Fianna Fail Arrives

After having flirted for a while with the idea of seeking elected office in the north of Ireland, it looks like the Fianna Fail leadership’s hand has finally been forced with the news that Independent MLA, Gerry McHugh, has joined the party. The former Sinn Fein MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone is interviewed today in the Irish News about his decision to join the party. The fact that a key local figure such as Peter Quinn has also declared firmly for the party should be taken as a serious statement of intent. It would appear that the electoral contest within nationalism has taken a new direction.

  • Richard Aardvark

    Great, with McHugh’s ilk there is no serious danger of Fianna Fail attracting Protestant votes 😀

  • Seymour Major

    This raises questions about Fianna Fail’s attitude towards the St. Andrews agreement. Does Fianna Fail support McHugh’s views stated in December 2007?

    http://www.sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/sinn-fein-mla-resigns-from-party/

    Or has McHugh moved towards Fianna Fail’s official view of St. Andrews? You could do worse than starting with Bertie Aherne’s speech at the St Andrews Summit in December 06

    http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page10221

    Looks to me like chalk and cheese but then I suppose we should always expect the unexpected in Northern Ireland politics.

  • Domino

    Bad move by FF.

    The notional benefit of having a single MLA is vastly outweighed by McHugh’s baggage.

    There goes whatever chance they had of taking the nationalist centre ground.

    This is undoubtedly a misconceived attempt to force their leadership’s hand about running in 2011.

  • slug

    “Mr McHugh said Sinn Féin’s decision to endorse policing in the north was a “factor” in his decision [to leave SF].”

    Embarrassing for FF?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Initial reaction was sceptical, as a F&ST; voter even I know very little about Mr McHugh but had always persumed he had split form SF because they “had gone too far”, however on reflection I think on the whole it is a good thing that he has chosen a less extreme party than he was previously in and those how feel dissaffected by SF policy and party management have somewhere to go other than “dissident” groups.

  • Big Bopper

    Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly begin with the enacting formula: “Be it enacted by being passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly and assented to by Her Majesty as follows:”.

    So FF have their 1st servant of the Crown.

    An honour for Gerry Mchugh or Brian Cowen?

  • FST

    Another politician whose previously stated views have got in the way of the fact that the money may run out soon in his current position. What a neck!

  • Confused and amused:
    1 is anyone in the Republic in charge of / responsible for FF in Northern Ireland – is this an ‘approved’ position or can anyone in the north declare anything on behalf of FF ‘nationally’?
    2 is anyone in the current northern FF prepared to stand up and defend the FF Government in the Republic and the handling of the economy – didn’t Peter Quinn have a big share-holding in one of the Banks, so he must have an opinion on that too?
    3 do the members of the Northern Ireland FF support, for example, charges for attending a doctor? VAT at 20+%, including food? More examples, but enough for now.

  • Mack

    didn’t Peter Quinn have a big share-holding in one of the Banks, so he must have an opinion on that too?

    That was de brudder. Sean.

  • Sinn Féin Councillor for Erne West, Phil Flangan has commented on the launch of Fianna Fáil in Fermanagh:

    “I welcome anyone who feels that they can help to bring about the reunification of this island to the political arena in Fermanagh, but I would urge caution on those who believe that Fianna Fáil are now a 32 county republican party.

    This county has long been forgotten about by governments in Belfast & London, but Dublin has been just as bad, and Fianna Fáil are as guilty as any for this negligence.

    “Where were Fianna Fáil when the people of Fermanagh needed them?

    “I find it astounding that now, in the middle of an economic crisis that is crippling the 26 counties, Fianna Fáil feel that they have something productive to offer politics in the North of Ireland, and especially the people of Fermanagh. Let us not forget that Fianna Fáil have been the majority party of a coalition government since 1997 and that their greed and dodgy dealings are to blame for the crisis in the south.

    “The current Fianna Fáil Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, has branded southern shoppers that come to places like Enniskillen to carry out their shopping as ‘unpatriotic’. Fianna Fáil are clearly a partitionist party and their policy of encouraging shoppers to remain loyal to the 26 counties reinforces this.

    “Southern trade is really the only thing moving the economy in Fermanagh. All construction and manufacturing work has effectively come to a stand still thanks to the greed of the banks and the building developers that Fianna Fáil so desperately seek to protect.

    “What have the working class people got out of all the boom years? Nothing. When a home owner cannot afford to meet their mortgage repayments, are they afforded any help or support? No, they are just turfed out on the street.

    “Is this the type of representation we need in the North? Where only the already rich are looked after, and the poor are tramped further into the ground?”

  • FST

    Mack, Peter lost a shirt or two with AIB too. Don’t fret tho, he’s still ok!!

  • eric

    It does put the FF leadership in Dublin in a bit of a quandry. I suppose technically he sits as an independent who is a member of Fianna Fail – not unlike Jim McDaid TD from Donegal in the Dail!

    It will be interesting to see how this feeds into the SDLP leadership contest. How will the McDonell/McGlone campaign adapt to this.

  • Mack

    To restore a little balance, it hasn’t been all bad..

    In April 1997 there were 1,328.5 million persons employed in the state.

    http://www.cso.ie/qnhs/documents/table_16_post_census1.xls

    In June 2008 there were 2,112.8 million persons employed in the state.

    http://www.cso.ie/statistics/empandunempilo.htm

    In 1997 the average industrial wage was €15240.68

    http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/earnings/1998/indearn_june1998.pdf

    By 2007 the average industrial wage was €32616.48 (this is real growth significantly above the rate of inflation)

    http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/earnings/current/indearn.pdf

    Coupled with significant falls in the level of taxation levied..

    The average tax rate for a married one-earner couple with two children on the average industrial wage is now 7.7% as compared with 20.3% in 1997.

    http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0628/D.0628.200611220101.html

    The dole in the south is €205 per week, in the north it is around £60

    The state pays the interest on mortgages for welfare receipents for the first year of unemployment. For historical reasons repossessions are actually very low in Ireland (south).


    40% of all Irish workers (the lowest paid), pay no income tax at all.

    http://www.ronanlyons.com/2009/04/27/are-irish-workers-undertaxed/

  • P O neil

    its a sign of the times when people are leaving SF to join FF because there more republican, surely SF are were FF were years ago, gaining power and starting to sell out there believes for money and power. SF and FF are not republican for years, both accept parliments which endorse the division of eire, they both work with and now support crown forces position in providing English rule. Why dont both of them get off there Soap boxes and stop lying. I know Gerry and thought when he left SF that its cause Adams and his boys had bowed down to the crown, but hopefully he will realise that FF never done enough, they imprisioned, murdered republicans, it wont be long to the new SF-RUC will be out killing republicans

  • Sean

    This is just some one starved of the oxygen of publicity found a way to get a fresh lung full

    And noww FF have a fresh place to redirect attention

    win win as they say

  • cushy glenn

    Uh Oh
    Another political party for Billy Leonard to join…..

  • jaysus

    Im hearing through facebook that local shinners were going to out him as in bed with ff (no doubt negatively) via the press, so mchugh went to them himself. looks like its a case of forcing a hand has forced another hand! looks like a shinner has already done it

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Richard Aardvark / Seymour Major

    I think when an individual joins a political party, one must assume that the individual is buying into that political party’s policies, not that the political party is buying into the various opinions of the individual.

    In this case, we must assume McHugh’s policy on policing is that outlined by Bertie Ahern at St Andrews. Surely this is a clarification that will be welcomed by all?

    Indeed McHugh was on Talkback just now, explaining that he is a big supporter of policing, it’s just that he feels there should be greater accountability. You may agree or disagree with that opinion, but clearly it’s an opinion that falls well within the boundaries of the reasonable. It’s also clear that he is a republican who is a million miles away from the analysis (if you can call it that) of the dissidents, though he is coming from a similar background. This is particularly significant in Fermanagh.

    Surely all this suggests either that Gerry McHugh has moderated his position in recent years, or that he has always been a much more moderate republican than previously supposed?

    Isn’t this an encouraging sign?

  • Scamallach

    Mack

    “The dole in the south is €205 per week, in the north it is around £60”

    A) This doesn’t take into account cost of living, and B) Are you really arguing that the higher the dole the better? Why not double it and completely take away any incentive to work??

    “40% of all Irish workers (the lowest paid), pay no income tax at all.”

    So 40% of workers in the south make no contribution to the state, is that really something to shout about? Paying tax makes you a stakeholder and the more people who pay the better, even if it is only a marginal amount, as it gives them a stake in how it is spent. There’s one reason for voter apathy in the south.

  • DN

    “I feel the direction Sinn Fein is taking is more about appeasement of the British government and administrating British rule in Ireland rather than working towards the end of British occupation.”

    Gerry McHugh – Dec 2007

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7125105.stm

  • igor

    ” it’s just that he feels there should be greater accountability ”

    ….. yes, just like Ireland where a Fianna Fail Minister can tell the Garda what to do …like not investigate any troublesome allegations about kiddie-fiddling by priests or enquire too closely into the brown envelope circulation industry.

    That’s a great model for us all to follow.seem

  • John East Belfast

    Truth Seeker

    “excellent news for the middle classes who have and will continue to desert the ship that was the sdlp.”

    Actually I would go with Domino above

    “The notional benefit of having a single MLA is vastly outweighed by McHugh’s baggage.
    There goes whatever chance they had of taking the nationalist centre ground.”

    McHugh obviously supported the armed struggle something which FF in association with all other civilised and democratic governments spent 30 years trying to destroy.

    Therefore unless McHugh has had a Damascus road conversion then he has only changed his tactics and not his mind.

    How FF could consider that such an individual is suitable for their party smacks of hypocrisy and cynacism.

    People on here try to flog the dead horse of the UUP and its OO members being an embarassment to the UK Tories but this nothing compared to this.

    Not to mention I hope he is also promoting the FF Dublin line that people shouldnt be shopping in Enniskillen.

    The whole notion of 26 county sovereign parties participating in NI Elections will disappear up its own arse in contradictions

  • abc123

    To Phil Flanagan (SF) – shouldn’t you also consider another party in Fermanagh? After all, you must have been just out of primary school when your organisation decided to officially stop murdering people (of course there have been others since).

    You’re a businessman. I’m sure you welcome trade from everyone including the families of those people Sinn Fein – PIRA murdered or maimed for life. It’s time for an apology to ALL the victims of Sinn Fein – PIRA violence if you want people to believe your organisation has moved on from its murderous past.

  • Mack

    Scallamach –

    A) The cost of living in the UK is not 1/3 of the Irish rate.

    B) Yes. Paying support to workers who have lost their jobs while they look for new ones is essential in a capitalist economy with flexible labour markets. The dole should be the highest affordable amount (taking in all other spending / taxation issues into account).

    So 40% of workers in the south make no contribution to the state, is that really something to shout about?

    Well, it’s certainly progressive. A previous poster claimed the working class did not benefit from the boom or 10 years of FF in government. That notion is simply wrong.

    Again – it is surely better to live in a state that provides above a minimum level of services – with low taxes than in one with higher taxes.

  • Peter Fyfe

    JEB

    I believe it was William Hague that used the word ‘thugs’ when talking about loyalists. In my opinion the blue bag brigade and UUP leaders marching together in July is not quite as disturbing as the UUP’s new allies in Eastern Europe. Does it mean Mary McAleese is a prophet? She told us unionists were nazis a few years ago now. Maybe she had some insight into future tory policy, just a thought.

  • eric

    “How FF could consider that such an individual is suitable for their party smacks of hypocrisy and cynacism.”

    Because that is a Fianna Fail core value. Fianna Fail will take the same view of people with a PIRA background as the Irish Labour Party does of people with a OIRA background.

    I think the SDLP conference in the spring will be a decisive moment. If McDonnell loses expect a lot of his support base to defect to Fianna Fail.

    Sinn Fein is not as vulnerable as the SDLP in this respect, however some of Sinn Fein’s pro business centre-right base might well opt for Fianna Fail in time as Sinn Fein trys to nudge itself ever closer to the Labour Party.

    What is the total SDLP membership in Fermanagh-South Tyrone? Is Gallagher’s organisation very much a personal group of family and friends?

  • So 40% of workers in the south make no contribution to the state, is that really something to shout about?

    They don’t make no contribution – they still pay VAT, TV licenses, rates etc.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    JEB

    Maybe he has had a Damascene conversion? Given that he has joined a party that, as you rightly point out, spent thirty years struggling against the IRA, surely this must be the assumption? Fianna Fáil’s policy hasn’t changed, so we must assume Gerry McHugh’s has.

    Isn’t this a good thing?

    It’s also significant, I think, that he has made clear he is a member of FF, but not a FF MLA. He does not speak for FF, he is just a party member. Wendy Austin seemed to have some trouble with this distinction, but I honestly don’t know why.

    As for your argument that FF are doomed to fail here due to the jurisdictional differences, all I can say is that you seem to credit them with no imagination whatsoever.

    Either that, or you have precious little yourself!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Ps. Only teasing JEB 🙂

  • The bi-jurisdictional argument keeps cropping up, even though it’s an utter red herring. Should we believe that the US Republican party can’t simultaneously elect Schwarzenegger in California and Bush in Texas? Why can’t a political party propose one policy in one jurisdiction and another policy elsewhere? Just because it’s a good idea for me to buy a car doesn’t make it logical to argue that everyone else should do the same.

    On the contrary, bi-jurisdictionalism (is that a new word?) would introduce a much-needed maturity to political debate. One size doesn’t fit all, and having cross-border parties such as FF openly argue as much would be a welcome contrast to SF’s pie-in-the-sky approach.

  • Laughing (Sherlock) Unionist

    Slabbery disappears, Billy Pilgrim reappears. Hmmmmmn.

  • Andrew Gallagher

    They don’t make no contribution – they still pay VAT, TV licenses, rates etc.

    Much of what you say is true, except that there are no domestic rates in the south. All in all, it is a far lower-tax place than the north.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Of course taxes are lower in the Free State than in the UK. Guess what? Our contribution to the EEC/EC/EU these last, near 37 years has been much higher too. It’s been, in fact, nett. It’s a fun graph to plot: annual nett UK contribution since 1973 vs. RoI nett surplus. Have a go: you could almost think that those 26 counties hadn’t fallen out of the Union, but were in fact formal beneficiaries of London’s largesse. Good ole London, where would the rest of us be without her?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    L(S)U

    Sorry, but I don’t know who Slabbery is. I’m afraid I don’t know who you are either. Haven’t been around these parts in a long time, and I’m afraid this is a flying visit. If it sets your mind at rest, let me assure you that I have only ever posted here under one pseudonym – this one.

  • Peter

    Hopefully in 15 to 20 years time, good ole London and the British taxpayer will be shot of paying £7+ billion pounds foreign aid annually to a bankrupt unviable part of Ireland that we should have pulled of a long time ago.

  • Sean

    from a tangled web its andrew mccann
    the heroic yorkshireman

  • K. Gough

    Think this is a good move by McHugh. It is counties like Fermanagh and Down that FF will find it easiest to draw support from. McHugh obviously has a personal vote so this combined with a new fianna fail vote will make his reelection all the more likely than if he stood independently.

    Note he is not a Fianna Fail MLA, he is an indepedent MLA who is a member of Fianna Fail. This to me sounds like FF HQ have to ratify him or something to that effect.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Em.

    Its when Fine Gael come to NI that ye know ye have got it made 🙂

  • helter skelter

    “Think this is a good move by McHugh. It is counties like Fermanagh and Down that FF will find it easiest to draw support from”

    Yeah as that fantasist windbag John Taylor once said “You get a better class of croppie near the border”

    Fianna Fail my arse.

    A plague on all your gombeen muckheaps.

  • Sinn Féin = Fianna Fáil for slow learners

  • kensei

    Mack

    B) Yes. Paying support to workers who have lost their jobs while they look for new ones is essential in a capitalist economy with flexible labour markets. The dole should be the highest affordable amount (taking in all other spending / taxation issues into account).

    For a short time, then falling off, no?

  • Mack

    Kensei –

    Yep, absolutely. I don’t think workers should subsidise otherwise fit individuals who choose not to work. I would guess you agree, but just in case, what do you think?

  • eric

    “Sinn Féin = Fianna Fáil for slow learners ”

    Brilliant! Post of the day

  • Drumlins Rock

    Did John Taylor really say that?

    I have never heard a Prod use the term croppie in my life apart from quoting the title of a song no-one knows.
    Do yous not think Gerry is just a bit ahead of the game?, as SF have much more incommon with FF than the SDLP ever had, and I’m not thinking republicanism or socialism.
    Whats the chance he will stand against Michelle, fingers crossed 🙂

  • Turgon

    Drumlin’s Rock,
    That had occurred to me as well. I wonder how that would change the dynamic for Westminster here. If there was a single unionist candidate it would all but guarentee a unionist MP. On the other hand if Foster and Elliott stand SF might well still get it. I do not like making predictions but I have a suspicion that Elliott will do better this time than last at Foster’s expense; though it may not be enough to see hime take the most unionist votes let alone get elected.

  • eric

    Fianna Fail have made it clear they are only interested in councils and the assembly. They won’t contest Westminster, they’ll get SF or the SDLP to do that instead. In effect they would only ever do PR-STV elections

  • shorty

    I think that many people are missing the real part of this story – Peter Quinn. He would be a very key player in FF’s development in the North. Very well respected and certainly very astute. If Quinn is on board then you could likely see others of his type – those who have broadly nationalist sentiments but not affiliated to any existing party – follow his lead. Additionally, his own connections with the GAA will open doors for him in every town and parish where there is a GAA club. He is one person that SF would find hard to beat or denigrate.

  • Vision Razor

    So will Gerry-No-Mates be sitting with the SDLP MLA’s now? I know it says that he is an independent who happens to be a FF member but the Stoops had been busting a gut to merge with FF not so long ago, surely it would be in the SDLP’s interest to try and get him into the fold?

  • Republican_Left

    This wouldnt actually be the first time Fianna Failure had a member elected in Stormont, De Valera was a member of Stormont for South Down in the 20’s and 30’s but didnt take his seat

  • Brian MacAodh

    The IRSP is gonna lose a lot of it’s support to Fianna Fail.

    They may no longer be relevant after this development.

  • latcheeco

    Correct Brian,
    The URPS may very well lose 50% of their supporters over this. Though the other one will probably stay staunch.

  • eric

    “I think that many people are missing the real part of this story – Peter Quinn.”

    Although this move was not planned by the FF HQ, they have the advantage of using McHugh as a test run at the next assembly election. The FF forum can act as a electoral organisation for the “Independent Republican” MLA at the election. They would be tested an electoral organisation and set up a fund raising network (Quinn etc will be key to this) and Fianna Fail’s traditional support for the SDLP from their border counties organisations can be transfered to McHugh.

    This does not mean Fianna Fail will be officially running in the 2011 elections, but there organisation will be participating in a number of “Independent” test campaigns.

    Alternatively the SDLP might bust up over their leadership election in the spring and then FF HQs hand may be forced