“…ridiculous for Sinn Fein to tell people they have a strategy but it’s, y’know, nod, nod, wink, wink?”

Brian Feeney is on form today in the Irish News (£). He’s taken the time to read Micheal Martin’s long (and policy detailed) speech at the Merriman School. His conclusions are less than complimentary…

At various times Sinn Fein ministers have been in a position to present an agenda for all Ireland development and they haven’t even tried. They claim they have plans but what are they.

It’s like the strategy they claim to have for achieving a united Ireland. Ask them what it is and they can’t tell you because they haven’t got one.

There’s a 2005 document saying it’s the Irish government’s responsibility to develop a strategy. Is it not ridiculous for Sinn Fein to tell people they have a strategy but it’s, y’know, nod, nod, wink, wink?

At least they are honest in the case of north-south development. There is no strategy.

They don’t even claim to have one and when there was an opportunity to insist on including something even for the border region in the, don’t laugh now, “Building a Prosperous and United Community‘, they did nothing.

Talk about Peter Robinson’s U-turn?

What about Martin McGuinness standing grinning in – of all places – Downing Street, extolling the benefits of developing Nrn Irn while ignoring the all Ireland dimension he spent years fighting for.

Here’s Jonathan Bell and John O’Dowd speaking to Mark Carruthers on the day that particular strategy launched (in case you’d forgotten):

And some contemporary detail from Pete

, , , , ,

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Fianna Fail, the Republican Party, asking Sinn Fein where their strategy for achieving a united Ireland is. Wow.
    There is little point in producing a galvanising focus for unionist ire and southern disdain.
    The low level, long term approach is paying dividends as unionists and loyalists continue to prove to the english taxpayer that they have nothing in common.
    As demographics even up, Stormont becomes more disfunctional and austerity cuts the annual subvention some english grandees will have a word with an orange heads 15 years from now and tell them to cut the best deal possible with the SDLP and the Irish government.
    Unity is progressing, facilitated by loyalist rioting, unionist intransigence and a 19th century outlook on religious and civil matters and will be instigated by english economists.
    No need for a white paper.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think you will find it is Mr F doing the asking…

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Point taken. Who knew reading would be so important?? I still think unionists are only hastening the demise of the thing they profess to love, held hostage to their own narrow mindedness.

  • Mick Fealty



    From what I see that’s just a tango for two… turning the barely autonomous region back into a political slum is a failed tactic left over from the ‘war’…

    But without a vision nevermind a road map, people will tend to stick to what they know…

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Agreed. Am trying to think when we (any of us) followed through on genuinely progressive politics for the benefit of all. We prefer to make ourselves poor as long as we make the other side poorer. I dont see any evidence of anyone wanting or trying to break out of this modus operandi. Sad but true.

  • Alias

    “The low level, long term approach is paying dividends as unionists and loyalists continue to prove to the english taxpayer that they have nothing in common.”

    The English taxpayer doesn’t get a vote; thanks to the Shinners and the SDLP asking the Irish government to sign an international treaty with the UK to that effect.

    If the strategy of the Shinners is to persuade those who can’t vote for a united Ireland that it is in their best interests then it is – and this is an understatement – a spectacularly stupid ‘strategy’.

    That said, a ‘strategy’ of alienating those voters whose support is needed is also spectacularly stupid.

  • gendjinn

    What is the upside for SF in publishing any plan?

    “Please Mr Sinn Fein, will you detail your plans for achieving your political objectives and/or a united Ireland? We promise not to use them to criticise you or frustrate your objectives.”

    Not that we don’t have a handle on SFs current best strategy given the summer we’ve had: Become the largest party in Stormont; Take FM; Unionism then bail on Stormont; Enter coalition govt in the South with a condition that MLAs/MPs get some form of speaking/attendance/voting rights in the Dail given Unionism has broken the GFA. All of which accelerate the departure of young Unionists from NI to Britain.

  • Alias

    “All of which accelerate the departure of young Unionists from NI to Britain.”

    Ethic cleansing, even the voluntary sort, isn’t a valid strategy for unity either.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    The english taxpayer most certainly do get a vote. If someone explains that northern ireland costs 2 aircraft carriers a year (someone can give the equivalent in schools / hospitals) and make the point effectively, the subvention will not be around forever. That being the case much like the chinese and north korea, the recipients will be forced to play nice.
    The british decided that tax revenue from the city of london was more important than supporting unionist intransigence.
    The unionists only move when the english make them. It matters not a jot what SF say or do until the english withdraw / amend their support

  • Mick Fealty

    Quite so gendjinn. You don’t run a disruptive politics by telling your opponents what you plan to do beforehand.

    FF just pulled a deft and popular stroke in the Seanad yesterday. By the looks of it it took everyone including SF by surprise.

    But SF keeps digging trenches rit later retreats from: eg ‘the indigenous deal’, or ‘unity by 2016’.

    They get away with because frankly nationalist voters have no serious competitive choice. But the sheer lack of evidence they have any practical agenda does nothing to build confidence that any such plan might exist.

    Mr F is just a great deal less prolix about saying pretty much the same thing.

  • gendjinn


    They get away with because frankly nationalist voters have no serious competitive choice. But the sheer lack of evidence they have any practical agenda does nothing to build confidence that any such plan might exist.

    If that analysis is correct wouldn’t you expect to see a drop off in support for SF? Perhaps even an increase in support for other nationalist/republican parties? Given that their share/b> of the vote and elected representatives continue to increase it seems that their current strategy is working for them.

    Trenches & retreat was a necessary component of bringing the entire movement along with them in the ’82 to ’05 period. Again, I can’t see a valid basis for criticising them for it as its working for them.

  • @Mick,

    The important question is whether or not the SDLP has published a plan to this effect yet? If not, Sinn Fein can hardly be faulted for not having stolen the SDLP’s ideas and republished them with a few minor corrections if the SDLP didn’t publish a plan first.

  • Mc Slaggart

    If SF had a strategy (I do not know if they have one) then it would actually no one should know what it is but them1.

    One tactic that is working is their TD’s in the south. As a nationalist it is good to see Micheal Martin full engagement with Northern Ireland.

    “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
    Sun Tzu

    Lines of Torres Vedras

  • Mick Fealty

    Agreed tmitch, though see my agreement with gendjinn on the inadvisability of publishing ‘plans’ for your opponents to read.

    Its working because there’s no competition, and no one is asking awkward questions about the party’s thus far non-visible policies on infrastructure, education and employment.

  • Mc Slaggart


    ” non-visible policies on infrastructure, education and employment”

    Education ???? its policy warfare

    infrastructure ??? A5

    I would hate to see a party with a “visible” policy on these matters if you think sf is “non-visible”.

  • Old Mortality

    Not having read Feeney’s piece, I don’t know whether he’s overlooked the most obvious reason for SF’s lack of a policy for unity: that it is likely to be painful for a substantial part of its core consitutuency. What’s to be gained by informing them that they’ll have to break their dependency habit (which SF itself did much to encourage) if there is to be any prospect of unity.
    Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to get up the noses of Unionists by turning ‘the North’ into a leprauchan theme park at the expense of the Brits?

  • Alias

    “Agreed tmitch, though see my agreement with gendjinn on the inadvisability of publishing ‘plans’ for your opponents to read.”

    Pardon? The Shinner sheep just spin the absence of any evidence of a plan to achieve unity as evidence of a great master plan to acheive unity – so fiendishly great in fact that its very existence is subject to a supranational super injunction.

    In reality – not Shinnerland – unity is subject to a veto from the unionist community. Alienating the group whose support you require may get you extra seats in your internal settlement but they will be acquired at the expense of minority nationalist aspirations in regard to unity.

    And given that a majority of ‘nationalists’ support the union, who can blame the majority for seeking internal concessions at the expense of an aspiration they don’t actually have?

  • Coll Ciotach

    Old Mortality – yes that would be an amusing scenario and would have the unionists facing a quandary as there only hope would be Dublin. However I do get amused by Michael Martin. He is the quintessential hurler on the ditch, his party have no policy on the north at all despite repeated attempts to organise here.

    Sinn Fein also are open to attack, they prattle on asking for others to develop strategies, green papers,(apropriately), here there and everywhere, are needed, but they have no ideas themselves.

    It really is the kettle and pot stuff.

    The reality is no one will do this, it only gives others a stick, better to get the prods to do the wrecking and pick up the political capital that flows from it.

    The fact is that unification is not there for nationalists to win until they are a majority, but it is there for the unionists to lose while they are.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    Maybe a more interesting question is what is the strategy for the DUP and the UUP to maintain the union. If there is have the events over the summer been indicative their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I thought given the census news, along with the fact there is an apparent acceptance of the union by a sizable portion of nationalists that unionist strategy would stay away from driving these casual union neutral voters into the arms of SF.
    Is the union for unionists only worth maintaining if they can run it as their own personal fiefdom, In 50 years if Derry and Belfast councils are green and there is a proliferation of signs as gaelige and a greening of society in general, does it give them any succour to still be part of the union or is the only reward knowing that its annoys Sinn Fein?

  • Kevsterino

    I could obviously be mistaken regarding ‘the plan’ or whatever you want to call it. But here’s my take:

    The polling data showing that a preponderance of nationalists support maintaining the union at this time is interpreted according to the wishes of the interpreter. Unionists look at that poll and say ‘Catholics support the union by a huge majority’. Republicans say ‘Well, obviously those nationalists realize we are currently not prepared for unification, so they are content, for now, to remain in the union while they make Northern Ireland a warm house for Irish Catholics’.

    The Belfast Agreement/GFA/St Andrews, what have you, wrote equality of aspiration into law. Republicans will take every step they see to drive that home. They believe Northern Ireland with full equality for the Irish Catholic population will lose its reason to exist, thus ending partition and reuniting Ireland.

    The plan? Keep pushing equality and watch the loyalists destroy the Union.

  • babyface finlayson

    “What is the upside for SF in publishing any plan?”
    I realise I am being hopelessly naive here, but maybe they might like to tell us their plan out of respect for those who vote for them, and indulge the curiosity of those who might vote for them.
    No? Silly me.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “unity is subject to a veto from the unionist community.”

    holly tagarrtholly tagga

  • Greenflag

    @ Kevsterino ,

    ‘Keep pushing equality and watch the loyalists destroy the Union.’

    Thats it on the nail -plan A , B and C and for that matter E .

    There was no plan for a United Germany – that happened because of the abject economic and political failure of the then Soviet Union .

    There is no plan for a United Korea but that too will happen when North Korea’s inherent contradictions become no longer tenable even to it’s most committed party zealots .

    And while it may be a stretch to compare NI with any of the above economically or politically nevertheless a similar scenario is foreseen

    Those calling for a specific strategy for a UI are mistaking the wood for the trees .Predicting when or how a UI will happen is like trying to predict an earthquake on the San Andreas fault . Everybody knows earthquakes will happen but when and where is anybody’s guess and even the world’s greatest seismologists are no wiser .

    Ditto for the current financial crisis .Who predicted it ? Or more importantly who believed in any such predictions at the time ? Certainly not Government Ministers and certainly not the policy wonks in ANY of the political parties .

    Mr Martin’s FF never had any strategy for a UI either -It was all just blather , stuff and nonsense . Sure they talked the talk and for a horrifying brief moment in 1969 when Unionist politicians seemed to go berserk and lose the run of themselves it looked like ‘action ‘ might triumph over words .

    Fortunately HMG intervened to save ‘Unionists ‘ from their own worst enemies namely their then political elite.

    There won’t be any strategy for a UI from anybody including SF /SDLP /FF etc until such time as there a is voting majority of Northern Ireland nationalists prepared and willing to vote for a UI .

    IIts as simple and uncomplicated as that . Northern unionists or at least a significant number of them are never going to vote for a UI even if they were guaranteed full employment , free housing , and any orange paraphernalia they might desire supplied at no cost by the ‘taxpayers ‘ of the Republic ..And the reverse is true for SF/nationalist voters being persuaded of the better longer term prospects within the UK .

    As there is no prospect of a UI at least in the immediate future which is not to say it could not happen quicker than many now suspect or would even wish for -the point is that most people on either the pro or anti side are too caught up in economic survival and maintaining their current lifestyles than to give what seems like an academic debate too much attention .

    As always in these matters the Great Big Plan never works out as planned .It’s the day to day nitty gritty that work away unbeknownst until one fine day it’ll just happen and then either one of two things will happen

    a) A large section of Loyalists will take to the streets and start shooting -for what even they may not know but it’ll be the usual pavlovian response


    b) Most people will accept it and wonder after a few years what all the fuss was about .

    I’m betting on the last scenario but I hasten to add it’s not a prediction . The Sun might start revolving around the Earth and the whole of Ireland might rejoin the UK ;)?

    Anyway the German Bundeswahl is Sept 22nd and that will be important for all of us as the German Finance Minister Schauble has just admitted that Greece will need to be bailed out for the third time.

    Perhaps it’s time to stop torturing the Greeks and the German taxpayers and instead start torturing those investors and banksters who set the Greeks up for default with Germany conveniently looking the other way . Too busy with East Germany reconstruction sounds plausible enough .

  • Alias

    As we all know, the best way to become a millionaire is to sit on your arse and wait for your lottery numbers to be called. Hell, you don’t even have to buy a lottery ticket…

    In reality you need a strategy to make it happen. In Shinnerland, they’ve convinced their gullible followers that they don’t need a strategy to make a united Ireland happen.

    This works as a strategy only for those who don’t want a united Ireland since it simply serves to neutralise the promotion of that goal by neutralising its potential political advocates and by ensuring that voters who do want a united Ireland (the minority of NI’s so-called nationalists) are led to back a horse that is a non-runner. This engineered vacuum allows the emergence of the Northern Irish nation and gives the constitutional status quo all the times it needs to consolidate.

    “The English taxpayers will stop funding NI – and the union will break up.”
    “The English will get sick of the Unionists – and the union will break up.”
    “The Scottish will vote for independence – and the union will break up.”
    “The Catholics will outbreed the Protestants – and the union will break up.”
    “The younger Protestants will migrate to England – and the union will break up.”

    Those all are examples of neutralising those who might otherwise work to promote an objective by persuading them that no such work is required.

  • Kevsterino

    Maintain that Union, Alias. While Northern Ireland proceeds to become as Irish as it is British. Perhaps that is the only way the Union can long endure, I don’t know. But, in any case, the trends are there for anyone who cares to notice.

    In any case, it isn’t your father’s Ulster and isn’t likely to reverse course for years to come.

  • Morpheus

    “In reality – not Shinnerland – unity is subject to a veto from the unionist community.”

    Where does that bombshell come from because it sure ain’t in the Good Friday Agreement.

  • Morpheus

    I agree that political nationalism is badly letting down those who vote for them.

    A growing trend that I also see among my Catholic friends is that they are thinking with their heads rather than their hearts and want to know more about what a united Ireland actually means in terms of the important issues which will effect them and their families (jobs, health, education, economy, social security, housing, political representation, policing, justice etc) and until they see that then it will be a case of ‘better the devil you know’ ie. status quo.

    SF/SDLP are making no effort to get that information and by the looks of thing are simply expecting those who vote for them to jump into the darkness without knowing where they are going to land. I mean, a mock border poll in a highly partisan area? Purlezze! No wonder it got zero media attention.

    Individual people standing in the solitude of a polling booth are smart, they won’t simply jump over a cliff so politicians should grab the UI issue by the horns and run with it rather than hiding from it. They should give the electorate the worts-and-all information they need about all the options available to them and allow them to make an informed decision about which is best for them rather than telling them what is best for them. That goes for political unionism as well, they need to convince as many people as possible (including Catholics) that a NI within the Union is the best option.

    It could be that support for a UI is low, maybe it’s not but at least we would know and we could move on instead of stewing in our own proverbials.

  • “Micheal Martin’s long (and policy detailed) speech”

    MM: “Rising sectarian tensions are of course a major concern – but they are only one part of what is an increasing challenge to the entire process of reconciliation and development.”

    Where’s Captain Blackadder when you need him? 🙂

    The rising tensions flow from the ongoing constitutional tussle, amplified by the narrowing unionist-nationalist electoral gap, and Michéal ‘Baldrick’ Martin’s cunning plan is to pour fuel on the flames through cherry-picking the 1998 agreement! Perhaps it’s just as well he isn’t in government.

  • Zig70

    Is the plan not straight forward? Politics is money and an all Ireland party will have a lot more resources than a small 6 county party. Have the dup or even the sdlp thought about what it will be like in 8yrs fighting elections against a far larger political machine. The history of small parties is rarely rosy.
    The southern apathy is a factor that needs addressing. There is far more support in the south for a ui than unionists would like to think, along with the fact that the British government deals directly with the dail when the north breaks down. To get the southern electorate considering a ui is a big first on any sensible todo list. To have influence in government when dealing with any breakdown is huge.
    I’m just not sure the current SF team can get the traction in the south. They need detoxified and economic credibility.

  • Mick Fealty


    There’s been a lot of acute observation on this thread. Money and resources, I think, are two key factors that will help define future success.

    SF have plenty of one, but a great deal less of the other. And unlike their northern counterparts, it is now clear that FF are not waiting for the proverbial knock on the door.

    It’s less apathy in the south than surfeit of passion: people asking questions about politics; and hungry to hear something different (still don’t understand why SF backed Enda over the Seanad in that regard).

    SF on current showing will eat lots of Labour’s seats, and ought to push them into fourth place. But that’s a part of electorate that traditionally has been non republican.

    The drift between north and south in Martin’s original speech is real enough. If it began under FF, the cap fits nationalism’s leading northern party just as (if not more) snugly.

    Highlighting SF’s failure in its current governmental responsibilities is both politically useful (particularly in Louth and Cavan Monaghan where elections could be tricky), and true.

  • tacapall

    “they have a strategy but it’s, y’know, nod, nod, wink, wink?”

    Mick that question can be leveled at lots of political parties all around Europe anyone with any sense knows governments dont decide policy, governments implement policy and that policy is decided by those with the real power behind the scenes. There very well might be a uniting of the people of Ireland but it will also mean uniting with the people of England, Scotland and Wales along with dozens of other countries, eventually including the USA, after the EU/US merger. The only thing Sinn Fein or the DUP can hope for is that lots of people continue to elect them into well paid jobs maintaining political fiefdoms and enforcing or implementing European policy and European laws. The future of our countries is being decided in private by powerful unelected people that care little about our petty squabbles or religion and its only a matter of time before we realise its too late to do anything other than accept our fate.

    “Today’s European Union is well on its way to becoming a federal superstate, complete with one currency, one legal system, one military, one police force – even its own national anthem”

    A great documentary its a bit long but nevertheless well worth watching.


  • Greenflag

    Alias ,

    ‘As we all know, the best way to become a millionaire is to sit on your arse and wait for your lottery numbers to be called.’

    Whoever said winning Northern Ireland /establishing a UI is ‘winning the lottery ‘. I NI is a loss making entity not economically viable on it’s own merits without a major drop in living standards for those living there . . Nobody in their right mind would wish that on the people of Northern Ireland except some neo con ideological fanatic .

    Everybody knows that the NI economy and it’s current political structure is fragile at best and that any unification would be fraught with possibilities for political destabilisation of both North and South given current economic and demographic circumstances . That could suit interests outside Ireland who might hope to benefit by ‘bailing out’ the island in the aftermath of any civil war by ‘investing ‘ in Irish natural resources to eh help the indigenes get back on their feet .

    SF are a lot shrewder than the political pundits take them for .A UI is not an academic exercise anyway which can be discussed , rationalised and set up once all the ducks are in a row . Things don’t happen like that in the real non academic political world . In any event ‘unionists ‘ are not apart from a tiny minority interested in any UI and that won’t ever change until the demographic writing is on the wall and the games up and even then probably a third or more of ‘unionists ‘ will not reconcile to such a political set up. And as usual that section will mostly be made up of the poor Loyalist sods who have nothing to lose bar their flag and loyalty and welfare benefits which ironically are probably better in the Republic anyway ..

    So SF will quite correctly and ‘strategically ‘ wait until the voting numbers or political and economic circumstances favour a UI and I’m sure part of that will be their probable replacement of Labour in the Republic as the party that defends and speaks for that section of Irish society which has suffered the most since FF committed treason against the Irish people by it’s ‘bailing out ‘ of private banks and transferring private debt into public debt .

    The continuing political , economic and vertical integration of the EU and world economy continues apace . Previous hysterical rantings from the neo con right notwithstanding the demise of the Eurozone has been greatly exaggerated by the UKIP.

    As to

    “The English taxpayers will stop funding NI – and the union will break up.”

    That’ll never happen . The UK would lose its AA rating and interest rates on it’s current account deficit interest payments would increase enough in the short term to send the UK economy back into recession . Politically it would not be cricket and such a move would prompt the English taxpayer to consider losing the loss making entities of Scotland and Wales .Taken to it’s ‘logical ‘ conclusion the City of london might as well declare itself a separate state like the Vatican except it’s raison d’etre would be international financial capital rather than religion.

    “The English will get sick of the Unionists – and the union will break up.”

    Wake up , The English have been sick of unionists and republicans for a generation or more and although current loyalist rioting is probably making them even sicker -such will not break the union .I mean it’s not as if those dreadful people are living in Tunbridge Wells or Finchley is it ?

    “The Scottish will vote for independence – and the union will break up.”’

    Given the current economic climate they probably won’t . Unless the Tories under Cameron go overboard or there is another meltdown of British banking . The latter is not without possibilty given the underlying financial problems in the main British banks.. Scotland’s connections with Ulster /Northern Ireland are cultural and historical . But in the modern era Scotland’s voting and demographic profile is as different from Northern Ireland as it’s possible to get within the UK .And ditto for Wales .

    “The Catholics will outbreed the Protestants – and the union will break up.”

    Catholics have been outbreeding Protestants in Ireland since the 1740’s when an early famine and religious and political discrimination by the established Church sent the first tranche of Ulster Scots to the Americas .Subsequent emigrations and industrialisation of the North East led to a situation whereby the current Northern Ireland would have had a ‘Catholic majority ‘ in the 1930 ‘s or earlier if there had not been a huge differential in emigration rates which kept catholic numbers in check .

    “The younger Protestants will migrate to England – and the union will break up.”

    Young educated Catholics are also migrating . And frankly who would blame either cohort of the NI population for ‘giving up’ on any hope that their homeland will ever get it’s politics or economics right ?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If Sinn Fein went to the Bahamas or Cancun for the next 15 years and put their feet up they could easily find a United Ireland here when they get back.

    Loyalists are doing a grand job of demonising Unionism and encouraging educated Protestants, sorry, I mean ‘liberal naive Lundy types’ to leave Northern Ireland.

    Part of the reason that some Unionists hate the idea of a UI is primarily because of Republicans.

    As for a Unionist plan:

    It was rightly pointed out that voluntary ethnic cleansing shouldn’t be part of the solution, but, ironically, if a UI did come to be, then the chief attraction for popping across the water would surely be severed as we’d be outwith the UK educational system?

    Conversely, POSSIBLY a large number of the self-destructive type unionists might bugger off across the water to ‘flee’ the natives who will come streaming over the hills to reclaim their land from the Planter. Or something.
    Which would make ‘the North’ a more appealing place for the more liberal (Lundyesque) Protestants who feel so suffocated by in yer face unionism.

    Or, as I imagine, the only people who would come streaming over the border would be property speculators wanting to check out the recently vacated estates.

    I might even buy myself a house in the North Coast if that were the case….

    Seriously though. as for a grand plan, do SF really need one?
    Is the romantic idea of it all not appealing enough?

    Why stain it with blots of pragmatism?

    As for a bit of work for North-South co-operation, as soon as the Shinners touch something, it automatically is loathed by Unionists, so if they really want something, they best thing for them to do is leave it alone.
    Sort of…

  • Mick Fealty

    Worth reminding people of the key analogy with FF. Being loathed now does not mean you will go on being loathed in the future.

    There’s two main ways you can change that.

    One is to change leader, and in FF’s case that came with a near wipe out of the parliamentary team, which with three obvious exceptions meant the annihilation of the party’s old guard.

    Two is to begin doing things that build confidence that your ideas for the future are based on a common good. To gain power anywhere you need to gain the confidence of those with light preferences: ie, not just your core vote but people who come to you because they’re swayed by your judgement/argument/personality, not simply the party banner.

    Whatever people think of FF, they’ve engineered a rise of 10% in their polling since the 2011 general election. Now considering that for nearly a year of that, some very smart people in Dublin genuinely thought there was a chance SF would overhaul them, so deep was the hole they found themselves standing in, that’s a major turnaround.

    Now, of course, I do see the problem with the analogy. FF are trying to get back lost support, and I’m suggesting that SF pitch for the votes of people who have never showed the slightest interest in voting for them, nor have they ever shown the slightest interest in pitching for their votes.

    You know what, Martin McGuinness was a good lead on this. His decision to abolish the 11+ went down well with a a lot of people both inside and outside traditional nationalist communities who did badly from the selective education system. The trouble is that there was no work done to follow through that ‘lead’ from the then Education minister.

    Martin (until he got hauled back out of his public leadership position by the party’s internal leadership) was streets ahead in public opinion, but since the party is actually doing nothing but taking the money from its ministerial posts, and redistributing it to the benefit of the party’s own development, he will have nothing but the bad behaviour of the Belfast Orange show for it at the end of the day.

    Whether others in the political field choose to exploit that is a matter for them. Certainly even Jim Allister could do with shifting his attacks from community objection to ‘murderers in government’, to ‘what are we paying these folk to do?’

    As for SF, no one, bar Gerry, whom you see in a public position is in a position of political power within the party. Like WW1 generals, they send orders down to the front, and the MLAs and TDs duly go over the top, take a few trenches, and then because the logistics have not been worked out or because systemic inertia has kicked in the real breakthrough never comes.

    That’s because, I think, the object is not to achieve a united Ireland, but to retain and concretise the idea of Orangism is a huge social threat that people need protection from.

    The complete lack of interest, from the get go, in developing any kind of functional north south axis (other than that which is wholly owned by ‘da management’), would seem to underline that.

    Can’t think of another party on these islands that has no policies to underwrite its own political aims and fulfil even the most modest of political objectives.

    Does FF have a plan? I don’t know, but they look like they do, and that inspires confidence, even in voters as badly burned as theirs were.

  • Greenflag

    Does FF have a plan?

    Yes -It’s called survival at anybody else expense bar their own and if that includes ‘ using NI or SF’s role in government there as a backstick then it’s their back not ours .

    Looks can be deceptive . Those with a political memory will recall CJ Haughey’s ‘United Ireland ‘ now from 30 years ago in which he ‘outunited ‘ his party opponents to win the leadership . That done he returned to politics as usual .Shure it’s all blather Mick and the people know it . As much substance as helium balloon.

    As for inspiring ‘confidence ‘ I’d remind you that the USA Congress has an 8% confidence approval rating . The Dail could be about the same and I can quite understand that Stormont might be lucky to half that .

    Its steady as she goes on the SS Sinn Fein as the SS ‘Union ‘ is breached in the hull and the maintenance staff are repairing it by making the holes bigger so the waters can flow through as it were. At least thats how it looks to the rest of the ‘interested ‘ world for now . Give it a decade or so and the tipping point will force the usual last minute antics . As we know from experience nothing ever gets done until the last minute anyway.

  • Greenflag

    Am Ghobsmacht ,

    Good posting more tongue in cheek truth to upset the natives – formerly known as planters 😉

    ‘As for a bit of work for North-South co-operation, as soon as the Shinners touch something, it automatically is loathed by Unionists, so if they really want something, they best thing for them to do is leave it alone.’

    LOL so true – the sheer logic is evident . I recall it took 40 years of no talks about talks and another 5 years of farting about before any unionist politician could even shake an SF hand .

    So it’ll probably take another 40 years before the next ‘gigantic ‘step is taken by which time said ‘Unionist politicians may have to knock on the door at the Dail before being ushered into the presence of an SF Taoiseach .

    Karma is a bitch they say but others say you create your own karma assuming such a notion actually exists . Hopefully it doesn’t for in the case of political unionism their karma would probably be worst than their dogma which in turn bites the hand that feeds it . Any resemblance to a schizophrenic Rottweiler is no doubt purely coincidental 😉

  • @Alias,

    “As we all know, the best way to become a millionaire is to sit on your arse and wait for your lottery numbers to be called. Hell, you don’t even have to buy a lottery ticket…”

    Actually winning a referendum on the future of NI is much easier than winning the lottery because there are only two possible outcomes to the former and millions to the latter. All the nationalists need to win is two things: 1) a demographic majority of the adult population; 2) a good economy in the Republic, preferably over several years previous to the referendum.

    While antagonizing the unionist population does not encourage defections, there are probably not very many to be had in any case, it can encourage cohesiveness among the nationalist population. Thus, SF’s “plan” is basically to wait until the two above factors coincide.

  • Comrade Stalin

    SF do not have a plan for reunifying Ireland.

    Bear with me for a second, though, because this is going to sound like whataboutery. What plans do the unionists have for sustaining, protecting, and growing support for the union ? From where I’m standing it’s nothing terribly compelling. They certainly aren’t actively canvassing for my vote in the next referendum – if anything they are doing the opposite.

    My point is that, at this stage, the constitutional issue is just another item on the long list of boring sectarian talking points, such as what way you pronounce the letter “H”, or what football team you support, that are associated with one tribe or the other. Neither of the big parties have any serious plans to extend support for their ideas and values for people who did not grow up in the community from whence they sprang.

  • Charles_Gould

    Am Ghobsmacht

    I enjoy your blog. Will return.

    Don’t you think that Trimble’s plan set out in “To Raise a New Northern Ireland” ( minimal concessions on sovereignty issues but concessions on short term things like prisoner releases and longer term internal arrangements that are desirale anyway) is essentially that which the DUP have taken up (without admitting it or , in the case of the less thoughtful ones, knowing it)?

    While NI remains such a deeply divided society the lead parties from each “camp” will be the worst advocates of their side in any referendum campaign. The DUP and SF seem to have electoral incentives to be highly culturally-specific in their sales pitch.

    The key people will not listen to them.

    NI looks set to remain a very divided society but there is something growing in the centre. I am watching various indicators of “shared society” with interest. It is hard to say how far this will go – the situation is actually quite dynamic at the moment – something is going on but what I don’t know is how far it will go.

    This “middle” has always been there to some extent but which is growing because of various social changes including secularisation. This middle comes from all social classes but tends to live in the less homogeneous areas, where people increasingly rub shoulders at school, at work, as neighbours, and within families. This middle will not listen to the “ultra” parties in the debate on a UI but will make their own judgements.

    Have you noticed that if you have gay friends (or gay family) it is harder to take the view they shouldn’t marry? If you have genuine friends (or family) from both communities you are less inclined to dismiss their values. (Assuming they are reasonable people). The communities with both traditions living in them – rubbing shoulders – generate for this reason a more open more pluralist mindset.

    I think it is unlikely that in future we will be able to talk meaningfully of two completely separate communities who add up to 100%. There will be this middle group living in ‘mixed’ communities. This group will not listen to the old political leaders. It will make up its own mind.

    Though neither SF nor DUP can speak directly to this middle group, SF’s and the DUP’s strategies should focus on what this group will think. After all, they are the ones in the middle who are likely to hold the sway in an election.

    Would you agree that the unionist plan should be to ensure that this group – the group living in mixed communities and with more pluralist cultural norms – come to enjoy conditions under the status quo of being part of the UK.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The English taxpayer doesn’t get a vote; thanks to the Shinners and the SDLP asking the Irish government to sign an international treaty with the UK to that effect.

    Not like you to be this wrong. Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. The notion of the UK operating on the basis of six-county consent predates the British-Irish Agreement by decades.


    In reality – not Shinnerland – unity is subject to a veto from the unionist community.

    You must know this is wrong. Unity will happen if a 50%+1 majority votes for it, that is the law.

    It should be self evidence that in any given referendum at any time, the number of unionists voting for a united Ireland will be exactly zero. Clearly, if you are voting for a united Ireland you are not a unionist.

  • Clearly, if you are voting for a united Ireland you are not a unionist.

    But here’s the thing – labels in N.I. are used to mean different things. In most cases “unionist” is meant to be “Protestant”.
    So, some “Nationalists” would vote to maintain the UK link and some “Unionists” may well vote for a U.I.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Which is why the term “unionist community” as used by Alias above really is a fallacy. There is no “unionist community”.

  • Zig70

    I’m not sure what Gerry is at on twitter. I almost regret getting his tweets. He certainly doesn’t inspire me as a leader from the tweets alone. I think people in NI are unprepared for a game changer leader of someone like Paisley’s stature. Watching bbc tonight and reminded that hj mccraken was 23 during the rebellion. The apathy is at a level that a great persuader could make a difference either way. I hope it happens rather than watching Sf grind out their ‘us alone ‘ plan.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    I hear you 100% on the rubbing shoulders.

    It’s much easier to be dogmatic and full of offensive ideas about ‘themuns’ if you never have them challenged even if it’s just by being in close proximity e.g. classrooms.

    I sometimes wonder if the more hard line parties fear a growth in this middle group because they’re more difficult to manipulate with the old worn out rhetoric of oppression/loyalty/whatever.

    If it was ever the case where there was a large middle ground not easily manipulated by such chat then there is the nightmare scenario of people voting for politicians who might be ‘competent’ (shock!).