Micheál Martin: “As a Republican I feel an obligation to make my contribution to the debate…”

Micheál Martin’s interview with Mark Carruthers on The View last night is interesting viewing. Not least at the point (about here) where Carruthers mentions Gerry Adams’ dismissal of the Fianna Fail’s interventions as being driven by a concern for politics in the south.

I’ve no doubt that the general thrust of Adams statement is correct. As argued here before, that’s what competitors do do. But the idea that FF and SF are neck and neck in the Republic only really plays with an Northern Ireland audience.

About this time last year my good friend Eamonn Mallie was musing about what had happened to Fianna Fail as an opposition party. This autumn they’ve buried Sinn fein in a veritable blitzkrieg of oppositional challenges unimaginable just a year ago.

There’s no sign of a northern challenge of the type that was once talked about incessantly under Bertie Ahern. The party has clearly learned its lesson from the unrealistically heightened expectations of that time.

It’s no coincidence that Martin’s speaking to BBC NI just before the weekend the Tainiste is to address the annual conference of the SDLP.

Oh to be a fly on the wall tomorrow afternoon when Mr Gilmore gets to speak directly to his Labour-leaning friends in the north.

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  • Conor Murphy on Talk Back re MM on The View [audioboo]: ” MM was either ill-informed or deliberately being mischievous and, I think, in a crass way trying to score political points.”

  • weidm7

    Very interesting interview indeed. I wouldn’t agree that MM is interacting now with the north purely for political gain in the south, if so, why would he come on The View? He’s not going to win over any votes in the south talking about the intricacies of northern politics on a northern channel. It sounds more like he’s laying down some groundwork for Fianna Fáil to gain support and organise in the north, which would be great to finally see, but it would surely make more sense for them to set up more cummain rather than go on TV. Also, I don’t think he’s going to win any votes from the PUL community by emphasising his Republican credentials.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I think he was bluffing about it having nothing to do with the south. It has everything to do with the south. To my mind there is a number of nuances to be teased out.

    1. Eamon O’Cuiv. He is pursuing the cases of Gerry McGeogh, Marian Price and others. I consider this to be a threat to Martin in that the republican traditionalists in FF would be supportive. (Bear in mind the Martin is the northern spokesman for his party). Eamon seems to have an interest in leading his party. He certainly has had a spat with Martin.

    2 Sinn Fein. Despite what has been said they are in a fight for prominence at least with Sinn Fein. The signals do not stop at the border. SF are doing well compared to where they where a few years ago. FF seem to be aware of the fate that befell the SDLP in this region and would not want the same fate befall them due to complacency and/or misplaced nationalist camaraderie. The fight is clearly being taken into SF territory. This is a message from Martin. He will go to your door with the fight. He is not intimidated. He is not cowed.

    3. Northern Development. This is just a joke. It was a card to be played when Bertie wanted support for the GFA. He announced northern development to keep the natives happy. After abandoning the north by renouncing their tradition and the claim on the entire island by removing articles 2 and 3 he wanted to placate disquiet. Once a leader in FF is under pressure they play the Northern Card to ensure the backwoods men get on side. Remember this ?


    Cowen trotted out the Northern card when he was under pressure.

    Whatever happened to the fora? They are dead, they have served their purpose. The party troopers here have done their duty and now have been demobbed. No doubt when they are needed they will be used again. But FF has no intention of participating in electoral politics here. They prefer abstentionism as it keeps their hands clean. (Immoral and cowardly as that is).

    No – this is more to do with SF than Martin cares to admit as well as shutting the door on O’Cuiv.

  • Mick Fealty

    Great contributions by the way…

    I”m less convinced by the internal question, not because I know that that’s not the case, more that O’Cuiv’s public effect has been minimal, and Martin’s outmanoeuvring of him over the Fiscal Compact treaty looked both decisive and effective.

    I don’t rate the idea that Sinn Fein is as serious as challenge to FF as to overtake them anytime soon. The truth is that in the Republic they are still a much larger party (even at local govt level). But that does not mean they are not a problem.

    This was a full frontal attack on SF in Northern Ireland, not the Republic. Strictly speaking, as Martin pleads to Carruthers, that’s not to the direct advantage of FF, who only stand in the Republic. Indirectly of course, it is.

    One of the things about the air war in the Republic is FF’s reluctance to even talk about SF. In TV appearances they have tended to leave it to FG spokesmen to rip into SF. They are careful not advertise, even in negative terms, the wares of their rivals.

    The set piece challenge between Micheal ‘rip your head off’ Martin and Gerry ‘give me some air’ Adams was a good example of a discrete and well picked fight that matched the FF leader’s critical strength (policy) against the SF leader’s critical weakness (policy).

    So what was Martin doing appearing up north on the Thursday before an SDLP conference? I’d guess there’s a connection right. Looks to me like FF leader’s purpose was to create a little action before the McDonnell speaks today.

    And did it work? To dodge my own rhetorical question, it is too early to tell.

    Having a senior southern leader drop a few light incendiary devices on west Belfast was never going to have a huge effect; though it’s better than the ‘tea and sympathy from all your political friends in the Republic’ treatment they were getting before.

    As some northern commentators have noted, if the south has still to catch up with where SF has moved through the peace process, then the north is also behind in its appreciation of where FF has moved since the last Referendum earlier this summer.

    But to be clear, without being in Northern Ireland, it is difficult to impossible for FF to create any kind of trouble for its Republican rivals. Only a northern based or organised party can cause such problems.

    Enter the Moot point of this weekend’s SDLP conference and leader’s speech…

  • Coll Ciotach

    Not too sure if you mean that this was to prop up the SDLP or not

  • LabourNI

    Isn’t Martin running a risk here? What’s stopping SF now revealing the level of support the provisionals got from Fianna Fail at the beginning of the troubles? It wouldn’t harm them if that was revealed but would discredit FF entirely. Which would take us back to the point the DUP were making.

  • BarneyT

    I’m not entirely sure now why FF would want to establish a northern party. Clearly the SDLP would be the greatest victim in this scenario, but I fail to see what would attract a SF voter to FF, particularly now, unless they have plans to reconstitute the territorial claim. You could hypothesise that SF attract a reluctant vote in the north i.e. better SF than SDLP, but those I’m sure are like hens teeth. My view is that the SF support is entrenched and those that might not opt for SF ordinarily (due to their “active” past) are also happy to do so now.

    However, If FF are able to present themselves in the north as SF without the baggage and therefore immune to traditional unionist attacks, could this work for them?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Fianna Fáil are established in the North and the SDLP in the South, they don’t run elections in either.

    I’ve actually welcomed them running against the SDLP on principle as a puritan social democrat, and indeed many do want to have an alternative to both the SDLP and SF.

    Let’s just recall who are the party spokespeople on Northern affairs for the three main Republic Parties …

    Fine Gael … Enda Kenny
    Labour … Eammon Gilmore, and as Táinste also offical government representative in Northern ireland
    Fianna Fáil … Michael Martin

    Sinn Féin don’t have one but Gerry Adams interjects when he can.

    Maybe Alisdair should appoint himself as official spokesperson on Cross-Border affairs for the SDLP.

  • Zig70

    In terms of achieving a UI, the best effect that SF can hope to have in the south in that they make the North relevant politically. MM is indicating that they have had some success. The fact that they can’t work with FF or any other political grouping to promote a united ireland makes it all very pointless. It’s nuts that considering the length some people would go to but finding common ground with FF is a bridge too far? Maybe politics still elludes SF.

  • IrelandNorth

    All depends on what his definition of a “republican” (sic) is? Might he mean re-publican, as in a born again republican? Equally, it is uncertain as to who he means when he insists on using the cosy collective pronoun “we” (ie muid/sinn). Does he refer to we in the 32? We in the 26 (excl the present author)? We in Fíanna Fáil? Or us (also muid/sinn) in the ‘southern'(?) political establishment? And on the question of constitutional nationalism vs physical force republicanism, where does this leave the founder of his very own party, Eamon De Valera, a 1916 physical forcist. Does MM condemn EDV? To anyone in the 26 county proto-republic with even a residual savvy, it is painfully obvious that both civil war parties are extremely uncomfortable with SFs presence in Dáil Éireann, and at having their pseudo-oppositionalism and quasi republicanism challenged in the over priced political pantomime that is their Oireachtas. One good thing about an Agreed Ireland (AI) is that such would relieve the country as a whole of political pretenders whose main preoccupation is naked careerism and Mé Féinism.