Sinn Féin’s ‘Alternative’

This is a guest post from Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh:
Sinn Féin recently published its plan for the cuts which offered a few populist measures as window-dressing e.g. a marginal pay-cut for MLAs, reduced use of business consultants and slashing bonuses to hospital consultants but aside from these few positive policies, the document masked the party’s 180˚ u-turn on its previous opposition to the cuts:

We fundamentally disagree with the Tory government’s slash and burn approach to the economic crisis, but we are nevertheless forced to deal with the consequences of its approach.

Sinn Féin plans to quietly administrate the cuts, safeguard business interests and slash workers wages hoping that big businesses will eventually be attracted to set up here and exploit local workers. Meanwhile, they will make a big play of their ‘opposition’ locally and hope to prevent any political fallout.

Regressive Taxes

The document proposes a number of regressive taxes e.g. on plastic bags (raising £4 million) and on mobile phone masts. The latter will simply result in phone companies ‘passing on’ the costs to consumers and in rural areas masts may be removed altogether as they will not be ‘profitable’.

Instead of shilly-shallying around the telecoms giants, the industry should be nationalised and democratised to ensure all profits are either reinvested in improving local infrastructure or to supporting other public services.

A Financial Services Mentality

The party has adopted the mindset of financial capitalism, their vision is for “financial engineering instruments…to help regions and cities meet their investment needs”!

They propose a bank bond to pay for private sector investment. This policy will guarantee massive profits for the bankers at the very time when working people are demanding that they be nationalised and run in the interests of the people.

The party also proposes the privatisation of future Housing Executive rent payments through creating a ‘special financial vehicle’ to ‘take advantage’ of accounting rules that allow a ‘body outside government to borrow’. The party appears to have forgotten that this was precisely why the 1990s Tory government implemented this ‘off-balance sheet’ accounting rule in the first place. Since then it has been instrumental in driving the widespread use of PFI with the aim of creating lucrative returns for speculators – something Sinn Féin appear to have no problem with.

But the speculators who lend money to the Executive will require annual payments for inflation, interest, so-called risk, as well as their profits. Surely a better deal would be secured if new social housing was simply paid for with increased taxation?

Lower Taxes for Big Business

Sinn Fein talks up their demand for ‘fiscal powers…to tackle the fiscal crisis. Without the necessary tools we are simply reduced to redistributing a smaller pot of money’. But before you assume that the party is seeking to increase the burden of tax to help protect public services you might notice this hidden sentence:

“The Tory party has articulated a public position around designating the north as an enterprise zone with the ability to vary [read lower] corporation tax rates. Sinn Fein believes that the British government should implement these proposals as part of a Budget Settlement.”

Far from using fiscal powers to protect the public services and workers from the devastation of the cuts, Sinn Féin seeks to lower business taxes even further!! The cost: £500 million a year to be paid for by further cuts and more stealth taxes.

It is an irony of history that after 30 years of divisive and fruitless struggle, Sinn Féin in government content themselves to implementing cuts that Margaret Thatcher could only have dreamed about.

Socialists must seek to build a cross-community opposition to the cuts involving workers and those affected in the wider community – that’s the only real alternative to the Tories in Westminster and in Stormont.

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  • “a cross-community opposition”

    Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh, formerly SF, is now a member of the (island of Ireland) Socialist Party. Such a grouping can’t hope to gain cross-community support.

  • Mark McGregor


    You should know the rules by now.

    If you don’t want to discuss the content and want to attack the authour go elsewhere.

  • Mark, please read what I’ve written before you play the man. I posted his background and then highlighted the contradiction in his claim.

  • Mark McGregor

    I don’t think Domhnall goes far enough.

    The budget for the north is set/reduced by right wing ideologues in London using a crisis the system they support caused.

    They pass the cuts to a further right DUP finance minster and party to control.

    The further right DUP has a veto on any decisions on how to deal with the cuts.

    We end up with the most right wing administration possible working with shinners on how they fuck everyone over.

    SF activists should stop claiming ‘socialism’ or get out.

  • White Horse

    I’m just reading Richard O’Rawe’s book “Afterlives”.

    I heartily refute the allegation that Sinn Fein Irish republicans are an honourable people. They seem to be struggling to be just another party, with reasonable policies, but I hear the cry of dead victims of their hollowness.

    They are indeed a bunch of cowards who told the poor one thing but who are now repaying their real masters in the right, the rural conservatives, the businessmen who they told us helped fund their struggle and Irish America.

    It wasn’t so much an ideology but a lie led by a liar.

  • Alan Maskey

    So, whose proposals are the dumber? Sinn Fein’s or their socialist whacko critics?
    PSF’s policies are just tinkering and are as primite and obsolete as the Dev style bond they advocate. Sinn Fein have no credibility when they speak on economics.
    How about these money raising ventures:
    1. Rob banks, including the Northern bank.
    2, Kidnap and machine gun Irish thoroughbred horses.
    3. Kidnap entrepreneurs.
    4. Firebomb businesses.
    5. Do tiger kidnappings.
    6. Pass fake £20 notes.

    The plastic bag tax worked well in the South by the way.

  • Reader

    Mark McGregor: I don’t think Domhnall goes far enough.
    Well, that’s one vote. Only another 15 million or so to go.

  • Drumlins Rock

    give you a 3

  • Alan Maskey

    White Horse. PSF want to get at the trough. They have to dance to the tune the piper plays. They are a mini Fianna Fail: no policies, only narcissistic pragmatism.

  • er, except the Tories weren’t the ones in power spending like there’s no tomorrow when the shit hit the fan.

    If there’s one thing the left is good at, it’s ignoring all sense of reality.

  • Alan Maskey
    This alternative Ulster is much better, much more creative and more real

  • medillen

    Not really worth a comment really, its the selected quotes, rantings and twisted logic of an over educated ego that has totally disappeared up his own backside.

  • Alanbrooke

    So the people in the Republic work their arses off, get screwed by their government, take real cuts in their standard of living and its oh dear must try harder.

    The Northerners do sod all, live off handouts and when their handouts are frozen and they might have to get off their butts it’s somehow the evil Tory Government.

    The SF/DUP “the world owes us a living” campaign rolls on. 108 lazy bastard MLAs who have done nothing but stir up shit all their lives are suddenly going to have to take the hard decisions they are paid to take.


  • medillen

    Alanbrooke, I think you will find that there is also a better way in the south.

  • Damian O’Loan

    The best critique I have read of the CSR is here,

    written by a former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Being a critique, it offers convincing arguments against the approach being taken. It would have been refreshing if the author had done likewise – I know he is intelligent enough, while not doing so only contributes to the ‘socialists don’t understand economics’ nonsense.

    On the other hand, perhaps he doesn’t. For example, why not estimate a cost for privatisation of telecoms? Would it have been too much work? Is it not clear that such a move would negatively impact the spending power and lifestyle of the working class?

    NI, Ireland even, is far too small to survive far left politics. It can move no further left than the PES, but should be contributing to that. SF is certainly not socialist, the problem is really that it isn’t centre-left either. Whereas a large number of voters indicate they are, despite the stigma attached to the L word.

    I sympathise with the author’s disappointment. It would be refreshing to read a constructive alternative though – others have done the groundwork remarkably well. It would suffice to support those stronger arguments.

  • Alanbrooke

    really ?

    what sell your soul to our national socialists ?


  • Excellent.

  • medillen

    Did you read it even glance at it. Or is it I ignorance is bliss.

  • Alan Maskey


    P Sinn Fein have no credibility. Leaving aside the fact that they are the least educated and least experienced in work or in the professions, their ideas make no sense. Their ideas you link to include:

    1. Tax, tax, tax.
    2. Hijack the National pension fund. And what? Put it on Shergar to win the 3.30 at Punchestown? Or worse. Give it to gobshites like PSF reps to whittle away on pet projects.
    3. Cap on high flyers’ pay. Totally out of the hat. Why not cap the pay of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Gosn etc? Guess what? Talent costs money. Why not just abolish all the me too jobs PSF get paid for instead?
    4. Stimulus: Give welfare bums more money at Christmas. Great stimulus that, if you are selling cheap wine.
    5. Stimulus: Hire more public servants. Has Gerry not got enough? And pay them with what, dumbos? (Oh yes, tax more)
    6. Develop natural resources. Gee. Never heard that one before.

    In fact I did. I heard it when Eamonn Smullen and Eoghan Harris and their clique first started proposing it for SFWP back in the early 1970s, which is where PSF’s hare brained ideas belong.
    And, that is where they are, somewhere around 1970, 40 years behind all other political parties.
    They should stick to what they know.

  • Alanbrooke


    I looked, saw Gerry, switched off.

    “Votaill Gangster” somehow lacks appeal.

  • Alanbrooke

    ” They should stick to what they know”

    what shooting people in the head and dumping them in a sheugh ?

    hardly the basis of a successful economy. Cambodia tried it big time and it didn’t work.

  • medillen

    Both of you are so blinded with bigotry that a discussion on economics is pointless. Knuckleheads and knuckledraggers lets hear your ideas?

  • Zig70

    Not much comment here that looks like intelligent economic debate. I don’t know what I’d do with this mess. Cut Doctors and Judges wages in half and make barristers talk faster and to the point. That would save a load of dosh. I’d put a ban on saying the same thing twice, probably need a getout clause for the fairer sex and UTV.
    I reckon SF’s are better thought out and didn’t involve Jamesons.

  • Alanbrooke

    ok you want to discuss economics.

    ireland has an incredibly open and internationalist economy.

    all my life SF has been for a closed economy based on socialist and protectionist principles.

    How do you propose Ireland will go from open to closed and how many jobs will it create.

    also what will you do when the many talented irish high flyers leav to work in the UK or US thereby diminishing your tax base and stopping certain key industries.

  • Alan Maskey

    Medillen: I agree they are knuckleheads. But Ala nbrooke gets a 10/10 for Votail Gangster, which cerrtainly lacks appeal but shows a sharp wit on his side.

    You ask these knuckleheads and knuckledraggers to state what they would do. Fair enough but your starting point is PSF, which has zero credibility in matters of economics or finance.
    Leaving aside their Bliain Faic (Zero Zero to Brits) tactics, Gerry Adams was a total disaster when he appeared on TV before the last election in the South. He was a disaster.

    On top of that, PSF are only where OIRA was with Eamonn Smullen in the early 1990s.
    And they are contesting the same pseudo lefty spot with a bunch of other pseudo lefties, who Labour will probably squeeze out. So they are not relevant.

  • medillen

    No proposals then knuckleheads?

  • medillen

    Please read the proposals that I linked, Sinn Fein is not for a closed economy but a balanced economy between FDI and proper support for indigenous business. FDI as we have seen comes and goes growing our local businesses is an obvious priority.

  • Alanbrooke


    I fail to see how the future of 21st century ireland lies in 19th century german economics.

    but hey lets see what solutions medillen offers

  • Alanbrooke

    proposals ?

    well none of them are particularly attractive. but

    country is in the shit and needs to break the link with the Euro as a starter to allow it to devalue it’s way out of the problem.

    foreign bondholders will have to play their part and alleviate debt by taking a reuction in values.

    the property market is screwed but is the key to getting Ireland moving again. Invite loads of people from overseas to retire to Ireland and fill up the 300,00 odd houses depressing the place. this will also bring in foreign currency and create jobs.

    slash government spending, cut TDs and other salaries, it won’t save the country but everyone will feel better.

    cheat like hell to get foreign investment, remember the french would do it to you.

    still with all of that your immediate perospects are shit, but it might just be enough to give your kids a decent life.

    failing the above pick up the phone and ask that famous Irishman Barry O’bama if he’s ever though of having a 51st state.

  • medillen

    Sinn Feins proposals are posted above I agree with them and are happy to discuss them.

    Still no proposals from you or Alan maskey only insults therefore it begs the question: who actually has no economic credibilty?

  • medillen

    Don’t just take from me. More and more economists are agreeing with Sinn Fein’s analysis, here is one example

  • Alanbrooke

    medillen @12.13

    the weakness in your argument is believing anything the politcians say.

    none of the politicians wants to face up to the extreme pain and as AM says PSF are bottom of the pile on credibilty.

    random quotes on economists do nothing to help. These economists are the same bunch who said everything was brilliant 3 years ago and we had a new economy.

  • medillen

    I rest my case.

  • medillen

    The problem also is you, alanbrooke, have bought the line about ‘extreme pain’ peddled by those who got us there (pick your Government) and the media. There are other options and Sinn Fein have presented them particularly in the south. We need leadership not mudslinging.

  • Alan Maskey

    I made some proposals earlier, sich as abolishing juries. Rory Carr laughed at that, only a few hours before the British government proposed it.
    Original thinking is needed, bold decisions, can’t make omeltettes etc.
    Your PSF ideas are not original; they are based on those of SFWP of the early 1970s, de veloped by Harris, Smullen et al i nthe 1960s.
    PSF have nothing to offer. Nor do FF really and they are in for a creasing. Lucking fr PSF, so are the Greens. But they also proved to be useless.
    A Coalition will probably get it. When they want the solution, they can call me:
    1.Merge banks.
    2, Let Anglo Irish sink.
    3. Buy up ghost housing estates and securitise them.
    4. Deport all economic migrants.
    5. Expel Amnesty International and other leech outfits.
    6. Abolish the Presidency, the Senate, all councils and cap pensions to civil servants and politicans at £150 pw.
    7. Increase taxes on the old reliables pof cigarettes and beer.
    8. Replace jail sentences with confiscation of assets. Make jails hard places.
    9. Increase government domestic debt.
    10. Confiscate the pension funds of strikers.
    11. Invite the Chinese and Iranians in.

  • Alanbrooke


    the joy of being a party that has no chance of being the government is you can promise any old bollocks as you won’t have to deliver on the promise.

    if you seriously think the pain angle is government propaganda perhaps you should trying reading a bit more widely.

  • Alanbrooke

    are you a calvinist by any chance ?

    your certainty that you are right to the exclusion of all other possibilties indicates you might be.

    have you thought of joining the DUP ?

  • medillen

    I am not saying I am right but you nor comrade have put a single alternative proposal forward, as yet.

  • Alanbrooke


    re point 4 that has been tried for the last 400 years in Ulster and still hasn’t worked. No chance.

  • Alanbrooke


    yes neither mysdelf or AM has put forward a single proposal – we’ve given you several. which on a saturday morning after a bottle of wine and straight from the top of the head ain’t bad.

  • medillen

    Your ignorance is beyond belief’
    Please read again and take your unionist blinkers off.

  • medillen

    Well then sorry I must have missed that, please list your proposals and how much they might offset the cuts the British Tory Government are proposing to impose here of £2 billion and please do the sums.

  • Alanbrooke

    “your ignorance is beyond belief”

    that you have such a narrow range of beliefs is clearly regrettable, as i said before try reading more or travelling, there’s a whole world beyond An poblacht.

  • DC

    I don’t believe you can trust Sinn Fein.

  • Alanbrooke

    here’s a proposal

    Northerners of all hues could get off their arses, put away their begging bowls and try working like everyone else does instead of blaming outsiders for their problems.

  • medillen

    A coherant response?

  • Alanbrooke

    medellin @1.02

    coherent ?

    certainly, you’re waiting for the government to bail you out whereas you should be taking your future in to your own hands.

  • medillen

    Trust is earned

  • medillen

    Are you for real, the Government are the people adopting this flawed strategy and imposing these cuts. Bailing us out? B*****ks they will only bail out the banks. Sinn Fein are arguing for exactly what you propose ‘taking our future into our own hands’. At last we find common ground. Must be the wine talking.

  • John Greene

    ” Invite loads of people from overseas to retire to Ireland and fill up the 300,00 odd houses depressing the place. this will also bring in foreign currency and create jobs.”

    Best idea I heard yet – even if you sold them at 50,000 each and attracted 600,000 well to do ‘Irish’ from Britain and the US it would be worth it.

    Golf courses would be a nightmate like but however….

  • Cynic

    If that is SFs model for taking our future in our own hands then sadly we need the court to appoint a Public Guardian for them on grounds of mental incapacity and for their and our protection.

  • Cynic

    Or Ireland could just leave the Euro and use that flexibility to re base its currency and work back up

  • Alan Maskey

    Retirees need lots of medical treatment and extra security. How would you do that? Import Philipppino nurses and Polish coppers? Also, older people are slow to move. Then there are the Brits. Give up their crap weather to enjoy the 365 sunny days the bogs of Kerry can offer?
    WTF would they want to live in a run down housing estate in the middle of nowhere?
    Get them playing golf? As therapy? Guess what? Sunner climes have gold courses too. And much more.

    If you vote Sinn Fein, you probably have not got a worthwhile idea in your head beyond kidnapping, robbing and killing. Your place is on the dole quue.
    Our most fervent Sinn Fein (and PIRA) supporter here, who is descended from a long line of British and German field marshalls on one side and Brian Boru and the Queen of Sheba on the other admits he is a failec businessman. Provos don’t just cut it.

  • random

    Did anyone read the comment on Do’C’s blog nd his response to it.

    Much talk about the commanding heights (literally) but not much substance there. real fantasy stuff sadly

  • Alanbrooke

    Why, Alan you make Ireland sound a dreadful place. You shouldn’t base everything on the North.

    If you’re one of the irish dispora swapping a 2 bed semi on an estate in northern england for a bigger place back home looks a good deal.

    And if you’re saying you can’t find workers ( all those northerners prefer uk benefits to working down south ) let the poles do it. they’ll still spend money in the shops and re-stock the banks.

  • Alanbrooke

    Ireland needs to leave the Euro, but it also needs to re-negotiate its debt at the same time or the benefit of devaluation is lost by seeing a foreign denominated debt rise substantially due to currency movement.

  • Alan Maskey

    You can only negotiate from a positon of strength, not a position of total weakness. Whatever sovereignty Ireland has left will soon be gone. Leaving the euro os not, within current think, an option.
    These Irish riff raff like Martin McGartland coming back from the slums of Northenr England: what wil they do for cash flow?
    A consumer led book such as you suggest is dependent upon confidence. Consumer led booms are short term palliastives in any event.
    Lemass, Whitaker and the boys came up with a plan in gthe 1950s and worked to see it through. There is no plan now, only political opportunists reared on handouts.

    I feel sorry for the genuine students who were on that protest; many seemed like decent skins. However, the Sinn Fein/anarchist troublemaking whackos were plain the be seen.
    The gardai are to be commended for sending these scum packing. Let’s hope the nurses get it next. Expectations must go down. We are no longer in the era of James Larkin and William Martin Murphy.

    The first thing that is needed is political will. That means Fiann Fail and Fine Gael should merge and thereby sideline the lunatics of Sinn Fein forever.
    Strong government is needed to carry through a strong programme. Ireland does not need a Senate or an overpaid President. Radical reform of the political system is the first; then the judicial system, then the banks. Are there any industries worth spekingh of besides Smurfit, Cement Roadstone, a few glorified creameries and one or two others?

  • Alanbrooke


    well I don’t disagree with the sentiment. The country is heading for rough times whichever way you look at it, and SF claiming they have an easy route out is just sheer cynicism ( what are they going to do start paying duty on all the diesel they smuggle in order to boost the exchequer ? ).

    However two points.

    1. the crisis may finally force a re-alignment of politics away from the Civil War legacy which is long overdue
    2. sometimes weakness is a strength. it’s the old saying if you own the bank 10k you have a problem if you owe them 10 billion they have a problem.

  • Alan Maskey

    Your two points:
    1. Realignment: to what? The Greens, the PDs etc. We need a revolution, the sort O’Connell, Parnell, Catherine McAuley, Canon John Hayes, Michael Davitt, Sir Horace Plunkett, Father Finlay were all involved in.

    2. Ireland is a nothing. The North was important because the Provos left off firecrackers and damaged the international image of Britain. Ireland has been successfully re-engineered; it is now a land of urbanised peasants, who spend their time texting. following the X Factor, voting Sinn Fein and snorting coke. It has no control over its monetary policy or of much of its laws. Management of it has been sub contracted out to a bunch of political f-withs, who are amongst the world’s highest paid politicians. Their electorate have been hooked by cheap loans and high expectations. Their degree of autonomy is, with their moral compass, largely gone.
    Idiots attack the old ways. But a lot of babies have been thrown out with the bathwater. Much of the change has been for the worsty.
    Dev had a practical vision for his time. Not the vision of everyone of his time but a vision. The first Cumann na nGael government were also smart cookies and implemented visions.
    Wghat have we now? Multi millionaires Mary Robinson and Bertie Ahern stil yabbing away. We had one good taoiseach in recent years: Albert Reynolds. And he went the way of all smart Irish people.

  • Nevin, building a cross-community alternative will be bigger than any of us and our collective pasts and mistakes but I think it will happen. Trust can only develop over time.

  • I don’t think that they do. A member told me yesterday that one person in the party criticised me for not realising that socialism was 70 years out of date. The socialism is only a label in rural areas and not one that gets much of a mention.

  • Truth hurts?

  • Donaloc, I’ve suggested previously that a shared future here would require shared sovereignty and the merger of Strands 2 and 3; it might also lead to Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties.

    However, Unionists are gearing up for 2012 and Nationalists for 2016 – and 2021 isn’t too far away. I don’t see any of these encouraging trust; the old shibboleths will sadly trump economic and social needs.

    Connolly Republican Socialism, armchair and militant, initiated the civil rights confrontations back in the 60s and that was followed by several thousand deaths and tens of thousands of injuries. Let’s hope we don’t head down that particular road again. We need change but we shouldn’t ignore history.

  • Halfer

    Are we still beating the cross community alternative drum?

    Domhnall, as you were a member of SF at one point, surely you recognize the fallacy of finding working class consensus in the charade that is Northern Ireland. Do you believe it can be reformed?

  • Halfer

    Damian, Sometimes its enough to recognize that our mode thinking needs to change. Coming from a left perspective, I don’t claim to have a pready made set of alternatives, but would like to contribute to a sensible debate over how the political structures and economic values of the island could change for the better of all. Why?

    Because at the minute its far from great for the vast majority and its not getting any better.

  • Damian O’Loan


    Obviously it’s not easy to have a “ready set of alternatives” to a situation without precedent, nevertheless the centre-left internationally has done so remarkably well. The focus on financial reform at international level, barely mentioned in the UK/US press, was a big left/right distinction during the low points of the crisis. It will be moreso the next time it happens, particularly given the likelihood that it will recur before this one is paid for.

    The far left has not changed its rhetoric or its policies. Through lack of resources or engagement, it hasn’t tackled the unprecedented economic and social issues on a level worthy of comparison to the centre positions.

    It’s for that reason I find it frustrating to see a weak position criticised without a serious alternative being proposed. That means figures – others have done the hard work already. Given the right acts in concert with globalised industry, if the left wants to impact, it must operate on the same level. As most people, myself included, are a long way from the author’s point of view, the left simply can’t afford the luxury of its previous positions.

    Europe is facing a very difficult future, wages will continue to be driven down and when Foster has her way and the banks start lending, inflation will make lives even more difficult. It’s not enough to say we should nationalise as though it were a magic wand. Even if it were a good idea, it’s too expensive because the strings are not pulled by regions the size of NI, or nations like GB.

    The debate should continue, but it would be helpful if the left were able to unite and capitalise on the crises facing the right across Europe. And as the author well knows, nobody’s uniting behind nationalisation of major industries, not even banking.

    Since John Hume didn’t define politics as post-nationalist, it most certainly has become so. Proposing independent national solutions, while perhaps instinctive for an ex-SF member, is little different from positioning yourself on the far right. Hence my point about the PES.

  • Simbo

    The public sector is not “handouts”. Even people in the 100% public sector USSR “work[ed] their arses off”. A heart surgeon in the NHS is not somehow some kind of non wealth producing parasite as compared to a private sector person on Harley Street doing boob jobs for aspiring page 3 models.

    Unemployment in NI is actually relatively low. Even if one argues for misallocation due to lack of market feedback in the public sector, paying people to metaphorically dig up holes and fill them up again, that has little relation to whether it is hard work or not.

  • Archie Noble

    “Northerners of all hues could get off their arses, put away their begging bowls and try working like everyone else does instead of blaming outsiders for their problems.”

    Right that is a solid plan. Now can you explain where the jobs are coming from. Plainly not the public sector so can you set out how the NI private sector will expand to acommodate the newly risen ex beggars?