Sinn Fein’s super discipline “means they shrink at the head, they rot at the head intellectually…”

This is worth sharing more widely. It’s Henry Patterson talking in a Young Unionist debate about truth recovery. His main point is that Unionists should not back off in talking about the past, or leave the historical narrative in the hands of Sinn Fein. Then he notes the vulnerability of Sinn Fein in these circumstances:

You can’t hand these narratives over.

One of Sinn Fein’s weakness, although it is seen as its strength by our media class in Northern Ireland, is their super discipline. In that it means they shrink at the head, they rot at the head intellectually.

You just have hear any of them asked questions s that they don’t have a ready answer to. I think the best illustration of that was Mike Nesbitt was on with Declan Kearney who is chairperson about this outreach strategy and Kearney can’t move off his script.

All the lower levels they just re-iterate the party line. So it should be easy to contest.

However he later points out that there is no real contest at the moment. It is up to those people who are concerned about these issues to get the line out as effectively as Sinn Fein does: “The media can be criticised, but I know myself that there are individuals who are open to new stories, but you have to give it to them”.

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  • If you asked me which party in Northern Ireland has the most intellect per MLA and puts the most work into generating new policy ideas, I would suggest it is the Alliance Party. However, that party does not reap any significant electoral reward.

    Perhaps, in the medium-term future, the NI electorate will be more sensitive to the intellectual side of a political debate. In the meantime, tribal politics rules.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Seymour Major

    “If you asked me which party in Northern Ireland has the most intellect per MLA and puts the most work into generating new policy ideas, I would suggest it is the Alliance Party.”

    Give me an Alliance Party policy which shows there intellect?

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t think that’s what the Professor means Seymour. He had to revise his first bald statement demonstrates that he realises this particular weakness is only exploitable if others put the effort into crafting competing narrative out of their own actions.

    What he means is that the centralised control of Sinn Fein means it is not very flexible (or intelligent) in the field. This is not about policy making, although there may be a tangental relationship there in that higher command of the facts could be the only way to best what is at the heel of the hunt a slick organisation what understands what makes the media tick.

    If all decisions are essentially made at the top, and then transmitted downwardly (analogue stylee), it can bring about weird interruptions in transmission, and poor decision making at a distance.

    The law suit at the end of the Fiscal Compact campaign being a perfect example… They have some very talented folk in the south but that intelligence and local is only being exploited to a fragment of its potential because everything gets routed through the head…

    In the case of Declan Kearney, when Mike Nesbitt broke the narrative by asking ‘silly questions’ about war crimes, the SF chair literally dried up. Sure, a more experience old hand might have dealt with it but Kearney could not ad lib without a script.

  • Mick,
    I actually think Henry’s point is interesting given his audience.
    I am not a Shinner but there is plenty of evidence that intellectual rigour and internal discussions are plentiful, as I believe, is the case within the DUP and the SDLP.
    The difference is that discipline is evident in media appearances and external communications, unlike the UUP where all debate appears (and perception is everything) to be conducted via public forums or via the mainstream press

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s an interesting point. The assumption these days is that the discussion is better done out than in.

    I’d have an interest in backing that since, the sheer lack of content available in the public domain relates to the internalisation of politics at New Stormont.. not least because its good for the blog if there’s at least some content publicly available.

    But I don’t actually think everything should be done out in the open… Tech companies which used to take pride in ‘stealing ideas’ and putting them to better use now have a lawyer almost embedded in every successful new project so that they know how to frame the patent… so they sue their rivals…

    But if all your conversations are conducted in private and nothing is ever publicly revealed of your intentions or processes, it can make you slow footed and easier to hit… and harder for the electorate to understand when you inevitably get blown off course…

    I’ve long thought this is one of the possible restrictions on a SF advance in the Republic. All parties (including Labour) cede an awful lot of discretion to the local bases… (think Willie Penrose, Dev Og, Willie O’Dea)…

    In FF’s case they paid the price for letting the centralised system fall into disrepair, but that capacity to cohere (organisationally, if not politically) over rough and varied ground relies on a deal of decentralisation…

  • Ok then. Who are the respective party’s, Novel Policy Communications Directors? The elected heads of the parties or some spooky intelligence wonk feeding them scripts and teleprompts and instructions. Some anonymous special advisor playing behind the scenes at great public expense and not being directly accountable for their thoughts? That is a recipe for certain disaster as it confirms a pantomime of a political soap operation …… an invented media program masquerading as democratic government of the people by the people ……. a sham scam.

    None are good at it, are they, whenever you consider that they have had nothing new and exciting to offer to surge the province forward in the dividend that peace was supposed to provide, and that they would think that to tax and charge the people more, for the less that is being provided, is a vote winner, wins them the fools’ gold booby prize for retarded government administration, methinks.

  • Alias

    “The Ulster Unionist Party will be tireless in countering the propaganda of others by
    highlighting the absurdity of claims of non-participation in terrorist organisations. If state
    files are to be opened to public scrutiny, the first should be those marked “McGuinness,
    M” and “Adams, G”.

    The Ulster Unionist Party will continue to offer real support to those who volunteered to
    don the uniform, put themselves in harm’s way, and held the line against an existential
    threat to Northern Ireland that lasted nearly 40 years.” – DUP policy paper, Dealing With The Past

    The first paragragh is the unionist side of the two tribe stand-off over the establishment of a ‘truth-recovery’ process, with the nationalist side being a call for ‘parity of esteem’ between the roles of murder gangs and state forces. As long as both tribes are given this token veto to play with, the British state escapes scrutiny of its role.

    The problem here is that the DUP under Paisley and Robinson played the role of sectarian rabble-rouser and the Shinners played the role of sectarian murder gang, so the leadership of both tribe’s parties have a vested interest in ensuring that any ‘truth-recovery’ process does not recover any truth that will focus on their roles as troublemakers rather than on their new roles as glorious peacemakers.

    In other words, both of them need their mutual stand-off ruse to run indefinately.

    I found this old 2007 Slugger post from someone, ahem, called The Dubliner which puts the “shink at the head” thing into its perspective, with it being a device used to ensure that the state’s nominated ‘republican’ gang were able to make the “historic compromise” on behalf of those they were nominated to represent:

    “Louis Jolyon West defines a cult as “a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgement, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.”

    I also don’t except the spin that the two [text removed – mods] at the head of the provisional movement had to bring PIRA’s Army Council along with them since they controlled it and the sheep in PSF/PIRA always did what they were told. 95% of them voting to endorse the Crown Forces in Ireland (despite spending the previous 35-years in violent opposition on the ‘principled’ grounds of opposing the legitimacy of British rule and the forces of occupation) show once again that that the provisional movement operates along the lines of a cult. The leaders have indoctrinated its members with a fear of internal debate, censoring it on the pretext that debate leads to dissent and dissent leads to splits (and that is Perfidious Albion seeking to divide and conquer them). So, they only listen to what the leaders tell them; and no one else, even the members are given precedence. Further, they have indoctrinated their members with the belief that all external voices are not to be listened to: that everyone else is seeking to defeat the provisional republican movement by spreading nefarious propaganda, spin, and outright lies about it. It is that solidarity that Provisionals proffer as their greatest strength when it was actually their greatest weakness. The members were led to a place by their leaders (at the behest of the governments) where they never wanted to be: locked into a United Kingdom with an assimulation campaign just beginning. Apart from anything else, fostering this cult mentality makes it highly susceptible to the will of its leaders – and whomever leads the leaders.”

    If the British state ever did want a ‘truth-recovery’ process, all it would have to do is open its own books to inspection:

    “We were over there during a period of time in what were very difficult circumstances, physically and mentally, when RUC superintendents would be blown to bits by cars, and we actually had some threats against us. Yes, the rule of law must appertain wherever you are and whatever you are doing, and that rule of law must be absolutely locked into and deal with the processes as they stand at that time. What I am saying is that certainly what we discovered— and some of it may never see the light of day, I don’t know — as we have 100 tonnes of documentation now over there — and that is not a matter for me, it is a matter for other people — is that there has to be a proper, transparent process and there has to be a meeting. There was the RUC, MI5 and the army doing different things. When you talk about intelligence, of the 210 people we arrested, only three were not agents. Some of them were agents for all four of those particular organisations, fighting against each other, doing things and making a large sum of money, which was all against the public interest and creating mayhem in Northern Ireland.” – Lord Stevens

  • ThomasMourne

    I have no time for Sinn Fein propagandists or their ridiculous position on ‘reconciliation’.

    However, I have yet to hear a Unionist leader admit to the sectarian mismanagement of the government of N. Ireland from its foundation, which helped to pave the way for the emergence and growth of SF.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Patterson’s point is interesting and he’s right: it is an untruth universally acknowledged as a truth (to massacre Jane Austen) in the media that Sinn Fein are “smart operators”. It follows from this, the assumption goes, that they can run rhetorical rings around their political opponents. And the combination of aloof refusal to engage and navel-gazing defeatism from many unionists gives lazy journalists the impression that SF have substance behind the presentational veneer.

    The truth is that like New Labour, the presentation IS the whole deal. It’s a self-perpetuating spin-machine with no other purpose than its own continuance. Perhaps this is what the modern political party has become. But New Labour, however distant from the energy source, orbitted around fundamentally strong core values whose rays still reached it. SF’s energy sources are a discredited old mono-cultural nationalism, anti-British ethnic hatred and a tired adherence to early 20th notions of the cleansing effect of spilling (other people’s) blood. It’s more Pluto than Earth.

    I’d be surprised if anything approach “intellectual rigour” is to be found in Sinn Fein, given the elephant in the Republican room that no one seems able to face up to – that they made a horrific 30 year mistake. “Rigour” implies an ability to analyse comprehensively and realistically.

    There is plenty of agile, quick thinking in SF for sure – but they are like housepainters who come in and decorate one wall of the room beautifully with skill and precision, only to leave the other three daubed with obscenities. With SF you have to look at the whole room but only the smarter media really have a good look around.

  • The discipline has been there for a long long time but what has disappeared, following decommissioning, has been the expertise supplied by British and Irish civil servants and the likes of Martin Mansergh and Alex Reid’s Redemptorists.

  • ranger1640

    This reminds me of the shinner Lord Mayor of Belfast Neil Donnelly, when he could not get in contact with the mother ship at Connolly House, and had no reference point in his shinner hand book. He refused to present a Duke of Edinburgh award to a 14 year old female Army Cadet.

    When he seen he was to be presented with the unexpected, in the guise of a 14 year old female Army Cadet. He was like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and did what a all good republicans do when they come face to face with the unexpected in this case a nasty 14 year old female Army Cadet.

    He dove for cover not knowing how to act as this scenario was not in the shinner hand book and he did not want to throw the mother ship off balance, having to defend a shinner meeting a nasty 14 year old female Army Cadet.

    Well that was at a time before Marty hadn’t milked the handshake with the head of the Army Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

  • Neil

    His main point is that Unionists should not back off in talking about the past, or leave the historical narrative in the hands of Sinn Fein.

    That assumes that the ‘historical narrative’ hasn’t already more or less been written. Let’s face it we probably lead the world in movies/books:casualties for any conflict, anywhere. The truth is that most people are as aware of our situation as they ever want to be, people in NI usually have views that are fairly solid one way or the other, so who else is there? The historical point of view can be found in encyclopedias so people’s ‘narrative’ can be fairly well influenced by the facts. People can find out what all the details easily enough and most people have made their mind up.

    Unfortunately for Unionism (as was once lamented on a thread on this very site) they’ve already lost the debate. All the books, the movies etc. rarely reference Loyalists as anything other than the bogey man. Unionists/Loyalists want to paint things so that Republicans are the primary baddy in the story but the evidence suggests most people don’t agree. It’s another one of those Catholics/English/the Rest of the World on one side and Unionists on the other situations, like the football.

    But for Unionists to suggest that Republicans are lightweights given a) how well Republicans have done and b) how poorly Unionists have done is fantastically rich.

  • “People can find out what all the details easily enough .. Republicans are the primary baddy in the story but the evidence suggests .. ”

    that this is true, Neil: Sutton Index of Deaths.

    I’d question ‘all the details’ – I’ve put some in the public domain [NALIL blog and linked Scribd] that wouldn’t be there otherwise, not even on the CAIN website.

  • Reader

    Neil: All the books, the movies etc. rarely reference Loyalists as anything other than the bogey man.
    Actually, a lot of the books, films etc. scarcely reference the loyalists at all. The Provisional movement, having planted bigger bombs and killed more people than everyone else put together, managed to get a sufficiently high profile that their strategic failure stands out in stark relief. But the Hollywood movie biz has dried up a bit since the Good Friday Agreement, hasn’t it?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Heavyweights at the dark arts of killing people for 30 years then pulling the wool over the eyes of a world not paying close attention anyway. But morally lightweights. Great media strategy or otherwise, the bodies are in the ground and SF can’t undo it now. They will never escape what they did; and nor should they. Ultimately, they will be judged by history for it.

    Not to mention that they lost their “Armed Struggle” anyway. Northern Ireland remains under the British flag for generations to come and McGuinness is reduced to shaking the Queen’s hand for the privilege. I’m not sure they’ve done so well.

    I also wouldn’t assume the historical narrative is in the bag either. Among serious historians, many of whom (in my view) start with a soft nationalist bias, SF-IRA are universally regarded as the principal wrong-doers of the Troubles: look at the leading Irish history academics like Jackson, Foster, English, Arthur. The kind of historians who stand up for the SF line are people like Coogan who is famously factually error-strewn and frankly a laughing stock among his peers. No serious academic buys the Republican narrative.

    The SF line goes largely unchallenged in NI political discourse for now (as the UYUC conversation showed) to preserve the “peace”. Even unionist politicians like Mike Nesbitt don’t want the truth about McGuinness and Adams to come out. Because basically if the public knew the truth about what the SF-IRA leaders personally did, power-sharing government would be impossible to sustain. And we may have a serious revival of sectarian tensions.

    We are all going easy on SF leaders on the detail of past SF-IRA crimes for the sake of peace: surely everyone knows that? I don’t think that makes them communications geniuses.

    And it’s a bubble that will be burst when it is safe to do so. I think when the Troubles generation of IRA leaders retires from SF and dies, a whole other debate will open up. It may then be more possible for the next generation of nationalists to acknowledge the truth about the Troubles fully. But whether or not they do, we have CAIN anyway – so they’re stuffed.


    “Northern Ireland remains under the British flag for generations to come and McGuinness is reduced to shaking the Queen’s hand for the privilege. I’m not sure they’ve done so well.”

    How do you measure ‘doing well’? And by such measure which political parties to you regard as having ‘done well’ over the period to which you refer? The UUP? Surely not. The SDLP? Hmm. The DUP? With its Smash Sodomy, Smash the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Hands off the UDR, Hands off the RUC, Vote No to the Good Friday Agreement, No to Government with Sinn Fein? I’m not so sure either. The Alliance Party with its one MP?

  • Clancy25

    On the general topic of party discipline… the biggest problem I have with the SF system of centralization is that they can often muck about too much with local party decisions like candidate selections. At times it comes off more as stubborn control-freakery rather than genuine electorol strategy- I think it’s lost them some good activists and quite possibly some votes in some areas.

    At any rate, I’m not sure the UUP is best placed to give lectures on appropriate levels of party discipline and control. Is “super discipline” and its negative side-affects worse than a multitude of conflicting, often down right embarrasing messages coming from a single supposedly unified party?

  • Mister_Joe


    You think? It’s absolute control freakery. Any sign of dissent with the supreme majesty (yes, majesty) is ruthlessly suppressed. I magine they will be running around like headless chickens, not knowing what to say or do, when he goes off to his permanent roost.

  • Alias

    “I magine they will be running around like headless chickens, not knowing what to say or do, when he goes off to his permanent roost.”

    I’m sure there’ll still be a helping hand to lead them in the right direction. In the political wing, it was Dennis Donaldson who was the gatekeeper of political careers department. In the paramilitary wing, it was Scappaticci/Magee who were the gatekeepers of paramilitary careers department. It’s not that surprising that the intellectually challenged were chosen to ‘oppose’ the British state when you consider that it was British agents who were choosing them.

  • tacapall

    Not far off the mark there Alias but then that would be admitting that the British controlled and directed the various paramilitaries throughout the past forty years and were ultimately responsible for thousands of deaths and at the very least callously allowed thousands of civilians and members of the security forces etc to be killed. Lame ducks are at the helm of Sinn Fein but behind the scenes there are those who know this and are milking the opportunities and advantages of keeping them in those positions. Like Anne Marie Hourihane said “If victory means covering Martin in fake tan and getting him to cry until his mascara puddles, then so be it” Sinn Fein is a well oiled machine with a behind the scenes management team who are methodical in everything they do and are prepared for the long haul. I don’t think they would be too bothered about skeletons in the cupboards being exposed about individuals at the helm if need be they’ll maximise their political advantage by wheeling them into some press conference and exposing them themselves.

  • “Sinn Fein is a well oiled machine with a behind the scenes management team ..”

    Would that be MI6, tacapall? It seems to specialise in the political stuff.

  • tacapall

    Fair enough Nevin so I take it you would agree then that the British Government is ultimately responsible for the majority of deaths that were carried out throughout the last 40 years by the PIRA.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, lads… conspiracy theories are beside the point…

    It might be worth opening a separate thread on intelligence and the vexed problem of moral agency, but it too is likely to run into the same problem of people peddling belief as fact…

  • FuturePhysicist

    Here was me thinking that discipline and hard work was the key to intelligence.

    My My, instead of making all that self-discipline to confine myself to the constraints of academic study maybe I should forget all I’ve learnt and use my ability to ramble on speak for my intelligence rather than the quiet time I’ve spent learning things most people here are even scared to look at but rather present a rather strong ego that can speak intensly about subjects even which I know absolutely about and bore the masses into submission with a strong self belief and confidence that I am better than they are simply because I say so.

    Intellectual snobbery is insulting and counter productive.

    Frankly I think Sinn Féin have outsmarted the UUP on this issue, particularly when the UUP are obsessing more about winning vain glories against Sinn Féin than they are about reaching out to their electorate.

    There are plenty of intelligent people in Sinn Féin who still read the script rather than showing off their university credentials. Martina “First Class Honours” Anderson is a perfect example. At the end of the day Sinn Féin’s work on the ground is not being distracted by media attention jibes while their rhetoric doesn’t leave them into personal opinion cul de sacs that make them forget what party they belong to.

    People need to realise that university professors, dentists, doctors, lawyers and even some economists vote Sinn Féin in the North.

    And I say this as an SDLP person.

  • tacapall

    Mick you cant say on the one hand that Sinn Fein and the IRA were being run by British intelligence but British intelligence weren’t responsible nor had any part in the killings carried out by that same organisation that they supposedly controlled.

  • Mick Fealty

    I didn’t say that, I said this is not the thread…

  • ranger1640

    A bit off message but a poster on A Pensive Quill put this up to represent the shinners, it made me laugh.

    $inn £ein

  • Neil


    Great media strategy or otherwise, the bodies are in the ground and SF can’t undo it now. They will never escape what they did; and nor should they. Ultimately, they will be judged by history for it.

    To my mind that’s just further evidence of a Unionist leaping to the assumption that history will judge Unionism to be in the right, in complete denial of the existing evidence.

    You say yourself: Heavyweights at the dark arts of killing people for 30 years then pulling the wool over the eyes of a world not paying close attention anyway. I agree that the world by and large has had their curiosity sated by now and most will have made their minds up. You have to accept that many international types seem to have come down on the other side of the argument?

    There are two groups of people here who more or less believe that they will come out as the winners in the historical narrative – one of them has to be wrong.

    You say:The SF line goes largely unchallenged in NI political discourse for now (as the UYUC conversation showed) but that’s factually incorrect. The UYUC saying ‘the SF line goes unchallenged’ doesn’t prove it to be so, but what it does prove is that the UYUC know they’re narrative isn’t being heard or listened to quite as much.

    You say the SF line goes unchallenged, yet you know that Unionists have been howling from the rooftops about the injustices they suffered since the mid 17th century. It just seems to me that people aren’t really listening. It may rankle you to think that the narrative has taken into account the suffering of Unionists and the suffering of Nationalists and decided they prefer our story.

    You go back to CAIN which is a fair point, but you assume that an interested party is going to hit the stats and judge that as Republicans killed (marginally) more than Loyalists and state agents they are the wrongdoer, and completely ignore the discrimination of the orange state. I doubt it, people globally identify with freedom issues more than the black and white statistics, and they certainly won’t consider the stats in isolation. They will be considered in the round of the rest of the NI situation, you know that whole unfortunate business which ended up with the British government pulling the plug in Stormont because Unionists didn’t want to share their toys.

    I reiterate, two sets of people, one of whom will be judged the loser by the world that’s no longer really interested in us, Unionism in one corner; everyone else in the other. Yet you refuse to accept you may lose the argument – it’s self evident to you (as it is to Nationalists) that you’re in the right.

  • I watched the debate between Nesbitt and Kearney and every time I looked at the Sinn Féin chairman, unelected to any public office, I felt I was looking at a holograph. Sure he looks like a politician and sounds like one – with all the guff – but at the heart of it, there’s nothing. Just a script with cliches about new beginnings and shared pain. I was in a debate with Kearney myself not so long ago on Raidió na Gaeltachta and he ended up calling me ‘anti republican’ because, you see, anyone who criticises Sinn Féin you see is tarnished by being described as ‘anti republican’ . In my own view Sinn Féin has lost its way. It has become what it despised. An establishment party. That’s why it can’t admit ‘war crimes’ or any wrong. That’s why they have been caught out so badly on the ‘average industrial wage’/expenses issues. They’re chasing opinion polls with sound bites and so called respectability but there’s nothing there, it’s a party without a heart

  • Alias

    If it is a conspiracy theory that a British agent was the Shinners’ Director of Elections (which is actually an established fact), then the Down Democrat has some more conspiracy theories, err, claims, about how the British state might have used its agents within the Shinners to select candidates for political office and to sanction others:

    “SENSATIONAL claims about the existence of a culture of spying and intelligence gathering by Sinn Fein members in South Down have been made in the aftermath of the Denis Donaldson affair.

    Disillusioned party activists have told the Down Democrat that they believe the former Sinn Fein Director of Elections, who before Christmas was unmasked as being a British agent for 30 years, has planted his own network of spies throughout South Down. They have also voiced strong criticism of the role played by Caitriona Ruane in the constituency, describing her as “a divisive figure who was always too quick to follow the Donaldson line.”

    The Sinn Fein leadership is also accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of a convicted drug dealer.

    THE central role of MI5 agent Denis Donaldson in developing Sinn Fein’s electoral strategy across South Down has left the constituency riddled with informers and intelligence gatherers who are actively working for the British Security Forces.

    The claims about the vulnerability of Sinn Fein to infiltration by agents collecting information on behalf of the Stormont authorities have been made by a group of South Down based party activists.

    They say that they have been left with “no alternative” but to voice their concerns in public. Their comments come in the wake of the outing of Denis Donaldson as a British agent just before Christmas.

    As a former Director of Elections for Sinn Fein he was regarded as a member of the party’s elite inner circle and as the effective Chief of Staff for Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

    The confirmation that Denis Donaldson had been on the payroll of British Intelligence for over two decades has thrown Sinn Fein into turmoil. Questions continue to be asked within political circles over the exact timing of the disclosure that Donaldson was a British agent.

    In particular there is recurring speculation that his cover was blown after 20 years in order to protect a number of even more highly placed intelligence moles within Sinn Fein.

    “We cannot trust anybody anymore. It’s as simple as that. When you have a major player like Donaldson turned over as a British spy it could be your brother or sister who is also on the paid informer list.

    “We have no faith in promises that we will be listened to. The people at the top, the people close to the leadership, are the same individuals that have forced hard working members of Sinn Fein out of the party.

    “They parachuted in Caitriona Ruane to fight the South Down seat in the General Election. This was done over the wishes of the rank and file membership who wanted to support a locally based candidate.

    “We complained when Donaldson demanded that his own people were given priority in the last Local Government elections. “Francie Branniff had no say in being moved out of Down District to fight for a seat on Banbridge Council.

    “Frank McDowell was another one that Donaldson wanted to get rid of. But Frank refused to budge, despite all sorts of dirty tricks. “Party headquarters tried to say he had a rough and ready image and that he didn’t fit the new profile they wanted in their Councillors.”

    There was also anger expressed over the treatment of former Downpatrick based Councillor Aiden Carlin, who at one stage was regarded as a rising star of Sinn Fein. “Aiden Carlin was given no option but to quit the party. He was looked upon as one of the best young prospects we had by many people.

    “But because he questioned the way the party was going on some issues he was invited up to the Short Strand and given an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    “He was given promises about investigations into various matters before eventually being prevailed upon by elements based in South Armagh to stand aside. “When you are given the choice of having your name on a ballot or a bullet the decision making process becomes pretty easy.”

    The embarrassing revelations in the Down Democrat about the prominent role played by a convicted drug dealer while at the same time representing Sinn Fein in Newcastle was another contentious issue.

    “When questions were asked about why a convicted drug dealer in Aveen Butler was allowed to stay in the party and continue to make offers of cash donations for various projects, we were told it was none of our business.

    “The public was told lies by the leadership over Aveen Butler. They knew for months before Butler was exposed as having a record for drugs offences.

    “Yet they allowed her to build up a profile as a community activist in Newcastle. “Was it perhaps because Butler was willing to offer sums of £10,000 for various projects that she was tolerated?

    “It’s no surprise that plenty of decent and committed Sinn Fein supporters like former Hunger Striker Gerry Carville and election worker Mickey McClelland refused to play any further public role for the party when the sordid Aveen Butler revelations surfaced” they said.

    The Sinn Fein party workers and members told the Down Democrat that they repeatedly warned about the long term implications of pursuing the Donaldson selection agenda, especially regarding Caitriona Ruane. “But we were not listened to. It was a case of “Do what I say and don’t ask any questions.”

    “People were hauled in from South Armagh and put in positions of authority. Long standing Republicans, from places like Castlewellan, were dumped and left humiliated. “Those people that Donaldson handpicked were to a certain extent vetted by the party, even though he always made it clear that he would have the final say.

    “There are plenty of people in Sinn Fein who are now very concerned that those party workers were also given the stamp of approval by the British Government. “And did the Brits have a say in the choice of Ruane as the candidate to fight Eddie McGrady in the Westminster seat?

    “After all, it suited the British to keep South Down in SDLP hands. All the publicity just before the General Election of a dirty tricks campaign against McGrady based on leaked Stormont documents gave the SDLP a head start. “Combined with the choice of a weak and unpopular candidate in Ruane it was perfect for the SDLP. It also suited the British perfectly.

    “Looking back at the whole Stormont spygate issue and Donaldson’s pivotal role in the case it all ties up very neatly as an example of Donaldson’s political betrayal. “Nobody can convince us that that isn’t the situation.” The Sinn Fein activists stressed to the Down Democrat that they were in no way to be classified as so-called Dissident Republicans.

    “We are Republican by conviction. No one can take that away from us. It isn’t us who have been found out to have been supplying information to the British. “We have never compromised on our principles and we never will. But we determined to ask questions that will have to be answered.”

    They told the Down Democrat that up to now those that dared to question the official party line as dictated by Donaldson over the past number of years have been placed, at best “in a kind of political quarantine.”

    “They are treated as diseased dogs. They are completely muzzled and only allowed to repeat what is fed to them through the central publicity office.

    “Those that are regarded as being beyond redemption are just dumped out into a Siberian type political exile. “The general public, the ordinary people who voted for Sinn Fein, don’t realise how tight the control is.

    “Denis Donaldson operated, and was allowed to operate, a form of Thought Police control. “He ruled with a rod of iron. He was allowed by the party leadership to get away with what he wanted to get away with.

    “Now however people are looking over their shoulder. They are, quite rightly in our opinion, asking if the strategy implemented by the leadership was all of their own or was it really a blueprint drawn up and ultimately sanctioned by the British?

    “Donaldson was never away from South Down. It was his baby. He was the one that pulled all the strings in getting people into positions of authority. “Good people have been forced out of the party. They couldn’t take it any more. They could see what was going on.”

    The Sinn Fein party activists told the Down Democrat they believe that the entire complexion of the party in South Down, and its approach towards any form of internal dissent, has been formed and shaped by the values and views of Denis Donaldson.

    “The Donaldson agenda was at its strongest in South Down. He called all the shots. “But it was the British who supplied the ammunition. “And even though Donaldson has gone the individuals he allowed to pull the various triggers are still firmly in place.”

  • DoppiaVu

    so back to the actual topic at the start of this post, I think the issue for SF is that whilst their strategy so far has been succesful in many ways – becoming the leading party representing NI nationalism / republicanism in particular – it is difficult to see any tangible ways that it has materially advanced a United Ireland.

    “You do the same things you always did, you’ll get the same results you always got” is the expression that comes to mind. It partly explains the demise of both UUP and SDLP; when both parties embarked on a downward trajectory they did nothing until it was too late (then in the case of UUP, overreacted in desperation).

    If they are really serious about achieving a UI (rather than just consolidating what they’ve already got) then they need to be open to debate and new ideas. You would think that given the dominance they have in terms of nationalist politics in NI, they would use that space to take a few risks.

  • Alias

    It is the actual topic: why the Shinners’ central control device has produced low calibre members. That is what it as designed to do: produce ‘yes’ persons who would blindly follow the party line that accepting the constitutional legitimacy of British rule was the same thing as terminating it and that rejecting their former right to national self-determination was the same thing as asserting it, not free-thinkers who would question it.

    Just as the British state was controlling the gatekeepers of the political wing, it was also controlling the gatekeepers of the paramilitary wing. If folks think that such control of PIRA’s vetting units (and the ISU vetted/vetoed all new members) was used to select masterminds that is couldn’t control rather than to select gullible dolts that it could control then they must be living in a very happy place…

    Now that the tribe has accepted the legitimacy of the British state and Ireland has duly withdrawn its claim, the Shinners function is manage the successful re-integration of their tribe into the consolidated British state. It just needs a particular type of muppet, not the type that you would get unless you controlled the selection process.

  • DoppiaVu

    or alternatively, you have a leadership that kept a necessarily tight grip during their “war”, but haven’t managed to reorganise themselves into something that will function effectively in a long-term peace.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The biggest demographic of young non-voters in Northern Ireland are young Protestants, if the Young Unionists keep Tom Elliot mudslinging rather than boosting their own positive case then they have sacrificed purpose for the sake of the illusion of success. This is a bad plan, and if the Young Unionists follow the rhetoric, it’ll be difficult for them to inspire votes from young Protestants from unionist backgrounds, nevermind the Catholic votes their party leader thinks they can win.

  • lover not a fighter

    What would happen to Sinn Fein if Gerry and Martin stumbled under a bus and didn’t make it out.

    Are they a two trick pony ?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “you assume that an interested party is going to hit the stats …”
    No I don’t – I think I may not have made my point clearly. My point is very much that the Republican case is being swallowed by way too many people outside Northern Ireland and it’s precisely because those people have very little interest in the Province. You identify quite correctly the tricks they have used to make their sou’s ear of a record into what seems to some to be a silk purse: the vagueness, elision, selectivity of story-telling – it’s a case study in political dissembling. But of course it works.

    Why I feel confident this veneer will ultimately fall away is because it is held up for now by the political needs of the time; and the serious historians, whose work will outlast the media noise of today, are already telling a very different story. Think what another few decades of records and disclosures will do. This will filter down eventually and the sooner the better.

    But so much of the reality of the Troubles is currently missed in the received narrative that it can only get better for unionists. This is kind of the high point for the Republican narrative and frankly it’s not that high. And it’s teetering pretty precariously. So I’m optimistic about future narratives.

  • Alias

    “or alternatively, you have a leadership that kept a necessarily tight grip during their “war”, but haven’t managed to reorganise themselves into something that will function effectively in a long-term peace.” – DoppiaVu

    Only if you ignore the key roles of key British agents in key positions. It is unlikely to be the case that the British state placed those agents in those key positions to better enable the Shinners to undermine the UK’s sovereignty, and more likely to be the case that they were placed in those roles to produce the outcome that actually transpired. None of that have been possible without McGuinness/Adams since they were the ones who actually placed those British agents in key positions and kept them in place.

    You’d be better off trying to spin the hollowing-out of that organisation as an attempt by said British agent to make it more electable, since that is how the British agent and those who appointed him spun it.

    You can’t abandon fundamental principles until you abandon the fundamentally principled.

  • Zig70

    I always thought SF’s biggest weakness was the aim to achieve the UI alone and not learning from the UUP (preGFA) in using proxies to spread their influence and deflect blame. The whole dangermouse senario with MI6 is just too cartoon to get my head round. South Down Nats had too much of the good life to vote SF.

  • Donal Davoren

    It seems that the SF super discipline went out the window tonight in Derry. I just read in another forum that a well known member of Creggan SF on hearing that todays problem with o2 phones was a result of dissidents blowing up a phone mask behind Creggan. The shinner said that it was connected to the recent burning of an electricity sub-station in Derry and that the dissidents were trying to cut communications over the 12th.

    It gets worse, the anti-RAAD Move On group on hearing this mobilised and were heading up to protest outside the Creggan shops when they were told it was all nonsense brought about by over eagerness on a person’s part.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Oh No, a politician got carried away by a misleading piece of gossip and made a speculative opinion!!!!

    Seriously guys, this is hardly political suicide, and does any voter really care?

  • Donal Davoren

    I see that a leading member of the group Move On/SF was stabbed in the arm by one of her sons last night. Two of them attacked her while out of their heads on drugs.

    They had earlier gone on the rampage in Creggan with others and far from being put out, according to the claims of a community worker, because the so called IRA took sides in a dispute over bonfire material, the two in fact fled of their own accord.

    The claims that armed groups are siding with kids over bonfire material has made this SF community group look complete idiots in the eyes of the Creggan people who had to put up with the carnage of last night and who know it was in fact caused by those closer to the groups own homes and are trying to cover it up.

  • The Lodger

    The party leader isn’t setting a very good example either.

    Apparently he was busy ‘working in the north’. You get what you vote for. 🙂

  • The Lodger

    Some of the lower level members aren’t exactly shining either. It would appear that the unionist outreach programme is not being embraced by all.

  • Donal Davoren

    Apparently Move On means Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere in Our Neighbourhoods.

    Maybe this SF group should look to their own homes and what their own are doing if they are Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere.

  • This outreach thingy is going from bad to worse in Moyle, The Lodger; it must be just another manifestation of climate change.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    ‘he Lodger (profile) 16 August 2012 at 4:55 pm
    Some of the lower level members aren’t exactly shining either. It would appear that the unionist outreach programme is not being embraced by all.

    I’m sure if they had dished the kids out IRA medals, the shinner would have been happy enough… pathetic…

  • Little James

    The Shinners, ably led by Paul Maskey, are away to Milwaukee to “Irish Fest” to promote West Belfast under the guise of Failte First (West Belfast Tourism development agency). That’s where your taxes are going, on one of Sinn Feins “groups” on the Falls Road. I am sure they are having a rip roaring time though.

  • Donal Davoren

    I see that the spokesperson for MOVE ON was ranting in todays paper about RAAD and company. It seems that this group is unhappy that the people of Creggan aren’t easily fooled and have no wish to support a group made up of Mothers with no interest other than protecting their own drug dealing and thuggish offspring.

    The decent people of the area know about the fight between the two brothers over drugs during which one used a machete and the other a baseball bat on each other. when the fight spread to the rest of the house the mother, a member of MOVE ON was stabbed and a young girl lost the tips of her fingers.

    Not a bit wonder they can’t gather together more than a handful at their protests when the ordinary decent people are as fearful of their offspring as they are of RAAD or as she calls them, Really Angry Armed Derrymen. Going by the events such as described it’s their own sons who are really angry armed Derrymen and high on drugs.