#Aras11 Round up: The “And Then There Were Two” Edition

This is the first presidential election in some fourteen years…  And its been a bit of a roller coaster… Not least for Martin McGuinness who’s odds have burned from 3/1 in September out to 25/1 now (or 16/1 on Betfair in a market of £125k)… So here’s our third round up on #Aras11:

– Martina Devlin ignored a rather large and inconvenient chunk of Northern Irish constitutional history to suggest that little social social had been undertaken before the 1989 Fair Employment Act (ie, at about the same time the Hume/Adams talks began), but as she notes:

The desire to assign blame for the conflict remains strong in the Republic, and McGuinness is on the receiving end of that. In the North, however, people have reached an agreement to treat each other with courtesy and justice — even if one section self-defines as Irish and the other as British. The fairytales have been put away.

– Her colleague at the Irish Independent Kevin Myers, as you might expect, demurs somewhat:

Martin McGuinness has not had a blameless or boring past. My colleague Martina Devlin is simply barking up the wrong tree when she says that the IRA was not alone responsible for the Northern Troubles. Merely being an armed participant in what was a voluntary war disqualifies any such person from becoming the head of state of this Republic.

– The issue of the past however has had an uncustomary ride out. Here’s Sean Farren, the SDLP’s former Minister of Finance and Personnel, giving Danny Morrison’s analysis of the previous week, some pretty short shrift:

That campaign won no freedoms and advanced no civil rights. Instead it was marked by vengeful, deeply sectarian incidents: the murders of retired members of the security forces, the killing of a congregation at prayer in Darkley, of workers going home at Whitecross and Teebane, of a gathering in commemoration at Enniskillen, and the singling out of predominantly Protestant or unionist towns like Ballymena, Bangor, Coleraine, and Portrush for massive bomb attacks.

Blaming the British army, the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries for firing the first shots, as Morrison does, hardly absolves those who responded with such viciousness.

The former have to answer for their actions. But those who directed the IRA’s campaign did so calmly and coldly, recruiting to their cause young men and women in the foolish belief that violence would produce a British withdrawal and, consequently, a united Ireland. It was from the outset a futile, tragic and unattainable objective by those means, and none of its leaders has fully answered for the mayhem caused.

I suspect that the McGuinness campaign might have had some legitimate grounds for complaint over the way Miriam O’Callaghan handled the RTE Prime Time debate, but letting the candidate go and remonstrate directly with her immediately aferwards may have been an avoidable mistake.

– As Fionnan Sheahan notes, that private ‘chat’ went public very quickly:

“There were quite a few people in that corridor who saw Ms O’Callaghan leave that meeting. They would confirm that she did look shell-shocked by what happened. It would take an awful lot to leave Miriam shaken in that way,” said a source.

– Whatever the cause McGuinness seems to be dropping out of the race. Two polls at the weekend had him at 13% (less than one percentage point above the dreaded deposit loss rate of 12.5%. As Richard Colwell of Red C notes, it is now a two horse race:

Gallagher is clearly in pole position, but the big shifts in support seen in the polls so far show how uncertain the electorate are in their views, and with two weeks to go, the question is whether he can hang onto this support and even extend it to win a majority.

Gallagher’s gains in support are across all age groups, but particularly among those aged 35 to 44. They are also focused outside Dublin and among past Fianna Fáil voters, who appear to have woken up to the fact that he could be a Fianna Fáil candidate in disguise. What these gains mean, however, is that Gallagher’s support is now widespread across age, gender and region.

He does still have some particular strengths in support, and these are among women, those aged 35 to 44, and those out-side Dublin. While he has made gains among Fianna Fáil voters, his support is not exclusive to these voters, with strong levels of support also seen among past Fine Gael and independent voters.

Terry Prone in the Examiner:

No research in advance of presidential election 2011 came up with a Seán Gallagher-shaped need. He just decided he was what they should want and went out and told stories about himself.

Of course, he was greatly helped by other candidates setting fire to themselves. What was that? You have too much experience and judgement to set fire to yourself? That’s what Dana Rosemary Scallon thought, back in 2011. She had the TV skills to interrupt a live debate in order to release her personally-directed pyromania and in a subsequent TV3 interview scattered Zip fire-lighters around to sustain the blaze.

Ditto Martin McGuinness, who set fire to himself by failing to answer a predictably pejorative question with reproachful dignity and then getting argumentative with the questioner.

– Miriam Lord, as ever, caught the flavour of the damaging campaign:

They soldiered valiantly on yesterday, spreading their caring messages of inclusion and hope while studiously ignoring the black pall of smoke lingering after the latest bloody skirmish. But there is more than a touch of the walking wounded about the Áras Seven now.

Apart from Michael D, who is the only candidate still relatively unscathed. For now. Oh, for a return to the blessed serenity of ordinary decent blackguarding in the Dáil. But there are two more weeks to go and heaven only knows what might happen next.

So, after a particularly bruising Prime Time debate on Wednesday night, the candidates licked their wounds, climbed back on board their bandwagons and pressed on.

– That was just before the weekend polls, of course. Mitchell looks like a lost cause, so Enda’s Blue army may yet have to put boosters under Michael D’s rather pedestrian campaign:

The establishment parties can argue away a president can do precious little to address the economic problems facing the country. But clearly he has tapped a mood, which is a vital component of the make-up of any president.

Throughout this campaign, there has been a substantial coterie of support who don’t want the main parties to have the presidency. David Norris, Mary Davis and Martin McGuinness have all benefited, but Gallagher has got the badge of flagbearer for the independent-minded at the crucial point.

Nonetheless, this volatility in the polls means the vote is ‘soft’ and can’t be guaranteed to stay with him until the election or even come out and vote on the day.

The smart money still remains on Higgins, although he doesn’t come off well from a direct comparison with Gallagher on age grounds.

The more tetchy he becomes about his age being raised as an issue, the more he will draw attention to it.


, ,

  • “letting the candidate go and remonstrate directly”

    Martin doesn’t strike me as someone would necessarily listen – even to a critical friend, especially when the blood is on the boil.

  • Jimmy Sands

    So FF v Lab it is. It will come down to transfers. I suspect MDH will be favoured by most of the other candidates’s supporters (save Dana, whose support is no longer visible to the naked eye) and Coco. This explains Gallagher’s extraordinarily pusillanimous responses to and IRA related questioning. It will be interesting to see if the Indo, which has been pushing him as the strongest candidate on the right, lets him get away with it.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Sorry the above bracket should have closed after Coco, not eye.

  • redhugh78

    I had to laugh when I read that story from not just Fionnan Sheahan but two other indo ‘journos’.
    It quotes unamed ‘sources’ and uses language like ‘mother of eight’ Miriam O Callaghan, clearly sensationalised and spun to give the impression that Mc Guinness had strong armed her.
    Big Bad Mc Guinness and poor wee mum of eight Miriam O callaghan.
    Would sit well in the ‘Independent’ …oh wait.

  • “its been a bit of a roller coaster”

    Martin’s campaign has just gone to the dogs [photo] and his fan club should take advantage of that special offer.

  • “The “And Then There Were Two” Edition”

    Folks are split as to whether or not there should be a debate between the top two candidates, according to The Journal. It also has a question a day for the hopefuls.

  • HeinzGuderian

    So,as predicted,the mask slipped. 🙂

  • Mick Fealty


    That’s just dumb PR. There’s a more substantive point it points to which I’ll try to deal with in a separate post.

  • “an entourage from Sinn Fein hung around the room” .. Sheahan

    Perhaps worth noting that it was a personal face-to-face encounter between Martin and Miriam; maybe she would have been advised to have had a witness.

    I’ve ‘captured’ part of his entourage – an impressive body of men. I didn’t ask if any of them were spin-doctors – or if they accompanied him into the OFMDFM. They’d be useful folks to have in the Aras to keep nosey media folks in their place.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nev, it was a pretty off the wall event. Not something you’d plan for.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Paddy Power now have FF odds on favourite.

    It’s like the final scene from Carrie…

  • Decimus

    Were we not repeatedly assured that mention of McGuinness’s terrorist past was counter prpductive, and was actually boosting his position in the polls? If that was the case then he has scored two remarkable own goals with David Kelly and Miriam O’Callaghan. The mask did indeed slip and he has nobody but himself to blame.

  • “it was a pretty off the wall event”

    Agreed, Mick. As Decimus says, it was quite revealing to see the mask slip, to see the management style in action.

  • alan56

    If MMG does badly will he not return as a wounded DFM? Was this a sound SF strategy?

  • Jimmy Sands

    The faithful will be assured that the campaign was a triumph and another giant stride towards unity. They will accept this as they have always done.

  • the wrong side of 40

    Martin will get more than the 13% currently forecast in the polls. Those poles were I understand before the poor Prime Time showing by Gallagher. Also they don`t take into account the fact that SF support is always underestimated in polls.

    My guess would be around 15-16% and this will be portrayed as progress, which it will in fact be.

    Having watched Miriam in action last week, it would be hard to see how she would be fazed by a confrontation with Martin, she was vicious!

  • Skeg oneill

    A few days ago I was watching footage from the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor relating to mobile phone records on the day of MJ’s death.
    The commentator said that the doctor’s lawyer was trying the SODDI line of defence and he explained this means “some other dude did it”.

    I immediately thought of Martin because that sums up neatly his IRA career, according to him.
    In recent times Martin has told us that he knows absolutely nothing about: the Claudy bombings, the murder of Patsy Gillespie, the Enniskillen bombing, the murder of Frank Hegarty and the murder Private Kelly.

    SF are unique as a politcal party in these islands in that their leaders are routinely asked about murder. We have to make do with them in NI Govt for the greater good. There is no such need that I know of in Ireland.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Paddy Power now have FF odds on favourite.

    It’s like the final scene from Carrie…

    Gee makes you think how toxic are the other 6 brands?

    Call it lowering the bar high enough.

  • Mary Anna

    He should be going to jail for his sins MMG and his dads army, what Miriam got was nothing compared to what the good decent people of the north had to suffer!What was done to the Hegartys and Pasty Gillespie family the Travers family, the Kingsmills families murdered by the evils -freedom fighters my foot , dictators rule our people in the north have suffered in silence, cover ups dirty deals, done deals all for greed power and control. If you lived in Derry you would be bullied out, the way that they work they get a friend of a friend, do you people in the south really want dictators on your door steps, really want to be ruled by fascists?

  • tomthumbuk

    Mary Anna, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    What other country in the world would a self confessed and unapologetic terrorist even think of standing for President.
    I think it demonstrates the success of the propaganda war that the Republican movement have engaged in over the years.
    Goebbels wouldn’t have had a look in.
    Fortunately most of the people in the Republic have been too busy dealing with their domesic difficulties to be preoccupied with the Sinn Fein’s rewriting of history.
    Martin McGuinness should give us the dates when he joined the IRA and when he left.
    A look at the fatality figures would tell just how much the IRA was responding to, or creating “the conflict he was involved in” as he now tries to rationalise it.
    It’s maybe his way of trying to personally come to terms with the crimes he and his cohorts have inflicted on innocent people.
    I suppose as you get older and start recognising your own mortality you maybe begin to start sorting things out with your Maker, (if you are religious, as David Latimer seems to think McGuinness is).
    He’d be better getting down on his knees, confessing his guilt, and asking for forgiveness.

  • 241934 john brennan

    It was Martin McGuiness himself, encouraged by his Sinn Fein advisers, who decided to loudly proclaim an endorsement from some victims of IRA violence – at the very beginning of his election campaign for the Aras.

    This decision to put the record of the IRA at the top of the agenda – to get it over, done with and out of the way at the start – was never likely to prove to be of advantage to Mr McGuiness – with a Southern audience, still assessing and unsure of its attitude towards Sinn Fein

    So Martin McGuinness, having highlighted the subject himself, can hardly complain about the media pursuing him, with direct questions about his IRA past.

  • michael-mcivor

    You would think the election wes over with- still another 2 weeks to go- a few days before Gerry Adams topped the poll in louth some reporters said that Gerry would not even get elected- soon be time for the people to speak-

  • HeinzGuderian

    Any links to verify that statement,mm ? 😉

  • “McGuinness campaign might have had some legitimate grounds for complaint over the way Miriam O’Callaghan handled the RTE Prime Time debate”

    Martin has gone back to the ‘charm’ offensive – and Miriam’s lips are sealed 🙂

    Miriam’s perfectly reasonable question had previously got under Martin’s skin:

    RTE sources described the host as being left “shaken” by the encounter.

    Mr McGuinness confronted her over certain exchanges in the debate. At one stage Ms O’Callaghan had asked him on how he could reconcile his religious beliefs with “being involved in the murder of so many people” as a member of the IRA.

  • Mary Anna

    “This Must Never Be Allowed To Happen Again”

    A young man, David Kelly, from the Republic of Ireland had the guts to come out and speak out against the injustice that was inflicted upon him. He confronted Martin McGuinness about the murder of his father, Patrick Kelly. His father was a 35 year old private in the Irish Army who was killed by the IRA when he and others tried to rescue businessman Don Tidey who had been kidnapped by the IRA. Private Kelly was gunned down along with Garda Gary Sheenan in the rescue attempt in Co. Leitrim in 1983.
    The question is why are there not more David Kellys in Northern Ireland ? – people who are willing to confront the people and organisations responsible for their loss and pain. Perhaps there is a clue in McGuinness’s response to Mr Kelly – “that was 30 years ago”. In Northern Ireland, people are being constantly told to move on and draw a line in the sand by the very same people that perpetuated the violence and hatred. Bringing up the past is looked upon as somehow being against the peace process – it is not – it is merely victims and victims families looking for the truth of what happened to their loved ones and for those that inflicted that pain to face up to their responsibilities.

    Before history gets rewritten let us remind ourselves of just how many victims there were. In our conflict between 1969 and 2001 a total of 3526 were killed and those organisations responsible are listed below.

    Responsibility for killing[125]

    Responsible party No.
    Republican paramilitary groups 2057
    Loyalist paramilitary groups 1019
    British security forces 363
    Persons unknown 82
    Irish security forces 5
    Total 3526

    Now back to David Kelly and the lack of people like David Kelly in Northern Ireland. We in the North have been brow beaten and bullied into keeping quiet – exhausted from a dirty war and only too glad that there is some semblance of peace – the majority think it better to keep quiet and allow the perpetrators to rewrite history. A recent example of this type of bullying was when Martin McGuinness threatened to reveal secrets about Frank Hegarty that would embarrass the Hegarty family. Frank Hegarty was the MI5 agent that McGuinness was alleged to have lured back to his death in Derry.
    There has been much talk – well that is not entirely correct – some talk about the need for a truth commission. In my opinion this is just a smoke screen and a device for those who inflicted the pain to avoid facing up to the pain they caused – they don’t expect a truth commission or its terms of reference to ever be agreed but can deal with embarrassing questions by pronouncing their support for a commission. The nearest we had to a truth commission was the Bloody Sunday Enquiry and even then we never got the full truth – the Ministry of Defence stalled and obstructed the enquiry whenever they could and the IRA, in the form of Martin McGuinness, refused to tell all citing IRA confidentiality.
    I believe that if victims want truth and justice then they have to demand it because the vested interests in Stormont and Westminster are only concerned with self interest and self interest excludes truth and justice. There is a risk that victims will become forgotten and the reality of the conflict blurred and romanticised – increasing the risk that the denial of the past will doom us to repeat it. Take a look at the new young recruits to the UVF or dissident Republicans who are too young to have ever experienced the nastiness and heart break of troubles but are intent in reproducing them – romantic notions of being heroes for Ulster or Ireland.
    That is why victims have to take things into their own hands and confront those now in power and responsible for the pain.
    I believe that it would be a very powerful thing to do if relatives of those killed in the conflict, come together, each with a picture of their murdered love one and display them on mass.
    We have an, early, excellent opportunity presently, with the race to be President of Ireland. Martin McGuinness brought the northern aspect to it . The majority of the population in the Republic have no real idea as to what it was like to live through the troubles and the real consequences of it.
    The sight of so many of the victims from the troubles, in one place, with photographs of their loved ones, will bring home the enormity of the loss and pain, and shame the politicians into doing sometime meaningful about truth and justice.
    Families can take back their lives by standing up for their dead. Take our campaign to Stormont, Westminster and the Dail bring a picture of a loved one. Never forget the damage that has been done by a futile war. We do not need to forget or draw a line in the sand, what is needed is convictions, justice, and then true peace will follow. If we do not make a stand now, then we teaching the next generation it is ok to take a life and to hurt and harm because no one will ever be held accountable.

  • Martin comes under renewed attack from victims, this time from the McCabe family.