“Sinn Féin needs to change”

At the time it was announced, the BBC reported that Sinn Féin MLA Paul Butler “denied he was retiring from party politics because of disappointment at not being given a chance to run in West Belfast”.  Although, as I notedsomeone was briefing the Irish News otherwise…

And in an interview in today’s paper, political correspondent Diana Rusk reports

For the first time, [Paul Butler] confirmed reports that he had wanted to run for the party in West Belfast after boundary changes meant there was no winnable seat in the Lagan Valley constituency.

“I’m disappointed I’m leaving politics,” he said. “I’d rather have stayed in politics.

“I would have liked to have run in the West Belfast seat to help reduce the levels of deprivation and bring employment into the area.”

And he’s being much more open with his thoughts on the party itself, of which he is still a member.

On things like these issues with the economy and making hard decisions rather than populist decisions, Sinn Féin needs to change,” [Paul Butler] said.

“Sinn Féin has always been a party of protest against direct rule ministers and I include myself in that.

“But the reality is Sinn Féin is the party of government and governments have to make hard decisions. [added emphasis]

“I do believe the present budget the executive passed was just to get them through to May and that they will come back to it.”

One of those “hard decisions”, he says, is on water charges.

“If you don’t get extra revenue over the next four years you are going to have an increase in tuition fees, job losses in the public sector, schools are going to suffer and roads won’t be maintained,” [Paul Butler] said.

“The only source of revenue is selling off assets and levying the Belfast port but the present market is depressed from the property crisis so it is unrealistic.

“Really the only place where the Stormont executive can go is the area of water charges.”

Adds Given the timing of the publication of this interview – the day after the Assembly was dissolved – it seems evident that Paul Butler was only prepared to speak out after the possibility of the party leadership censuring him was no longer a consideration.

Compare Billy Leonard.  Not that Billy Leonard has ‘spoken out’ per se…

On Paul Butler’s comments, the question is how many within the party agree with him?

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  • Mark McGregor

    mmmm…..I remember the election campaign that saw Paul elected. There was a strong opposition to water charges, it was even on his leaflets.

    One must wonder just how many things he supported while running for SF that he really didn’t support at all. Delighted he has found his voice and will now oppose SF policies he disagrees with. Don’t agree with him on the issue he picked to stand up on but maybe we’ll hear more from Paul in the future.

    He has the time to reassess an awful lot of policy he supported that he proably shouldn’t.

  • ranger1640

    Why did Butler not say all that when he was in an MLA and not wait until he is leaving politics??? He was obviously another Sinn Fein drone.

  • A “Sinn Féin drone” or loyal Party member?
    But “while he would like to have stayed in politics” he has not actually said he would stand as an Independent. Any politician free of office feels liberated to say stuff. What he says a day after the Assembly is closed down is clearly significant but it would be more so if he kept saying it every day for six weeks.
    So what he said to Diana Rusk is basically wrapping paper for fish and chips.
    If Sinn Féin needs to change……and it does…..it needs to broaden its base……and not select the likes of “back to the future” people like Pat Sheehan (West Belfast), Sean Lynch (Fermanagh South Tyrone) and possibly Seanna Walsh (West Belfast) are so 1990s.
    They are not racist (cue cries of “sectarian” and “xenophobic” and “murderers” ) but “ourselves alone” tends to be a bit “exclusive” which is why at council level particuarly the parties that can appeal to “ethnic” (I hate that word) wil have a clear advantage. Thats going to be a sub text in this Election.

  • I would have liked to have run in the West Belfast seat to help reduce the levels of deprivation and bring employment into the area.”…. Paul Butler.

    How were you going to do that, Paul, and how does not having a seat in the Assembly stop you doing what you think you can do.

    [Play the ball, not the man – Mods]

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    …so if he had been selected for West Belafst he would presumably have been happy with the party but now that he is not the chosen one he is not.

    Very convincing.

  • Mark McGregor

    Sammy,

    Takes some balls for the likes of you to start the smear campaign against a lifelong activist like Paul.

    His criticism seems quite minor and pretty constructive. That isn’t bad considering how shabbily he is being treated by a movement he gave his entire adult life to.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    ItwasSammyMcNally

    ” smear campaign”

    Most reisgnation missives are tinged with a personal element and it is hardly a smear cmapaign to point out that someone is not ‘very convincing’ when an inconsistency which may well be based on their own disappointment shines through.

    ….he seems to me like a reasonably good egg.

  • Barry the Blender

    ….he seems to me like a reasonably good egg.

    Is that despite or because he shot an RUC man

  • fordprefect

    Fitz,
    It’s “we ourselves”

  • fordprefect

    F****** unbeliveable! A shinner telling the truth!

  • Mark McGregor

    Sammy,

    Resignation? Paul didn’t resign from anything. He clearly wanted to continue a political role that few would have even started and got pushed out as his constituency moved and pure Army men like Sheehan and others started getting their pensions from Storey.

  • between the bridges

    mmcg stop! its enough to make a croc cry.

  • fordprefect

    LOL@Mark

  • Mick Fealty

    Paul Butler is dead right on Water charges, and right for the reasons he lays out. To be fair, whatever was said in the campaign in 07, it is bleeding obvious now that NI Water cannot come back onto departmental books.

    Refreshing to hear such honesty from that quarter.

  • granni trixie

    Paul could be really radical and stand under the APNI in the Falls! (he is now in line with our policy on water charges and there may be more to his liking than he knows).

    It is seriously good to see a SF member off message.

  • granni trixie

    oops left oput the word, banner. sorry

  • Fitzjameshorse is wrong on two points in his attempt to dismiss the Irish News interview with Paul Butler as `wrapping paper for fish and chips’.

    Firstly, regardless of the circumstances, it is highly unusual for a sitting Sinn Fein MLA to openly disagree with party policy on a key issue.

    Secondly, and much more importantly, hygiene regulations stopped the use of newspapers as a wrapping for takeaways some decades ago. Fitzjameshorse has clearly been exposed as a bourgeois figure who is entirely out of touch with working class habits. The story springs to mind of Peter Mandelson walking into a chip shop in his former Hartlepool constituency, spotting a container of mushy peas and asking for a portion of
    `your guacamole’.

  • Turgon

    GT
    “Paul could be really radical and stand under the APNI banner”

    Yes I think that is an absolutely excellent idea. I await Alliance party canvassers in the likes of East Belfast explaining how they are so delighted with Butler being in thesame party and how that means that people should vote Alliance.

    I always thought Alliance were pretty two faced but your suggestion is really quite impressive.

  • Old Hack,
    Well is he actually a sitting MLA or an ex-MLA……but I take your point.
    Alas I live in a small village with a chippy well below Belfast standards.

  • lamhdearg

    “Paul Butler is dead right on Water charges,”“
    “If you don’t get extra revenue over the next four years you are going to have an increase in tuition fees, job losses in the public sector, schools are going to suffer and roads won’t be maintained,” [Paul Butler] said.”
    why call them water charges, if this new tax is needed to pay for all these things.
    we are up the river tax, seems more honest. and i feel i pay enough as it is.

  • granni trixie

    O no, this is not at all two faced,it is logical. Alliance is a party for everyone. It offers the possibility for new start over and over. But for the record, when people join,they have to adhere to party policy (which,so far, has worked).

    1. People from many parties have joined Alliance for various reasons but knowing that its USP is that is is a cross community party.
    2. APNI people such as Naomi Long (esp. when she was Lord Mayor) and Anno Lo (who is popular everywhere) have built connections with people in West Belfast.
    3. Unfortunatley, APNI lost its represrentations after Bob Cooper and Will Glendinning though Dan Maguinnis,a local solicitor who lives in WB, conitnues to offer the possibity.
    4. My heart is with WB. My family is there, I was a teacher there and I joined Alliance because I was inspired by Bob Cooper to join Alliance.I have no regrets.

  • Granni Trixie,
    Paul Butler for Alliance in West Belfast? Well why not?
    But I thought AP did not actualy do “fast tracking” but youve kinda made an exception already for Harry Hamilton.
    I did notice on the excellent Alliance website that West Belfast and West Tyrone are still without a candidate.
    A proxy candidate in the latter maybe…….but David Ford unveiling Paul Butler as a surprise Alliance runner?
    Not quite the fast-tracked defector with a portfolio of skills I had. hoped for.

  • Pete Baker

    Given the timing of the publication of this interview – the day after the Assembly was dissolved – it seems evident that Paul Butler was only prepared to speak out after the possibility of the party leadership censuring him was no longer a consideration.

    Compare Billy Leonard. Not that Billy Leonard has ‘spoken out’ per se…

    On Paul Butler’s comment, the real question is how many within the party agree with him?

  • granni trixie

    Pete:as I tried to indicate previously, I think it is really significant that Paul Butler is off page.

    FJH: ah..that “portfolio of skills”. It still gives me a laf.

  • Pete Baker

    granni

    “I think it is really significant that Paul Butler is off page.”

    I don’t disagree. Obviously, or I wouldn’t have blogged it. 😉

  • FJH, my understanding – and I’m open to correction from the elected members online at present – is that the MLAs end their term of office at midnight tonight. If there really is a chip shop that still wraps its orders in newspapers, it could be out of business even sooner.

  • In fairness the Alliance Partys biggest service to West Belfast was standing aside in favour of Dr Joe Hendron in 1983. A rare occasion of a Party acting selflessly.
    It blew whatever hopes it had of ever making an impact there after Bob Cooper and Will Glendenning. They did have one other significant person there after them was John Collins ?????……..(the name eludes me at the moment and I am too lazy to look it up).
    Id a lot of respect for Reggie Donnelly and a teacher lady from St Pauls Parish in the Cooper era.
    The entire community has reason to have respect for Dan McGuinness.
    But frankly there was a 30 year gap in Alliance actually contesting West Belfast at Westminster until 2010..
    It would have made little difference.
    Dans record in Assembly Elections is frankly risible.
    1998……129 votes
    2003…….75 votes
    2007……127 votes.
    “Dan McGuinness continues to offer the possibility”
    Granni Trixiie….its the way you tell them.

    Anna Lo and Naomi Long may have built connexions with the people of West Belfast but it didnt do Máire Hendron much good in 2010…… a staggering 596 votes.
    But thats four times the possibility than Dan is offering.

  • granni trixie

    Turgon:On a personal level, I have deep emotional responses to anybody who has responded to the discrimiation in NI with violence. We could have
    reformed systems without violence and avoided the heartache. That said, we are in a new situation and we have to be consisent in saying ther eis a new beginning.

    So – Paul Butler and others are welcome to join APNI on the terms that they are committed to work to reach consensus with others with whom they may disagree. What’s the problem?

  • granni trixie

    FJH: many thanks for remenbering that APNI stood aside for Joe Hendron (I had forgotten it myself) . It was the right thing to do. As it happens, I canvassed for Joe on that occasion and it was my experieince with the SDLP people that revealed to me that Catholics could be so sectarian and confirned to me that APNI was for me….right or wrong.

  • Pete Baker

    And back to the actual topic…

  • Barry the Blender

    In fairness the Alliance Partys biggest service to West Belfast was standing aside in favour of Dr Joe Hendron in 1983. A rare occasion of a Party acting selflessly.

    It’s not as rare as you might think. The UUP and DUP selflessly stood down in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in favour of Rodney Connor in 2010; Sinn Fein selflessly stood down in South Belfast in favour of Dr Alasdair McDonnell.

  • Mark

    Back to the actual topic ….

    A standard parting shot has the A – team cock a hoop …

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Barry the Blender

    Is that despite or because he shot an RUC man.

    The war is over – time for you and Unionists to move on.

    Whataboutery alert

    I dont suppose you would want every British soldier who engaged in the illegal war in Iraq – a war with much less justification than the Provo campaign – to be brougt to tasks for shooting up someone elses country on the whim of Britshn and US Christian fundamentalists and cheered on by a Tory government.

    Whataboutery alert ends

  • Mick Fealty

    Lamh Dearg,

    You pay for water already, in the district rates.

    It’s not the fact you need to pay for water that’s the issue, its that NI Water has a major capital investment programme which is currently having to be paid for out of the current account.

    That means two things: an unnecessary strain on other departmental budgets at a time when money is scare; and, as we have seen from the NI Water story, huge and unnecessary disruption/interference by civil servants in the workings of an industrially based body to the detriment of that service.

    Butler is suggesting the party needs to step up to the plate and do what’s needed (and don’t be afraid to explain or take criticism like yours on bounce). Otherwise, I’d add, they are storing themselves up a lot of pain for further down the road (ie, a FIanna Fail moment when it all goes belly up and there is no one else left to blame).

  • fitzy

    I feel bad for Paul as he’s had a long hard time on the Lisburn council, and will be a loss for his section of voters. The shinners seem to be intent on pushing higher profile militants and ex-prisoners into political roles as a way of defending themselves from the ‘constitutional nationalist’ jibes… queue the defense… ” Pat Sheehan was a hunger striker and Seanna Walsh was Bobby’s best mate, so we’re still mad republicans”. There’s more ways to be militant that just supporting physical force… sinn fein are none of these.

  • fitzy

    than just, not ‘that just’

  • Looks like Paul has lost the run of himself with delusions of grandeur. Stormont is no more a government than NI is a country. The SF role there is to hold the line and make of it what they can, not get fooled into thinking it’s anything more than a harmless little local administration.Now the all-Ireland strategy is beginning to pay dividends, there are bigger fish to fry.

  • Turgon

    Bizarrely I am minded to agree with Ulrick here. Butler never made that much of a splash when he was in the assembly. He was never presented as an economic guru nor as terribly knowledgeable on anything else for that matter. My understanding (I could be wrong) was that everyone was surprised when he managed to get a seat in Lagan Valley.

    He may well simply not have the talent to progress. Suggesting he has been removed to be replaced with more militant types is a difficult line to sustain. He murdered a police officer and spent time in gaol for that so he is not exactly a non violent republican.

    His now revealing himself as someone who thinks SF need to adopt more fiscally sound financial positions looks more like some stuff he has just about worked out (we are not talking high level economics in his statements). He is putting this forward to show how wrong SF were to dump him. In a way it is a bit like the likes of Harry Hamilton flouncing out of the UUP after he failed to be selected. In Butler’s case there is probably even less less talent (though possibly a higher level of electability).

    Butler can hardly make it anywhere else: his political CV is not exactly impressive; he achieved little enough in Stormont and no matter what Granni Trixie may suggest I cannot see anyone in Alliance (nor the SDLP) welcoming the murderer of a police officer as a candidate. Not if Alliance have designs of making progress in their genuine target areas.

    Butler did better in politics than his talent or where he stood would have been expected to get him. Now he is out of potential supporters in Lagan Valley and out of talent to get in anywhere else. It is with that in mind that his sudden “intellectual” criticism of SF’s economic policies should be viewed.

  • Actually Turgon, Paul Butler should be very good on economic matters. Because of his personal history, he could never really have been a front bencher.
    But he was a player in economic matters, being the Sinn Féin representative with a cross-party group of politicians which engages with the business community. The group is comprised of half politicians and half business leaders such as Alex McRitchie of Bombardier and that “Lord” Ballyedmond guy.

  • granni trixie

    Actually, being me (sorry) my Paul Butler suggestion was just meant as a wee joke and I had no idea as to his violent past so did not think things through.

    I have never met anyone in Alliance who has been involved in violence (as far as I know|) and we have anti violence as well as anti sectatrian policies.

    However “we are where we are” now and now that this has come up I do find it interesting to think about what principles we in Alliance would apply to someone with a bloddy past. I imagine that the key issue would be have they changed in their (presumably) acceptance of violence and intimidation. Another linked issue would be do they justify past violence….do they regret or have remorse….would they accept, for instance, Alliance’s current (and evolving) policy on how to deal with the past.

    I have found over the years that trying to work out problems whcih are consistent with values etc and which you can live with strengthens the party.

  • Oh I certainly did not take granni trixies suggestion seriously. It was too…off the wall.
    Admission of anyone from a different political party into another party is I think a very tricky issue. And doubly so in the case of the previous party being Sinn Féin.
    Granni Trixie (like me) will have heard an eminent historian, Pat Cooke say that escaping the prison of History is one thing but youre still attached to the ball and chain.
    You can never be truly free of the baggage.
    And this would I think be a problem for Butler.

  • Munsterview

    Granni T “I have never met anyone in Alliance who has been involved in violence (as far as I know|) and we have anti violence as well as anti sectarian policies…….”

    Interesting Granni T, very interesting indeed !

    Some weeks back while in the throes of a row with the usual suspects, I said something to the effect that at least I could now argue these things in a forum like slugger instead of risking getting shot for expressing these opinions as would have been the case in the not too very distant past.

    I would like you to note that a certain self confessed Alliance supporter and conference attender immediately posted expressing his regret that shooting the likes of me was not currently in vogue.

    If this came from the more militant fringes of Unionism it would be understandable, if regrettable, but that attitude from a self confessed Alliance supporter ?

    However I am merely bringing this to your notice, not making a formal complaint complaint per se as if the proposed gunplay is on par with the usual political comment from the same source, I will have only to deal with misfires and blanks!

  • FuturePhysicist

    FJH … didn’t the APNI selflessly stand aside for Herman against Bob McCartney too?

    Seem they ‘sauce’ both ways.

  • Yes AP stood aside in 2001 and this helped Sylvia Hermon.
    But I think theres always a consequence to standing down.
    No good deed goes unpunished.
    When youre not actually on a ballot paper, you are invisible.

    In late 1990s the AP were getting percentage figures in North Down in thr high teens. NIWC ate into their vote slightly but NIWC were effectively a flash in the pan.

    2003 Assembly (after standing aside in 2001) ….it was under 10% and 2007 just over it. Certainly all parties were affected by the Hermon factor in 2010 but Farry only got 6%.
    But the Alliance Party learned the lesson….be on the ballot paper. Stay on the radar.

    I think West Belfast for Alliance is well documented but there are other cases were standing aside eg the SDLP for Bobby Sands in Fermanagh-South Tyrone in 1981. But in 2010 the SDLP had learned the lesson….stay on the ballot paper.
    I think its also fair to say that the once mighty tried the “coalition” route and pacts with the DUP and ultimmately there was only one victor in that.

  • oops “once mighty UUP tried the Coalition route….”