Sinn Fein needs more than media exposure in the Republic…

Setting aside all polls and forecasts, and even the party’s reverse in its electoral fortunes last year, the Irish Examiner believes it is the party’s preoccupation with Northern Irish politics that poses it’s biggest difficulty in making headway in the southern polity.

Mr Adams was strongest when talking about northern issues — the proposed transfer of policing and justice powers, the campaign by some unionists to force out Ian Paisley, the commitment to establish a “high-powered taskforce” to drive forward “the roadmap to Irish unity”.

By contrast, when he delved into the issues dominating the agenda in the south right now, there was little of substance.

He had a couple of good moments — a soundbite about how Dustin the Turkey could have done better than the Government when negotiating the Lisbon Treaty, and a call for the highest standards in public life. “Public office should never be used for private gain or personal advantage.”

But even that statement’s impact was lessened by Mr Adams’ reluctance to criticise Bertie Ahern directly — perhaps because Sinn Féin still needs the Taoiseach’s support on northern issues. And the rest of the speech lacked specifics. He said prosperity and job creation were “key priorities” for Sinn Féin, but didn’t really spell out how the party might improve matters.

He said it was unacceptable that a large number of people still lived in poverty and children still went to school on empty stomachs — but again there was little in the way of detailed solutions. He got the obligatory standing ovation — and a hug from Martin McGuinness — but they seemed almost cosmetic to events happening elsewhere.

Elsewhere Chris has argued that Sinn Fein must not shift from its tradionally socialist identity, which given the left is already a fairly small and unprosperous ground in the Republic may not be the easiest way to curry electoral favour with southern voters. But when one of the party’s four TDs suggests that the party still has not got a “credible tax policy”, all the media exposure world is unlikely to be enough to turn the corner.

, ,

  • kensei

    I think Chris is wrong on the “Socialist” identity, more or less completely. In the first instance, Ireland has never being interested in Socialism; Connolly is celebrated for his patriotism rather than his economics. Second, Socialism is almost always used to mean “Marxist” here, rather than European Social Democracy. Third, almost every generation of Republicans have expressed the hope that better men would come forward and achieve what they could not. While making no grand claims of being that, that is patently impossible while refusing to evolve and adapt to a changed world.

    SF need to become a party of the Centre-Left. It shouldn’t be afraid of tax rises or public involvement if it offers benefits but they should not be doctrine. I also suspect the policies they need are some that hint left, are relatively cheap and achievable as a price for coalition. Something like New Labour’s 1997 pledge to reduce class sizes.

    I think by moving to push more local candidates and trying to broaden things from just Adams is a step forward. It remains to be seen if they can get the policy to back it up.

    Mr Adams was strongest when talking about northern issues — the proposed transfer of policing and justice powers, the campaign by some unionists to force out Ian Paisley, the commitment to establish a “high-powered taskforce” to drive forward “the roadmap to Irish unity”.

    I find the last bit interesting. SF rely at the moment on “movement” based politic; it produces highly, highly motivated people but is essentially focused on a single issue. I suspect that if they want a United Ireland any time soon, they need to instead look to build a coalition. I don’t know if they have the imagination for it, or the ability.

  • An Lochlannach

    The Taskforce on Irish Unity is a good indicator of how clueless Sinn Féin have become. It’s almost as if they expected their growth to continue with no effort on their part, as if everything would just fall into their laps. That hasn’t happened and they need to think their way out of the crisis. They just aren’t capable of it. Do they really want to make the aim of an united Ireland a Sinn Féin issue, something primarily identified with them? I can’t think of a better way to dissuade other parties from expressing their support for ending partition. Twice in recent history mainstream political parties have been asked for their preferred constitutional solution – at the New Ireland Forum and at the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. On both occasions the clear preference was for unity. What on earth does Sinn Féin’s taskforce have to add to that? Sinn Féin needs ideas, not an exercise in the politics of wish-fulfilment.

  • Gerry lvs Castro

    Agreed An Loch. This ‘taskforce’ idea is merely SF flailing around in a desperate attempt to be seen to be doing something.

    The fact is that they have signed up to partition until such time as NI support for the union drops below 50%, and they know as well as any that they’re nowhere near that figure at present.

    Nothing they have done since entering Stormont has amounted to anything other than tinkering at the edges of partition.

  • Kensei

    The vast majority of the party are very clear on this issue; we will not be heading for the political abyss that is centrist political Ireland.

    The motion to remove from our constitution our goal of a 32 county socialist republic was heavily defeated.

    What is clear is that meat is needed on the bone; we need to spell out to the Irish electorate in pretty clear language what we mean.

    Building up our base in the 26 counties, developing clear and costed policies and encouraging a younger generation of geographical leadership is in the process.

    Watch the Lisbon Treaty campaign as a sign of things to come.

  • kensei

    Chris

    The vast majority of the party are very clear on this issue; we will not be heading for the political abyss that is centrist political Ireland.

    I didn’t say “Centrist”, I said “Centre-Left”. But the centre needs ot be visible.

    What is clear is that meat is needed on the bone; we need to spell out to the Irish electorate in pretty clear language what we mean.

    So Chris, which commanding heights are you going to take into state ownership? How high are you going to set the Corporation tax rate? Income tax? Perhaps you believe in centralised planning; wage and price controls? If we go really Marxist, perhaps you believe in collective farming? How much do you think you need to explain it to the Irish people before they stop telling you to bugger off? Perhaps you’d like to see more militant Unions in Ireland?

    No, it’s highly unlikely you want anything more than a moderate Social Democratic programme, comparable to the Nordic countries. Even that would be a big task for an Ireland that is heavily right leaning. In which case, the “Socialist” label simply harms your cause and gives people a Marxist stick to beat you with. You need to set out a clear direction and show you can be trusted: this is still the first generation that had a reasonable belief they wouldn’t have to leave to find work.

    And more to the point, really, what do you expect to achieve in a coalition with FF or FG? “Socialism” isn’t happening, but moderate proposals that help make Ireland a fairer and easier place for those at the bottom might.

  • “So Chris, which commanding heights are you going to take into state ownership? How high are you going to set the Corporation tax rate? Income tax? Perhaps you believe in centralised planning; wage and price controls? If we go really Marxist, perhaps you believe in collective farming? How much do you think you need to explain it to the Irish people before they stop telling you to bugger off? Perhaps you’d like to see more militant Unions in Ireland?”

    I’m not Sinn Féin Kensei; I can’t speak for the party on those issues because my personal opinions may be different.

    What is clear is that the party will decide all on all those issues, quite a few have been decided on already.

    Gerry has already said that we want an Ireland wide Corporation tax of around 12.5%, an ending of the tax loopholes for the super rich and a review of the entire tax system.

    “You need to set out a clear direction and show you can be trusted”

    I agree

    “And more to the point, really, what do you expect to achieve in a coalition with FF or FG?”

    Nothing, that’s why I personally don’t support coalition with either of the failed civil war parties. I support the building up of a broad left wing and progressive coalition.

    FF and FG would hold no interest for me.

  • joeCanuck

    SF’s “natural” support, North and South, is 6-10%. They have temporarily exceeded that by their wildest dreams in the North due to people’s desire for them to give up their arms. That is unsustainable in the long term when (if?) “normal” constitutional politics takes over. Their left wing vision has no real appeal to the public.
    As for their high-powered committee, they don’t need it. Quite simply, all they need to do is win an election in the South.

  • Gerry lvs Castro

    Kensei — interesting that you describe ROI as ‘heavily right leaning.’
    Given that Unionism has traditionally been of the right, is it not arguable that SF are pardoxically the greatest obstacle to a UI?

    Their leftist politics, glorification of violent republicanism and constant low level attacks on anything remotely Unionist or British merely serve to postpone the end of partition.

  • Gerry lvs Castro

    Joe — I don’t agree that SF’s NI mandate is ‘to see them give up their arms.’
    The main reasons of late have been a lack of any solid opposition a la SDLP plus a rapidly fading notion that they can actually produce or even hasten a UI.

    Chris — what exactly is a 32 county socialist republic? Is there any current world model you would aspire to?

  • Lorraine

    sinn fein are as socialist as bertie; in the aftermath of the major cultural shock in the last dail election all they can come up with is the old rallying cry to the faithful, but the faithful are a rapidly diminshing pool for gerry and the average industrial wage brigade, who can still nevertheless amass quite a lot of wealth on that average industrial wage. lacking any vision or programme or policies we are supposed to be content with a taskforce on irish unity and remembering dead IRA volunteers (while forgetting what they died for). political cynicism at its most disgusting.

  • Greenflag

    A majority of the Irish people have never been ‘interested ‘ in socialism of the marxist variety . There is a vote on the left of maybe 15 to 20% which is capable of achieving enough support to become the minor party in a Coalition with FG or FF . Ireland is not Scotland nor is it England or Wales nor is it Scandinavia . Previously the antipathy to marxist socialism was founded on mainly ‘religious ‘ grounds . In 2008 that antipathy is based more on political and economic grounds .

    The fact that SF is focused on NI is understandable but the Examiner is wrong when it maintains that it is SF’s Northern preoccupation which is a turn off for Southern voters . It is SF’s incoherent economic policies which are the main turn off.

    The latest move by SF to ‘internationalise’ support for the ending of Partition is another lunacy . This nonsense has been perpetrated before back in 1947 to 1951 with John Costello sending his diplomats corps around the various foreign capitals twiddling their thumbs and being patronised by foreign governments and then sent packing with nothing to show for their efforts bar extra expense incurred on the Irish taxpayer.

    Costello was bad enough but at least he could claim to have the support of the majority of people in the Free State/Republic at that time but can you imagine what the response to SF international overtures will be if SF while taking part in a power sharing Government with Unionists are seen to be undermining the very Government of which they are a part ?

    The international response to SF is likely to be

    *&*#@*&*@*

  • Greenflag

    Chris

    ‘FF and FG would hold no interest for me.’

    Fair enough . The political reality is that both parties together appeal to about 70% of the Republic’s electorate with Labour , Greens, SF and PD’s making up the remainder . SF will have to move to the centre left or make an alliance with Irish Labour /Greens if they are ever to make electoral progress in the Republic .

    As an ultra socialist marxist party SF would never get more than perhaps 5% if that- of the Republic’s electorate. They get more in Northern Ireland simply because of the collapse of the moderate SDLP vote which was of course hastened by a combination of Unionist intransigence – SDLP incompetence and both Governments ‘appeasement’ of the extremes .

  • F S Fein

    Sinn Fein are a nothing. The Iirsh Free State does not need Adams, McGuinness and the Three Farcoterrorists hectoringt them. Put Jerry McCabe’s killers back in jail and throw away the key.
    Gaskin, get a job and get a life. Leave the GoodFellas behind.

  • Trainpilot

    I love the way those on the right arrogantly tell us on the left that we have our head in the clouds or are out of touch with reality. We’ve had nearly 30 years of neo-liberalism boys, and while it may have benefited you, the masses, even those in the colonial powers have not ‘never had it so good’ as have even less political voice and economic power than they have ever had. Further, our whole economic way of life is unsustainable in the long term or is that green nonesense? What happens if things crunch, ordinary people will bear the cost, like they have bore the cost of previous ‘reforms’ and ‘modernisation’. The ‘reforms’ that have taken place are more akin to a regression back to the 19th Century. Then again, the right’s recent love of ‘democracy’ and definition of it has always been dubious!

    “I suspect that if they want a United Ireland any time soon, they need to instead look to build a coalition. I don’t know if they have the imagination for it, or the ability.”

    If you listen to Gerry’s speech, you may find that’s exactly what he suggests!

    And, don’t worry, we all know the Shinners aren’t really left wing, but the way the media, Irish establishment and right get on…then again, they are still the biggest progressive challenge to the status quo that currently exists, no matter how sad that is.

    If only Gerry did love Castro a bit more…

  • I would have thought Venezuela was the contemporary model that most appealed to SF – Martina Anderson certainly seems to be a big fan of the New Bolivarian Revolution.

    I’m not so sure that not being able to buy eggs, sugar or bread would be such a big hit with the Irish people, but hey, who let a few practical details derail a revolution? Oh, shit, we don’t have oil either so maybe we’d have to do without cars, buses and planes as well.

    Hasta la victoria siempre, compadres!

  • PaddyReilly

    Well in the good old US of A even quite reasonable people consider that the UK is a Socialist state with socialist medicine etc, so all we have to do to achieve the goals of SF is to unify Ireland and bring it on to a level with the UK with regard to NHS facilities etc. Which it already is in most fields.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Sinn Fein are a nothing.’

    A party that gets almost 30% of the vote in NI is not a nothing .

    ‘ The Irish Free State does not need ‘

    The Irish Free State ceased to exist in 1949 thats almost 60 years ago . If you can’t keep up with the times then like a fool it might be better to keep silent than going out of your way to prove your ignorance.

    Chris ,

    ‘What happens if things crunch, ordinary people will bear the cost, like they have bore the cost of previous ‘reforms’ and ‘modernisation’.’

    That’s about the only hope SF have of breaking through the electoral 10% ceiling .

    ‘our whole economic way of life is unsustainable in the long term’

    True perhaps but the voters don;t think in the long term . It’s bread and butter here and now that matters . Any party that appears to be putting that at risk will not be getting the votes .

  • kensei

    Chris

    I’m not Sinn Féin Kensei; I can’t speak for the party on those issues because my personal opinions may be different.

    Come now, don’t be coy; you were perfectly content to argue for Socialism a minute ago. And I believe my discussion was with you, and not “Sinn Fein”.

    What is clear is that the party will decide all on all those issues, quite a few have been decided on already.

    Gerry has already said that we want an Ireland wide Corporation tax of around 12.5%, an ending of the tax loopholes for the super rich and a review of the entire tax system.

    Has the party endorsed it though? The problem is also that the policies don’t really match the rhetoric. That isn’t a Socialist Republic.

    There are two things that SF need to establish. The first is in broad strokes. “What sort of country would SF like to see if it had a majority. Now, we can of course mix and match, but roughly: like New Labour UK? France? Sweden? Venezuela? Cuba? Communist Russia? Your problem is that “Socialist Republic” is easily painted at the later, and a lot of rhetoric says maybe Venezula. As long as that’s your vision, you’ll always hit a low ceiling. I think there is room in Ireland for a progressive, compassionate left of centre party, particularly with Labour in the doldrums, but you’ll never be it while you hold on to Shibboleths because Connolly said it 100 years ago.

    Regardless of your favoured model, it’s likely to at variance with the current one in the Republic, and you have no hope of doing it one go, however much you might hope otherwise. So you need to craft a set of focused policies that can be delivered within coalition that move you closer to your overall goal. They need to be reasonably specific, incredibly well costed and unlike to scare any horses because the media will take any chance to absolutely hammer you.

    And crucially, the first thing and the second thing have to tie up. SF aren/’t even close at the moment.

    Nothing, that’s why I personally don’t support coalition with either of the failed civil war parties. I support the building up of a broad left wing and progressive coalition.

    FF and FG would hold no interest for me.

    Get real, Chris. Building a progressive coalition is a laudable goal, but it’s a long term one. You need not only good people and good policies, but also the right conditions, both in the other parties and in the general outlook. There was a chance for the Left after the 2002 election, but they spurned it.

    Back in the real world, advancing any of your goals means coalition with either FF or FG. With Government, you are either in or out. And generally, being out is not fun. Look at the huge tactical error Labour had by letting the SNP run Scotland.

    Is SF an opposition movement or a real party of change? This is why many of their minsters have been under par in the Assembly: they are struggling with the transition from opposition movement to party of Government. If you are serious about getting a United Ireland, getting a fairer, more progressive Ireland, then ultimately, you need to be a party of Government. There is no other way.

    I at least think ther leadership know this.

  • kensei

    Can some edit that /’ out my first ?@

    GLC

    No, I don’t think SF are an obstacle. I think that to get a majority for a United Ireland, a coalition needs to be built. Cultural Nationalism will always be a part of it, but there needs to be other groups on for different reasons. Ofgf the top of my head, stuff like business people are the better economic environment or those that are heavily anti-abortion and want to keep it off the island or people concerned about the creep of State power in the UK. Or none of them, but stitching together groups where it be advantageous, you get the idea.

    SF can deliver part of that coalition, but by no means all. I look forward to FF organising here and hopefully giving another alternatives.

  • Garibaldy

    For all the talk about setting out a credible tax policy, and convincing people of ability to be in government, I thought the motions (and I read the 60-odd pages of them) lacked much substantive detail. It was a clár of a small party in opposition, with no expectation of having to implement the policies. However, clearly PSF is not that – being in government in north for a start, and having built up a great deal of experience on councils. How then was it so thin?

  • NP

    Sinn Fein are a nationalist party ……. they can’t be left wing ?, unless its National Socialism ?

  • Bemused

    ‘Gerry has already said that we want an Ireland wide Corporation tax of around 12.5%’
    That phrase is a give away. If you were socialist or left of centre you might argue for a (small) increase. If you were a Thatcherite you might point to the low Corpor taxes of parts of the old Eastern block and call for a cut.
    If you were a clueless old fashioned nationalist party that had run out of electoral juice you would simply call for the status quo in the Republic to be extended to the North

  • Look at the huge tactical error Labour had by letting the SNP run Scotland.

    I agree with the general thrust of the argument, but I’m not sure Labour had the option of running Scotland. The LibDems and Tories had no intention of letting Labour have a full term minority administration, and both were prepared to tolerate an SNP minority government as the lesser of evils.

  • kensei

    I agree with the general thrust of the argument, but I’m not sure Labour had the option of running Scotland. The LibDems and Tories had no intention of letting Labour have a full term minority administration, and both were prepared to tolerate an SNP minority government as the lesser of evils.

    I think Labour could have managed a minority administration, much like the SNP are doing now. I think Labour could have made it hard for the Tories and the Lib Dems to endorse the SNP bogeyman if really had have wanted. But there was an attitude floating about at the time that an SNP government would not be able to cope with government and people would come running back to Labour.

    Regardless, it’s almost certainly been a tactical mistake by the Lib Dems in any case. It’s maybe helped the Tories in Scotland marginally but even there it isn’t particularly helpful for a “Unionist” party.