Sinn Fein’s options for Presidential candidate…

Well one of the things that’s certain to become clear shortly is who is going to run for President for Sinn Fein. Niall O’Dowd’s tip is Mary Lou McDonald, whereas Fionnan Sheahan reports that Michelle Gildernew, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MP and the former Agriculture Minister is becoming the favourite.

I don’t think any of us can say we really know until the announcement, possibly even including the candidate her or himself. The party’s internal centralism has some critical advantages over rivals.

Mary Lou certainly has name recognition with the southern electorate, but this is not necessarily an election the party can win. But giving one of their more personable northern representatives a run in front of a southern audience is more powerful way of asserting the party’s 32 county political identity to those Republic voters they are keen to tease permanently away from Fianna Fail.

And a woman would afford them them an easy differentiator over the two grey heads from Labour (Michael D Higgins) and Fine Gael (Gay Mitchell). Unlike Niall and Fionnan however, we’re unlikely to speculate on the identity of the actual candidate ahead of the party’s official announcement…


  • Sinn Fein’s primary aim will be to boost their share of the vote, to build on their February Dail results. They’re reasonably unlikely to back the winning candidate – though there’s always the chance that a compromise candidate can come through the middle to win.

    So most likely they’ll be running a candidate strong enough to boost their vote, but not so strong as to be politically weakened in their existing role when they lose. For this reason, there’s no way Adams would run. He wouldn’t want to lose.

    It’ll be a dirty race, so needs to be someone with a solid history and no skeletons to distract the electorate. Anyone with an armed struggle background is off the card.

    If they run Mary-Lou, they live with existing recognition, perceptions and electoral success/failure. I’d put my €1 stake on Mary-Lou being announced next week.

    If they run Michelle Gildernew, they highlight their all-island agenda, rely on Michelle’s personality and reputation that seems to poll well … would could she be a compromise candidate who could accidentally win?

  • You can never really predict how Sinn Féin will go in these situations as they seem to have more than a few ‘creative thinkers’ around the Ard Chomhairle table (see Adams Louth candidacy). Personally I don’t see either Gildernew or Mary Lou getting the nod for similar reasons. On the one hand Michelle is protecting a wafer thin majority over the combined unionists and although I’d be pretty confident she could retain it, I’m not so sure the likes of Phil Flanagan or Sean Lynch would have the same draw to hold onto the seat. Similarly for McDonald, she needs to be seen to be putting down roots in Dublin Central, not deserting it for the Áras. Some might say she wouldn’t have a chance of winning so she wouldn’t be deserting DC, but you can’t have a candidate going into the race hoping of thinking they are going to be defeated.

    Sinn Féin should really be putting a northern based candidate in the running to emphasise the all-Ireland approach but outside of Martin McGuinness & Bairbre de Brún, I can’t really see who would be suitable. McGuinness would obviously have the better appeal among those who would consider giving SF a vote but at the end of the day, he is the main man in the north and his steady hand is probably still needed a time yet. Bairbre de Brún on the other hand is a Dub, a gaeilgeoir and northern based for a long time, so via a process of elimination I’d predict she’ll get the candidacy. However, I was very wrong on Adams and to be honest I usually tend to be on the wrong side of predicting SF electoral ‘gambles’. My personal preference would be Eoin Ó Broin another Dub who was northern based for a long time but I’m not sure the Ard Chomhairle are be ready to wave the Red Flag in the Phoenix Park just yet.

  • keano10

    I agree with your analysis for the most part Alan. It would be an opportunity to run a candidate in the expectation of a reasonable vote share which would boost the party’s overall profile. Would’nt be as sure though that Mary Lou would get the nod. Adams decision to stand in Louth at the last election demonstrated that he is keen to advance SF’s strategy by standing candidates in parts of the island that they may not be originally from.

    His own election in Louth was predictable, but I would’nt be surprised to see a Northern-based candidate being propelled in to the Presidential race. Gildernew would certainly tick many of the boxes and she has the capeability to attract disenchanted floating voters (no shortage of those at the moment…)

  • womble

    crickey, thought the header was talking about a SF presidential election.
    Did Gerry Adams resign? .. false alarm.. phew
    my bowl of muesli nearly got tipped over my guardian newspaper.
    anyway has to be a woman as Ireland is a motherland non?

  • lover not a fighter

    Gildernew would be the most interesting of the above possibles to me.

    We will just have to wait and see though. Maybe Sinn Féin will surprise us.

  • Mick Fealty

    As just pointed out to me elsewhere, it should be noted that getting a candidate over the nomination hurdle requires three proposers from outside the party since TDs and senators currently add up to 17 members of the Oireachtas: 14 TDs and 3 Senators.

  • Charminator

    Hugely significant opportunity for Sinn Féin to steal a march on Fianna Fáil, so I suspect they’ll run a candidate. The mere fact of entering the race alone is likely to create internal convulsions in Fianna Fáil and will represent another step on Fianna Fáil’s “SDLP road” of decline.

    Tend to agree with the Bairbre de Brún suggestion above also – doesn’t have the local electoral distractions of either McDonald or Gildernew. McGuinness – whilst obviously popular with the grassroots and apparently competent – comes with some historical baggage: would be quite a risky move, I suspect, running him for the Áras.

  • Charminator

    Btw, don’t think that the Oireachtas hurdle will pose any problems for Sinn Féin at all. Definitely enough Independents to facilitate it. Without naming names, look Left.

  • @Mick Fealty I’d find it incredible if Sinn Féin were openly speculating to the media on running their own candidate if they didn’t already have those in the bag. Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle and just for the craic a FF member serving out a last term in the Seanad – Mary White.

  • Surely Gerry Adams is the obvious candidate. The international statesman would be unlikely to resist the temptation to run for such a high profile position ie President of Ireland in 2016.

  • Mick Fealty

    For the craic indeed. See where you are coming from Ulick, but that would equal defection from FF, which would be even more ‘craic’!

  • Robert Ballagh

  • John Ó Néill

    Noticeably, the main candidates whose names were floated to date were non-SF including Robert Ballagh, Micky Harte and Niall O’Dowd himself. But that poll last weekend putting SF +1 on Labour and -2 on FF (with the obvious health warning that it is from a poll with no history to it) may concentrate minds as will the absence of a FF candidate. Up to now, I’d wondered if, in a pitch to battle for the hearts and minds of FF support that the obvious move would be to endorse Sean Gallagher (who, while pushing himself as an independent, was a member of the FF National Executive until last year). That was based on the theory that it’s probably not a winnable contest and that the next local elections would be the real focus of campaigning.
    Effectively, having a party candidate on the ticket now opens up around four weeks of high profile campaigning in which FF will be absent. In that instance, I doubt that a non-SF candidate would now be supported by the party. Did Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin not got mentioned in dispatches somewhere and no-one picked up on it?
    The Oireachtas quota of 20 is obviously an issue making some of this speculation redundant. I doubt a candidate will be announced unless the 20 proposers are safely in the bag.

  • FJH, Ballagh has already ruled himself out.

  • Henry94

    I think the stature of the position calls for a older person. Mary Lou and Michelle are very young to be running for such a post. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin would be my choice.

  • Ulick, I know that. But he reaches to more than Sinn Fein and would be much more credible than any pretentious artsy type.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Adams- Should only stand if he could win, he can’t so won’t.
    McGuinness- isn’t finished up North yet mainly, but ditto for Adams
    Mary-Lou- has a reputation as a “loser” but the safe bet for a token stand.
    Gildernew- the Park may be a step down from beautiful South Tyrone, another Northerner is the issue, FST will be either be safe SF or gone with the review so not really an issue.
    O’Caolain- as their first TD maybe has earned a shot at it, no idea about personality
    Harte- please, the stubble, say no more
    no idea about the rest…
    Will go with Mary-Lou (the name helps, three Hail Marys if she wins!) as the safe option, Michelle best chance of pulling of a surprise win, but with not much to lose from it either.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Barbara Brown would certainly get my vote !!!

  • orly

    The chances of the irish electing Gildernew for President?

    About as much as the irish having 20 euro to rub together.

  • @Mick, I don’t think an FFer lending a proposal to SF would necessarily be a defection especially when they aren’t running their own candidate. All Martin can do now is issue guidance to vote for Gallagher (kiss of death for him), but given the internal strife there some dissenters may be attracted to the opportunity to send a big ‘up yours’ to the Party leader. May also be attractive to those who know their on their last term. Either way, I don’t think SF will be dependant on an FF name.

    Who knows maybe Martin McAleese could be convinced to throw a nomination SFs way…

  • Charminator

    Maureen O’Sullivan, Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Boyd Barret, even Higgins himself or the North Dublin veteran, McGrath. And that’s only looking at possible Dublin TDs that could nominate a Sinn Féin candidate.

    As far as I can see, they will have absolutely no problems getting a nomination: but disagree with Ulick re Fianna Fáil. In the times of old, when the party was master of all it surveyed with a PP over 100, then throwing a vote Sinn Féin’s way to facilitate their participation in an election might have been a runner. In current times, with Fianna Fáil almost on a ventilator itself, it would need something of a miracle to convince any of their Deputies or Senators to throw caution (and loyalty) to the wind and facilitate Sinn Féin.

  • I think Drumlins Rock is trying to say
    “Well hello Mary Lou…….Goodbye Harte”

  • Charminator

    I can’t at all understand the belief that Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness would be viable candidates. Actually, I think they would have significant problems in a such a State-wide election. It’s one thing Gerry Adams polling well in Louth, a constituency not entirely untouched by the Troubles itself, it’s another matter entirely trying to drum up such support (and maintain healthy transfers) across the rest of the State.

    Tend to think that Bairbre de Brún or Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin might be the better options, especially given the delicate local electoral position of Gildernew and McDonald. In McDonald’s case, particularly, a by-election would pose a very significant problem for the party, given McDonald’s high-profile and history in the constituency.

  • Drumlins Rock

    classic fitzy, deserves a nomination at the slugger awards…

  • Framer

    Think Austin Currie’s feeble vote as a FG candidate so you can rule out any northerner which leaves Mary Lou or Eoion O’Broin and he polled poorly in the Seanad election.

    Perhaps Eamon O’Cuiv?

  • “Think Austin Currie’s feeble vote as a FG candidate so you can rule out any northerner”

    Mary McAleese?

  • Mick Fealty

    Not simply that but, as the Wikipedia page on that election says:

    ‘Currie had little experience in the politics of the Republic and was widely seen as the party’s last choice, nominated only when no-one else was available.’

    That election year ( when Mary Robinson won, despite being associated with the third placed Labour party from the year before) is instructive since it highlights the dissociation of candidates from parties in Presidential elections.

    SF would ideally need a game change candidate to set the cat amongst the pigeons (the front runners aren’t that far ahead).

    Not sure who that could be.

  • keano10

    Why do we presume that Adams himself would not run? The only argument offerred above was that “he would’nt want to lose”. I’m not quite sure that such an assertion really gets antwhere close to his political mindset.

    Adams has never been afraid to take electoral risks, North or South. Also, I believe that he would be the real game-charger in terms of any SF canditature. He is popular with many in The South and his party has a higher profile presently than at any time in the past few decades.

    I dont think he is ‘afraid of losing’ simply because if he stood he would be genuinely standing to win!

    SF do enjoy springing surprises and i dont think it’s beyond the realms that GA could stand.

  • Mick Fealty

    For the little its worth, neither do I. But it’s been some time since Gerry took a genuine electoral risk.

    Besides the risk is not just losing, Presidential races are notoriously dirty. Gerry’s past could prove a useful target for any would be mischief makers.

  • keano10

    Like most of Slugger’s contributors perhaps…?

  • Greenflag

    Michelle Gildernew ,

    Mother of the nation ?

    She’ll get my vote if she stands and I’m not an SF voter . She’s relatively young , intelligent and competent .

    If SF have any sense they should draft her ahead of anybody else . She’ll take the left vote ahead of Higgins and FF votes and moderate nationalist votes and she’s female and so far we haven’t had a non performing female President .

    And she’d better than GA imho. Being from outside the Dublin area she’ll poll well in the rural areas and experience as Agriculture Minister in NI won’t do her any harm .

    And if she lost by a small margin she’s young enough to have another go .

  • glenda lough

    I for one would vote for the unforgettable Peggy Sue McNugget.

  • “Gerry’s past could prove a useful target”

    Mick, Gerry and the PRM’s past have been fairly well known for a long time and, as the electoral wing is currently on a winning streak, this would be a good time to go for the Presidency. Just think of the prestige of being President in 1916 and the leverage the presidential role could give in the lead-up to the next Dáil election. I think he’d be very foolish not to grab the main chance. Might he not pick up most of traditional FF vote?

  • Ok, here’s my challenge. Do any of you seriously think that Adam’s chance of becoming President is a remote possibility?

  • keano10


    It’s not impossible. Nothing more and nothing less. The declared candidates are less than inspiring and there’s a fair chance that many voters may use the Presidential Election to register their protest at the current economic meltdown.

    It would certainly be reasonable to assume that GA could poll a significantly higher number of votes than would gave been the case five years ago, for instance.

    An opportunity does exist for SF to greatly enhance it’s profile and I think they will grasp it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Joe, it’s unlikely. The big poll numbers don’t suggest there’s much of a wind behind him. He’s been improving on Irish politics slowly since going to the Dail, but he is likely to suffer from Austin Currie’s problem, simply not able to constellate what challenges the 26 face.

    But what makes it possible is the fact that the others are not so far in front that they could not be caught.


    The Republic is a different and much less reverent space than post Peace Process NI. The media in the south have not by and large investigated Mr Adams’ past in any detail.

    And certainly not in light of very personal nature of the Office of the Irish presidency. Look at how popular the non starting non politicos have all been.


    Look how dirty it got against David Norris. And I can assure you it wasn’t Slugger that planted those stories in the press.

  • Greenflag

    Another point to bear in mind re an SF challenge via a Gildernew candidacy is that there is still a very large section of the electorate right across the political spectrum and who are within all parties who despite the recent general election are still quietly pissed of with the main parties and their candidates .

    And although they are a long way from electing SF to major party status in the Dail i.e 30 seats plus they would find less difficulty in electing an SF President as a warning shot across the bows of the established parties and particularly aimed at Gilmore’s Labour party for having taken the smoked salmon route to ‘socialism ‘..

    The expression used by some on slugger is they the established parties FG , Labour and FF would not be keen on having one put up them by an SF candidate and whereas an Adams candidacy would be open season for the dirt purveyors I can’t see them getting much traction against Gildernew .

  • John Ó Néill

    @Mick – regarding a game changing candidate – I think you’re right: oddly, none of the declared candidates looks (to me) like the potential winner so all is still in play. The Presidential election campaign puts the individual candidate fully in the spotlight for four weeks: Mitchell is too abrasive and apparently holds some fairly odd opinions that will play badly; Michael D. may be likeable but his eccentricities will be amplified by the attention; Gallagher is ex-FF top table; and, Davies may just not have the machinery behind her.

    So there is easily room for someone to make a decent tilt at the title.

    SF will run a candidate to corner space in the media during the campaign and appear to lead the opposition (hence the bizarre choice of FF to forsake the airtime, if nothing else). Given that the Dublin West by-election will be on the same day, SF may opt for a Dublin-based candidate like Larry O’Toole to help promote the by-election candidate (Paul Donnelly would be the likely candidate in Dublin West). But the voterspace would appear to be more open in Munster and rural areas generally and the last two elections have been won by individuals with relatively reserved personalities. At this stage, the SF candidate will provide an insight into the strategic/tactical thinking behind participating in the election.

    Realistically, SF options are probably one of: de Brún (as the most similar option to the current and previous winners), Ó Caoláin (as senior Oireachtas member and with little personal baggage) and O’Toole (for the reasons outlined above). I don’t buy the northern candidate as a signal of the all-Ireland reach as that probably has very limited political traction (oddly, if was to pick someone from within the six counties, I’d suggest Alex Maskey might potentially have great impact than Michelle Gildernew but both would be hung out to dry over their relative knowledge of politics in the south). There is always the chance that someone well known might have been persuaded to come onside, but I still think it will be an internal candidate.

  • Mick Fealty


    Re FF

    If they are not on the air (not winning arguments about the bank guarantee) then they are going to be out repairing the damage to their own ground troops.

    They hope it’s England September 1940. The bombing has stopped and they now have an extended time period to re-group as the enemy’s attention shifts to more important targets.

    A Presidential campaign would only further sap FF confidence for minimal reward.

  • Munsterview

    As so often before in these matters John O’Neill have come closest to the nub of the issue.

    Talking about possible candidates and their possible electability is putting the cart before the horse as the saying goes.

    The first thing needed here is a clear identification of Sinn Fein’s strategic interests in the fore-coming Presidential are and what their intended gain objectives are. Once that is done then it is a matter of ‘horses for courses’ etc.

    This election for Sinn Fein, I would think is not about publicity for the party but about maximizing the Republican vote in the South, which has to be done ahead of consolidating it in the not too distant future. They have the Sinn Fein party vote and they now need to gather up as much of the remaining un-catered for Republican vote as possible.

    As the Sinn Fein vote per se is there and can in the main be relied on, a candidate with a maximum appeal to the additional Republican vote would seem to be the primary requirement.
    If this is the objective, then the candidate that will emerge will also be well outside the box.

    Be radical or be redundant as the saying goes !

    Sinn Fein are not planning to be redundant any time soon to the best of my knowledge and the candidate selected for the task in hand could very well be a mould breaking one.

    Already established high public profile, robust political engagement in the public forum without any exclusive strong public political party identification, track record of opposing and condemning corruption in the system etc.

    First preference candidate sourced in the greater Dublin area, second preference in the Twenty-Six Counties with Southern part of Ireland the primary appeal target and third preference an Irish Citizen but not necessarily recently living within Ireland ( speaking for immigrants will once again resonate with most people within the Southern State and across party lines) but with unimpeachable active Irish ties.

    No need for Northern gestures or ‘tokenism’ this time round, the North is as good as it is going to get for some time to come. The big prize is now Republican consolidation and advancement in the South as without that the North cannot be moved on. A Sinn Fein supported candidate with a broad appeal to the other sympathetic and now un-catered for Republican voters would seem the best way to achieve this.

  • Framer

    Gerry wants to wait until a further vacancy in the Park when he is more of a grizzled 28-county statesman and FF have largely departed. He has a chance then which is not likely now unless the absence of Norris unsettles and upsets the eastern electorate.

  • Blissett

    It’s mcGuinness or nobody.

    The presidential election, a bit like european elections, have a dynamic like no others. Momentum is hugely important, and getting people talking. McG would really add spark to the race, in a context where people on the street are giving out about the lack of choice available, and the dull nature of the candidates. He could very well capture many people’s imagination. It would energise SF massively, and people would come out of hibernation and out of the woodwork to help him get elected. He has a profile none of the others can match, and has a head start in that regard on the doors. Unlike Adams, he is able to deal with legacy type issues in a much cleaner way, ie i was in the IRA, and I left in 1972. (whether you believe him or not is neither here nor there, as far as the public is concerned, once he has openly admitted involvement, anything else is just semantics, and shur’ isn’t in the past now… etc etc) The whole peace process stuff he is associated with be the sort of positive big picture politics that people like in a president, and he wont need to big too strong on economics etc. In saying that, he is the ideal candidate as a pole of opposition, anti-establishment, but yet because of his profile and track record in recent years, won’t be confined to that.
    Working class areas will respond very well to it, consider the conversation at the door step. Gay Mitchell, Micheal twee, or McGuinness. Its an easy sell. Likewise to FF voters without a candidate. Anyone nationally minded voter could be persuaded to vote for him, from all parties, and it’s far easier to persuade them to lend a vote in a presidential election than in a general or local election.
    People are also forgetting what the primary motivation for SF running here is; To hammer FF in to the ground. FF not in the race, and SF doing well with a good candidate would be a serious statement of intent, leading in to a budget season where FF will be seriously constricted in what they can say, and SF will not. This could be a very significant few months for SF.

    Now in saying that, there is no question but that there would be risks. Unsettling the situation in the north is one aspect of it, as is the fear of mcGuinnness’ past being dragged up. But I cannot see how on balance, Sf would think it not worth going for.

  • keano10

    McGuinness is way too important in The North so there is no way it will be him.

    I’m also a little surprised at the mention of Alex Maskey by John. Whilst he is greatly valued within the party, there is no denying that Maskey has always failed to make any inroads into the SDLP vote in South Belfast. For some reason he is one of the few voter-unfriendly members of SF.

  • John Ó Néill

    My comment regarding Alex Maskey was that as an impact sub (of sorts) he would probably surprise people in the Republic and might play much better in the media.

  • Charminator

    Tend to agree with Munsterview regarding the strategy dynamic at play here. The party will be seeking to present someone it can market beyond the core Sinn Féin vote. With no Fianna Fáil candidate in the game, there is a rural Republican vote which is there to be had. The difficulty for Sinn Féin is finding such a candidate.

    I cannot at all understand the emphasis on McGuinness or Adams: both would be subject to intense media scrutiny which by the time a four/five week had ended, a great many potential transfers would have been lost. Sure, either candidate would play well to the Sinn Féin grassroots, but that’s not a recipe for expansion into the broader rural Republican vote and probably particularly not disaffected Fianna Fáilers.

    I’ve seen Mickey Harte’s name cropping up here and there. I have absolutely no idea what this musing is based upon, but I suspect if he were persuaded to run, Sinn Féin could find itself within touching distance of the presidency. The party knows there are no economic levers attached to the role, no real political powers that have day-to-day relevance either, but the elected president will be in situ throughout the next few centenary anniversary years, a powerful symbolism for Sinn Féin’s medium-term project. It gives it a massive platform to drive towards being the primary Opposition party, a possibility having been made all the more easier by the toxicity of Fianna Fáil and the decision of Eamon Gilmore and the other 60+ Labourites who wanted one last go on the ministerial merry-go-round.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thinking like Rory Best John?

  • Ulick has already mentioned Mary White who with her husband Padraic are long time associates of the PRM:

    “His wife Mary is a Fianna Fail senator who plans to run for the Irish Presidency when Mary McAleese ends her term in office.” BelTel source August 2010

    Their old friend Mairtin O Muilleoir I’m sure would be more than willing to lend a promotional hand.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick, Alex Maskey can at least throw a ball in a straight line to a green shirt. Rory, on the other hand…

  • Munsterview

    Charm…. : Yep, you seem to have an appreciation of the factors at play here.

    Yes Mickey would be a good choice but he would also bring out all the Owen Harris types in the media and public sphere to ‘Queer the Pitch’ as sign of GAA / Comhtals / Faine / Pioneer Pin Ireland coming into the foreground is like a red flag to a bull.

    It will be a media campaign of perceptions in the first instance, Sinn Fein’s organizational capacity together with the Fianna Fail grass roots, ‘Stop the Blueshirts’ drive will provide the nuts and bolts of the campaign but domination of the media will deliver the victory if there is to be one.

    If Sinn Fein pick a contentious candidate with baggage then they will loose media space and time vital to victory fighting yesterdays war. Of all political parties on this Island, Sinn Fein is always cannily preparing for ‘to-morrows war’ and fighting that today. For this reason too Mary Lou is probably out, a week is a long time in politics, like the old days when certain Vols were indispensable in their roles, Mary Lou is needed in the field not The Park.

    Just listening to the RTE lunchtime Radio News. Michael D is now at 36% that is close to the tipping point where he do not have to win the election, merely not loose it !

    Fine Gael is a house divided, FF grass roots by in large will be Sinn Fein by proxy in this election. One strategic goal here….. remember the infamous Sticks quote regarding the INLA that the biggest mistake they made with the Provos is that they did not shoot enough of them before they got off the ground.

    Enough of Labor needs to be ‘politically shot’ in the near future if Sinn Fein is to prevent it consodolating and holding the trenches. So far the opinion polls are a cause for concern, Labor are still in relatively good shape despite all the U turns and broken promises. If the Social Welfare curtailments in the fore-coming budgets can be held to indirect cuts with the current allowances and pensions more or less remaining the same, then they will last another year.

    The crucial question in this fore-coming election is not who Sinn Fein may or not may have in The Park, for Sinn Fein it is ‘do we take on Labor ( i.e. our old Stick buddies) now and if we cannot ‘take them out’ can we at very least inflict wounds that will prove to be demoralizing and in time fatal.

    Sinn Fein can no more ignore the Sticks In Power with the full resources of the State behind them any more than the Old Sticks, Gilmore, Rabbit, Kathleen (and her husband) & Co can ignore the onward rise of the Provos. In a future Ireland there is only room for one such organization on the Left and one must go down.

    If The Provos learned anything from the last campaign it is that it must be a first strike on their part when dealing with ‘the authorities’ and if possible it needs to be a spectacular !

    All else is secondary !

  • redhugh78

    Pat Doherty?

  • John Ó Néill

    MV – in that light – for those trying to read strategic direction in the presidential candidate selection – do you think the implication of going for the different options breaks like this (assuming these three are actually potential candidates):

    de Brún – a pitch for the [old] Labour vote
    Ó Caoláin – a pitch for the FF vote
    O’Toole – a pitch for the broader left wing vote, in particular the OSF/SFtWP/WP/DL vote that has got bundled in with Labour (or eaten Labour whole, if you want to be smart about it)

    MV – it might be hard to swallow for those who were around in the late 1960s and early 1970s for the split, but rather than battle them in a political deathmatch that might do neither a favour – there is also the other option to re-unite with the various factions currently under the Labour banner. I’m sure someone will (or maybe already has) written somesuch dreamy 1916-2016 piece about a SF-Labour reunion by 2016.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Have just heard that Charlie Windsor has arrived in town and will be formally announced as the Sinn Fein candidate tomorrow, the party will state they are returning to their original policy of a Dual Monarchy.

  • Munsterview

    John O’N : ” MV – it might be hard to swallow for those who were around in the late 1960s and early 1970s for the split, but rather than battle them in a political deathmatch that might do neither a favor – there is also the other option to re-unite with the various factions currently under the Labour banner….”

    If that should have read ‘unite with the various current factions under a Labor Banner’, that is my personal preferred option too actually : only one Ex- Stick that I would not meet with an outstretched hand whenever our trails cross. I have to think of Mick and libel laws here so we will switch to a hypothetical situation O’K ?

    Suppose four young men were in a camping trip together and shared a tent for a fortnight in a very intense period of their lives and that they became even closer friends than then they had been. Then something happened that caused a three one split where they parted company politically but still remained friends and worked politically together wherever possible.

    Suppose one of their group and their acknowledged and charismatic leader died in tragic circumstances while putting his ideals into practice in defending workers rights and his loss bonded them even closer. Suppose there was another parting of the ways and one shot and killed the other, that would leave it’s mark, would it not ?

    Your scenario may happen but only when Pierce, Mary Lou, young Sherlock, Springs nephew and the rest of that generation come into their own. Ours I am afraid still retain the nuclear option and only the ‘MAD’ aspect is keeping it all at bay. Like the hypothetical scenario above our generation are probably carrying too much baggage.

    However I am also aware that there was much more bad blood and a reason for it between Dick Mulcahy, Sean McBride and Co. in the Free State / Republican Collation Government that declared the Republic. I once spend over an hour discussing this with Sean on a one to one. I asked him how they were when again sitting around the table.

    His answer : ” most of us there like yourself had placed our hand on the flag, we remembered our promise and what we were together and it was as if we were never apart. We did not forget what happened of course, but neither did we forget that it was an effect and what the real cause of those deaths were and who had ultimate responsibility for them. They felt about the Scarteens ( O’Connors, Kenmare ) as we did about our own, so instead of bitterness there was understanding and you see things different when you are older and you are removed from the immediacy of events”

    I now know what he meant.

    To return to your scenario, in practice yes, I would heartily welcome it tomorrow if it happened. There is another fundamental barrier however, the formative experiences of both organizations in the last three decades of the last century. Their leadership mode was based on a tight cabal where unacknowledged leaders such as Harris wielded more influence and power as members of that cabal than nominal exectuive Official Sinn Fein Officers.

    The emerged Provo Leadership post split was opposed to the ‘Stick’ Cabal and forces external to the Republican Movement covertly acting through it in Irish Affairs. Many had been victims of it themselves and had been shelved or sidelined because they did not accept or were perceived as a threat to the status quo.

    The Republican Movement in reaction to this evolved a collective, collegiate leadership model. While in the Public Sphere certain leaders dominated, sitting around the Ard-Comhairle table the opinions of young and relatively inexperienced people such as my self were listened side by side with those of ‘The Old Guard’

    Some of policy documents and publications of the seventies carried sections as drafted by me, proposed, seconded by somebody else there and accepted by majority vote, if there was no unanimous consensus. Most times there was and the alliances were based on ideas not age!

    Irrespective of the public perceptions of the parts played by the ‘Gerry’s and the Martins’ and the personality politics, the reality is that by now extended, collective, collegiate leadership remains in place.

    Take one example, one of our Munster Counties, had the reputation for being the most militarized Prove County outside of the Northern Command Border Counties. It was certainly a most active one.

    Post the ceasefire there was one Sat where everyone was very busy with groups of people supposed to be traveling everywhere out of the County. All were at the pick up points early and all shortly thereafter found themselves in an exceptionally large house that had been loaned and secured in a isolated area. Cars dropped off people and disappeared and within a half hour everyone who was anyone within the Republican Movement were there. The first round of teas were already there and waiting.

    All there were then told what the meeting was really about and what was required, the short and medium term objectives of the Movement were set out and clarifications invited before getting down to business. Not all there were ‘signed up’ Republican Movement members, many from various parts of the County concerned while always there and sound when needed, had never the less formally joined any section of the Movement.

    The ‘Top Table’ was announced and the reasons for their presence given, voted on and accepted by all there. There was then a review of current, recent past and past County activity with regard to what was required in the changed circumstances for the immediate and intermediate future.

    All in that room had their say and ‘the quite ones’ in particular were pushed to make a contribution until all there were fully engaged and animated. It was a long day but at the end Recorder a trained professional person during the last break, was able to draw up a summary under all the important heads of issues that had arisen. These again were briefly discussed, voted on where necessary and the document was closed out.

    The ‘Top Table’ and some others appointed from the meeting reviewed the draft document when prepared and a final report was signed off. With some adjustments, this became the blueprint that was used elsewhere in the South to re-channel all resources into almost exclusive open democratic political activity.

    Neither was the ‘Munster Solution’ just imposed on all Southern Counties. In less dramatic and clandestine circumstances a meetings were systematically held around the various Counties and areas where the what by now had become the by now Ard-Comhairle recommended was discussed and adopted.

    This model of internal democracy, consultation and leadership model is totally at variance with the media moulded perceptions of Sinn Fein spun by Right Wing Political Opposition and the mouthpiece of these politics, The Independent Newspaper Group. It is also at complete variance to the way the Sticks still do business internally whatever of the motions they go through regarding ‘consultation’ and ‘democracy’

    A long way to go yet to a meeting of minds on that one, John I am afraid to say, a very long way indeed!

  • John Ó Néill

    MV – its definitely not something that is on the cards at the minute but, from the generation or so behind the leadership, and taking a longer term view of how things might develop, I think it is worth looking at this in the context of how the leaderships of SF and Labour transition to the next generation.

  • Drumlins Rock…..Charlie Windsor has more chance of being Head of State of Ireland than he has of being Head of State anywhere else 😉

  • Drumlins Rock

    Think he might still keep one or two out of the 16!

  • Munsterview

    DrumlinsR : “…Have just heard that Charlie Windsor has arrived in town and will be formally announced as the Sinn Fein candidate tomorrow, the party will state they are returning to their original policy of a Dual Monarchy……”

    On the ball but never got beyond third party feelers !

    Because of the cutback he found out that he would have to travel to the offshore Islands by boat instead of chopper. From what I hear on the grapevine he got very nervous when informed and broke off negotiations immediately. Can’t imagine why !

  • Greenflag

    Drumlin Rock

    ‘Have just heard that Charlie Windsor has arrived in town and will be formally announced as the Sinn Fein candidate tomorrow, the party will state they are returning to their original policy of a Dual Monarchy.’

    Good one 😉 But if memory serves me the motto on the old Liberty Hall banner proudly proclaimed back in 1918 ‘ We serve neither King nor Kaiser ‘

    That would have to change to given the changed economic circumstances of Europe today .

    Short Motto

    “We serve both King and Kaiser ‘

    or the Long Format

    “We got fed up serving the Vatican and ourselves alone so we now serve the IMF and ECB and Deutsche Bank and Banks of Ireland , England and Goldman Sachs and every serial bankster looter and pillager the world over too ;(

    Charles Windsor could be a good choice- he’s affable enough and decent gent lets face it if a tad eccentric but hey who would’nt be as an aristocrat . But he’d have to become a citizen , give up the succession and then there’d be the maintenance . Of course Charles would bring instant world wide recognition to the role of the Irish presidency as long as he continues to behave himself in public unlike his Da who can be a PR nightmare if allowed off the leash .

    As he could occupy the Aras there’d be no need to evict the Archbishop of Dublin from his Palace in Drumcondra – yet but we’ll burn that bridge when we cross it eh 😉


  • Munsterview

    John O : “…MV – in that light – for those trying to read strategic direction in the presidential candidate selection – do you think the implication of going for the different options breaks like this (assuming these three are actually potential candidates):

    de Brún – a pitch for the [old] Labour vote
    Ó Caoláin – a pitch for the FF vote
    O’Toole – a pitch for the broader left wing vote, in particular the OSF/SFtWP/WP/DL vote that has got bundled in with Labour (or eaten Labour whole, if you want to be smart about it)….”

    ( Sorry for the delay : ‘her indoors’ gave me the choice of going to a barber immediately or waking up tomorrow a skinhead! )

    None of the above ticks enough of the necessary boxes on the list that I would hazard a guess that is the one in use. It will be necessary to look North again.

    Martin McGuiness could be yet be headed for the Phoenix Park with a big grin on his face shortly after the Presidential election…………knowing that another McGuiness will be waiting there to greet him!

    We will have to look North :

  • IanR

    SF have 14 TDs, 20 are required to nominate a Presidential candidate.

    There is a growing consensus amongst the southern parties that northerners should be entitled to vote in the Presidential election (although the necessary constitutional amendment probably won’t be enacted in time for this Novermber’s poll).

    The corollary of this is that those elected representatives whom the northern electorate has chosen to represent them (i.e. MLAs) should have the same right as TDs to nominate a Presidential candidate.

    Therefore SF should make up the numbers by using 6 of their MLAs – one from each of the northern counties would be powerfully symbolic – to nominate the party’s chosen candidate. MLAs have more democratic legitimacy than Senators anyway.

    When the nomination is inevitably ruled out of order, then SF can mount a protest about denial of rights to Irish citizens in the north – they’re more likely to gain traction in that argument than they are to achieve electoral success in the Presidential poll this time round in any case.

  • Henry94


    Sorry for the delay : ‘her indoors’ gave me the choice of going to a barber immediately or waking up tomorrow a skinhead!

    Shows how you can get people wrong online.

    I thought you were already a skinhead 😉

  • Munsterview

    Henry94 : “…I thought you were already a skinhead …”

    Speaking of which, I got a certain daily newspaper yesterday that deals with Northen issues as I am following the ‘Supergrass trials’ very closely.

    If these are ‘God’s Chosen People’ as they believe themselves to be, then looking at the ‘rouges gallery’ of photos, I shudder to think of what ‘God’s rejects’ must have looked like !

  • @Munsterview

    Would McGuinness not have to resign his seats in the north in order to run? If so a big gamble.

    Actually on second thoughts he could probably be co-opted back in again if he loses.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not elegant though.

    As a politician, I see the attraction of McGuinness. He’s composed under fire, and understands the need for grace with opponents. But he’s northern, and is under prepped for the southern melee.

    Caoimghin’s one of those guys who is very warm and personable in real life, but gets a little verbose and wordy in his public persona.

    But there is no need to pull a grand gesture here. Good enough will do it.

  • IanR

    “As a politician, I see the attraction of McGuinness. He’s composed under fire, and understands the need for grace with opponents. But he’s northern, and is under prepped for the southern melee.”

    Surely as President he wouldn’t need to get involved in the ‘southern melee’. Indeed it should be a requirement of the job to rise above it (and indeed above any ongoing northern squabbles)?

  • Munsterview

    IanR : “…When the nomination is inevitably ruled out of order, then SF can mount a protest about denial of rights to Irish citizens in the north – they’re more likely to gain traction in that argument than they are to achieve electoral success in the Presidential poll this time round in any case….”

    Nice one IanR, I could wear that and Oh Boys, Oh Boys, would I like to be in the back room helping draft the PR campaign for the spin on that one !

    Unfortunately these days our elected lot are all constitutionally ‘house trained’ and those like Ferris who are not are held on a short leash by the Big Lads that are supposed to ‘know how the game is played.’

    During a stage on the Peace Process ‘Mick The Mouth’ McD and ‘Gerry’ found themselves sitting on the stairs to the Blair private apartment, their meeting having been interrupted by urgent ‘UK business’ that arose in the course of their meeting.

    Cherie arrived carrying some bags of shopping, Gerry jumped up, kissed her on the cheeks ( and not just ‘air kissing’ either may I add) and he got another back. He then took her shopping and led the way into the kitchen, the West Belfast Lad certainly seem to know his way around the place!
    (Michael McD…. Irish Times interview )

    Mickey was shocked from the very tips of his toes to the hair of his head ( well to such hair as he had left around the back of his scull and ears) and he must have felt the old testicles tightening as he realized a power transfer was in the offing and that his own political days were numbered, as indeed they proved to be !

    IanR…. ‘One’ do not walk expensively carpeted International corridors and be trusted to sit on a Prime Ministers stairs to the PM’s Private Apartment without playing the ‘Old Constitutional Game’ and the rules of that apparently dictate that ‘One’ do not pull stunts that could rock the agreed status quo.

    Very frustrating to an Old Timer like me that would relish doing just as you advocate but if certain people did, they would not get past the front door ( not that they do much of that these days anyway) never mind being allowed to sit unguarded on the PM’s stairs and trusted not to take landmark sighting estimates for a mortar range etc.

    Sorry IanR, wrong there, slipped my mind for the moment, just remembered Gerry’s claim that he was not involved in that side of things, ‘ Call me Tony’ probably felt safe enough in the circumstances!

    Apparent the same set of rules also say that ‘One’ do not become involved in ‘street politics’ and lead thousands to the gates of Leinster House without frightening certain International Horses carrying monied saddlebags.

    ‘Horses for courses’ IanR, is what it is all about these days ( or so I am told) horses for courses to trot around an agreed circuit, even if in the process they appear docile donkeys to a fustrated, angry public crying out for leadership and change !

    Another reason why a lot of Old Grey Heads like me are sitting it out somewhat bemused by it all !

    The Republican Movement in the late sixties (albet inadvertently) started a revolution and then ran away from it. In this second decade of the 21th, century the bulk of the working class people want a revolution and ‘that crowd out’ and the Republican Movement is not prepared to lead it!

    Apparently in the great scheme things a favorable write up in the Irish Times has more value in advancing the ’cause’ these days, than a few thousand people with Sinn Fein at their head attempting to take the Lienster House Gates off the Hinges. ( Incidently I was able to make a constructive suggestion or two, I am pleased to say, regarding the last big incident involving the same Leinster House gates)

    So IanR no takers for such radical ideas to upset the ‘ constitutional status quo’ in the Sinn Fein mainstream these days I am afraid !

    Of course if you still think that your idea has merit and that The Movement has ‘gone constitutional’ at the expense of street politics and ordinary people, you could alway explore if there were other like minded people around that agree with you, you could set up a ‘Provisional’ organization until things are re-focused on basics and enough agree with you that you become ‘the Mainstream’

    I wonder would it work?

  • Munsterview

    MV : “…..Martin McGuiness could be yet be headed for the Phoenix Park with a big grin on his face shortly after the Presidential election…………knowing that another McGuiness will be waiting there to greet him!….”

    Steady up here folks and re-read : I never said that Martin would be in the running for Presidency himself, I speculated that he would go to the Poenix Park happy…….

    ” knowing that another McGuiness will be waiting there to greet him “

  • Munsterview

    Mick as you appear to be in the shop and behind the counter at the moment, what has happened to the ‘preview’, mine has not been present since some time last week.

    Is the problem at your end or mine ?

  • IanR


    SF did hold a protest outside Leinster House only last month, calling for northern voting rights in Presidential elections, with members of Ogra SF wearing jerseys from each of the six counties. It would be a logical extension of that to nominate a candidate making up the numbers with MLAs, in order to highlight the inferior status afforded to MLAs (in comparison to TDs, in terms of nominating rights) by the Irish constitution.

    Incidentally, northern county/district councils should also be entitled to nominate Presidential candidates in the same way that southern county/city councils can.

  • Munsterview

    IanR : call that a protest ?

    A protest is something that gets the buggers protested against anxious, worried and freaking out !

    With respect that was not a protest, it was a PR excercise, it probably achieved its purpose within the intended impact zone, which was mainly media but little else. As such it was a SF window dressing excercise without any influnce what so ever on real politics.