Nice work by Anthony McIntrye on Gerry Adams’ interview with Audrey Carville on Morning Ireland yesterday. One segment which jumped out at me in particular was this bit..
AC: Okay. So you’re very clearly preparing for government. And I suppose if anyone is wondering what Sinn Féin would be like in government they’d just have to look North. And perhaps the impression they might get is of a party running scared of making tough decisions in government.
GA: Well, this is a narrative which I think is very, very unfair. I think it’s a lazy – and I also think it’s very, very patronising. Look at the record of Martin McGuinness. Look at the tough decisions that he and our Ministers have taken – that the Sinn Féin leadership have taken – in the course of the peace process. Sinn Féin will defend the political institutions.
What we have is an understandable reluctance by Unionism to be part of the process for change. And the history of the process shows – and this was very evident as we buried Albert Reynolds and there was a lot of talk about how the process was put together – if Unionism are allowed – if political Unionism, against grassroots Unionism which does want change – but if political Unionism and its leaders is allowed room to delay and to dilute that’s what they will do.
AC: But you, as a party, are balking at making the tough decisions to cut the welfare budget because it contradicts your policy in this jurisdiction.
GA: No, no, it doesn’t contradict our policy in this jurisdiction. It contradicts the very reason for the existence of Sinn Féin which is a Republican party which believes that citizens have rights.
And that includes, and particularly a judgment on the state of a society has to be how you look after those who are vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, the disabled, children and disadvantaged sections of society.
AC: So when those welfare cuts are not introduced Stormont will be slapped with a fine of two hundred million pounds. What effect will that have on services, on health, on education, on people with disabilities, with people on benefits?
GA: Well, there are three things happening at once and you have the convergence of all of these factors against a non-engagement by both governments in the process.
One is the build-up of the failure of political Unionism and the governments to deliver on their commitments.
AC: The governments can’t tell Sinn Féin, can’t persuade Sinn Féin to do a deal with the DUP on welfare reform which is at the nub of this at this moment.
GA: Well, I’m sorry, that isn’t the case, Audrey. There are three things happening: And one is that the Unionist leaders, including Peter Robinson, have reneged on deals which they have done with Sinn Féin in the past.
Second thing is the government have not fulfilled their obligations. And then the British government has been cutting the block grant. So even if they didn’t have this ideological position of trying to get rid of the welfare state they have been cutting the block grant and then you have the ideologically driven attempt to just reduce public service.
AC: But being in government means taking tough decisions – not needing to have your hands held.
GA: Sorry. Nobody’s holding our hands – that’s a silly thing to say.
AC: But you keep putting the momentum, the pressure back on the two governments to get involved.
GA: No. We want the governments to fulfill their obligations. Charles Flanagan made totally inappropriate remarks the other day as opposed to defending the political institutions and promoting the agreements and working and making sure that the British government delivers – he talked about these two problem parties. And that’s driven by electoralism in this state. That’s not looking at the need to continue to develop and defend and promote the political process.
Let me come back to this issue: We have a responsibility in government to defend people’s rights. So Sinn Féin is not going – and we’re very, very clear on this – is not going to be part of simply accepting a diktat from a Tory minister – whether it’s in Enda Kenny’s cabinet or whether it’s in David Cameron’s cabinet – and then we’re just going to administer that for them.
AC: Did you overrule Martin McGuinness when he wanted to do a deal with Peter Robinson on welfare reform?
GA: No, not at all. At our Ard Fheis … very clearly – at our Ard Chomhairle … very, very clearly … and Martin is well up to this at this as I am – decided that we would explore the possibilities of getting – because our fight isn’t with the DUP – our fight’s with the Torys in London – trying to get the Tory government – and that battle isn’t over yet.
AC: But you didn’t overrule Martin McGuinness?
GA: No, not at all. Not at all. Martin McGuinness is my leader in The North. And as I said is about defending the rights of those disadvantaged sections of the community. The other thing is this – just if I may say this: Given the stagnant nature of the economy, and Martin and Peter have done good work in getting inward investment and so on – to take the amount of money out of that is just going to build farther on the economic difficulties.
And secondly, it doesn’t recognise the fact that we are very uniquely against a bleak situation internationally. We’re very uniquely coming out of a conflict process.
So, erm, was you then Gerry, or the Ard Comhairle, who told Martin to nix the very project he and his advisors in OFMdFM jointly put together with the DUP?
Hate to say I told you so, but…
Oh yes, and according to Gerry, the Union has been sooo (nearly) over since 1998…
And the first big dent in the Union was actually the Good Friday Agreement where Sinn Féin succeeded in getting rid of the government of Ireland Act. Actually – the Union as we know it – and this is what’s driving Unionist insecurities – the Union as we know it is over. There’s a Union there of course – the British still claim jurisdiction.
Carville is one of the first southern journalists to take a long hard look at what Sinn Fein has not been doing in government and used that knowledge to good effect with a southern audience. After all it’s only asking the legitimate journalistic questions for any political party seeking power.
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