#SeanadRef: Gerry Adams’ cogent and eloquent argument against his own party’s official position…

I’ll be doing a round up of today’s #DigitalLunch with Joe McHugh TD and Derek Mooney of DemocracyMatters on Monday. But I have to say after that long detailed and highly civil debate, I was a bit taken aback to read this on Gerry Adams’ own blog.

It’s a cogent and concise argument against the abolition of the Seanad from the leader of Sinn Fein on the day the Referendum bill was introduced in the Dail. A position which was subsequently reversed by the party’s Ard Comhairle:

The Government has decided to opt for cuts and greater centralisation of power. Instead of creating a more effective, transparent accountable democracy, the Government wants to abolish the Seanad, cut the number of elected representatives in the Dáil and in local government, and centralise even more power and authority into its hands.

That is not real reform; it is power grabbing. It may be a very democratic coup but it is a coup none the less. There is more power for government, less accountability and democracy and fewer checks and balances against political abuse and patronage.

The cuts agenda that dominates this Government’s thinking do not bring efficiency, as we have seen from the austerity policies. They lead to hardship, inefficiency and more inequality.

– See more at: http://leargas.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-future-of-seanad.html#sthash.CtBtLvRb.dpuf

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  • Kensei

    For SF it’s probably a positive thing they are having internal debates which arent necessarily won by Adams.

    I basically agree with his position, but I’m still not sure about wether killing the Seanad is a good idea. It’s pretty useless at reigning.in the Dail. Reform would be preferable but its not on the ballot. Does getting rid of it have many bad effects and does it strengthen or weaken the case for reform? Dunno.

  • Rory Carr

    That which follows the heading above, “Gerry Adams’ cogent and eloquent argument against his own party’s official position… then goes on to contradict the headline.

    This is, as the following excerpt reveals:

    “It’s a cogent and concise argument against the abolition of the Seanad from the leader of Sinn Fein on the day the Referendum bill was introduced in the Dail. A position which was subsequently reversed by the party’s Ard Comhairle.

    It is all in the timing you see. Adams was articulating his own position on the abolition or retention of An Seanad. Later, following a debate in the Ard Comhairle, his position was rejected and Pearse Doherty’s motion in favour of abolition was adopted as party policy. Now, like a faithful democratic centralist, he will not speak against party policy though I do not expect that he will be capable of speaking in favour of it with the same ardour as before.

    I regret that Doherty’s motion prevailed, however, unlike Adams, I am not restricted by any party discipline and so may speak freely (and arduously) for reform and against abolition. The only downside is that nobody’s going to pay a blind bit of notice to my opinion (and who could blame them?)

  • Mick Fealty

    Nice one Rory! I don’t think you are alone. I get the sense a lot of SFers, particularly in NI, are not happy about cutting the Seanad adrift.

    Whilst I agree with Keano that it reveals something more democratic about SF than we have been accustomed to account for, it also shows the limitation of democratic centralism.

    That AC meeting (or rather meetings) went on for weeks on this subject, after the bill had been passed into law.

    I remember ML being stranded in live interviews pleading that she did not have an answer because she was waiting on an answer from the AC (at least she has an inkling of how Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness feel, waiting for weeks for approval of the tiniest detail in OFMdFM).

    The magnitude of such an avoidable reversal effectively means that SF can surely play no further creditable part in the rest of the debate. Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech comes to mind:

    It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.

    For my money it’s a design fault in which the old soldiers dictate the pace and shape of the game from the team dugout to the democratic players on the pitch.

    I could say more, but it’s late and I’m more than happy to hear from others what they make of it all?

  • Rory Carr

    Well it’s even later here now (or early, as you will) and my sleeping patterns are all askew so I may as well use the time in response, Mick.

    Surely if anything, this decision by the Ard Comhairle demonstrates that, contrary to what has been the Slugger line for years, that SF decisions are all top down and the party meetings such as the Ard Fheis and this AC meeting are mere window dressing to rubber-stamp the will of the leadership,much in the way of Fíanna Fáil, Fine Gael, DUP, Conservative Party, New Labour etc.simply does not hold.

    The argument, or at least the strong inference has also been that Adams retains his position as President only because no one is allowed to, or is afraid to, stand against him. Which neatly ignores the long presidency of the late Rory Brady (1970-1983) and his eventual democratic replacement by Adams, or the long career of Tomás MacGiolla as Sinn Féin President sequeing into Worker’ Party Leader from 1962 to 1988.

    No doubt the Ard Comhairle surprise adoption of Pearse Doherty’s motion to support abolition will leave any argument in support of abolition by Adams pretty implausible but that is part of the price one pay’s in a truly democratic party, leader or no, and no doubt it will be left to Doherty, and whoever was with him for abolition, to make the running in this debate.

    But those who are delighted to see Adams with egg on his face on this issue would best to first wipe the egg off their own face on the matter of democracy within Sinn Féin. Don’tcha think ?

  • Mick Fealty

    What can I say Rory? Except that you learn something new, every day… 😉 It seems like the Presidium rather than the President is the thing.

  • socaire

    Surely Sinn Féin is a revolutionary movement as opposed to a political party?

  • Greenflag

    The Senate needs reforming not abolishing . But 20 million Euros saved is 20 million .Who said the till minders were’nt in charge of the Republic ?. They were just comatose between 2002 and 2010 🙁 Some still are .

  • Comrade Stalin

    I can never recall the Senate having accomplished anything of note, much like the UK House of Lords.

    Get rid of it and strengthen the parliamentary committees. There’s no need to debate the same stuff twice.

  • Rory Carr

    Sinn Féin is a political party which is the political expression of the revoluitionary movement known as the Republican Movement. Or at least that is how it was when it included Cumann na mBán, na Fíanna, not to mention Oglaigh na hÉireann (let’s not mention Oglaigh na hÉireann) which, I understand has been disbanded. I assume (and trust) however that the revolutionary principles remain but, in any case, Sinn Fein remains the most progressive political party in these Isles of Iona, if not indeed in Europe, by a country mile.

  • Mick Fealty

    CS,

    We can get to the detail of the Seanad debate on Monday, but am the only one who thinks the above odd for a political party to swing 180 degrees over such a short time, with no explanation about why a senior politician would describe something power grab in June and then have his party decide it not power grab by August/September?

  • Rory Carr

    No, Mick, you are not alone. I also think it’s odd, but there you go – it’s the kind of thing that happens a lot in politics. David Cameron was recently ever so gung-ho to bomb the shit out of Syria but could not carry sufficient of his party with him and he may again find himself isolated on Europe and a huge drift to the not-so-softly racist and anti-gay UKIP may shortly become apparent as the blue-rinse mob flex their prejudices. Peter Robinson broadcast an intention to seek Catholic support for the DUP yet most of his party would not come within 50 yards of a Catholic had they the choice.

    Of course what is really odd about it, Mick is that it all rather undermines your insistence again and again that the party is in thrall to its leader and has no independent mind when in reality it is the one party in the whole of Ireland where serious debate takes place and where there is a real spirit of democracy with party leaders accountable to the party members through their delegates in conference. This is the type of open party democracy that terrifies the apparatchniks of New Labour, imagine what it would do to the Irish Labour Party or, don’t laugh, Fíanna Fáil or Fine Gael.

  • Mick Fealty

    Another nice try Rory. Except, DC was trying to handle a majority in a parliament where his party is in a minority. In this case, GA’s party let him go to the wire with a position it apparently did not agree with.

    Three observations from this odd episode:

    1. This is a rare glimpse at how SF works internally. I really had no sense that the party would screw over its own leader’s public position within the timeframe of one campaign.

    2. The key shift here appears to be purely tactical. If there was a strategic focus, there would have been no need for the 180 degree turn. Of the turn itself would have had a cogent narrative.

    3. And the tactics appear to be based on enmity particularly with FF rather than on any clear or decipherable principle. Where does this shift leave NI nationalists for instance?