#Aras11: Sinn Fein’s pathfinder election?

Sinn Fein’s unique politbureau leadership and ownership structure (effectively the party rather than the state that sets the terms of employment for their ‘public’ representatives) gives it a capacity to engage long term strategies that’s impractical for other more conventionally democratic parties.

Thus the current leadership is already twenty six years in place and pre dates the party’s wholehearted and exclusive commitment to democracy. Occasions that might have proven fatal to another party’s leadership, for example, the Irish general election of 2007, can be adequately explained away as a ‘squeeze’ between the two largest parties in the state.

Thus Martin McGuinness’s final placing will not be judged internally in the same way it might within a more democratically structured party.

To get a flavour of how even McGuinness’s less than compelling performance in the opinion polls is likely to be interpreted internally, it’s worth reading Adrian Kavanagh’s complex transliteration of the polling results onto Dail constituencies. Now along with the caveats Adrian provides comes another: performance in a Presidential election is no predictor for one to Dail Eireann.

But this election for SF is about electoral path finding, not winning office. The traces of electoral strength picked out in Kavanaghs analysis will likely mirror those constituencies the party will concentrate those not inconsiderable resources funded by its own ‘public’ representatives.

As Kavanagh points out even the best poll rating leaves SF with the same problem Labour has had since independence; ie breaking out of niche status. That’s what makes SF’s struggle for Fianna Fail hearts and minds so compelling. It’s far from clear whether McGuinness’s attack on Gallagher is a move forward or back on that score.

One likely positive by product of the campaign for the party is likely to be (despite the best efforts of RTE’s finestU, and the powerful witness of individual victims) is the repackaging of the IRAs campaign in Northern Ireland as a ‘war against oppression’.

The only candidate to consistently challenge them on that (Gay Mitchell) is likely to have his proverbial head handed him back on a plate by the plain people of Ireland.

From a southern point of view that’s phoney war politics. The real battle is four years hence. And from Sinn Fein’s point of view the real test is to see whether they can prove attractive to what remains of the FF base currently resting in the Fine Gael account.

My own suspicion is that Ireland’s predeliction for decentralised power may mean that Sinn Fein’s core strength (highly centralised internal control) up to now may be the key stumbling block to further growth in the south.

Still, the party’s progress o this point has been a remarkable one.

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  • keano10

    You are correct Mick. Getting into the heart of the Fianna Fail vote remains the dynamic within Sinn Fein’s Southern strategy. It wont be easy though and it is a battle that that will be fought for some years to come. I dont think that the attack on Gallagher has set back that aim to any great extent. They managed to ‘out’ him in terms of his FF links much more clinically than anyone else had during the campaign.

    It also brought back all of the negative public perceptions about Fianna Fail back into full public view with connotations about brown-envelope culture right at the forefront.

    All of this, in an election in which FF are not even officially standing. I would say that this has been quite an acheivement for Sinn Fein. Slaying the FF dragon may still be a long, long way-off but they have landed a few sizeable blows in the past 48 hours or so.

  • “the party’s wholehearted and exclusive commitment to democracy.”

    That’s what it says on the tin, Mick, but even the current contents tell a very different story. Which of the other Stormont parties have such strong connections to organised crime? Which of the other parties generate enough fear that prevents a member of the public from taking a party candidate to court – or prevents the MSM from publishing the story?

    “Sinn Fein’s core strength (highly centralised internal control)”

    It’s losing its potency within the party structure as demonstrated in Moyle in the last Council elections but is still strong in Stormont with the SF/DUP axis controlling the OFMDFM and the committees.

  • Henry94

    Sinn Fein had the numbers to contest the election so they contested it. It will give them some valuable information which will help them plan for the future.

    That’s how political parties are supposed to operate and it’s how Fianna Fail used to operate before it became a loose federation of personal fifedoms financed by the building community.

    Parties like the Greens and the PDs came and went because they never put down roots and were blown away when they did badly in power. FF and FG can pass seats on. That’s why they survive. Any party that wants to be a long term player has to learn that knack and ground-work over years is the only way to do it.

    The personal commitment of current members to something beyond the next election is not a conspiratorial alternate state. It is the only way to build a party. It might not even be enough. It failed for the Workers Party.

    What SF are trying to do is really difficult but I defy anyone to come up with a better plan.

  • DoppiaVu

    Mick –

    “But this election for SF is about electoral path finding, not winning office.”

    I do think there is an awful tendency to project far too much strategising onto what SF are doing. I think it’s actually pretty simple. They saw the general distaste towards FF, FG and the establishment in general and decided to have a punt at exploiting that with a view to increasing their vote overall.

    Simple.

    And it might have worked if they hadn’t fielded Marty.

  • Neil

    Unfortunately Nevin the rule tends to be that if you plan on making an argument you need something sourcable to back it up (people not tending to automatically believe anonymous internet people like myself without compelling evidence). I realise you feel unable to do that for some reason (even with SF being distinctly non litigous generally speaking).

    That aside I agree fairly much with Mick’s analysis. I’m still convinced that MMG winning would have been viewed as an unexpected but very welcome bonus by SF, but the days of writing SF off as a party no-one will vote for are coming to a close. One pundit put it well last night on the Spotlight programme, that this election will show that one day, possibly very soon, the Shinners will hold high office. The route is paved now and I honestly believe that was the intention.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    I think Mick has got a lot of it right re pathfinding- in part its a statewide version of their ‘Torrent’ strategy of identification, then nurturing their vote and fine tuning future approaches from doorstep feedback.

    ….also it’s part of a more basic re definition of their brand along the lines of creating an image:

    ..of a normal political party that has zero problems with the legitimacy of the state, and could be a partner in govt

    ..one that has a proper grounded southern presence and focus

    ..of a party which isn’t satisfied with languishing in the ‘sub’ Irish Labour party field.

    …and of course as SF know, the best thing to do with a competitor party (such as FF)when its down, is to keep kicking it. No respite.

  • “something sourcable to back it up”

    Neil, if the MSM had published the story I would have been able to link to it in the way that Slugger bloggers do. I doubt very much if the ‘advice’ offered to the victim was of a litigious nature; I doubt if that’s how paramilitary organisations operate.

  • [contd]

    Neil, here’s some source-able material that I posted on another thread earlier today that you may have missed:

    The shenanigans surrounding Ó Muilleoir were detailed on NALIL blog but were ignored by Slugger bloggers and the MSM. In light of the €5,000 Gallagher story you might think that a £20,000 ‘political donation’ and an almost under the radar ‘political appointment’/cronyism would have been worth a run out.

    Obviously the MSM’s finest need to hone their investigative skills.

  • “But this election for SF is about electoral path finding, not winning office.”

    Is that also the spin coming from SF HQ? The ‘independent’ candidate speaking from the ‘Republic of south Armagh’ tells a different story:

    As reporters question him on Sean Gallagher’s latest lead in the opinion polls he remains resolute that he is in it to win it.

    “We’re not concerned with what other candidates are doing, we’re still fighting to win and putting our message out there,” he said.

    “If it comes to pass that Sean Gallagher is elected I would have to say that the people of Ireland must be gluttons for punishment.

    The irony of the final sentence might be lost on those unfamilar with accounts of paramilitary punishment beatings.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Jesus, Nevin, what election candidate ever said on the eve of an election that they had more or less given up all hopes of winning? He wants to get his vote out for Christ’s sake.

  • NN, the message, er, hasn’t changed from the start of the campaign. As Martin says, “We’re still fighting to win”. And with the mediocre quality of the candidates and the ‘warm glow’ factor from the ‘peace process’ Martin could still get a very good showing, including substantial transfers.

    David Kelly provided the real challenge and you can see why the trip to Limerick was aborted, despite protestations to the contrary.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nevin, stick to the subject or take a card?

  • Highly centralised internal control is usually associated with strong individuals, it is not the defining characteristic of an autocrat to decentralise power, he or the core cadre retain as much as possible. It follows that the individual or individuals, classically the organiser Trotsky with the theoretician Lenin or subsequently Stalin, impose their personalities onto policy making including planning. Sinn Fein fit the mould with Adams and McGuiness the leading lights.

    It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Sinn Fein Master project in the South is a vehicle for the self advancement of Adams and McGuiness, that electoral path finding and building the vote is for the footsoldiers, and that the key electoral prizes are for the Sinn Fein elite. Make no mistake this was an audacious attempt to capture the presidency and to preside over the 2016 celebrations; Adams had been found badly wanting but McGuiness with the calculated absence of any criticism from his power sharing co-minister at Stormont sought to portray himself as the internationally acclaimed peacemaker and man of the people. History shows that highly organised minorities can bend democracies to their will and I for one have no doubt that Sinn Fein went for the big one.

  • Decimus

    …and of course as SF know, the best thing to do with a competitor party (such as FF)when its down, is to keep kicking it. No respite.

    Please correct me if I am wrong about this. Is it not the case that the only chance that the Sinners have of remotely getting their hands on any power in the ROI is via a role as a partner in coalition? Is it not also the case that such a coalition could only conceivably be with the two major ROI parties FF or FG? Is it not also the case that FG detest them?

    If I am correct about the above, and I am open to correction, then it seems to me that the Sinners have bitten a rather large chunk out of the only hand that was ever likely to feed their southern ambitions.

  • Jimmy Sands

    This is the part of the strategy I don’t understand. The FF voters they need to grab in order to take advantage in this election are the very people unlikely to forgive them for an intervention which may well have snatched the keys of the Aras from their candidate and given it to Labour.

  • Alias

    If they do get over a quarter of the quota and are thereby allowed to claim election expenses from the Irish taxpayer, then the Irish taxpayer should refuse to reimburse them on the grounds that they fraudulently used the election to promote their political party and did not enter the race in good faith.

  • Alias

    In plain language: let the Shinners pay for their own srtategic advancement of selfish party interests rather than asking the taxpayer to pay for their bad faith.

  • Cynic2

    ” the party’s wholehearted and exclusive commitment to democracy”

    …when do you draw the date for that? When they stopped murdering? what about Robberies? Fuel laundering? Covering up stabbings and murder?

    I know they have made great progress but just when was this great conversion?

  • Rory Carr

    ” If they do get over a quarter of the quota..”.

    “They”, Alias. Who, pray, are “they” when they are at home? Martin McGuinness is standing as an independent candidate whom the party Sinn Féin are happy to support. If McGuinness wins the requisite quota of votes, his campaign will rightly be reimbursed according to the rules.

    We can tell that the likliehood of that happening is making you decidedly nervous as well as unhappy

    I find that the Serenity Prayer is a boon in such times myself and would recommend it as a useful aid in regaining one’s composure.

    Cynic, the date you seek may be drawn from the time when Unionism realised the jig was up and surrendered its hitherto implacable opposition to sharing political power with Nationalism. It there was any conversion it was Unionism’s belated conversion to understanding that it’s days of hegemony were finished.

  • Decimus

    Rory,

    That date would correspond exactly with the most popular political party in Irish nationalism moving away from a policy of supporting murder.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Decimus,

    Here’s my thinking – SF could in the future take votes off FF, but still form part of a coalition with a weakened FF and of course Labour (or a mix of others). Political parties don’t hold grudges if it means banishment eternally to the back benches; FF won’t if it comes to bargaining with SF.

    No FG-SF coalition? Much less likely but not utterly impossible, despite FG rhetoric. Depends on the situation; coalition politics is highly pragmatic. FG snuggled up to Clann na Poblachta in decades past when civil war memories were much livelier- and the Clann make modern SF look like the alliance party. I think for this to happen SF and FG would need to find common cause in a unifying opposition to something, and in practical terms I can’t see anything on the horizon especially with FF horizontal…

  • Cynic2

    ” the date you seek may be drawn from the time when Unionism realised the jig was up”

    but that would be pre the McCartney Murder, Northern Bank Robbery, Stormontgate, etc etc etc when they were still up to their necks in crime

  • Cynic2

    “Martin McGuinness is standing as an independent candidate whom the party Sinn Féin are happy to support.”

    And he resigned from the IRA in 1974

    Look …just how stupid do you think we are

  • Jimmy Sands

    Martin McGuinness is standing as an independent candidate

    He’s denying being in SF as well now?

  • Decimus

    Twighlight,

    Anything in politics is possible, but I would suspect that people who support FF will have been extremely unimpressed with what, even from up here, looked like a dirty action by Coco. I would imagine that the Sinners would be the very last choice that either FF or FG would pick for coalition partners.

    Further to that there is the theory that the Sinners were detoxifying themselves by running Coco. In fact it looks very like they have managed to inform a whole new generation of voters about some of their more disgusting crimes against humanity.

    It strikes me that they have given themselves some extremely short term satisfaction for some long term pain, and that is entirely consistent with their counterproductive activities since 1970.

  • Alias

    It highlights once again the corruption of the political process that occurs when unfit people are allowed to enter it as an organised political party.

    It has always been assumed – and such has always been the case – that a political party will sponsor a candidate for the presidency because it beleives that candidate is seeking the office in good faith and carry out the functions of the office in good faith.

    But here we have a transparent example of bad faith. If, as is now claimed, that the Shinners are cynically using the election not for the purpose for which it is intended, but for a purpose unrelated to it, then they are not morally entitled to ask the taxpayer to fund a purpose for which the taxpayer has made no provision.

    It is not the obligation of taxpayers to fund the long-term strategic ambitions of the Shinners or to fund whatever advantage they make seek to gain over a rival political party. These are all selfish purposes that are wholly unrelated to the purpose of a presidential election and wholly unrelated to purpose for which the taxpayer provides the funding.

    It shows the level of contempt in which the Shinners hold the taxpayers that they would misuse an election for an unrelated purpose and then try to defraud the taxpayers into paying for whatever goombeen advantage the Shinners can gain out of it.

    These people are unfit for public office, and should now be forced to pay their own expenses.

  • If Sinn Fein had a genuine long term strategy there would be a visible succession planning to Adams and McGuiness. This is self aggrandisment and attempting to marry yearned for popularity (and respectability) to power. Ideological absolutism has given way to popular pragmatism.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Decimus,

    we’ll have to wait and see how the collapse of FF impacts on the party system for the next few years; a lot will depend on how the support for the independents holds up …no doubt SF will go hunting their votes too.

    Fair point on SF embarrassment – they will always be jittery when faced by victims in the Republic…but I guess its a process of detoxification/rebranding for them and not something to be gained in one stride. Thanks to the economic collapse, they survived Adams shaky grasp of southern politics, the scandal surrounding his brother, and an electoral stalling. They won’t be put off by much.

  • “But here we have a transparent example of bad faith .. cynically using the election”

    Alias, you are responding to a claim made by others, not AFAIK to any statement made by Martin or his colleagues. Martin has repeated his claim that he’s ‘in it to win it’ and I’ve provided the evidence above. Whether or not he’s being truthful is a separate issue.

  • Zig70

    I think SF have run into the same problems as the old red Labour in England. Socialists just can’t comprehend that everybody else won’t see sense. It is a minority of people who aren’t wrapped up in themselves and basically greedy. That is just Irish society for you. If a united ireland is the be all then they need a second strand(SDLP/FF?) . If it has to be a socialist republic then it will need a dose of fate. Have the southern voters cheered for Marty’s industrial wage? Don’t think so.

  • Decimus

    Twilight,

    The scandal surrounding his brother has yet to get its full airing.

    When you speak of the collapse of FF you should look across the water at the Conservative Party. They too suffered collapse, but they were never eclipsed by any minority parties such as UKIP etc.

    Another point about the Sinners is that their leaders are fast approaching zimmer frame age. If their much lauded breakthrough doesn’t come soon they will be under the ground. Their potential successors in the north have all managed, without exception, to make a horlicks of their ministries in Stormont.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Decimus,

    You are severely underestimating the scale of the FF collapse. The conservatives have never suffered anything like it. You have to go back to the old liberal party of early twentieth century Britain to find something similar…and even then, its arguably not as bad. FF used to be always the largest party in terms of votes, almost a natural party of government – coalition was a relatively new thing for them-not so anybody else. This is why SF are having hot flushes…there has never been an opportunity like it for them.

    Adams topped the poll in louth – given the chuckles about his southern competency, and the fact that his brother was in Louth for a time- thats remarkable. Shows how resistant they can be.

    Good point on the lack of heirs apparent. If I crane my neck, I can see Stormont from my window, and its certainly not fizzing with talent.

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    “Martin McGuinness is standing as an independent candidate whom the party Sinn Féin are happy to support.”

    Puhleaze…

    McGuinness didn’t declare as a candidate until he was endorsed by Adams. And then ratified as the party’s candidate by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle.

    Natch.

    articles

    “If Sinn Fein had a genuine long term strategy there would be a visible succession planning to Adams and McGuiness. This is self aggrandisment and attempting to marry yearned for popularity (and respectability) to power.”

    I’d say viable, rather than visible, but you’re essentially correct.

  • Danny77

    “SF’s struggle for Fianna Fail hearts and minds so compelling. It’s far from clear whether McGuinness’s attack on Gallagher is a move forward or back on that score.”

    That line shows a shocking lack of understanding of politics in this part of the country. If Gallagher gets elected then FF will have a man in the Aras. All his canvassers are FF, all the people are defending him on line etc are all FF, his staff are mostly FF. If Gallagher gets in then it is a massive boost to FF, and their foot soldiers, they’ll see that there is hope after all. So McGuinness was right to point out what Gallagher was, if he did not, then FF would be on the road to a come back. Giving a party that you are opposed to a chance to recover is dumb politics. McGuinness was not going to all his greatest opponents to recover and take SF’s voter base. From here in Dublin the McGuinness has been a rip roaring success in energizing the party, breaking new ground, new members and supporters and rebranding the party.

    The strategy was risky, there was lots of mud but what a break through it has been.

    The election result may or may not show that but yet it is there. Great days ahead.

  • Rory Carr

    Yes,Pete.all of that. But it remains, all of that towards a declaration by McGuinness of his candidacy as an independent candidate. The cosmetics may not hide his political genes but they serve to give the necessary cover for his purpose.

    Remind me, please, which other political party in these parts (so excluding North Korea of days past) has a visible (or visibly viable) succession plan? Indeed, if such a plan were seen to be in place within Sinn Féin, would not those of you now lamenting its absence, be the first in line to scream, “nepotism” or bemoan the denial of party democracy?

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    “But it remains, all of that towards a declaration by McGuinness of his candidacy as an independent candidate.”

    Eh?

    “Remind me, please, which other political party in these parts (so excluding North Korea of days past) has a visible (or visibly viable) succession plan?”

    Well, indeed.

  • Alias

    “Alias, you are responding to a claim made by others, not AFAIK to any statement made by Martin or his colleagues. Martin has repeated his claim that he’s ‘in it to win it’ and I’ve provided the evidence above. Whether or not he’s being truthful is a separate issue…” – Nevin

    I know, Nevin. That is why I said “If, as is now claimed, that the Shinners are cynically using the election not for the purpose for which it is intended…”

    I didn’t say that the candidate made that claim or that the party or its senior members made it (although Martin Ferris came close). I was responding to claims made on the thread and in general elsewhere.

    That is the spin the Shinners will put on it when they lose an election that they wanted to win. I’m making the point that that spin is tantamount to a declaration that they entered the election in bad faith and, therefore, are not morally entitled to claim expenses up to the maximum of €200,000.

    To claim that amount is an act of fraud on the taxpayers by abusing public funds for a purpose for which they were not provided, i.e. to “to fund the long-term strategic ambitions of the Shinners or to fund whatever advantage they make seek to gain over a rival political party.”

    I agree that it was hugely important to the Shinners’ domestic propaganda to be seen taking the salute at the 2016 commemorations since they will still be locked totally into British rule by then. If it was just about getting a respectable share of the vote then they could have done that with a lesser candidate or by nominating someone who wasn’t a party hack.

    You could see the manic desperation that the floating votes they hoped for had all gone elsewhere when Marty jumped out of his box and went for Gallagher’s jugular.

    “But it remains, all of that towards a declaration by McGuinness of his candidacy as an independent candidate.” – Rory Carr

    I’ve no idea why you invented this piece of nonsense earlier and repeated it above. Perhaps you don’t understand that there is no requirement whatsoever that a candidate should not be a member of a political party?

    Or perhaps you don’t understand that political parties are allowed to fund presidential campaigns for their party’s candidate? If you don’t understand that, who do you think is funding McGuinness’ campaign since, under your misunderstanding, the Shinners would not be able to donate more than €2,539.48 towards it rather than the €750,000 that the Shinners could spend if he was there candidate.

    More interestingly, when did Mr McGuinness resign from the Shinners and become an independent candidate? I must have missed that minor detail in the papers.

    Roryland must be a strange place in which to live…

  • Henry94

    It seems to be a forgotten fact that Mary Robinson ran as an Independent with support from Labour in 1990 rather than as Labour candidate so there is nothing particularly new in what Martin McGuinness is doing. Adi Roche did the same in 1997.

    If he won he could not remain a member of SF and running as an independent emphasises that necessary distance. I don’t recall anyone suggesting there was anything underhand or dishonest about it in the Robinson election and the fact that it is not forgotten means that it’s not that big a deal one way or the other.

  • DoppiaVu

    FFS Mick would you ever get the titles for your posts right.

    It’s not “#Aras11: Sinn Fein’s pathfinder election”

    It’s “#Aras11:Martin McGuinness (Ind) pathfinder election”

  • Rory Carr

    ” Perhaps you don’t understand that there is no requirement whatsoever that a candidate should not be a member of a political party?” – Yes, I do, Alias. Besides which I neither said nor implied that such was a requirement.

    Nor do I have any misunderstanding as to limitations on party funding.

    You, on the other hand, seem somewhat confused over the intentions of the candidate and that of Sinn Féin who support his independent candidacy (which, Henry94 clearly advises, is nothing new) as we discover when we read this: “That is the spin the Shinners will put on it when they lose an election that they wanted to win.”

    “,,,an election they wanted to win,” you argue, when all along you have been using this thread to call for Sinn Féin to be penalised for using the campaign to promote its broader designs rather than making a serious attempt at victory.

    Do try and make up your mind which it is.

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘Cynic, the date you seek may be drawn from the time when Unionism realised the jig was up and surrendered its hitherto implacable opposition to sharing political power with Nationalism. It there was any conversion it was Unionism’s belated conversion to understanding that it’s days of hegemony were finished.’

    You seem to have a very,VERY shaky acquaintance with history,rory.
    It was the old Nationalist Party that refused to share power with Unionists………………..until they seen the error of their ways,and the ‘imminent collapse of The State’,failed to materialise.

    Happy to set you straight. 😉

  • Neil

    Alias,

    you are either of the opinion that Marty was out to win it and therefore you can have the pleasure of crowing on about how he’s a loser and all Shinners can do is spin that they never intended to win in the first place; or you are of the opion that Marty entered not with winning in mind but with the advancement of party in mind. Which is your actual opinion? You tend to qualify your statements so much that you actually can have it your own way.

    Can you also direct me to the legislation that says a candidate must be convinced that he or she will win before being allowed to run? Or is that Alias’ rules.

    Personally I had thought the election was open to those who could secure nominations – they being indicative of support for the candidate. In securing that they would be allowed to run regardless of their cast iron certainty of success of otherwise.

  • HeinzGuderian

    neal

    I think we can safely say that marty’s ass will not be resting in the Aras !! 😉

  • Rory Carr

    Such insight. Such wit

    .Reading Heinz is often akin to experiencing rigor mortis while yet in the bloom of goodl health.

  • HeinzGuderian

    lol……play the ball Rory. 😉

    Dear Mertin will be returning to his beloved Stormont shortly !! 🙂

  • To change the subject a little, if residents of the North were entitled to vote, would there be a unionist candidate? I guess it would be an abstentionist candidate?