#aras11: He doesn’t know it’s a damn show. He thinks it’s a damn fight!

There was genuine surprise at last night’s announcement that Martin McGuinness is being considered as a Presidential candidate by Sinn Féin. He still has to cross two obstacles, though: ratification by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle; and, acquiring three additional nominations to add to the seventeen Sinn Féin Oireachtas members for the necessary twenty proposers to guarantee entry to the race. While the first is surely a formality, one would have to assume that the latter is also in the bag since a failure to reach the actual ballot paper would be an acute embarassment to the Sinn Féin leadership. 

I had never really considered that Sinn Féin would run either one of it’s two most senior figures and last weekend Gerry Adams had seemed to flag that an external candidate was more likely to be supported. Likewise I didn’t think that this was a contest for a northerner since (I”d imagined that) the Presidential election would be more about positioning and challenging perceptions of Sinn Féin among the electorate than being in it to win it. 

As a northern who has spent about a dozen of the last fifteen years living in different parts of the south (including a couple of years, at least, in each of Tipperary, Dublin city, Wicklow and Wexford) I have been exposed to enough ‘informed’ commentary on the north to know how far Sinn Féin’s image is still coloured by the cartoonish imagery of Section 31 days. For those aged between about 35 and 65, their formative political education occurred during an era of strict political censorship of reporting, a fact that has never retrospectively impinged on their understandings of the political landscape. While many will no doubt laud Section 31 for that very reason, in the realpolitick of 2011 it is still a formidable barrier for Sinn Féin to break through. In that light, I had figured (*wrongly*) that the 2011 Presidential election was an opportunity for an outreach campaign that would stretch Sinn Féin in expanding from it’s current base and building for the next local and Dáil elections. Tactically, I’d figured on that any nominee would be from the south, at least (actually I had thought it would be Bairbre de Brún).

However, Martin McGuinness as a candidate is a different proposition that I hadn’t considered:  Sinn Féin are entering this race to win it!

  • keano10

    Sinn Fein’s image still coloured by Section 31?? Nonsense.

  • Mark

    McGuinness is as recognisable as President McAlesse down here . A lot of people would have difficulty naming five SF personalities but at the same time , first time voters all know who McGuinness is . His past isn’t important to them .

    John , I didn’t see Kerry on your list of counties where you’ve laid your hat down the years , does that mean you’ll be supporting the Dubs tomorrow ?

  • John Ó Néill

    @keano – for that demographic, the fact that SF were taboo in the broadcast media isn’t an association they have simply forgot

    @Mark – hmmm, no. But then, I’m no fan of Kerry!

  • JackCade

    Quick question- wasnt there talk of letting us in the north vote for the pres this time? im sure enda said sonething of the sort before the last election…

  • Drumlins Rock

    Its a bit like Lady Gaga entering the X Factor, if she enters she has to win, otherwise its a loss of face, and just as there are many Lady Gaga fans, there are plenty who hate her, even if she does win the prize isnt worth much in reality. And to top it all it is the French X-factor she entered 🙂

  • Drumlins Rock

    Sinn Fein have announced an end to their policy of not meeting members of the Royal family, Marty has said he will meet all Heads of State if elected, which of course includes the Queen who is 16 heads of state in one person. I’m sure this would also mean he would have to meet Charles or William if they were acting for their aging monarch, and snubbing any other Royal would also look bad for an Irish President. As they don’t recognise the border I can’t see this being an issue North or South when the visits occur. And if its good enough for Marty it has to be good enough for the rest of the tribe. Surely they can’t say we will only do this if we win, sounds a bit begrudging, therefore it seems the policy has changed.

  • I’m surprised that folks who are supposed to have some political and historical nous are surprised 🙂

    Let’s take a little ramble beyond the Slugger box. Here’s a little bit of Heaney from “The Cure at Troy”:

    History says, Don’t hope
    on this side of the grave.
    But then, once in a lifetime
    the longed for tidal wave
    of justice can rise up,
    and hope and history rhyme.

    So hope for a great sea-change
    on the far side of revenge.
    Believe that a further shore
    is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    and cures and healing wells.

    Is there an Adams-Heaney connection? Gerry called his 2005 book, “A Farther Shore”

    We’re at the beginning of a decade of potentially very unsettling commemorations where not only hope and history, including dates, rhyme. The strategists who want constitutional change may well find it beneficial to plan around echoes of previous events when emotions are probably more easily stirred.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Desmond Greaves had 1916-1966 in mind when he suggested in 1963 (and possibly earlier) that rights issues could be used to bring an end to NI’s membership of the UK – hence my suggestion that rights issues were a smokescreen for a removal of the ‘conservative’ institutions in Belfast and Dublin.

    The 1998 Belfast Agreement has echoes of Easter 1916 and 1798.

    Have Gerry, Martin and their associates in the PRM Army Council got 2025 vision ie a double run at the Presidency? This could mean Martin now and Gerry next in a John The Baptist-Jesus Christ super star scenario. Well they’ve both got coats of many colours even if their lifestyles don’t fit in other ways. Gerry has been very gracious to Martin so Martin could proclaim in 1918 that Gerry is, er, mightier than he is.

    Despite the oft mentioned outreach to Unionists I suspect Unionists and their reactions have not been factored into the analysis other than the likes of Latimer as a thin coat of camouflage paint. It’s also possible that due thought has not been given to the views of those Irish nationalists in Ireland-26 who don’t automatically buy into the PRM-SF narrative.

    The MSM in Ireland-26 should not forget that Martin is still the iron hand in the velvet glove and that his associates might well not take too kindly to an overemphasis on Martin’s past. So long as it sticks to the peace process narrative it need not fear a knock on the door as allegedly happened on behalf of a different SF candidate in the Ireland-6 elections when a victim might have been rash enough to seek justice from the legal authorities.

  • andnowwhat

    Over on Politics.ie the anger with the political system is evident on thread after thread and has (obviously) been so for the past couple of years.

    A constant is is a belief that they have all betrayed the constitution with one exception. Yep. Sinn Fein.

    IMHO, in the unlikely event that Martin Mc Guinness does win, it could well be on the wave of a protest vote.

  • Henry94

    Drumlins Rock

    The President will not be a member of a political party so whoever he meets he will be doing so in a new capacity. During the recent visit of the Queen the Mayor of Cashel, Michael Browne RIP, met the Queen while a member of Sinn Fein.

    That move can be seen in a new light now. Was it Sinn Fein thinking ahead to the very question you raise I wonder.

  • Greenflag

    From the beeb

    “The people of Ireland have watched the political progress that Gerry Adams and I have been at the heart of for many years,” Mr McGuinness said.

    “I think I would prefer their judgement than the judgement of media who are looking for spectacular headlines.”

    And the Beeb then continues .

    ‘A former IRA commander, Mr McGuinness has been Deputy First Minister since 2007.

    I think the Beeb wants McGuinness to win .

    ‘ the anger with the political system is evident ‘

    Not so much with the system more with the politicians or at least those who are seen as establishment politicians and in particular the former FF . It’s too early to say how much of that has yet transferred to FG and Labour . You can probably expect a ‘close McGuinness out’ cabal forming within the ranks of FG and Labour . But digging up and throwing the dirt could very easily backfire . After all the man has been Deputy FM in NI since 2007 and has helped to bring forward a political settlement after all in a State where for three decades or more the elected politicians would only have crossed the road to spit at their constitutional opponents never mind talk to them .

    A protest vote ? Against the sodding lot of them FF/FG/Lab ?

    I would’nt close it out as a possibility at this stage and much would depend on younger age voters turning out in numbers,

  • What’s not to like in a Grass Root Patriot President

    However, Martin McGuinness as a candidate is a different proposition that I hadn’t considered: Sinn Féin are entering this race to win it!

    Some would say that with this …. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14958873 …. is it already won, deservedly.

    Go, Marty, Go. Show them a Way. And as you can imagine, would Mr McGuinness also have one swell and sophisticated/secure and complex media operation with Virtual Savvy in Novel Environments Modus Operandi Available, and in Mentoring and Monitoring Attendance ….. for Regular Performance Enhancing Assessment with Realignment of Positive Goals.

    And yes, there will be spooky stuff involved. … but sure, isn’t that normal in these parts and to be expected if they are falling behind in these new open virtual fields.

    Let them climb aboard the train for a ride on a rocket man ticket.

    Things are certainly progressing nicely on all AI Sites and CyberIntelAIgent Nodes.

    Please be advised that Intelligence has interests in all fields requiring leadership and leads in all of them with Sensational XSSXXXX Supply of Novel Tales and Polyamoral AIdDVentures, a much favoured and thoroughly reliable path.

  • Greenflag, I’ve already drawn attention to the relationship between Martin and the MSM @ 10:38 am so I’m not surprised that he has begun by firing a salvo across the MSM bows 🙂

  • michael-mcivor

    martin McGu1nness election posters going up in mid-ulster-
    Martin the All Ireland candidate-

  • Joe Bloggs

    Mark – 17 September 2011 at 9:21 am

    McGuinness is as recognisable as President McAlesse down here . A lot of people would have difficulty naming five SF personalities but at the same time , first time voters all know who McGuinness is . His past isn’t important to them .

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Isn’t it amazing how killing a few prods seems to make you MORE electable within the Irish catholic Nationalist community – north and south.

    Only in Ireland…….

  • eamonnmcdonagh

    As I form part of the demographic mentioned in the post I’d love to know what relevant info about Sinn Féin Section 31 caused me to miss out on and in what sense my view of them is thus “cartoonish”

  • Alanbrooke

    With the RoI so keen on northern presidents, how long until we have a DUP candidate ?

    Junior as president in 2016 would be a real winner !

  • John Ó Néill

    @eamonn – you might want to re-read what I actually wrote. If you typically find (or used to find) a northern accent sufficient pretext to offer detailed advice on what is *really* happening in the north before eventually admitting that, no, you’ve never been over the border, never actually met people from both sides, or realised that there was a broadcasting ban, then, yeah, you’re in the demographic…

  • FuturePhysicist

    What’s not to like in a Grass Root Patriot President?

    I Agree … back Mary Davis … leave the people who’ve made their careers in politics to one side and vote for someone who has given so much to the community she came from.

  • eamonnmcdonagh

    @John Ó Néill

    you have no idea of my relationship/personal contact level with NI. On a more general level, would you say that direct personal experience of it was necessary in order to have an informed opinion about a given conflict? If that’s the case then we’re all going to have to shut up about a lot of issues.

  • Mark McGregor

    While I think it would take a minor miracle for McGuinness to win I’m still not ruling it out. However, that is not where I see this contest for SF. I see them looking to consolidate their place in the minds of the electorate, especially with those former FF voters they picked up last time and giving them a credible SF candidate to vote for when it isn’t just about kicking an unpopular government. It is working towards retaining that vote and with no FF runner likely, seeking a means to grab more of their former support.

    Additionally it will put another nail in the armed struggle toxicity ahead of the next Leinster House election. With Adams already having contested the other parties and media have mainly shot their bolt on this to little impact. Running an admitted former senior IRA man and polling decently will mean the IRA arguments are going to be repetition of little import in future.

    So they build and strenghten their base vote and further remove concerns over previous support for armed struggle.

    Win, win. First really clever move from SF in a good while imho.

  • John Ó Néill


    you have either got the wrong end of the stick or you are trolling.

  • andnowwhat [11.16am] You can add to that, the genrerally uninspiring line up until yesterday. It’s come to something that, having removed himself from the candidates list, Norris is now going back on it with the baggage over the Israel case. The campaign will come to life now.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good analysis John. I remember watching an interview with Martin on the Swedish tea time news in 88/89.

    Because there was no animus on the part of the interview, it got into a lot of shocking depth about the logic and detail of the IRA’s campaign.

    Not the kind if thing Martin would want resurrected during the next few months.

  • Greenflag

    @ Nevin ,

    ‘ I’m not surprised that he has begun by firing a salvo across the MSM bows’

    Indeed . SF have already thought this one through and as Mark points out above at 3.14 above even a good performance if not a win will not do SF any harm in coming elections .

    Overall I would think the odds are stacked against him at a 60/40 breakdown I would think -much will depend on how those second and third preferences ‘transfer ‘ to SF and how the table looks after the first count . At any rate it should be the most exciting Presidential election since Erskine Hamilton Childers (a Prod ) defeated Tom O’Higgins (a Catholic ) back at a time when the much heralded present day candidate was just entering politics .

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – see Mark’s comments above which are spot on, SF are getting more experienced at objection handling which will no doubt be tested to the full in the campaign.

    Btw, Irish Times has O Cuiv leaving FF to found a new party.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Mark wrote: Win, win. First really clever move from SF in a good while imho.

    But what do we think about passing the First Minister position to John O’Dowd? I would have given that gig to Gildernew, and not just as a sop for not getting the presidential nomination (which was not a good idea).

  • dwatch

    Sinn Fein calls for Irish constitution change

    Conor Murphy called on the Irish government to change the constitution
    Continue reading the main story

    A Sinn Fein MP has called on the Irish government to change the constitution to allow people in NI to vote in the Republic’s presidential election.

    Conor Murphy said that despite being permitted to hold Irish citizenship, people in Northern Ireland would be “disenfranchised” in the October poll.


  • lamhdearg

    Can we add his first pref and his transfers together, work out from that what % of those that voted, voted for him,then from that, what % of Eire’s residents do not mind his past, and therefore conclude that that % of Eire’s residents feel it is was ok to kill those opposed to an united ireland.
    This election will give non irish nationalist a better idea of what % (of Eire’s people) would be happy, and what % would not be happy to see them killed, should the “war” start up again.

  • Alanbrooke

    The fun with a president McGuinness should be in EU relations.

    When the euro crisis has died down it’s inevitable there will be some form of constitutional changes needed. Will he fight it or just sign up like all the others ?

  • Mark McGregor


    Wasn’t aware the dFM role was going to O’Dowd. I’d have gone for him or Anderson. Him to increase the chance of the Upper Bann MLA gain, her to increase the chance of taking Foyle from Durkan. Note even with a damaged Ritchie I think Ruane is a busted flush not worth considering who has taken SF back years in SD.

    Can’t see an electoral reason for Gildernew and SF are most surely an electoral movement now.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Putting Ruane in a ministry backfired … a ministry comes with a performance scrutiny, not free voters.

  • Henry94


    He will have no role in that. Voting for McGuinness would be an expression of opposition to what the EU are doing but once elected he will like every President by constricted by the constitution and certainly won’t be leading any opposition to government policy.

    He would have no role in a constitutional change. That would require a referendum and he couldn’t even say how he intended to vote. It’s a very limited job.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I also think Einstine’s words ring true:

    “Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value”

    It seems to many Sinn Féin is all about the sucess.

  • andnowwhat

    @Mark Mc Gregor

    What do you think about getting Baibre De Bruin the hell out of Europe? I haven’t thought through it all but IMHO, she’d be a great DFM/FM

  • Alanbrooke

    Henry 94

    I think that underestimates SF’s history of ignoring the rules and the EU’s inability to win a referendum.

    So if there’s a “no” to a referendum for further integration do you think SF will sit on the sidelines when the Eurocrats tell Ireland they’ve got the answer wrong again ?

    Strikes me that’s just the kind of constitutional issue a president could get involved in.

  • dwatch

    What about cool hand luke Gerry Kelly for DFM? I wonder would Gerry and Robbo get on together?

  • ‘In it to win it’ would require resignation of his DFM role as anything else suggests a hedging of bets and not an altogether overwhelming confidence in his expectation of winning.

  • Crow

    I think a lot of folks in the South will be challenged to put a number next to Martin McGuinness’ name. “What would the protestants think of us after all the things he has done” will be a common refrain. However, there will be a sizable portion of disillusioned Labour supporters and ex-FF’ers that will have no such qualms. I think a food result for SF will be to be there or there abouts at the last count. Builds on their profile in the south, removes more of the taboo for the next election. Also, the impact on those middle-class SDLP voting Catholics in the North will be interesting. Especially when McGuinness switches to Foyle instead of Glenshane at the next Westminster election. You heard it here first ;-).

  • FuturePhysicist

    You honestly think McGuinness will be there at the last count? I’d say he’d simply push Higgins over the line.

  • Kevsterino

    Is the Irish President constitutionally required to be of no political party while in office?

  • Henry94


    So if there’s a “no” to a referendum for further integration do you think SF will sit on the sidelines when the Eurocrats tell Ireland they’ve got the answer wrong again ?

    Sinn Fein won’t be on the sidelines but the President will have to be. I don’t think there will ever again be an EU treaty passed in Ireland.

    The failures to accept our previous no votes can be compared to the failure to pass Home Rule. It led to the demand for a republic. It may be Sinn Fein’s destiny to lead us out of a union for the second time.


    Not specifically but it would be unheard of and if any President tried such a thing they would be impeached very quickly. A simple vote of the Dail or Seanad would be enough to impeach a President. It really is a very limited role.

  • Alanbrooke


    less ” lead us out” and more “shoot us out “.

    So 2016 storm the ECB and a civil war circa 2021, sounds great.

  • granni trixie

    MMG says he would take the usual industrial wage as President. Does anyone know if the rest of the considerabe presidential “wages” will then go into SF coffers. Cos the way he presenting it (as a selling point) is as though he is saving tax payers money.

    Also note how he has got his spoke in first re how he knows that the medja are going to be negative about his campaign (taking lesons from FJH, see previous posts re SDLP leadership election).

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘However, Martin McGuinness as a candidate is a different proposition that I hadn’t considered: Sinn Féin are entering this race to win it!

    The surrendered pira commander,with little left to command,but an ‘army council’,hasn’t a hope in Hell of winning.

    The shinners think a protest vote for them in the last Eire Electrons was significant.
    I tell you now,the good people of Southern Ireland will tell them just how insignificant they really are !! 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Can someone ‘game’ for us how the ‘in it to win’ actually happens?

  • lamhdearg

    How big a hole will this put in s.f. coffers?. will they need to spend some of the money they found in black bags in belfast city centre, and have been holding back.

  • Mick,

    It might depend on what SF consider to be a win. A substantial vote for McGuinness, especially anything above, say, 15%, could be spun as a win even though the presidency isn’t gained.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick, that’s not a prediction – it’s an interpretation of the apparent intent in fielding such a senior candidate (as opposed to seeing it solely as a vote growing project). Since the shape of the whole field is not yet known, any predictions or gaming vote patterns etc is still just nonsense. The full ticket and a couple of opinion polls will be needed to see how it shapes up. Sure Fianna Fáil may even yet decide to run a candidate (if Martin wants to keep his party together he may have to agree to letting Ó Cuiv stand).

  • Drumlins Rock

    With regards the tempory DFM role, it has to be an Executive member, ie. minister, Michelle O’Neill and Caral are probably too junior still, the juinor ministers dont count so Martina is out, there is no option really it has to be O’Dowd.
    With a running such senior members, either Marty or Gerry, SF have to win or come very close, ironically if they did win they would lose there most skilled operator from practical politics, the kudos would probably be worth it, but it is not a cheap price, and it would be EXTREMELY difficult for Marty to keep out of party politics all together, winning has its risks.
    But if they come in fourth in first preference then it is a slap in the face, second is still a win, third your in a grey area, thats when the numbers will count, t’will be interesting, the meeting the Queen thing is already showing the knock on effect of the real world once again creeping into the Republican world.

  • Drumlins Rock

    btw latest opinion poll over on P.ie has SF on 11%, for a GE that is, not a big base though.

  • Jimmy Sands

    “He still has to cross two obstacles, though: ratification by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle;”

    That did make me laugh.