Long slow transformation of Sinn Fein…

I’d second Chris’s recommendation of Brian Feeney’s piece in yesterday’s Irish News… As I argue over on Brassneck today, there has been a long, slow progression in Sinn Fein’s play, and Martin McGuinness seems finally to have stepped out of the shadows and begun to lead from the front


  • picador

    In Martin McGuinness at least, Sinn Fein’s equivocation regarding the active presence of the British Army in Ulster is coming to an end. And that could spell the the beginning of the end for Gerry Adams.

    Do you make this stuff up as you go along?

  • Chris Donnelly

    I’d have to say that it’s only really amongst the Slugger bloggers (and Daily Telegraph and a few others) that Sinn Fein leaders have been continuously criticised for their responses to the recent killings. Even the ‘Newsletter’ editor, Darwin Templeton, has just said on Spotlight that it would take someone to be ‘churlish’ to not acknowledge the positive stance taken by Sinn Fein.

    Check the responses of many commenters on some of the Slugger threads and you’ll find many from a unionist background who’ve been considerably more open to both the words and actions of Sinn Fein leaders.

    One I read a couple of minutes ago was striking- he described himself as being ‘disturbingly reassured’ by McGuinness (apologies to the commenter whose name I’ve forgotten.)

    As I remarked on another thread some days ago, Sinn Fein has been accused for a number of years of demonising and marginalising other republicans. Whatever one’s opinions of such a strategy, it is clear that republicans were concerned with providing any opportunity for dissidents to gain a foothold within local communities to position themselves to launch a military campaign as they clearly are intent on doing at present.

    Much of the criticism of Sinn Fein in the past few days I sense is rooted in a frustration at the ability of the party to reposition itself and a republican narrative which can separate the context of the IRA’s own campaign from that of the dissident campaign currently being launched.

  • ArchiePurple

    So Martin’s no longer Deputy Chief of Staff or 2 I/c but may become the Chief of Staff…I thought he held that position in the 1970s.


    I have to agree. McGuinness AND Robinson have shown remarkable leadership and both have impressed me greatly. I think they have taken their lead from the reaction of both communities who have been totally horrified and massively saddened the past few day. Darwin Templeton stated that Loyalists especially have been reassured by McGuinness’s remarks and that speaks volumes. Outside of the few usual suspects there has been a thoughtful, restrained and intelligent reaction from ALL the parties. This gives us ALL hope and SLUGGER too should take a bow for giving us a forum to vent emotions and anger. Far better to fire words than bullets and I hope that doesn’t sound too corny.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The Adams/ McGuinness leadership of Sinn Fein is a corporate entity. There is no chance, to my mind, that the distinctive responses to media questioning and statements made by one or the other were not worked out beforehand. Don’t forget that they were largely speaking to differing audiences: McGuinness addressing the wider public, unionist and nationalist, and Adams more exclusively the republican base.

    Of course their remarks were largely complementary, but the subtle differences picked up by some commentators were not without reason.

    I certainly wouldn’t be of the opinion that Adams is going anywhere, though ironically I would like to see him spend more time planning what I believe to be a necessary wide-ranging reform of the party in the north (but that’s another story which I’ve written about before on Slugger.)

    Oh, and I don’t think you’re likely to see either endorse the active presence of the British army in the north any time soon, though republicans may have to acquiesce in a scenario that involves a more visible British army presence if things deteriorate- which is where Feeney’s remarks come into play.

  • kensei

    Has MMG said he supports the role of the British Army here, rather than just the police!!?? Is there a quote?

  • josephine

    ‘che guevara’ was adams favourite revolutionary? since when? he’s never mentioned the man once to my knowledge – and martin mcguinness ‘has admitted his past role’ in the ira? really! when was that? he admitted to having been in the IRA in the early 70’s and at the time of Bloody Sunday but he has maintained that he left the IRA not long afterwards – he has not joined Adams in denying any association with the IRA only because there is footage of him declaring his pride in being a member of the IRA. What he has settled for is half of Adams’ lie, that he was in the IRA only when there was independent evidence, such as his admission, that he was but not at any subsequent time – and the reason he, not adams is pushing the boat out on supporting the british security system is the same reason he played mutt to adams’ jeff during the earlier stages of the peace process: he has that role because he has a lingering credibility still with the rank and file whereas adams, who never once fired a shot in anger5 and now totally disavows his old comrades, has none at all – if you took a rest from being martin’s shill, you might be able to see that!

  • NCM

    Not precisely on topic but here’s an excerpt of eirigi’s position, newly posted on their website:


    “While supporting the right of any people to defend themselves from imperial aggression éirígí does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against the British occupation.

    “As can be seen from the recent attacks on Britain’s armed forces it is clear that not all republicans agree on how the British occupation should be resisted at this time. Those who carried out those attacks are best placed to explain their own rationale.

    “As with all of the countless and avoidable deaths that have occurred throughout the centuries of British interference in Ireland, the ultimate political responsibility for these most recent deaths lies with the British government and wider British establishment.”

  • 6 County Prod

    There are still a few on both sides who want to live in and resurrect the past, but the vast majority of the people in the north have moved on.

    I have been particularly impressed with Marty. He always gave me the creeps, but he has come across as genuine and actually appears to want things in NI to succeed.

    Last night I was fit to be tied, but I am tonight quite reassured with today’s developments. I believe these events have been a watershed for peace on the island. Here’s hoping!

  • picador

    éirígí does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against the British occupation.

    Interesting statement from Breandán Mac Cionnaith.
    I wonder does the other prominent figure in north Armagh concur?

  • percy

    good one 6CP

    I’ve held the view for years that the journey of SF is one of caterpillar to butterfly.
    We’re all now witnessing this, its great and uplifting.

  • mourneful

    With three members of the security forces killed within a period of less than 48 hours, there were fears that the fragile peace that culminated with the establishment of a power-sharing government in May 2007 might be at risk. The reaction in Craigavon, on one of the main roads from Belfast to the border with the Irish republic, suggested that for now, at least, those concerns might be overdrawn. The town, in the county of Armagh, a major sectarian battlefield in the past, has a broadly mixed population of Catholics and Protestants, but people approached at random at the site of the shooting and in local shopping malls seemed confident that the peace would survive the shootings.

  • Peter Fyfe

    I said to my brother about one on saturday night that after we had heard responses from several politicians that there will be no sinn fein word to tomorrow as they had to get their stories straight. This sounds cynical, I know, but I was right. I meant it in the terms that sinn fein will find this awkward, I din’t think for a second as people suggested that they know everybody responsible or of course had anything to do with it. Since saturday night, I found myself defending Gerry Adam’s response by saying his duty was to republicans and keeping them onside which through his approach he did well. MMG done a great job for exposing the myth that these people believe. That being that in some way they act for the irish people. He exposed them as the traitors to the people of Ireland they are. They clearly disregard the opinion of the irish people and as such should not pretend they are republicans.

    Chris donnelly,

    In a previous post on another thread you defended the 14 hours as saying most people would be sleeping. Do you really think every senior member of sinn fein was tucked up that early on a saturday night? I don’t think you do though I will compliment them on the handling of the situation since.

  • mourneful

    PC Carroll was just two years from retirement after serving 24 years as a policeman in Northern Ireland during some of the most violent spells of the Troubles. A Catholic, he lived in Banbridge, Co Down, with his wife and stepson. He also had three grandchildren. His wife, Kate, said yesterday: “A good husband has been taken away from me and my life has been destroyed. And what for? A piece of land that my husband is only going to get six feet of. These people have just taken my life as well.”

    The family’s priest, Canon Liam Stevenson, said of the family: “They had plans and dreams for the future and now all this has been blown apart.”

  • Danny O’Connor

    Well Done Martin,and not before time,The British presence is not the police and army,it is the Unionist people ,so when you used to say Brits out,it included unionists,I am glad that ,that seems to no longer be party policy

  • willis

    “And as a leader he has become more analogous to an elderly and vacillating Yasser Arafat than to his beloved Che Guevara”

    Not much to argue with there.

  • fin

    Whatever about SF’s transformation, how shocked are nationalists with the remarks from Robbo, Jeffrey and IPJ, did Ian Og really say we ‘we sink or swim together’

    This is not the DUP of old, or even of last week, could the events of the weekend be a ‘Canary Wharf bomb’ moment and refocus politicians on finally getting democracy of the ground in NI and stop digging their heels in over pointless issues.

    Lets see if Robbo has reined in Nelson McCausland from his monthly staged removal from the chamber.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    As even today’s Daily Telegraph notes SF’s response is nothing more that the ‘logic’ of their position. The pivotal moment for SF was the acceptance of the Police by SF at the Ard Fheis. What I suspect has happened in the last few days is that those who didnt believe SF were sincere ie the Unionists and particularly the DUP have now changed their minds.

    This makes the reaction of Wee Reggie in the assembly and the position of the Tories look recklesss in attempting to stall political progress. We now have the TUV and the Tories/UU to the political right of the DUP at this crucial time as they try to block the transfer of police and justice. Truly shocking stuff.

  • Henry94


    there has been a long, slow progression in Sinn Fein’s play, and Martin McGuinness seems finally to have stepped out of the shadows and begun to lead from the front…

    You missed a great opportunity there to lead from the front yourself and call for the devolution of policing and justice. Or have Sinn Fein not changed enough. Or is it that you haven’t?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    Are you suggesting that ‘Slugger’ has joined the Tories/UU and the TUV on the right of the DUP? Surely Not?

  • slugprod millionaire


    The biggest blow we can deliver these dissident morons is to devolve policing and justice.

    On Marty’s performance alone policing and justice should be devolved. We are in this together – I believe that more than anything right now.

  • confused.ie

    “The biggest blow we can deliver these dissident morons is to devolve policing and justice.”

    and how would this be?

  • Inspector Cleauso

    Let’s not get too carried away by the response of SF to these murders. I welcome their change of attitude and action but its not a transformation.

    Yesterday Martin McGuiness visted the widow of a policeman gunned down doing his job. It is not so many years ago he may have been ordering such an action.

    If it is illegitmate to kill a policeman in 2009 to try and accomplish political goals then why is it legitimate in 1989? Please don’t tell me it was legitimate in order to have a devolved administration at Stormont and change the name of the police force. What a waste!

  • confused.ie

    “If it is illegitmate to kill a policeman in 2009 to try and accomplish political goals then why is it legitimate in 1989?”

    Sadly, those who voted for the murderers in 1989 gave them that legitimacy.

  • ArchiePurple

    Courtesy of DV at ATW:


    You may be familiar with the famous Guinness adverting slogan “Guinness is good for you.”Well, I am here to tell you that McGuinness is bad for you!”

    I refer to IRA commander and latter day dove of peace Martin McGuinness and the current media led attempt to portray him as a courageous and responsible leader. He is not.

    He is a self confessed terrorist. The organisation to which he swore loyalty has killed thousands of people. As a senior commander in this illegal organisation, it is highly likely that he authorised the killing of many innocent people. The ONLY difference between him and the killers of the two young soldiers and the police office is time.

    The IRA has been allowed to walk away from its culpability of terror blitzkrieg. Why? Is it OK for the IRA to kill your loved ones? Since when did murder become socially acceptable? People say to me why cannot I “move on” from “the past”. What they MEAN is why can I not forget about all the innocent victims of IRA savagery . Why should I? Why should anyone?

    Justice does NOT have a sell-by date and those who authorised or played any role in the Claudy bombing, IRA murders in Londonderry, and the Enniskillen cenotaph attack – to name but a few pertinent examples – must pay for their crimes. Shouldn’t Mr McGuinness be providing the police with all information he may know on such killings – or was he the one IRA commander who did not know anything that was going on during his time as “leader”?

    I cannot think of a WORSE role model for any impressionable young person that Martin McGuinness. He has a grotesque pedigree and yet he is indulged by all the peace process establishment as if he were a latter day Mother Theresa. He talks of others being “traitors” to “Ireland” – but the truth is HE is a traitor to the rule of law and order, to the sanctity of human life. Yes, it is ABSOLUTELY wrong for dissident IRA killers to murder – but it was also ABSOLUTELY wrong for the IRA to do the same, and yet McGuinness presided over all this with impunity and without any sense of the sheer wrongness of his actions. Sanctified by the establishment he is an affront to any decent person, which may explain why Peter Robinson finds him such a charming associate.

  • fin

    Actually partial to a Guinness myself, guessing your more of a Bitter man though Archie

  • picador


    It’s a pity that you stole Chris’s thunder as Feeney’s article, as ever, raises some imporatant points.

    Dissidents hope that British are more stupid than them

    Judging by the responses from the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail etc, the dissidents can still hold out hope.

    Some have already commented on Reg Empty trying to score cheap political points as a result of recent events.

    I also note that the NI Tories were opposed to the GFA.

    When Cameron comes to power as, barring some kind of miracle, he will: Who is going to be in charge of NI policy? If the dissidents strike, as they inevitably will, will the repressive security measures that the dissidents want be introduced?

    Will the British be stupider than the dissidents?

    Looking at some of the nonsense that appears in the Daily Torygraph, I worry that they will.

  • Dave

    “Now it is McGuinness who is stepping up to the plate. This lunch time he called the dissident paramilitaries ‘traitors to the people of the island of Ireland’ – referring to the 1998 referendum in which people north and south of the border voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement.” – Mick Fealty

    That’s deliberately misleading, and a blatant dissemination of the official propaganda. Nobody in the Republic of Ireland voted for the GFA. We voted on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which amended Articles 2 and 3.

    What the Republic voted for, as requested by the British government, was to recognise that Northern Ireland was a separate sovereign state from the Republic of Ireland. In other words, to remove the Republic’s territorial claim to Her Majesty’s sovereign territory of Northern Ireland, formally recognising it as a foreign state. Contrary to the propaganda, there was no single act of national self-determination: there were two seperate acts of self-determination by two seperate sovereign states voting on two seperate issues, with both polls held on the same day to reinforce the supporting but wholly misleading propaganda.

    The “island of Ireland” is not a state. Post-GFA, it denotes a geograpghy which contains two seperate states. Therefore, no act of treason can be commited against it. Therefore, the ‘plate’ he is ‘stepping up to’ is in defence of a militant anti-state threat to Her Majesty’s sovereign territory of Northern Ireland. The act of treason is not with those who are Irish and oppose British rule but properly with those who are Irish and support it.

    “In truth, they have no choice. In an earlier time, De Valera, the only senior leader of the Easter Rising to escape execution by the British, eventually turned on the IRA of the time and treated them brutally. McGuinness and Adams have no independent state to protect, but they nevertheless have their ‘project’ to protect.” – Mick Fealty

    This is more blatant propaganda. McGuinness is acting as a Minister of the Crown, not as Minister for the Mythical Project. He is defending the British State against anti-state threats as he signed-up to do. Sinn Fein are pro-state actors, not anti-state actors. So spinning defence of British rule as being an attempt to undermine it is part of the intelligence strategy for integrating the supporters of Sinn Fein (those who were formerly anti-state) into the consolidated British state of Northern Ireland. As Margaret Thatcher put it, they “should be led to support or at least acquiesce in the constitutional framework of the State.”

    MI5 did not promote those who would act to undermine the British rule from within; they promoted those who would undermine opposition to British rule from within. In the ‘republican’ movement, the role of that agency was to convert it from being an anti-state actor to a pro-state actor. How that the conversion has been accomplished, their role is consolidation. McGuinness is not an actor without a state but with only a “project” to defend. He has a state to defend, and it is Her Majesty’s sovereign territory of Northern Ireland. De Valera was defending the Irish state from treason, and Martin McGuinness is defending the British state from treason.

    The good thing about the attack at on the army, as far as MI5 is concerned, is that it provided them with the perfect opportunity to get their boys in Sinn Fein to endorse the British army, thereby bringing that party’s formerly disenfranchised supporters another step closer to accepting the legitimacy not just of British rule but of the military apparatus that sustains it – and it allowed them to do that without losing any support. Naturally, those in the media were told to ‘go easy’ on the boys as struggled to ‘do the right thing’ and crossed another rubicon on the long road to full integration into the British system as set out by Margaret Thatcher. Having done that, the muppets must be reassured that it didn’t really mean the Shinners were now as British as Finchley or that they would defend British rule as vigorously as Margaret did. Rather, they must be told once again that supporting British rule was, padadoxically, the best way of opposing British rule.

    The problem that those who try to prop-up the status quo with propaganda, corruption, bribery, blackmail, treachery, intimidation, murder, etc have is that it and can only be sustained for so long by them until the whole rotten and sthinking edifice collapses under the weight of its own contradictions and chicanery.

  • ulsterfan

    I am not satisfied with McGuinness’ statement.
    Is this the same man who within 4 days of the Omagh atrocity reminded Republicans of their duty not to give any information to the police in the North as well as the South. By these words he made it difficult for the people of Omagh to get Justice and Truth.
    Passing information to the police was seen as an act of treachery.
    A view held by SF/IRA.
    His concern at that time was to see that nothing was done which would damage the peace process.
    The same rational still exists—the dissidents should not undermine the process.
    In a similar manner he has rendered the Saville inquiry to be ineffective by refusing to answer any Questions about the role of the IRA in Derry at that time.
    We don’t know what the findings will be but the Inquiry is defective already.
    Are we now to believe he has changed?
    Perhaps he has but I need more evidence Thank you!

  • picador


    You are using a lawyer’s argument.

    In 1998 the Irish people voted that Northern Ireland would not transfer from UK to Irish sovereignty until a majority in the North voted for this to happen. They voted so by an overwhelming majority.

    This is what happened de facto, in the real world, not some fancy lawyer bollocks that you would have us believe.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am not satisfied with McGuinness’ statement.
    Is this the same man who within 4 days of the Omagh atrocity reminded Republicans of their duty not to give any information to the police in the North as well as the South.

    Yes. Quite clearly, his position has changed. Where’s your problem ?

  • ulsterfan

    Comrade Stalin.

    Changes can be superficial or have real substance.
    You make up your mind and I shall do likewise.

  • Mick Fealty


    I wasn’t my intention to steal Chris’s thunder, I was trying to re-emphasise his point; though I can see that’s the way it comes out in the wash.

    All of Feeney’s back end is worth repeating:

    “Dissidents certainly have no chance of spooking Sinn Fein into rowing back from the policy they have followed which has led them into jointly running the north’s administration. On the contrary, SF know perfectly well that the dissidents may call themselves the Real IRA but they are actually Sinn Fein’s real enemy and as such SF are more determined to defeat them than either the British government or the unionists and it’s about time unionists realised that.

    “The correct response to the shock and dismay of Saturday’s murders is to pursue steadily and resolutely the present policies which so annoy and frustrate dissidents, not to announce any flashy security measures which would play into their hands but to proceed with all deliberate speed to devolve justice and security to locally elected politicians.

    “In other words to do exactly the opposite of what dissidents want. Only in that way can their real targets, Sinn Fein, show publicly that their strategies lead to political success and that the dissidents’ murderous activities are not only futile but immoral.”


    It’s no part of my job (as I see it at least) to cheer lead one position or another; rather provide independent analysis of issues and events as they unfold, or as they come to light.

    To clarify, neither I nor Slugger has an official position on the devolution of policing. I’m neither for ir, nor agin it. I would agree though with those who suggest that the issue is probably nowhere near as important (in wider societal terms) as those who want it now, and those who suggest that it requires public confidence.

    In both cases, issues of a much narrower party political interest are in play. Frankly, that’s no place for me or Slugger (in its corporate whole as opposed to its constituent part) to be taking a stand.


    I understand your point, but the basis of my analysis there was not that the two were/are operating independently, but that in the new circumstances, one man is increasing in importance whilst the other is diminishing because of the role each is separately playing.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    It is a matter of public record ie the Slugger archives – that the debate on the issue of Police and Justice has been led by Pete B. who has consistently focused on one narrow aspect of this issue – ie that the date in the STA was not a deadline. He has consistently tried to downplay the significance of this issue (as you have done above again) and tried to avoid any debate of the difficulties this issue causes for the DUP as evidence by a short visit to the TUV website. He even changed the text of a British government warning by the SOS of the advantages to the dissidents of the delaying before he published it on Slugger. A warning, which now of course many will see as extremely relevant.

    We now have the very dangerous situation where the Tory government in waiting is aligned with the TUV in not thinking the time is right for the transfer of police powers to Norn Iron as evidenced by Wee Reggie’s assembly statement.

    We have numerous navel gazing articles about the purity of the Republican ideal and other such exercises in pin-head-ideological-dancing and nothing about the apparent playing of the Orange card by the Conservative party – which in these dangerous times is of far more significance that what was written by messrs Tone/Connoll/Pearce et al.

    PS The bill went though the Lords this morning.

  • Uriop


    You are using a lawyer’s argument.

    In 1998 the Irish people voted that Northern Ireland would not transfer from UK to Irish sovereignty until a majority in the North voted for this to happen. They voted so by an overwhelming majority.

    This is what happened de facto, in the real world, not some fancy lawyer bollocks that you would have us believe.

    Even the “fancy lawyer bollocks” is actually wrong, because the referendum was constructed on pre stated conditional clauses. It was drawn up to be contingent on the other parts of the GFA being satisfied. Technically it did NOT bind the Republic to amend articles 2 and 3, but only to do so on condition of other parts of the GFA being satisfied, but EXPLICITLY gave consent for the government to accept the GFA with the consent of the people.

    The question was

    “Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in the undermentioned Bill?

    Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1998”


    The first line of the new Article 29.7 was,

    “1. The State may consent to be bound by the British-Irish Agreement done at Belfast on the 10th day of April, 1998, hereinafter called the Agreement.”

    Therefore the vote explicitly supported the GFA conditional on the government doing likewise, which it then did seperately in December 1999. Between that date and the referendum, 2 and 3 were not amended, while 29.7 sat on the constitution.