Who’s afraid of Uncle Marty?

Fascinating article in today’s Irish News concerning UTV’s announcement that it planned on holding televised debates between the local political parties ahead of this year’s Westminister elections. An SDLP source is quoted in the article as saying that the party would only participate

“under the condition that it is the party leader of all the main parties that takes part.”

The Irish News reporter (Diane Rusk) notes that this would amount to Martin McGuinness not being permitted to participate, lest the SDLP throw a (White House style?) tantrum.

It provides an interesting insight into the current thinking of the SDLP. Obviously the party knows that McGuinness’ stock- and stature- has risen considerably since the restoration of devolution at Stormont, and clearly the party strategists believe Ritchie has more chance of comparing well when faced with Adams than McGuinness. Personally I can’t see it. Maybe the party has bought into the narrative that blamed Adams’ RTE debate ahead of the last Dail elections for the party’s poor performance. Of course, the fact that the Progressive Democrats performed even worse than Sinn Fein in the 2007 Dail election is an inconvenient truth which tends to be ignored by those who hailed the significance of Michael McDowell’s performance in that debate.

I think the SDLP are making the mistake of believing that Adams’ discomfiture with matters of finance (which remains his- and the party’s- Achilles heel in the south of Ireland) will decisively be borne out before a northern audience. This view ignores a number of pertinent realities: firstly, that all of the main parties in the Six Counties struggle to sound convincing when discussing issues of business and finance; and secondly, that this is largely a consequence of the electorate’s continuing preoccupation with constitutional politics.

Of course, the SDLP could be banking on Adams being forced to publicly address issues relating to the on-going child abuse crisis affecting the Catholic Church, as well as questions emanating from the imminent publication of Ed Moloney’s new book. This may sound appealing to the SDLP but they would do well to remember that Gay Byrne no doubt thought that lining up Austin Currie, Hugh Leonard and Jim Kemmy to tag team a verbal assault on Adams backfired spectaculary on the Late Late all those years ago.

Finally, the SDLP precondition to participation in the UTV debate throws up another interesting question: who is the ‘Leader’ of UCUNF, Cameron or Empey?

  • It would be interesting if SF decided that they did want to put Martin up anyway. What would the SDLP strategists to then, pull out of the debate?
    That wouldn’t serve them very well.

    Maybe they are secretly hoping that McGuinness does decide to do it, thus giving cover for Ritchie to withdraw. The last thing the SDLP should seek out are live TV appearances for their current leader.

  • scarecrow

    I think your analysis is right. Adams is not a good speaker under pressure, and he will have a lot of controversy to play with. Good analysis Chris.

  • old school

    “Mc Guinness has risen in stock and stature since the restoration of Stormont.”
    I find him pathetic, personally, but Jonathan Powell speaks highly of him.
    I’d say the reasons behind the SDLP demand is because both Adams and the DUP leader are damaged goods.
    Anyway Mary Lou is Vice President of PSF. Why isnt Chris saying they are afraid to debate with her? Is she just there for window dressing?
    Adams has gone from being the main asset of the party to being it’s biggest hindrance.

  • Gerry Adams has too much ‘baggage’ at the moment. He would not be a good choice, but Martin McGuinness, if he is ever going to move out of the republican shadow, this might be a good opportunity for him, assuming he can avoid the allegations of child abuse and cover up. I mean the Catholic church scandal of course (see how easy it is)…

    The SDLP might be looking for a reason to opt out of a debate, their new leader does not inspire confidence.

  • Harry J

    in the UTV debate throws up another interesting question: who is the ‘Leader’ of UCUNF, Cameron or Empey?………..

    as the leader of the largest party in the coalition it would have to be Cameron or they should not be allowed to take part

    On 2nd thoughts put reg on, his grating voice will do the DUP wonders

  • Mark McGregor

    You do know nobody reads the Irish News since they went firewall?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Scarecrow
    Thanks, but I think Adams copes quite well precisely when cornered- the exception being when faced with the type of questions requiring a more than surface level appreciation of economic affairs, and that criticism can be labelled at virtually all of our northern leaders to date.

    I actually think Sinn Fein should be putting McGuinness forward as he is the primary leadership figure associated with Stormont.

    The problem for Mary Lou is that when addressing northern affairs she often comes across to a northern nationalist audience as Adams clearly does to a mainstream southern audience.

  • lamhdearg

    Lets hope sf dont put up their leader and the sdlp follow suit and put up alex attwood, Then i can record it for when i cannot get to sleep.

  • scarecrow

    .You do know nobody reads the Irish News since they went firewall?

    I’d say the readership has gone up, if the queue to read it for free in Easons is anything to go by.

  • The Raven

    Harry J wrote: “On 2nd thoughts put reg on, his grating voice will do the DUP wonders”

    Errr, if this is a leaders’ debate, I see a flaw in your plan.

  • old school

    Chris, what relevance does “being associated with Stormont” reflect on the Westminster elections, particularly considering Sinn Fein will not take their seats there…yet?
    Are they inextricably linked??
    And what makes you think Mary Lou will come across any different from Catriona Ruane?

  • old school

    Anyone comes across better than Catriona Ruane.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I persume the debate will operate on similar if not identical “rules” as the debates in Scotland and Wales, if in those cases the Party Leaders in the respective regions act as spokesperson rather than the National Leaders then I persume it will be Reg rather than Dave and vice Versa, although the fact Reg isnt standing might be a factor, as it would also be in Scotland and Wales.

  • lamhdearg

    No please not Ruane i’ll be up all night punching my pillow,what am i thinking i just would not watch, that also applies to David simpson “Parity of esteem”.

  • Harry J

    if in those cases the Party Leaders in the respective regions act as spokesperson rather than the National Leaders….

    as uncunf is a pact then reg is only a half of it(or should that be a third).

    THe differnce is the Tories in Scotland are the scottish tory party with their own leader there. Ucunf has two leaders Cameron and Emtpy

  • Chris Donnelly

    old school
    McGuinness has become the party’s main face in the north, and his stock has risen sharply as a result. Consequently, it makes sense to play to your strengths in the run in to an election.

    I don’t get your point re Mary Lou given what I’ve already said above in post 7.

  • old school

    My point is that you ASSUME that the SDLP fear debating Mc Guinness.
    The flip side of that is that I ASSUME, you believe the SDLP don’t fear debating either the President or Vice President of Sinn Fein. Just “Uncle Marty”.
    I take it as a put down of the No. 1 and No.2 of the Party.

  • iluvni

    Can the rules be set such that no-one is allowed to list ‘free bus travel’, ‘winter fuel payment’ and ‘no water rates’ as the acheivements of the Executive.
    We’ve been hearing that for years, with them all claiming the credit for it…maybe, just maybe, they could come up with a new one to justify the millions.

  • Harry J

    list ‘free bus travel’, ‘winter fuel payment’ and ‘no water rates’ as the acheivements of the Executive.

    these have to be paid for every year you know and people would GURN the moment they were taken away.

  • Turgon

    To the question “Who is afraid of Martin McGuinness” the answer is: lots of people and with good reason. I think the family of Frank Hegarty would be a good example.

  • Martin McGuinness has won some respect in his role as DFM. He has not done much wrong, and as everyone knows he can be quite stony when pushed. I think he would do better in debate than any other S/F leader.

    The women, well I am afraid they are not good enough.

  • Harry J

    #

    To the question “Who is afraid of Martin McGuinness” the answer is: lots of people and with good reason. I think the family of Frank Hegarty would be a good example.
    Posted by Turgon on Mar 23, 2010 @ 11:06 PM

    what about that killer the TUV are petitioning for release, im sure there are plenty of people who are afraid of him

  • old school

    Adams’ interview technique, involves him asking himself questions, when the interviewee boxes him in.
    Gerry: Will there be more setbacks and challenges?
    Gerry: Of course there will.
    Gerry: How will we deal with these setbacks?
    Gerry: By ensuring we get all the institutions up and rolling, in a level playing field…rhubarb, rhubarb.”
    It neutralises the debate, and Gerry only get’s to answer his own easy questions.
    Mc Guinness schtick is to throw his Brandywell, “did you steal my trout” hardman stare.

  • old school

    No one said it was pretty! but I will take the stony stare over the meaningless drivel any day.

  • Turgon

    Harry J,
    Impressive, I never mentioned anything other than about McGuinness being a deeply unsavoury character. In response we have a DUP supporter defending Martin McGuinness. Remind me who are your enemies: republican terrorists or other unionists?

  • Justin Case…

    That is an interesting point about the UUP/Tory partnership.

    I nominate Jeff Peel

  • Equally of interest is if Sinn Féin would wish to put up McGuinness over Adams. That would be an admission that Adams is damaged goods. As for the SDLP not wishing their leader to appear on live TV, why did they fight to secure a place on Question Time last month?

  • Harry J

    In response we have a DUP supporter defending Martin McGuinness. Remind me who are your enemies: republican terrorists or other unionists?
    Posted by Turgon on Mar 23, 2010 @ 11:27 PM

    sorry turgon i didnt defend mcguiness, but you seem to be happy with your party supporting loyalist terrorists…prod killers ok?

  • Harry J

    so turgon did Jim Allister sign the petition for the release of a convicted murderer? did you?

  • Harry J

    Remind me who are your enemies: republican terrorists or other unionists?
    Posted by Turgon on Mar 23, 2010 @ 11:27 PM

    I see tugon doesnt see loyalist terrorists as enemies i certainly do.

  • Turgon

    Harry J,
    I certainly see loyalist terrorists as enemies and I condemn the TUV member for signing the petition. Mr. Collins is grosly and completely in the wrong.

    However, I was pointing out that McGuinness was a terrorist and I am bemused that your response to this is to attack a unionist (me) who points this out. There was a time when your leaders were only too happy to point out that McGuinness was a terrorist.

    Tell me Harry J do you think that McGuinness was a terrorist?

    Incidentally I did not want to bring this up but I see that Iris Robinson’s view that homosexuality is “viler” than paedophilia seems to have some currency within the DUP: after all Paul Berry was thrown out for alleged homosexuality whereas paedophile Brian Hutchinson was welcomed back into the party and made treasurer of the Armagh branch.

  • “As for the SDLP not wishing their leader to appear on live TV, why did they fight to secure a place on Question Time last month?”

    My guess would be that they don’t want to put her up for interview precisely because they fought so hard to get her on Question Time, and she was a disaster. I imagine that is why we have seen more of Alex Atwood and Mark Durkan on the air since then than ever we did before.

    Where IS Margaret Ritchie?

  • J Kelly

    The sdlp are not that worried about her general performance but more afraid of a major gaffe, this woman has the tendency to “lose the run of herself”. They don’t want a post nationalism moment.

  • This debate is just built on uninformed speculation from a story most people have not actually read. At no point did the SDLP say they would not debate McGuinness, that is just what the Irish News correspondent inferred from the spokesperson’s comment.

    Also, the precedent is for a leader’s debate so that should rule out McGuinness anyway. The real story would be Sinn Féin having no faith in Adams. How people can jump from this to say that the SDLP have no faith in their leader is crazy, given that they fought to get her on QT last month. Snowstorm, the party do want to put her up so your comments are as wrongheaded as they are ill-informed.

    Put it this way, would David Cameron be content debating with Brown’s deputy in the leadership debate? I think not. Would Brown be ok if Cameron ducked out and left him and Clegg debating a lesser Tory spokesperson? Likewise, no.

    The real question here is if Sinn Féin have enough confidence in their own leader to put him in front of the public. If not then there are very serious questions about his position- is Marty going to wield the knife?

  • Paddy

    “I think your analysis is right. Adams is not a good speaker under pressure, and he will have a lot of controversy to play with. Good analysis Chris.”

    McGuinness is not a good speaker, period. he should have stuck to the butchery.

  • [i]McGuinness is not a good speaker, period. he should have stuck to the butchery. [/i]

    He never really gave that up, Paddy.

  • J Kelly

    1967 how do you get to this place the SDLP want to put preconditions on taking part, for reasons of their own and we and the Irish News are entitled to speculate..thats what happens on these boards every day of the week.

  • J Kelly,

    Indeed it is but some of the speculation is just ridiculous. Some people are trying to have it both ways, criticising the SDLP for wanting all party leaders to take part then somehow jumping from that to saying that the SDLP don’t want their own party leader to appear on the show.

    We don’t know the context or statement from which that quote was lifted and the journalist has added her own commentary on which this whole discussion has been based. Perhaps the SDLP want to ensure Margaret is involved; perhaps they want a chance to tackle David Ford. Typical of Chris Donnelly to presume everything is about Sinn Féin.

    Let’s see if SF will try and ditch their own party leader for the debate. That would be a real talking point.

  • brendan

    Surely all parties should be asked to partake in the debate and then it is up to each who they put forward?

    Why would one patry complain or threaten not to participate unless another party put up its leader?

    Mind you it would say a lot about any leader who did not take part, hardly real leadership is it?

  • brendan

    Surely all parties should be asked to partake in the debate and then it is up to each who they put forward?

    Why would one patry complain or threaten not to participate unless another party put up its leader?

    Mind you it would say a lot about any leader who did not take part, hardly real leadership is it?

  • J Kelly

    1967 why do you believe that the SDLP insisted on the need for party leaders? What is it to SDLP who SF DUP or others put up?

    You know as well as I do that the smart alecs in the SDLP don’t want Mags out front.

  • J Kelly,

    Do you not see the contradiction in your first sentence and your third one? SDLP insisted on party leaders (and therefore on Margaret Ritchie) as you say, yet you also think they don’t want to put Margaret up front!

    [url]http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/logic[/url]

  • Sean Og

    I think the DUP put up Peter Robinson rather than Paisley for the TV debate at the last Westminister election.

    The television channels must give equal coverage to all the main parties. There will be a debate and each party will decide who to field. They’ll all turn up on the night and it will be bloody awful.