CityBeat Slugger Politics slot: making politics work…

Okay, my monthly slot on CityBeat goes out at 6.45 tonight, with an overview of the various shocks delivered by last Thursday’s Euro-poll. In short I argue that whatever misgivings unionists have about dancing with what many of them, as Jim Allister has demonstrated, still believe to be the ‘ugly bird’ of the ball – Sinn Fein – the elections confirm that they are the firm and favoured choice of an overwhelming majority of the Nationalist electorate. Commensurately, perhaps it is time for Sinn Fein to stop eying up the glamorous neighbour across the fence border and give some attention to making the legal and binding partnership they actually have, and make it work first?

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  • kensei

    Commensurately, perhaps it is time for Sinn Fein to stop eying up the glamorous neighbour across the fence border and give some attention to making the legal and binding partnership they actually have, and make it work first

    Or perhaps like any political party, they are capable and required of doing more than one thing at once, and have people the other side of the fence who need to take responsiblity for making that work too. And maybe when you are secure in your base is the right time to make expansion, and not when you are under the cosh. And maybe political commentators should stop running with this tedious line with the flimsiest of thought or evidence.

  • John O’Connell

    And maybe when you are secure in your base is the right time to make expansion, and not when you are under the cosh.

    Kensei, the reason that they’re secure in their base is because they have done nothing to reach over and embrace the unionists. They’re simply pandering to an audience by highlighting cultural difference such as the Irish language and a united Ireland, rather than Irish unity, a totally different concept, and relying on the sectarian vote to keep them up there. They are simply a sectarian party, rather than a truly republican party, or why else would they have the name We ourselves.

    The only expansion they should make now is the stepping down of Gerry Adams and that would give them a slight chance in the South and knock 40% off their vote in the North, like the DUP, though for different reasons.

  • Chris Donnelly

    That logic is hard to follow. Assuming you are implying the SDLP has done the outreach bit, then why are they floundering?

    Kensei is right. Sure, there will be difficulties for any party attempting to bridge jurisdictions, but it’s hardly unique.

    In the US, there are 51 Democratic and Republican parties, often with political profiles very distinct from one another.

    The key for Sinn Fein is in getting the message right; the era of a northern leadership heading south to lead the electoral campaign must be over; Mick’s right to point out that electorates like their politicians to be local, but only up to a point. The success of Mary McAleese- in the face of a vitriolic campaign spearheaded by some Dublin journalists seeking to knock her out of the race for being a ‘foreigner’- suggests that it’s the quality of what’s on offer that counts.

    And that’s where Sinn Fein needs to make the changes, north and south.

  • John O’Connell

    Assuming you are implying the SDLP has done the outreach bit, then why are they floundering?

    You might have noticed, Chris, that they’re competing with a party who are simply playing the sectarian card at each election. That card is not being played in the nasty violent way it used to be played, though many voters still consider the violence a good heritage, it is being played more subtly in the continuous flow of cultural separatism that accentuates division and in a delusional way makes people think that they’re doing the patriotic thing in voting Sinn Fein.

    It is the politics of shallowness that motivates the right throughout Europe and in the USA. I suggest to you that Sinn Fein are simply an amalgam of the lunatic left and the bizarre right and in a normal political situation such as the South they just don’t know where to go. They’re neither an adequate protest vote, and Joe Higgins was, nor an fitting alternative in the biggest upheavel ever in Southern politics.

    You can knock the SDLP all you like but the SDLP has served the Irish nation well in keeping SF at bay in the North to the greatest extent possible, and ensuring that question marks were put over its tactical use of human suffering (armed struggle to you) such that it never actually did any damage south of the border.

    The Sinn Fein juggernaut has run out of diesel now and Gerry Adams has to get out for the sake of the others and that means that its all downhill in the North, with a return to anonymity in the South.

    It was bad while it lasted.

  • John O’Connell

    Gerry Adams could stay on, of course. But that just means giving up completely on the South and when that feeds through to the Northern electorate, the bubble will burst and the reality will have to be faced that Sinn Fein cannot deliver what they told the people that would deliver. That would mean a return to their SDLP home for many voters.

    So its a question of damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

    Is Gerry Adams prepared to sacrifice himself for the cause just as he sacrificed ten of his brothers to give him a political profile? Either way it doesn’t matter except to the hunger strikers’ families who saw their sons do their bit for politics only to see a lack of courage now on the part of Gerry Adams.

    Sinn Fein have run out of places to hide and it’s all on the downside from now on in.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]That logic is hard to follow. Assuming you are implying the SDLP has done the outreach bit, then why are they floundering?[/i]

    The problem with the SDLP is that they’re just not sectarian enough to get votes from the NI electorate any more.

    I might be curt but deep down everyone knows I’m telling the truth. What other reason could there be, apart from endemic sectarianism (which seems to have festered rather than abated since the mid 90s), for the NI electorate to consistently vote overwhelmingly for the far fringes of Nationalism and Unionism at every election?

    Are people so blinded by the ‘goal’, i.e. a United Ireland or the maintaining of the Union for ever more, that they can see nothing else? Do trivial things like jobs, health and education not matter? Sinn Fein could put a monkey up for election in West Belfast and it would still get voted in, without question.

    The performances of the DUP and SF are only ever scrutinised by the public when they aren’t deemed to be hard-line enough. Take for example the following, select list of aberrations by these 2 parties against their dumb, sheep-like followers; yet they are never brought to account for any of it.

    Sinn Fein:

    1. They killed people (the obvious one – duh?)

    2. They have never disclosed the whereabouts of the remains of the Disappeared.

    3. [i]”Sinn Fein’s MPs claimed a total of £662,660 of taxpayer-funded allowances in 2007/8″[/i]. For what? Absentee representation? The money they took wasn’t just ‘Brit’ money either – it came from the taxes of everyone in the UK – including workers who vote SF.

    4. Ruane has screwed up NI’s education system irreparably – but as a reward she will no doubt be elected as MP for South Down in 1 year’s time.

    5. They wasted 10 years of the ‘peace process’ through their intransigence and their inability to follow through with the quite reasonable request to decommission their weapons in exchange for political power.


    1. They organised the Ulster Resistance, procuring weapons for loyalist terror groups (so by proxy, they too have killed people)

    2. Double-jobbing. How can Paisley, Dodds, Robinson etc all be MLAs and MPs at the simultaneously? This leads to poor quality representation at the very least from a bunch of greedy, self-serving zealots.

    3. Hypocrisy. They lampooned Trimble and did for the UUP. When the coast was clear and all threats to hegemony within Unionism seemed to be gone they signed up for almost exactly the same deal as Trimble had done 10 years previously – with the added advantage that it came with the guarantee of power at Stormont for them.

    4. Nepotism. You can only get elected if your surname is Paisley, Robinson or Dodds. The DUP aren’t just [i]nast[/i]y, they are dy[i]nast[/i]ic

    5. Undemocratic. They huffed and puffed at the result of the GFA, a referendum in which a comfortable majority voted ‘Yes’ until they derailed the entire process for their own gain.


    I despair. Democracy is obviously too good for the people of Northern Ireland.

    I don’t see any improvement in the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland from having these people in charge. No jobs, no prospects and no future – but the proles keep voting for them regardless. They are meant to be sharing power and decision making but all they do is bicker between themselves whilst picking up a very large cheque at the end of the month on our expense. They are a joke and their continued subjugation of their 2 tribes, with the acquience of those tribes, makes me ashamed to be Northern Irish, British, Irish or whatever pathetic label you want to put on me.

  • slug

    I think the problem is that the thing that gets NI nationalists electorally excited is different from the thing that gets ROI people excited. Society in NI is so different from anywhere else. The fact that there are such things as “catholic areas” and “protestant areas” etc shows this. The South, by contrast, is a normal society.

    If Newton Emerson were here, he would say that Sinn Féin fail in the south because there are not enough protestants for them to wind up.

  • redhugh78

    The Stoops are yesterday’s men, dry yer eyes.

  • John O’Connell

    Don’t despair, diluted Orange. This election has seen major cracks in the edifices of the DUP and Sinn Fein. And they did very well over recent years because they are led by special people.

  • pete whitcroft

    John O’Connell

    What a link.

  • John O’Connell

    Thanks Pete.

  • borden

    Red Hugh,

    are Sinn Fein merely out SDLPing the SDLP? I mean, its reasonable to say that many of the republican base did not come out to support De Brun – this is very evident in the turnout in Sinn Fein dominated areas in Northern ireland – so SF have reverted to constitutional nationalism a la Hume/McAteer/Redmond/Parnell/O’Connell.
    Another note – certainly there is constructive criticism for the SDLP, a lot of it warranted. But if you look at the SF vote it has stalled, for whatever reason in NI. SF just can’t seem to put SDLP as away as they’d like.
    Please remember that 40% of nationalists (those who turn out to vote) consistently over the past 8 years will not vote for SF.

  • John O’Connell


    I think you might be the same Pete Whitcroft who stood for Alliance in 1998 Assembly elections. In which case you got 777 votes. That’s quite a coincidence. It was in fact an Alliance supporter who showed me the Ian Paisley part of that equation in early 1980s. I’ve been following it with interest ever since.

  • Ramsey

    Nearly as interesting as this one I claim to be the Christ.htm

  • John O’Connell

    Listen, Sue, guilty as charged.

  • dampsquid

    John should look at a post from the other day on slugger about the fortunes of the sdlp –

    To look at the future of the SDLP, you need to look at the past.

    In recent weeks it has been revealed that the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell is the MP with the highest allowance claims for the North – entirely at the tax-payers expense.

    Then news emerged that the SDLP’s Eddie McGrady has lorded it in five-star hotels whilst in London – again, entirely at the tax-payers expense.

    Lo and behold, the SDLP leader Mark Durkan discreetly posted copies of his own expenses claims (between May ’05 and April ’08) up on his website last Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the media’s self-imposed curfew ahead of the European elections. Nice one Mark!

    Not a single word has been written or uttered about Mark’s expenses since then.

    This is somewhat surprising (or is it, Ed.?) given the vigour with which certain BBC political staff pursued other local politicians over expenses (Martina Purdy at Bairbre de Brún’s manifesto launch comes to mind), and in the context of the Irish News – a couple of weeks before the election – splashing repeated non-stories about Caitriona Ruane travelling to Cyprus on three days of official ministerial business.

    What’s really shocking about Mark’s claims is that it emerges that he’s been claiming for light bulbs, tea cloths, towels, household items, a TV, a DAB FM radio, a set-top free-view box, electrical leads, a charger, household items, rent, gas, electricity, council tax/rates, so-called ‘domestic sundries’ and – of course – food!

    But the one that really gets me is toilet roll! I mean, c’mon Mark, you get paid while talking crap – do you really have to charge us for the bog roll as well?

    Once again, like his SDLP colleagues, Mark charged all of this to the tax-payer – on top of employing his wife as a part-time office worker… and taking his MP’s salary… and his MLA’s salary… and all of the other attendant office expenses.

    Grand total for Mark’s ‘perk payments’ from Westminster (ie. just the extra allowances)?

    Well, between May ’05 and April ’08, the cost to the taxpayer was £57,890.11 – give or take.

    Mark even claimed for two people staying in a hotel room (before he started renting an apartment at considerably higher costs) in July ‘05. Mercifully for Mark, the Fees Office stepped in and disallowed half the charge. Presumably the ‘other person’ had to cough up their own dosh…. unless, of course, Mark dipped for it…..

    Black mark for the media! Big questions for Mark Durkan! Sick joke for the SDLP!

  • John O’Connell


    You’re not telling me anything I didn’t already know. The SDLP are extravagant because they want those who make the sacrifice to have the rewards.

    On the other hand because Sinn Fein are essentially begrugders – which is the basis behind their republicanism – they watch each other (except Gerry Adams it seems) with energy in case anybody gets any more than they deserve. And what they deserve is actually nothing because that is what they are paid – except Gerry Adams.

    You’re also telling me that Sinn Fein members are greviance-driven in that they like to point out the faults of others while refusing to face up to the planks in their own eyes. Well, I knew that already too.

    And so your point is, exactly?

  • pete whitcroft

    Yer link doesn’t work. Has John deleted it?

  • pete whitcroft

    Yer link doesn’t work. Has John deleted it?

    I looked up the .org and got there.