprised you can get the internet in that cave that you are living in, the only thing thats PATHETIC was your last two posts. put up a good argument or just SHUT UP.

  • Lamaria

    Missfitz

    I respectfully disagree, the debate has been won.

    both the DUP and Sinn Féin i think you will find will be surprisingly robust in future years when occurances like this attempt to challenge the political focus of the leadership.

    The Assembly now focusses attention on the 108 MLAs, they are closely kept in line by party whips. Even if MLAs are to step out of line, the party’s will survive with no damage as long as there is no significant number or if they are insignificant party players.

    The DUP won the power-sharing battle, they would only have been in danger if significant players like Dodds, Campbell and McCrea had not been convinced. In the end it was only the likes of Jim Allister, George Ennis, Mel Lucas and some North Antrim Councillors who took exception. Are they on the verge of implosion as well??

    The same principle is true with Sinn Féin over policing. Insignificant political players very rarely capture the public attention in NI (the only one in recent yrs that I can think of was a single issue campaign by Kieran Deeny in West Tyrone, but he wasn’t attempting to bring down a whole political party!)

  • Outsider

    he potential loss of a talented councillor” is not going to overly worry “insiders”. There is a raft of young, up and coming talent in Sinn Féin at both council and Assembly level, particularly in comparison to some of their political rivals – The UUP and SDLP are rather lacking in comparison.

    Lamaria

    True, Orgra Sinn Fein has many truely wonderful and enlightened members in it, just make sure they stay off the roofs of Orange Halls.

  • The Raven

    “Wasn’t Francie Molloy chastised recently without any major effects?”

    “Yes, in his case he was opposed to the 7 council model, whereas SF were in favour.”

    Aye…and where is it now? Promotion rather than relegation for Francie should be the order of the day, methinks.

  • Frank Sinistra

    BTW: Miss Fitz, your challenging blogs are greatly missed, any chance of you getting well enough to start blogging again?

  • Lamaria

    OUTSIDER

    I think the organisation you are referring to is Ógra Shinn Féin but I will forgive your spelling as well as your sarcasm. It surprises me that you choose to bring them up as they, as an organisation, voted against policing at the Special Ard Fheis although they maintained they would accept the result of the vote.

    I think if you read my comments again I say there is a raft of young, up and coming talent in Sinn Féin at both council and Assembly level. This does not necessarily refer to Ógra members, but rather elected representatives such as Daithí McKay MLA, Michelle O’Neill MLA, Paul Maskey MLA, John O’Dowd MLA, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, Tierna Cunningham etc etc

  • Outsider

    Those members are a pretty sterile bunch who simply follow the party line, O’Dowd being a classic example (and hardly young).

    BTW my spelling of Orgra Sinn Fein was intentional and I have read several letters in the Irish news from them claiming they are the future of Sinn Fein so…….

  • The Dubliner

    “Much as I reject the provisional analysis, one has to hand it to the leadership for the way they have successfully managed to change utterly everything their organisation once stood for.” – El Matador

    Sure, but as old time republican said of PIRA, “Those fellows weren’t republicans; they were just fighting for control of the streets.” It helps the process of discarding all of one’s principles if they weren’t held as principles to begin with.

    As you pointed out, PSF and its members cynically criticised the SDLP’s qualified support for the PSNI and then did a u-turn, not only endorsing the PSNI, but endorsing a deal that gave MI5 the freedom to operate sans the scrutiny of the Police Ombudsman or any other public scrutiny. PSF managed to persuade a staggering 95% of its members to vote at the RDS to endorse the party’s endorsement of an organisation that many of those members spent the previous 30 years murdering as “the Crown’s forces of occupation.” So, was that down to the leadership awesome debating skills in overturning deeply held convictions or down to the absence of deeply held convictions and an absence of a debate?

    You can only explain it by seeing PSF as a sectarian cult, wherein the members are encouraged to have absolute faith in the ability of the leaders to deliver their supposedly shared goals and are discourgaed from thinking independently or critically about the actions of the leaders. PSF always encouraged its members to dismiss any criticism of the leaders or the ‘movement’ as being hostile propaganda from the enemy that had the ulterior aim of dividing and conquering them. That encouraged great solidarity and ensured that only the leaders’ version of events would be accepted to by the members. They always considered that “Ourselves Alone” mentality to be their greatest strength when in reality it was their greatest weakness. All the ‘enemy’ had to do was control the leaders in order to control the members, for whoever led the leaders led the movement. And that’s where they led them: deeper and deeper into the United Kingdom without even realising it. To say that British Intelligence won PIRA’s phoney little sectarian ‘war’ is rather pointless because in that masterful chess game the ‘republicans’ don’t even know that they’ve lost.

  • Outsider

    OUTSIDER you surely are an outsider of fermanagh, your character assassisnation attempt on cllr swift is disgraceful, she is an excellent cllr for the people of fermanagh and has represented all people of all areas in fermanagh. im suprised you can get the internet in that cave that you are living in, the only thing thats PATHETIC was your last two posts. put up a good argument or just SHUT UP.

    truth,hurts

    I may be deamed to be living in a cave but you must be living in cloud cuckoo land if you think Swift has done a good job in Fermanagh and has represented all the people. Her failure to accept the police force immediately isolates herself from the constituents she claims to represent especially those victims of crime.

    I would be surprised if any Unionist in Fermanagh felt she was doing a good job, I’d actually be surprised if anyone outside of slugger felt she was doing a good job.

  • CTN

    El Mat “I wouldn’t say that. The provisional leadership, over the course of 25 years or so, has managed to turn the ship around completely in every respect, successfully bringing the bulk of the leadership with them and managing to do extraordinarily well in northern elections. The mark of failure will be if there are many more ‘Swift incidents’, defections and a drop in support at the polls.

    Much as I reject the provisional analysis, one has to hand it to the leadership for the way they have successfully managed to change utterly everything their organisation once stood for”.

    We must never forget Adams’ words “we cannot win this struggle with the south tagged on- it must be an all Ireland revolution”.

    SF have been crushed beyond all belief and expectation in Dublin- a 47% vote drop in just 3 years- with Dumbo and Mary Lou on death row to boot!!

    The loss of other councilors throughout Ireland is a clear sign that Adams’ warped influence now is coming to an end after 40 years of reckless butchery, dictatorship and Basil Fawlty style incompetence….

  • Outsider

    CTN

    As much as I agree with what you have said Sinn Fein have not fallen apart in the South as of yet, I feel the next election there will be the real acid test.

    Besides in NI they just get stronger and stronger.

  • CTN

    Dont forget their rise down south helped them rise up north and they certainly have fallen apart in Dublin with scores of members leaving- even an economic downturn wont help them like it used to after Adams’ smackdown by McDowell on PrimeTime together with all these resignations and the rise of the People for Profit campaign.

    Fine Gael and the new lefter than ever Labour party under Eamonn G won’t help their attempted recovery either.

    All and all they’re Adams is in it big time- right place for the obnoxious buffoon…

  • CTN

    sorry typo should be All and all Adams is…

  • PeaceandJustice

    missfitz – “I know Bernice to be an articulate, intelligent and gifted individual.”

    Having read some of Ms Swift’s previous comments, she is a sectarian bigot who has no desire to make peace with her Protestant neighbours. I have to agree with ‘Outsider’: “it seems she would much prefer to go back to old Sinn Fein policies of simply killing police personnel.”

    As I understand it, Ms Swift’s group Firinne represents 12 families yet employs 3 people. The Protestants of border areas such as Fermanagh have suffered much bigger losses and have very little resources. As Mr Swift’s friends in the SF IRA death squads were responsible for most of the murders, she is not concerned about the welfare of Protestant families.

    But it’s a positive step that she has been suspended from SF IRA.

  • hib

    I’m worried as a republican that all the invective against Bernice is coming from unionists!

  • CTN

    hib- do you support PSF?

  • hib

    CTN

    Like yourself and many others I will when they appoint a new leadership sufficiently distant from A & McG

  • provo32

    I believe councilor swifts comments on policing partnerships were justified and a true reflection of the grass roots of Sinn Fein in the Northwest. I feel it was a mistake for the party to suspend her. There must be no room for debate in the party anymore.

  • Garibaldy

    Is it a question of no room for debate or no room for debate internally? Those are two different things. Doing this type of thing every so often makes them look really hard and disciplined. But of little practical value.

    Frank Sinistra says this is democratic centralism. As I said before, this is more just centralism.

  • Rory

    As interesting as many of the above comments are most really have no real import whatsoever since it is only the opinions of Sinn Fein members that really matter in any discussion on the potential breach of party discipline by the councillor and while it would be nice to know their opinions it would be unrealistic to ask for public comments from those ranks at this stage while an internal party investigation is pending.

    Still, a little bit of pointless gossip is always a pleasant way to pass the time before luncheon.

  • Mick Hall

    Imminent implosion?? Where will the votes go? to the SDLP…? to a new Republican party…? There is absolutely no sign or evidence whatsoever of either of these situations happening and for anyone to infer that it will happen from recent events is to seriously underestimate the strength of Sinn Féin’s party political machine.

    Posted by Lamaria

    Lamaria,

    I’m sure I saw Bertie licking his lips when looking through your window the other day 😉

    Frank S
    Whilst it is fine to be a Bolshevik when a revolutionary situation prevails, I agree when the moment passes more can be gained from taking a Menshevik stance. It is just that the Shinner leadership still don’t seem to have got the hang of internal party democracy, preferring to follow the example of Uncle Joe, less the Lubyanka prison of course.

  • provo32

    Lamaria;

    “Sinn fein’s party political machine” What machine, this is a pure myth. Did you not see the recent election results in the 26 counties. Do you think adams and mcguinness have some machine hid away in stormont. The SF leadership is in total disaray and it is time it was changed in my opinion. Its more like a dictatorship than a leadership. Grassroots members need to take the lead in this.

  • I Wonder

    Hmm..very different assessments of the quality of this individual, whom I don’t know personally.

    I think, though, on reputational grounds, I would go with Miss Fitz’s assessment.

    I wonder, given Mick’s view above, where Ms. Swift will go now?

  • tweedledee

    Bog standard party politics that once a party adopts a policy all elected reps and spokespersons publicly follow that line. Dissent on the policy is for internal debate.

    If SF grassroots were opposed to the policy they had their opportunity to debate it and vote it down at the extraordinary Ard Fheis.

    When’s the next Ard Fheis? Because there’s another chance for those opposed to any policies to put forward their own policies and let the delegates debate and vote.

  • truth,hurts

    i would be very surprised if the sinn fein leadership would allow anyone to put forward any motions against the policing position at next years ard fheis. as the ard fheis as now live on RTE sinn fein would be trying to put forward a strong show of support for the recent change of policy to support the PSNI. Cllr swift has made the front of the impartial reporter today and by the sounds of it she isnt going to go away, fair play to her. Dont let anyone be fooled there was no debate within sinn fein on policing this decision was leadership driven and those opposed but who stayed in the party were sold it on lies and empty promises they got from the out going prime minister Tony Blair. This dictator leadership has got rid many good republicans in recent years just because they could not reform them into a head nodding moran, i would prefare to be suspened for having my own mind and views than to be forced to reform into something that i wasnt.

  • CTN

    It must be taken on board this lady has not resigned of yet nor been found guilty of a breach by SF.

    The main point is that the autocracy’s overreaction will engender more sympathy for her standpoint rather than their’s within SF and we are entitled to look on at developments, passing comment if we so wish.

    Her points of criticism were within the bounds of the standard double gamed republican stance whereby one infiltrates their enemies structures but also argue for further positive change to be made to those structures.

    In failing to give Bernice even the slightest latitude for her personal opinion by way of this Berlin bunker style display of control freakery and desperation the autocracy have opened themselves up to more grass roots discontent than if they had simply discussed things in a quiet and respectful manner.

    Then again what do you expect from pigs but grunts…

  • harry

    and in my opinion the leadership, lack of debate within the party the over emphasis on unionist outreach projects within the party has alienated by good republicans.

    example being, Alex Maskey tribute to the British War dead on poppy day. yet SF boycott a Frank aiken commemoration in Camlough, cause Aiken turned on them in the civil war.

    what do they really expect people to do, tramp the roads canvasing for nothing, while the party coffers swell with expenses. tell people lies on the doors about water charges and dress it up in new laboursque spin.

    endlessly attended commemorations for fallen vol.s year after year and every year the party moves further away from what they died for.

    Remember the Hunger Strikers, they died for a slight change in the way we bill water?

    i would shudder to think what membership of local cumann is at the moment.

  • tweedledee

    truth hurts,

    i would be very surprised if the sinn fein leadership would allow anyone to put forward any motions against the policing position at next years ard fheis.

    I won’t pretend to know the inner workings of Sinn Fein. But I still ponder why when opportunities appear to arise within the party organisation, structure and constitution, those who disagree with the direction seem not to seize upon them. How does a dissenting opinion know how supportive the membership are of the leadership if there is never a formal leadership challenge? How can those dissenting opinions complain of dictatorship when they have not properly challenged them democratically within their own ranks? You get a dictatorship when you allow a dictatorship.

  • truth,hurts

    I do know the way sinn fein works and most of the people within the party with positions of authority, for example the cuige are mostly ex prisoners from the H BLOCKS/long kesh and have moved into sinn fein and are trying to run the party the same way they ran the different parts of the prison. they are very direct in the way they think the party should be going and will not allow anyone to move away from the leadership position. i do agree that only when people do stand up to them at the ard fheis and put an alternative to the delegates is there any chance of change, but they have most areas fairly well controlled by the ex pows, they decide who will stand for cllr’s, mp’s, TD’s, mla’s, so when this sort of thing happens you have no chance as they have hand picked most of the elected reps and they are the people with the profile in each area. Gerry Adams has been un opposed for the party president in sinn fein since 1983 thats 24 YEARS my own view is Adams will never resign of his own free will.

  • tweedledee

    they decide who will stand for cllr’s, mp’s, TD’s, mla’s, so when this sort of thing happens you have no chance as they have hand picked most of the elected reps and they are the people with the profile in each area.

    It’s all sewn up then, and I can understand the frustration that must cause to those who wish to offer an alternative platform within the party.

    The question remains, though, and perhaps it will always remain unanswered clearly, as to whether or not the leadership had the support of the grassroots in their decisions on policing (the admission fee to Stormont). While it appears to have been a step too far for some (many?) longtime republicans, and there is some (how much?) uneasiness among the grassroots, there have been no major negative repercussions for SF, and, in fact, they went on to a decisive electoral victory in March. The shambles in the southern elections is another matter entirely.

    In a nutshell, they gauged the mood of their constituency in the North right, i.e., they’re tired of fighting and want to get on with living their lives.

    Given this, one could hope that the leadership would be more tolerant of dissenting opinions, but that doesn’t appear to be the case judging by the haste with which they suspended Cllr Swift.

  • harry

    and indeed most ordinary members act like the foot soldiers, willingly. they go along with the central demands of the leadership without question.

    to them, turning the question with the local leadership is the equivalent to being a dissident.

    the attitude is; well if it is good enough for Gerry… or they pull the old ” i was in the kesh for X amount of years” line… so you shut up in awe of what his guy had to do.

    i was at one of policing public “debates”, one guy in Newry had the “cheek” to make an arguement that was against the SF corporate line. he was publically rediculed in a very personal way in the dabate. anybody who might have made anti-policing remarks would think twice.

    as such the “debate” became a very quiet affair, with prepared statesment read from key people in different areas. it reminded me of those old gangster films where loyalty is sworn to the don lol.

    but as someone said about the policing debate being over. it maybe inside the party. but there is yet to be an election.

    when psf were casting around for reasons why they did so badly in the 26, nobody suggested that the policing thing might have played a part.

    i think that alot of voters for psf will think twice in the next 6co elections. not that they will vote sdlp but just not bother coming out.

    alot of the people i talk to are still really annoyed about the psf policing move.

  • harpo

    “but to the whole concept of the civil rights movement where people living in a police state had been denied the right to have a political opinion that was contrary to unionism”

    Posted by Former

    Former:

    How was anyone in Northern Ireland ever ‘denied the right to have a political opinion that was contrary to unionism’?

    Those are idiot words, of the type used by MOPE nationalists to justify all sorts of things.

    Nationalists were never denied the right to have contrary political opinions. They were free to stand in elections etc.

    The problem was that many nationalists adopted a ‘this isn’t happening’ attitude to Northern Ireland. The tried to ignore reality.

    Statements like the one above may comfort nationalists, but they aren’t true. Nationalists just took a long time to get their act into gear.

  • Your brother Groucho

    Harpo, you’re obviously unaware that Sinn Féin was a banned organisation in the North until 1974. Or that the Republican Clubs (the forerunners to the Workers Party) were also a banned organisation. So while these organisations were banned, and membership of the same was an imprisonable offence, exactly how could they stand in elections.

  • Outsider

    Harpo, you’re obviously unaware that Sinn Féin was a banned organisation in the North until 1974.

    Were they banned in Donegal?

  • Former SF member

    If SF is right in suspending Bernice Swift for taking a public position (on policing) not in accordance with SF policy decided by the party at an Ard Fhéis; then why wasn’t Gerry A suspended when he publicly took a position on corporation tax levels that was not in accordance with party policy which was also decided by the party at an Ard Fhéis.

    Is it because :

    a) Bernice is a woman

    b) Bernice is not from Belfast

    c) Bernice is telling the truth

    d) Bernice still has some Republican principles left; or

    e) Bernice is not Uachtarán of the party?