DUP: “The lack of leadership at the top of Sinn Fein has been evident…”

I’m just pasting this how it came into my inbox this afternoon… It’s a statement from the DUP press office on that apparent rift between Sinn Fein’s own public statements and the actual beliefs of its own political activists:

DUP MLAs Arlene Foster and Edwin Poots have called for Sinn Fein to demonstrate leadership and to end the mixed messages coming from the party. Their call follows comments made at the Sinn Fein conference at the weekend. These included an admission from Martin McGuinness that he has lobbied the Parole Commissioners to seek the release of dissident republican prisoners and comments from Gerry Kelly about policing.

Speaking today Edwin Poots said,

‘The events of the weekend at Sinn Fein’s conference make public what many of us have been aware of for some time. That is the need for Sinn Fein to demonstrate clear leadership to its own membership and activists by ending the mixed messages coming from senior levels of the party.

On the one hand Martin McGuinness did state that dissident republicans were “traitors” but he then is happy to meet the Parole Commissioners calling for the release of dissident prisoners Marian Price and Martin Corry. These kind of mixed messages may explain why over a quarter of Sinn Fein activists surveyed were content to justify dissident republican violence and only 12% agreed that these terrorists were “traitors to Ireland”.

Adding to this Arlene Foster said,

‘Issues were raised in the Assembly today by the First Minister seeking clarity on the views held by the Sinn Fein candidate for the position of Deputy Speaker. Whilst these assurances were forthcoming they were only necessary because of the issues which arose from Sinn Fein’s own conference.

The lack of leadership at the top of Sinn Fein has been evident in the absence of any effective response to nightly attacks on vulnerable communities such as those on the Fountain Estate in Londonderry. Republicans are always more than willing to pass comment on others, but this may simply be to distract from their own inaction and the clear splits they obviously face despite continual micro-management of their own party structures.

The responsibility falls to those at the top of Sinn Fein to step forward and offer some leadership, not just to the entire community of Northern Ireland or to nationalist/republican voters, but to Sinn Fein’s own membership and activist base. The difficulty they appear to have in convincing their core supporters does not point towards an ability to move forward and deliver a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.’

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty