Fine Gael to consider contesting elections in the North #fgaf14

Interesting development from the Fine Gael Ard Fheis this weekend as the party’s delegates have passed a motion to set up a working group to consider the possibility of contesting elections in the North.

The motion that was passed only states contesting elections at Local, European and Assembly elections but it will be interesting to see if this group has legs and goes somewhere. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that this issue was on the radar for the party.

I have long believed that Nationalism more generally would be given a big boost if we had much more competition in the field up here with Fianna Fail, Labour and others up here battling it out for votes. Competition generally forces parties to innovate and come up with new ideas and policies which I feel has been missing from my side of politics over the last ten years.

Lucid Talk has done some research on this question of how southern parties would do up here, here is a poll they conducted in June 2012 asking this question

27% said they would like British and Irish parties contesting elections here.

17% said Irish parties contesting elections only

16% said British parties (Labour, Lib Dems etc) contesting elections only

40% said they wanted just NI parties to stand here.


David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

  • Red Cortina

    We might say then that 44 % are in favour of Southern parties standing here. Certainly it’s something I’d like to see.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This is insane. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and anyone else from outside who tries to run in an election here will get their arses kicked. Similarly if the SDLP or Alliance Party tried to run for the Dáil in West Cork.

    You can’t take a political party formed out of a constituency in one place and simply import it into another and expect it to work, as the Conservative Party have already discovered – twice (and are about to do a third time).

  • Coll Ciotach

    It is certainly a welcome development. Perhaps FG wilI become an All Ireland Party. I have been watching the pracas that FF have made of their great move north and I was not impressed. Perhaps the pseudo unionists FG will be the first out of the trap – a the irony of the so called republican party shown up as the partitionists they really are. But somehow I will manage to contain my anticipation.

  • Kensei


    The end point of that logic is no new parties can grow anywhere. I think FF would have made an impact at the peak of the boom years, but it’d be substantially tougher for either FF or FG now. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible however, either party can start with council elections and start building a base.

    Based on nothing but my gut, I think either have a better shot than the Conservatives. There is less choice within nationalism and fewer places for disenfranchised votes to go. I think the SDLP would have the most danger in the short term, there is a certain class of Nationalist who simply won’t vote SF and have no alternative. The threat to SF in the long term is probably greater, though.

  • sean treacy

    If the FF gombeen men were sure to get an electoral hiding up north,the west Brits of FG would be ensured complete humiliation.I say bring it on.What joy to see some middle class blueshirt getting trounced 50 to one by my local ex prisoner SFrep !

  • Morpheus

    I can see the slanging matches now:

    “Where have you been for the past 100 years when the people you now want votes from were being hammered into the ground by The Orange State? Watching on TV? Oh, right. Slàinte for that.”

    And they’d be right.

    They might take the odd SDLP vote but I can’t see them infringing on SF to any large degree. Especially when the ‘new management’ takes over.

  • lamhdearg
  • mjh

    My gut says the same, Kensei

    But I think you have put your finger on the main problem for FG.

    Crudely – if the SDLP is for some the “not the SF” party, how much milage is there for FG in being the “not SF but not the SDLP either” party?

  • Comrade Stalin


    You sound just like the Tories and others around here who think that Labour should run alongside themselves to bring us closer to the UK (including having cabinet ministers from NI). It isn’t going to happen.

    kensei, the crapness of our local parties doesn’t matter. Importing outsiders won’t work. These are political parties which have no jurisdiction and no constituency here. Their ideas are fashioned around the political issues and concerns in the RoI which, like it or not, are not the same as ours. It will take a lot for me to believe that people in the Short Strand or Somerton Road, while they may enjoy following GAA or learning Irish, have anything more than a passing interest in the scandal around the Garda Ombudsman, the Croke Park Agreement, plans to expand the DART or Michael Noonan’s pension levies on Irish public sector workers, or the pension scandals of the Central Remedial Clinic. All of these are issues that are top of the agenda for people in FF or FG that have absolutely no relevance to people here.

    Talking to some fervent nationalists up here many of them do not even understand how, for example, the RoI’s healthcare “system” works or the details of the taxes that are deducted from people working in the RoI jurisdiction. Gerry Adams famously did not even know the benefits system or the rate of VAT. People may try to kid themselves that you can build an all-Ireland body politic by running in elections in both jurisdictions, but this is nothing more than a silly fantasy.

  • Charles_Gould

    Irish Labour looked into the issue of standing in NI but decided against, because it didn’t want to stand against SDLP.

  • sean treacy

    When De Rossa abandoned DL in the North to join the Free State labour party ,he advised his stranded Northern followers to join the British Labour party.Even the stoops wouldn’t be unionist enough for that shower who act as the Blue shirts mudguard.

  • lamhdearg

    surely any serious move north by a eire party would involve a link up with an ulster based irish nats party, the only way i see FG coming north is if the SDLP get so small in % terms that they invite them up, of course FG thinking may be to put the cart before the horse and reduced the SDLP % by coming north before a formal link, this would carry risks, both in alienating their potential hosts/partners and in giving SF an boost in the short term a term that may in the end not be that short.

  • Mc Slaggart

    “I think the SDLP would have the most danger in the short term”

    The sdlp in and around Tyrone are not fit for purpose. I am not saying their is not good people in the party. They are being badly led and have no vision.

    I do not like FG but they would get votes and lots of them with the right candidate. If sf get much stronger in the Border area the southern parties will have no choice in the matter.

  • Niall Noigiallach

    Like it or loathe it, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are at the very very early stages of a venture north. The latter may be a bit further down the road however both are waiting on the performance of the SDLP over the next few years before taking the final plunge. I’d be very surprised if the SDLP was still around in 20 years time. They key here is how Sinn Fein perform in the south over the next few years and the impact a new leader may have on voters there. If SF show continual growth and popularity and if FG or FF want to be serious about challenging them then sooner or later one of them will need to contest elections north of the border.

    It could also simply be that FG’s motion was in response to recent comments by Micheal Martin in relation to contesting elections up north and they think they need to be seen to be thinking about an all-Ireland strategy.

  • IanR

    One reason the southern parties might stand in the north would be to try and put off the day when SF reach the point of being able to declare themselves the largest party on the island of Ireland in terms of first preference votes.

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP, Irish Labour, and British Labour are all members of the Party of European Socialists – and you will have seen Alex Attwood wearing this badge during the week; they are also affiliated to Socialist International. The Irish Labour party decided not to stand in NI because it did not want to stand against SDLP.

    FG’s politics – right of centre, conservative politics – is not SDLP politics so this thread isn’t to do with SDLP.

  • Niall Noigiallach

    I think everyone’s aware of where FG’s politics lie on the spectrum but you’re living in the clouds Charles if you think FG and FF aren’t watching your performances in the next few years with a view to stepping in at some stage should SF’s support continue to grow

  • Republic of Connaught

    Comrade Stalin:

    “This is insane. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and anyone else from outside who tries to run in an election here will get their arses kicked. Similarly if the SDLP or Alliance Party tried to run for the Dáil in West Cork.”

    Sinn Fein are an All Ireland party, CS, and manage to do alright both sides of the border despite the differing issues, so the precedent is successfully there for an All Ireland party. Irish people in Fermanagh/Tyrone or Donegal/Sligo are basically conservative, so their politics and outlook are similar even if the political jurisdictions are different.

    If indeed Fine Gael or Fianna Failures run in the north, their success will be dependent on what northern candidates they can attract from the SDLP. Many nationalist people in the north will probably be more than content to see Fine Gael officially represented by MLAs at Stormont. It guarantees more interest, and influence, from Leinster House.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The Civil War Parties are more than welcome in the North, they might have to endure the hostile ecosystem as the nationalist equivalent to what the Conservatives had with unionists. But it is likely a few of their transfers might help the SDLP or even Sinn Féin.

    Fine Gael did have a link up with the Alliance Party, but Fianna Fáil belong to Alliance’s European group.

  • ayeYerMa

    What a daft poll. Nothing “lucid” about it when the most normal political arrangement for any country, ie British (including Northern Ireland) parties only, isn’t even an option!

  • Drumlins Rock

    it appears the project is further on than we thought… FG may already have a sister party up here who have ambitions to join the EPP group they belong too. High level talks between Basil and Enda have taken place at the fringes of the conference I believe. NI21certainly gave the impression they are more than just observers at the conference.

  • lamhdearg

    “high level talks” they both must have been on step ladders.

  • FuturePhysicist


    If there is a late case for NI21 to put out a candidate that would be interesting, EPP were a safety net for the UUP if they were to be kicked out of the ECR group. I do wonder if we are going to see two competing parties in the same bloc in Northern Ireland with the NI Tories and UUP as was the case with the Socialist Party and Sinn Féin in a previous Dublin contest.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Sinn Féin are the exception to the rule, and are the only party in Ireland which draw from an ideologically-based constituency that predates partition.

    That said I think SF look like an all-Ireland party but in practice cannot be. Their left-wing rhetoric in the south is not matched by their actions in the Assembly where they uphold what is essentially a centre-right economic policy of low taxes, low rates and cuts to public spending in things like health and education, and are more concerned with scoring points on tribal issues than reaching bargains with the DUP over social and economic policy.

    SF are doing very well in the polls, but lets see if they translate that into seats, and let’s see if their strong performance lasts for more than one electoral cycle. It’s one thing to be a protest party, it’s another to be in government and have to explain your actions to people.

  • IanR

    The rhetoric in one jurisdiction not matching actions in another is simply a reflection of being in a position of power in one and not so in the other!

  • Republic of Connaught


    “Sinn Féin are the exception to the rule, and are the only party in Ireland which draw from an ideologically-based constituency that predates partition.”

    They’re also the only mainstream Irish party to have made the effort to be a 32 county party. No one can dispute they are electorally successful in both parts of Ireland. So claiming a party from the south can’t be successful up north is naive.

    Fine Gael or Fianna Fail can get MLA seats in the north if they get the right candidates. Whether they see any real gains from it until demographics change more sharply is the real question.

  • Politico68

    If FF, FG et al decided to contest elections in the North, it would be the equivalent of providing political Nationalism with manna from Heaven.

    Firstly, it would have the effect of bringing more nationalist voters to the polls; at least at the first outing thereby increasing the Nat share of the vote.
    Secondly, it is highly unlikely that any of them would win a seat but their transfers would be priceless, especially in areas such as FST, WT, MU and NB where the nationalist vote is only a hairs breath away from depriving Unionism of seats.
    Thirdly, according to the census figures; 11 out of the 18 AA constituencies already have a clear Nationalist Majority or are on the cusp of having one due to the demographic shift in the younger age categories. FG and FF contesting seats here would clearly speed up the geopolitical shift in these areas.
    Finally, FF and FG coming into the frame would most likely (given the reasons above) speed up the process toward Nationalist domination of The Asembly, Westminster, Europe and local council.
    I am firmly of the view that while people focus far too much on the so-called ‘national question’ they are missing what will surely be a dramatic event in Northern Politics – Unionist s losing seats and power to Nationalists – and the destabilising consequences thereafter.

    The benefits to Irish Nationalism upon the arrival of FF/FG to the NI political scene are enormous. I only hope they hurry up and get organised !!

  • PaddyReilly

    Thirdly, according to the census figures; 11 out of the 18 AA constituencies already have a clear Nationalist Majority or are on the cusp of having one due to the demographic shift in the younger age categories.

    A strange statement. The census does not record political opinions, only religion. The truth is that NI consists of 18 constituencies, of which there are:-

    9 constituencies where Catholics already form more than half the population, or at least, the Christian population;

    2 where they are close to being 50% (EL, UB), but under current rates of growth, will not reach 50% before the next census (2021);

    2 where they are around a third (NA, SA);

    2 where under a quarter (EA, LV);

    2 where one sixth (ND, S);

    1 where one eighth (EB).

  • PaddyReilly

    The idea that Catholics are Nationalists and Protestants, Unionists, is almost true but not quite.

    Catholics vote mainly for SF, less often for the SDLP, but sometimes also for the Greens and Alliance, these last two mainly in those constituencies where Catholics are not a majority.

    To achieve the significant increase in Nationalist seats (6, in fact) needed to make Martin McGuinness 1st Minister, one would need to persuade sufficient Catholics in the areas where they are a minority to turn out and vote for the SDLP. As things stand they are either too few on the ground (there is no Nationalist representation in East Belfast, North Down or Strangford) or prefer to vote Alliance and keep their neighbours happy.

    The census does show a significant increase in the number of Catholics in East Belfast, Lagan Valley and South Antrim; if this trend continues there will be extra representation there; equally in East Londonderry and Upper Bann there will be an extra Nationalist seat in Stormont long before there is a Nationalist majority for Westminster, due to the way proportional representation works.

  • Politico68

    Paddy, the stats don’t lie. Election tallies reflect the demographic make-up almost to the button; or else it is one hell of a coincidence. Your correct, nine majority nationalist constits and two more with younger Nat majorities giving us a total of eleven…..just as I said.

  • “Their ideas are fashioned around the political issues and concerns in the RoI which, like it or not, are not the same as ours. It will take a lot for me to believe that people in the Short Strand or Somerton Road,”


    My guess is part of what is motivating FG to consider seriously contesting elections in NI is the fear that the SDLP is on the verge of collapse or, at the least, becoming a new version of the old Nationalist Party of the old Stormont. This would be bad for nationalists and would also give SF a free ride, thereby allowing them to concentrate more of their resources on the Republic. To be successful you would need to have only one of the Southern civil war parties contesting in the North. If both FG and FF compete then the existing SDLP vote will be split three ways. I personally think that FF would probably do better, partly because they claim to be the Republican Party and thus could strip some votes from SF by winning votes from those who consider themselves to be republicans but who don’t want to vote for a former paramilitary party.

    Judging from what has happened with the Conservatives in NI, I;m guessing that you are probably right. If FF and FG would have been inclined to cooperate, the logical time to do so would have been after the last election in the Republic when the two parties could have gotten together to form a new conservative party by putting their historical issues behind them.

  • PaddyReilly

    two more with younger Nat majorities giving us a total of eleven

    Not quite. At current rates of increase, Catholics will not outnumber Protestants in Upper Bann till about 2022; in East Londonderry until 2051.

    The point that I was making is that while the equation Catholic = Nationalist, Protestant = Unionist works quite well at constituency level, making it a very useful predictive for Westminster Seats, it does not therefore work with percentages in the part of the country East of the Bann, and so does not predict the number of Stormont seats.

    My guess is part of what is motivating FG to consider seriously contesting elections in NI

    FG is not seriously considering contesting elections in NI. It is setting up a working group to consider the possibility, which is, if anything, quite the opposite

  • Politico68

    I think there is a Seat for the SDLP in Strangford if they could just push a little harder. I also believe that North Belfast, Upper Bann, North Antrim, FST, South Antrim, West Tyrone, South Down and East Derry will each provide another nationalist seat by the 2020 election. Assuming Alliance can hold its own (Possible extra seat in South Belfast) It would put the Nationalist block ahead of Unionism.
    It isn’t so much the growth in the Catholic population but more so the Protestant population is in irreversible decline. They are simply not replacing their older voters in adequate numbers.

    The cold facts are that every year Unionists lose approx 9,000 voters, replaced by approx 10500 eighteen year olds. Nationalists lose 4,000 voters, replaced by 12,500. Unless there is a massive and sudden change in voter behaviour this is only going in one direction. Unionists and Loyalists need to seriously wise-up and work towards a GFA mark 2, or they are going to end up in a situation where they will be at the mercy of Nationalist voters in order to maintain the Union.

  • Morpheus

    GFA Mark 2? What exactly would be different?

    Selling NI remaining in the UK is not difficult – in fact it is very easy – but the problem unionism faces is that Catholics simply refuse to vote DUP/UUP/TUV etc. in any significant numbers (1% of Catholics vote for all the unionist parties combined according to the NILT)

    You talk about the catholic population then we obviously won’t know until the next census but the last one shows us that in the U80 age-band which makes up 96% of the population Catholics are already the largest group. In the over 80s Catholics are outnumbered 2:1 and at the other end of the spectrum Catholic U4s outnumber their Protestant counterparts by 13%. Catholics could be the largest group already but like I said those are 2010 figures, we won’t know for sure until 2010.

    Getting back to the political parties then the reason I think Catholics refuse to vote for unionist parties is the influence that the anti-Catholic, unrepresentative Loyal Orders have on these parties. 40% of those who rejected The Haas Proposals and 75% of our unionist MPs are members of the Loyal Orders despite the fact that only 2% of the population are members. The organisation is dying on its arse but still has an extremely unrepresentative influence. The First Minister of Northern Ireland is scared to take his party in the direction he knows they must go for fear of upsetting the local Grand Master – that is not right.

    That’s where NI21 comes in. They offer a pro-UK choice without the stranglehold of the Loyal Orders and as such they are a party that Catholics can get behind.

  • IrelandNorth

    In an era of where single party (Mugabi-esq?) government being consigned to the dustbin of history everywhere (except Zimbabwe?), and in an age of colaition givernment both in Ireland and GB, opening up intra-national branches in other provinces/regions isn’t as alien as one might think in the context of Euro-Federalism. I’ve already floated the distinct probability of Sínn Féin (SF) coalescing with Fíanna Fáil (FF) in the other three provinces. Possibly even amalgamating into Sínn Fáil or Fíanna Féin without having to change the initials of their acronyms, which would cleanse SF of it’s paramilitaristic past, and reconvert FF to ‘born again’ republicanism. But who would Fíne Gael (FG) coalese or amagamate with north of checkpoint Eddie? And given that both Ministers for Justice in respective jurisdiction seemingly get along so well, could FG coalesce/amalgamate with the Alliance Party (AP). Though with the equally good relations between respective Mins of Health, an FG/DUP coalition isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility either. Exciting times indeed!

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    I’ve an Idea:

    If FF or FG do organize up north, and are successful enough to contest general elections, would the two Governments ever come to an agreement whereby an elected candidate could choose to attend Westminister or the Dáil?

    That is a ‘hop ball’ as we would say in Munster.

  • “GFA Mark 2? What exactly would be different?”


    Presumably for those who advocate it it would be some sort of joint rule. But good luck selling that to a unionist electorate who would simply see it as a halfway house to a united Ireland. And before London would agree, they would presumably want Dublin to fork over an equal or nearly equal share of the subsidy for NI. Good luck selling that to Dublin.