Catriona Ruane probably has the stiffest test of all Sinn Fein’s new ministers. For that reason, I’m not sure that Frank’s analysis suggesting she’s performed poorly alongside her colleagues Conor Murphy and Michelle Gildernew, even if that was the impression given by northern delegates at a recent ‘closed door’ meeting in Dublin. Neither have faced the challenge she does in carrying forward actionable reforms in an area that is both prominent and which splits neatly down the Nationalist /Unionist divide. Nevertheless, he is less than impressed with the total impact of Sinn Fein, both on the governmental front, or in the decidedly partisan way they have dealt with public order problems such as the killing of Paul Quinn. He’s less than impressed with the response of the northern leadership to failure in the south:
It is telling that despite Fine Gael’s success Kenny fired Phil Hogan and a question-mark remains over Kenny’s leadership. Rabbitte and the authors of the Mullingar Strategy in Labour have been cast aside. Sinn Féin’s upper leadership remains intact and the move of key northern activists like Declan Kearney into positions of authority in the party in the South suggests that Adams, having listened to the opinion of Southern members for the last six months has decided to ignore it and continue to centralise control in the mistaken belief that someone other than him, and he alone, is responsible for the party’s disastrous election campaign.
The party’s response to the Paul Quinn murder is being distinctive by its very repetition:
The murder of Paul Quinn brought out the standard Sinn Féin approach of blackening the name of the victim with accusations of criminality that seem unproven. What seems more clear is the eager desire among their political opponents to hi-jack the Quinn’s case to attack Sinn Féin, but they would have no campaign to manipulate were it not for Quinn’s murder and how Sinn Féin handled it.
He finishes with a useful corrective to Vincent Browne’s view that Sinn Fein is likely to be pro the EU Treaty in the upcoming referendum:
Ahh Vincent, take thy head out from the Mahon Tribunal and read a paper. Sinn Féin’s party leadership, and McDonald & Adams in particular, have been making clear their intention to not simply oppose the Reform Treaty, but to lead the opposition to it. Most recent press statement from the party on it is here. What makes Browne’s error all the more mystifying is that the former Sinn Féin European Director Eoin O Broin now writes for his magazine. This referendum campaign gives Sinn Féin the opportunity to portray itself as the ‘real’ opposition to establishment centrist politics and even the possibility of fighting a winning campaign, which would be a massive boost to a party going into Local Elections in 2009, and European Elections where only a miracle will save their seat in Dublin.
In truth, Sinn Fein has much more in common with UKIP on Europe, since both are concerned with protecting what’s left of their respective countries’ independent sovereignty.
With most other parties in favour, Frank may have fingered one way for the party to get back some of its equilibrium south of the border.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty