Taoiseach to open new Fianna Fail office in Crossmaglen…

Slugger hears that tomorrow night the Taoiseach will host a £50 a head dinner for about 120 people in the hotel in Crossmaglen to celebrate the opening of a party office in the town square. This same fund raiser has been in play for a number of years and indicates the party is interested in getting more involved in politics north of the border.

However, it would be a mistake to interpret this as a sign that the party will be fighting elections in Northern Ireland any time soon. It is simply not the Fianna Fail way to go off half cocked with a few hard core enthusiasts who little hope of gaining anything much out of breaking into a political space of which party headquarters has little practical experience.

There are thought to be a number of ‘hotspots’ of interest in the party, including South Armagh, South Down, Fermanagh, and Derry. But, despite resentment amongst some in the party over Margaret Ritchie’s speech at the Labour party conference early this year there are no plans to end its long term support for the SDLP.

Indeed, despite an abiding interest at the most senior levels of the party there are few who see any value in simply moving in on the SDLP. The Fora established by the 2009 Ard Fheis have helped them gauge the level of interest and given them a reliable database to work off for the first time.

But they will also be mindful of the disastrous attempt of the Conservatives to bring mainstream British politics to Northern Ireland in the recent Westminster election. A cross jurisdictional party, as we’ve seen with Sinn Fein’s erratic performances in the south, is likely to be an even taller order…

My guess that at the very earliest, we won’t see anything happen election-wise until the mega election year of 2015 (Council/Assembly/General Election). Even then, Fianna Fail don’t do futile gestures, or at least not in elections. Generally, they play to win.

They will only make a move when have defined for themselves a clear political purpose in Northern Ireland, and more importantly when they know they can they can carry a quantifiable number of seats. That might be easier to contemplate with a northern Deputy General Secretary in place in Dublin Headquarters.

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  • Charminator

    Arthur, you’re meandering way off point and I note you – as seems to be your stock in trade – raise new issues, but never seem to remotely address those already raised.

    “I’m not in a position to discuss personalities in Armagh or Down, but I would note that Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowan are both on record clearly articulating their own interpretations of Republicanism.”

    I had thought I had made this clear and frankly, it’s bad form to degenerate such analysis to such pettiness. Even if this is an online discussion board, a little decorum would go some way. Please do not describe as ‘friends’ FF members you’ve seen on the news or elsewhere. You seem to be far more familiar with FF personalities (or at least a personality) than I am: go question them yourself. My analysis is not personality-based and your assumptions that I’m somehow open to ‘SDLP have more seats than FF’ rubbish is really quite ludicrous. It’s not a question that you’ve got X or Y seats and I can now, I think safely say ‘you’.

    It’s a matter of the SDLP having one third less than they started out with, stripped of DFM and several Ministries, MEP seat, MP in N&A, and dozens of councillors. They are now a shadow of their former selves.

    But if you read closely, my analysis is not based on FF alone, but rather a FF or Labour dimension to Northern Nationalist/Republican politics. FF happen to be the focus here, because that’s the post, but I’d feel equally comfortable analysing the impact of a Labour entry (something which I happen to think is also very likely, as the SDLP slump continues).

    Re your Justice portfolio point: you seem to assume that it is for FF, FG, Labour etc to meekly support measures purely for the SDLP’s own interests. But if the SDLP are passed over for the Justice portfolio, that’s their own party political problem. That doesn’t impact on British-Irish relations or the internal community dynamics in the North. The SDLP are a minor player now and your point about FF standing by and watching them be sidelined re the Justice portfolio proves it. SF are the people FF, FG, and Labour HAVE to work with in the North: not the SDLP. I suggest you get used to that fact, whatever about FF or Labour’s entry into the North. Be they in the North or the South, neither will accord the SDLP the close ear they did in the past: their electoral strength simply doesn’t merit it anymore.

    Your comments here really said it all. You’re not prepared to countenance parties in the North with no history there and have any debate, when that’s your basic premise anyway, is utterly pointless. You’ve already tried the ‘interested voter’ ruse, but frankly, reading your comments, that’s clearly the most disingenuous effort ever to pass for open-minded debate.


  • Charminator

    I will look forward to that proper, focused debate indeed and – like I said – there’s actually a great deal I agree with in your analysis both on the nature of FF itself and their Northern manoeuvres.

    I do think, to most political observers, FF isn’t quite so cryptic, certainly not to Southern observers. Like I said, the success and corruption we’ve seen isn’t just coincidental, but both sides of the same coin. Our ‘cute hoorism’ term is perhaps Ireland’s best contribution to Acton’s analysis and it’s right on the money (excuse the pun).

    Re the SF risk which you mentioned – I genuinely don’t perceive any imminent threat from the entry into the North of a Southern party such as FF or Labour. In the short-term, possibly even medium-term, I think they’re probably safe, especially in N&A, W Belfast and many of the west of the Bann constituencies that they’ve really made their own in the past decade of SDLP decline. But I agree with you that FF particularly, but Labour too, would not be content to be perenially second best in the North.

    However, the loudest voices which we’re hearing regarding FF’s moves of late have not been from SF, likely because they don’t perceive any imminent threat, but rather from the clapped-out careerists in the SDLP. Eddie McGrady, if I recall, was quite vocal a few months back and Ritchie delivered some pretty good blows with her handbag too. But to use your ‘sheep’ analogy, they are not content to merely stay in the pen, but are creating a racket and do want to make themselves heard.

    I think this is actually the real story re FF moves: public figures in the SDLP, but many more faceless (in the printed press and web) SDLPers are prepared to go all out on this one, because the entry of Labour or FF into the North marks the definitive end of the SDLP menu. Of course, it’s not so much the end of SDLP values that concerns much of this ilk – as those values would likely find a home in Labour or FF (indeed would have to for electoral reasons). No, it’s simple straight careerism. Where would wee Alex Attwood go? Barely elected in W Belfast already, he’d hardly be viewed as an electoral asset to a new FF or Labour platform. Without engaging in personality-naming, there’s a lot of fodder out there which would be pretty irrelevant if the FF or Labour bandwagon electorally hits town.

  • Munsterview


    A question for you; do you think that every former Volunteer now in FF ranks South of the Border first went to the local police supertedent ‘for confession’ before they were allowed join a FF Cumann ?

    Most of the local leaders in FF had fathers, uncles and grandfatheres etc that made that same journey, as indeed they had female relatives in Cumann Na Bhean that came by the same routes. The ‘ same gene pool thing’ Arthur and all of that !

    Take it from me that were such a former Vol to act in this fashion he or she would get as short a shift from FF as they would from their former comerades in simlar circumstances. A dicotomy I know but the logic of such contridictions are some of the elephants in the room that have attended every FF meeting since the foundation of the party. Neither were they put down with the Arms Crisis, the herd just splith like the party!

    That same unspoken dicotomy is already part of the Northern dispensation and will work just the same as it alyays did in the South or indeed in the Old Nationalist Party in Eddie McAleers day. I would suggest anyone exploring this dicotomy read the account of Frank Aiken accepting a full IRA parade when he went to Kilmanam after the 1932 election and the discription of Frank going down the landings ‘in a millitary manner’ exchanging salutes with the IRA landing commanding officers!

    All these accomodations will be made as they always were and and as to the usual Greek Chorus of condemnation from the usual suspects who, we all know, would cheerfully strangle one of the Queens corrigies, barbeque the poor animal and eat it, if the oppertunity presented to blame it on the Provies!

    These pragmatic ‘in house’ accomodations were necessary for the success of the party, just the same as it was for these ex Kilmanham political IRA prisoners to join their FF coleauges in battering the Blueshirts off the streets to make political space for Republicanism to grow. FG likewise turned a blind eye to the activities of these former Blueshirts street tugs when they were absorbed into the party.

    Given all the other accomodations that have been made to date these few accomodations will be quitely made, not greately troubling the body politic save for the occasional burst of slugger like activity following an indignant article by David Vance or a pained openion piece by Fintian O’Tool.

    Meanwhile life goes on!

  • Munsterview

    We are into analysis territory here and I do not have the electoral results and notes file to hand, so no in depth response to the points you raised, even if I had the inclination, it is for a main article, if there is one!

    At this stage of the debate on this thread some of the mulberry bushes are stating to look very farmilar so unless it refreshes and takes off again I have it would seem, covered the main areas of what should be of concern to republicans, nationalists and indeed all on this Island as it concerns our collective futures………… assuming we still have any of course!

    At the time of the Hume / Adams talks I had a business and personal friendship with a Dublin based SDLP heavyweight as the money kind usually are. He was back-room and well keyed in.
    Mid way through the talks when we met up he looked awful. His greeting We…. are ……F’t!
    They had an A team and a back up B team, He had just discovered that SF had an A and B also but also C, D, and F etc.

    What psyched out this man is when he met these F and G teams tiding up small details they were of the same caliber as the SF A and B teams. Most of that evenings discussions centered on speculating how long the SDLP had left before it ceased to be the main Nationalist party!

    SF have succeeded in creating a them and us situation in the North and for many young catholic/ republican/ nationalists that US is Sinn Fein. That can only work while there is no credible alternative……. US!

    Some weeks back I advocated the four main political groupings in the North continuing for the immediate future to normalize democracy and give governance experience the opportunity to be acquired. FF will not mess around, it is not in their long term interests to allow that to happen. Just as FF put party before country in the South with the disastrous results that we have seen, they will do likewise in the North.

    FF has always had two battles operating, one for control of the country and another for control of the party! The Lenihans have not forgotten how the late Brian was shafted or when it happened how few friends were willing to stand up and be counted. The ‘revenge be jezus’ is not far behind many suave personas!

    Bertie knew this…….. and made sure Brian stayed down while he was in power. After seeing his performance during and post the last budget I made a bet with another old back-room guy that Brian would go for it before the next budget ( another will be left holding the budget bag for optics)………… so that means Brian for Leader in the fall, a tough as nails budget for the optics also, a fallen government blamed on the greens or the Independents etc.

    Brian is then back squeaky clean, brilliant leader in opposition that will outshine most of the Government ministers and he will have a slimmed down lean, mean machine that can taste power as the Government flounders under the massive debt. I got nice odds back then, I could not get even money in that scenario since last thursday when the Phoenix Mag outlined something similar as a possible unfolding FF script.

    The North is not back burner stuff, it is but one of of a number of pots simmering away on the stove, getting the attention it merits, no more or no less until the looming battle of the two Brians is resolved. The Northern hiatus is then over and 2016 is the magic date that will give the party traction back to their rightful place at the top of the political pile as they see it !

    FF are exactly where they want to be in the North, FG in government will have the same ( visceral ? ) gut instinct to shaft SF as Cameron and Co., manna from heaven for FF, they will relish being the ‘ Irish peoples champions’ and standing up to the Brits etc and I do not think that the C & C will last too long either past their next budget or two.

    If FF are making haste slowly in the North it is because the Big Plan needs just that, just now!