Sinn Fein’s split political personality north and south…

Sam Smyth on a theme that could make things tough the closer Sinn Fein gets to actual power: ie, the degree to which they have managed to avoid it in Northern Ireland:

In the Northern Ireland Executive, Sinn Fein ministers have implemented swingeing spending cuts — while objecting to budget cuts from the opposition benches in the Republic.

Sinn Fein has avoided the responsibilities of economic ministries in the Northern Ireland Executive, opting instead for the less controversial departments of education, agriculture and culture and the arts.

But while it continually calls for more funds for jobs in the Republic, the administration in Belfast underspent their budget in Invest NI — the North’s equivalent of the IDA — by almost €50m.

The point about their leaving the tough decisions to the DUP is one well made. As for the specific policy areas he starts with Education, where the northern Minister has only just begun with a cuts programme which has been long overdue:

In the Republic, Sean Crowe, Sinn Fein’s spokesman on education, warned about the closure of rural schools in February of this year.

Mr Crowe accused the Government of “targeting mainstream and particularly small rural schools to spread unjust cuts . . .”

But in the North, Sinn Fein’s Education Minister John O’Dowd said a “sustainable schools policy could lead to the closure of 70 schools”.

In November of last year, Mr O’Dowd said: “I have therefore decided to close the (two rural) schools in (Co Armagh) as I am confident that the children’s needs can be best met at alternative schools in the area.”

He follows through by highlighting a ‘plural’ view on the Household Charge, the levying of charges for water, and £600m (€747m) of welfare cuts… On this last, there is some credible defence in the sense that the block grant on welfare is set by Whitehall not Stormont.

But it is the mere breaches in principle that could prove more problematic to manage over the long term with a southern electorate which is much more highly turned to the specifics of public affairs that the good burghers of Northern Ireland, who’ve yet substantially to feel the cold wind of global shortage.

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  • And do they believe in free presciptions – North and South. Does SF believe we should be paying for a doctor’s visit as they do in the South, or should that be free? And then….

  • Dec

    ‘Sinn Fein has avoided the responsibilities of economic ministries in the Northern Ireland Executive’

    Wasn’t Finance (and let’s face it, that’s what he’s talking about) the DUP’s first choice (and therefore first choice overall) in 2007 and 2011?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve already caveated what I see as the weaker points of Sam’s case, but I would not say that was one of them. What about Enterprise trade and industry? Or even DEL?

    Are you telling me they don’t talk in OFMdFM? Given the reaction in the DUP to them taking Education I’d say that whatever had been planned was not kept to.

  • Dec

    ‘Are you telling me they don’t talk in OFMdFM? Given the reaction in the DUP to them taking Education I’d say that whatever had been planned was not kept to.’

    Given the DUP took Finance first twice (I’m open to correction on this in 2007), if there was an agreement, another party taking Finance wasn’t part of it. I think it suits the DUP and how it see’s itself to be in possession of the Blue Riband Ministry. And I think you’re stretching the point by mentioning DEL – it’s clearly the runt of the ministerial litter.

  • Mick Fealty

    True for you on the DFP folio… and nothing would have prized it out of Robinson’s grasp…

    But there did seem to be some sort of misunderstanding over DETI last time out…

    In any case the party taking only ‘spending ministries’ is a fair accusation…

  • bt48

    We could call this new condition Shinnofeinia

  • PaulT

    “WATER CHARGES

    In the Republic, Sinn Fein has campaigned against the introduction of water charges.

    But Sinn Fein MLA Mitchell McLaughlin has defended water charges in the North, a separate charge on top of the household charge there, and attacked the SDLP for opposing them.

    Sinn Fein’s former regional development minister Conor Murphy declined to reverse the decision to meter water in the North when he was in office. ”

    This is one stand out piece for me, total reverse from 2007 and last year, does anyone have a link to prove it? I’ve googled it but all i get is SF opposition to charges, anyone?

  • dwatch

    I wonder would Gerry agree with Mr Kenny, I doubt it?

    “Britain is Ireland’s closest ally, says Kenny”
    http://www.nuzhound.com/goto.php?id=214946

  • PaulT

    dwatch, I’m always surprised at how few people do the math on that question.

    For some time I’ve thought that HMG would be happy to have a strong SF presense in Ireland as both sides know each other very well and can work together, in fact SF is the only party HMG has any real connection with.

    I think SF know that. I think SF are more than happy with a close relationship with the UK (just not ruled by it!)

  • dwatch

    PaulT, I doubt if SF have much contact with the present government, remembering all the four SF MP’s don’t sit in the House of Commons. SF may have had a better relationship with Mr Blair, the Labour secretary of state in the last government than they do today.

  • seamus60

    Anyone anything on the vote that SF and the Dup tried to put through with aninimoty, that i think the SDLP tharted.
    A relevant point is also not being able to avail of information by way of break down on your total rates bill in order to determine what you already pay as specific for water. They call it accountability and transparency as per pre-election promises.

  • PaulT

    dwatch, it’s all relative to whom you compare them against, it’s also not just personalities, it’s understanding British politics and political machinary, and how Downing St and the Commons & Lords work.

    I know SF have offices there (slugger use to remind us daily) what does Kenny or Gilmore know?

  • PaulT

    and Mick, considering your outrage at SF chopping Karl Whelans Quote, surely this one is a whopper!

    “In recent years, however, both schools have suffered from declining enrolments with only 10 children enrolled for 2011/12 in Aghavilly and only 16 enrolled for 2011/12 in Keady. “I have therefore decided to close the (two rural) schools in (Co Armagh) as I am confident that the children’s needs can be best met at alternative schools in the area.”

    becomes just

    ““I have therefore decided to close the (two rural) schools in (Co Armagh) as I am confident that the children’s needs can be best met at alternative schools in the area.”

    Does that change things for you Mick?

  • Reader

    PaulT: and Mick, considering your outrage at SF chopping Karl Whelans Quote, surely this one is a whopper!
    Sam Smyth quoting an entire sentence is not really comparable to SF lifting a clause from the middle of a sentence that actually reaches a different conclusion.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d actually applaud the Minister’s decision there. Neither of his predecessors dared move on dealing with a school estate that’s in poor shape.

    Smyth was juxtaposing that actual policy position in power with their opposite position in opposition. The missing detail doesn’t substantially alter the meaning of the statement.

    As for ‘outrage’, I merely pointed out that it allowed their opponents to pivot on the fuller Whelan quote and turn their own expert witnesses against them.

  • Mick Fealty

    The ‘planned’ shortfall in Education was also something not known. At the time of writing…

    It suggests at the very least that Minister has not been working his resources to the very edge, at a time when he is also imposing serious cuts in his overall budget.

    Whether that’s some kind of ‘stick it under the matress’ so Sammy won’t find it stratagem is impossible to tell. But it suggests that in NI te party is coasting.

    You can be sure this is merely a first pass.

  • cynic2

    Look its very simple. SF are just tacitly acknowledging that we are two different countries.

  • 241934 john brennan

    During the recent RTE economic debate Gerry Adams told Eamon Gilmore and all of us that Sinn Fein always puts country before party. This explains why Sinn Fein proposes austerity cuts for Northern Ireland, but opposes the same cuts in the Republic of Ireland – different countries, different priorities.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Well, when you think that in 1976 Gerry Adams stated that…

    “they allowed unscrupulous politicians and so called “Peacemakers” to gain the upper hand.”

    Nowadays he’s a so called Peacemaker himself.- Self-proclaimed that is.

  • seamus60

    Dixie he`s just moved from one big business into another.
    As with the bankers theres actually bonus`s available for failure.

  • weidm7

    Since the UK government decides the overall budget of Northern Ireland and since the Department of Finance is controlled by the DUP, I don’t see how SF are being blamed for having to impose cuts in their departments.

  • PaulT

    Mick, weidm7 beat me to it, regarding Sammy sleeping on the job, you had another OP about SF taking the ‘easy’ jobs, possibly they think its better to about average in an ‘easy’ job than struggle in a hard job like Sammy Wilson.

    Regarding SF north and south, the points made in the OP largely engineered ie the school closures, and the quotes used don’t exist elsewher on google, I’ve yet to see what SF are doing wrong, why don’t you compare O’Dowd to the Education minister in the Dail, two education ministers on the island lets see who’s best!!

  • PaulT

    Or indeed Connor Murphy who as a minister continues to resist double taxation thro water charges and insists on keeping the NI Water in the public domain (SDPL favour mutualisation – expensive backdoor privatisation)

    unlike his counterpart in Dublin currently about to sell off the states assests to pay the gambling debts of German and Irish banks

  • Scáth Shéamais

    I don’t see how SF are being blamed for having to impose cuts in their departments.

    SF voted through the pensions bill last week even though that doesn’t come under their departments.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Or indeed Connor Murphy who as a minister continues to resist double taxation thro water charges and insists on keeping the NI Water in the public domain… unlike his counterpart in Dublin

    NI Water was created as a go-co with the intention that it would eventually be privatised. Murphy said he had no interest in privatisation but he kept NI Water around anyway, even after the crisis last winter. Hogan’s Irish Water is just like NI Water.

  • “a southern electorate which is much more highly tuned to the specifics of public affairs than the good burghers of Northern Ireland”

    A good burgher down at the News Letter has put the Executive on the spot by asking pesky questions – and the Information Commissioner has taken the side of the good burgher. Three cheers and a portion of fries for the good burgher!

    In a landmark ruling, the Information Commissioner yesterday rejected an attempt by the Stormont Executive to claim a special exemption from transparency laws because Northern Ireland has a mandatory coalition.

    SF ministers employ Special Drivers as well as Special Advisers but it turns out that these SpeDrs have been responsible for ‘six of the seven ministerial car accidents’.

    The Commissioner said that he “recognises the specific political situation in Northern Ireland and accepts the DFPNI arguments that information disclosures could destabilise the Executive”, but said that he believes there is a greater argument for disclosure to “benefit from understanding the thinking behind the policy on ministerial cars and how the decision-making process worked”.

    A portion of fries for the Information Commissioner too!

  • RyanAdams

    Nevin,

    I suppose we as tax payers have to pay for these wacky races chauffuers insurance costs too?

    I remember a clip on UTV after Caral called some guy a gobshite. She was chased by the reporter and camera crew, jumped into the ministerial car, which proceeded to take off the wrong way down a one way street!

  • Ryan, Mick has posted a new thread on the subject of transparency and the FoI Act with a link to the News Letter article.