Sinn Fein suffering for the want of a visible plan (cunning, or otherwise)?

It’s still not clear who Martin was going to see in Washington, or why he had his picture taken on the wrong side of Pennsylvania Avenue opposite the White House. However at home Brian Feeney is not impressed:

…Sinn Féin’s problem is more profound. They’ve lost direction. They’ve forgotten their raison d’etre in the north. Flying to Washington about welfare funding is piddling stuff. No one in the party is articulating how to advance their fundamental aim, Irish unity. Instead there is monthly waffle about reconciliation and ‘uncomfortable conversations’ to which not a single unionist politician responds or ever will.

It’s true Sinn Féin has to be careful not to bang the republican drum for fear of losing votes in the south where no one cares about the north. However the evidence of May’s election is that few of Sinn Féin’s northern voters care very much about whether Stormont passes welfare legislation or anything else for that matter.

Leaving aside the party’s main reason for existence in the north is following the SDLP’s example a few steps too far. Moving towards the centre in the south has meant no senior Sinn Féin figure in the north has the language, vocabulary or vision to articulate where the party is going in the long term. It’s all very well saying they have a ‘plan’ but to voters that sounds like Baldrick and Blackadder.

It wouldn’t take much. Taking north south (and east west) infrastructure would be at least a start.

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

  • chrisjones2

    “Taking north south (and east west) infrastructure would be at least a start.”

    …well a road to nowhere is a powerful metaphor for them

  • Redstar2014

    Far from in sync with Brian Feeneys thinking but on this one hes 100% on the money.

    Indeed I would go further in that its almost a ” don’t mention the war” scenario thesedays for SF as regards getting Irish unity or the British out of Ireland

    Mind you there’s 1000’s of us in the Rep/Nat community who have noticed this for a long time- hence SFs stuttering at the polls, rapidly decreasing voter turnout in Republican strongholds, total disconnect between SFs representatives and the Republican man in the street( especially the younger citizens) and general cynicism / disdain for SFs career politicians in their desperate attempts to sell Stormont.

  • chrisjones2

    Well I am sorry but they did lose the war end it has taken their core community 20 years to notice!!!

    What was that about ‘politics for slow learners’?

  • mickfealty

    Good piece by Brendan Hughes in the Irish News a few days back on the expenditure of 400,00 on just such a road. I suspect the lack of an robust overview procedure is costing us an awful lot more than that.

  • eac1968

    In the ’90s, being seen at the Clinton Whitehouse was an indication that Sinn Fein had come in out of the cold (in certain circles at least). Twenty years on, running to Washington for hand-holding because they can’t make decisions on ordinary political and economic issues is just an embarrassment. In the US, state government is packed with who the locals consider to be second tier-politicians (how many state senators can you name?). Yet their ‘second tier’ would wipe the floor with our ‘top tier’ any day, and then some! They’re the ones who run everything but the federal services in each of the 50 states. For example, California’s state politicians run what would be the 10th largest economy in the world if it were a country.

    We in NI need to stop kidding ourselves that our First and deputy-First Ministers et al are anything more than jumped-up parish councillors. We can’t be surprised at their lack of delivery – they’re simply incapable of better.

  • james

    I think they did indeed lose the war, though one notes Gerry Adams has just publicly said he feels his army actually won! Perhaps he missed that particular meeting? Depends on the perspective, though. I suppose Martin does get to wear expensive suits and go on holidays these days…

  • Mister_Joe

    A few years ago, my brother was trying to find an exceedingly small golf course in Donegal and ended up on a road which got narrower and narrower with eventually grass appearing in the middle. A farmer came along and my brother asked him “Does this road go anywhere?”. The farmer replied “Have you ever been on a road that doesn’t go somewhere”. Persevering, my brother asked “Where will this road take me?” to which the farmer replied “It will take you anywhere in Ireland that you want to go to”.

  • Robin Keogh

    Feeney seems to focus most of his article on the failure within Unionism to calm the storms between the various factions, it is difficult for any party or leader to steer a steady ship when daggers are coming at you from every direction. Sinn Fein’s priority lies in building its base across the Island and maintain its position as largest party in the country. So far so good, most voters in the south pay little heed to what is going on at Stormont so it has zero effect an SF growth potential.

    Feeney can guffaw all he likes at SF’s commitment to find a road towards reconciliation, but journalists of all shades have a tendency to criticise others where they have failed themselves. He loses credibility when he forgets that SF are not in the North or in the South for that matter. They are an all Ireland party. SF power base is in Dublin and it is from there that the leadership GA,MmG, MLM et al. make decisions on what Stormont can and cannot do.

    Ideally it would be great if Unionism could just sort itself out and commit to a shared future but Feeney is way off the mark if he thinks that SF plans(Irish Unity) are in any way affected by failures within Unionism to get its house in order. His nonsense regarding SF shift to the centre is laughable considering his peers seem to be united in the fact that SF are part of some sort of looney left.

    At best SF are left of centre in the context of a social democratic approach to public services and economics. Those policies will be tested in government in Dublin at some point in the future. Untill then we have to keep walking the streets and convincing people to vote for us. SF must be aware that success in Dublin will push forward the UI project much faster than bowing the knee to uncomprimising politcal Unionism or conservative Tory welfare warfare.

    If feeney would like to see how much SF have lost direction or forgotten their reason for being, I would suggests he observes the SF machine in operation on the ground coming up to the next round of elections. Like all other members , I am fully aware of the direction and fully aware of my role in getting there. I suggest maybe Feeney should rely more on fact rather than fiction invented off the back of wishful thinking.

  • eac1968

    ‘SF must be aware that success in Dublin will push forward the UI project.’

    Explain how that one works Robin.

  • chrisjones2

    He won the car and salary and the kudos – statesman, author, trampoline expert with a friendly dog, a whiff of eau de cordite and a green tweed jacket.

    And he survived the failure which was a feat in itself.

    He also kept ahead of the pack – getting out of West Belfast before the locals looked around and realized ‘ my God its still a s**thole’ after 20 years of SF Government’ was a masterstroke.

    But sometime the reality will slowly dawn

  • chrisjones2

    Well if the allegations are true of them some seem remarkably adept at making money – all completely legitimately of course. Would that that business acumen were applied to Government

  • chrisjones2

    The problem is is that all the political roads here seem to lead to places we don’t really want to go to

  • mickfealty

    Can we drop the cycinism guys. Like the proverbial chewing gum its apt to lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight.

  • Robin Keogh

    Essentially both London and Dublin have approached Northern issues as a partnership. There is no gra from Dublin for a border poll while London is dealing with the EU and Scottish question. A Dublin government eager for a date on a border poll to occur will have a kindly ear from London in the future, but I accept it is a good way off yet.

  • Zeno

    Any day now, it’s the long war etc.

  • Ciarán

    Couldn’t agree more – this relentless sniping and cynicism from a few posters most especially Chris Jones are really taking the comments zone downhill.

  • murdockp

    the point was they were not adept. they got caught

  • Chingford Man

    Welfare reform is going to come, either through Stormont or from a Tory Direct Rule team, but find a Shinner who will admit it.

  • james

    “most voters in the south pay little heed to what is going on at Stormont so it has zero effect an SF growth potential.”

    Presumably because they know that they will never have to deal with a) Northern Ireland’s innumerable problems or b) Sinn Fein in government.

  • Robin Keogh

    Nope, its years away yet.

  • Robin Keogh

    You presume wrong as per usual

  • chrisjones2

    …..,….not yet old chap

  • chrisjones2

    ….but i do tend to try and spread it fairly and perhaps there is little to be constructive about with this system at the moment. Would that it were not so

  • chrisjones2

    what’s the problem with a border poll – we know the outcome and should all embrace it

  • Acrobat_747

    Well if he’s wrong, when will SF be in government in the south? After the next election? If the plan is after that then it’s more just hoping rather than a plan.

    If SF don’t get into government next year I don’t think they ever will. It’s make or break.

  • Robin Keogh

    Great lets look forward to that so

  • 23×7

    Voters in the south will pay heed if the Stormont executive fails. Will failure at Stormont not damage the brand? Spook the horses? Throw at cat among …..

  • Robin Keogh

    If Stormont fails and the Dublin and London governments take over it will be unlikely to turn heads in the south. The force thats driving SF in the south is opposition to austerity, water charges, cronyism, corruption etc. Unionist have so many hissy fits as the most offended people ever, it doesnt raise an eyebrow in Dublin.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thats like saying if labour dont get into government next time they never will. Parties fight elections, build their base and usually gather most of their support when occupying the lead opposition position. Nobody has a crystal ball but with SF now the biggest party in the country in terms of popular vote, the likelyhood is that it will get into power at some point in the near future.

  • Acrobat_747

    Robin, it’s completely different. Sinn Fein have never been in power before. In many ways they are a new party in the south, which is of course refreshing and SF can be very positive for southern democracy.

    However my point is that if a party with such left wing views cannot get a mandate when people are suffering they have no chance when the economy picks up.

    I really feel SF have missed the boat in the south and I don’t expect them to be in government for the foreseeable future.

    I do like SFs focus and determination but unfortunately they are a bit like Liverpool FC. Very popular, and very loyal fans but will never really deliver and all talk revolves around the past.

    But we’ll see. You never know.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thats it exactly. Nobody can predict the future. But the elections last year showed that people are increasingly more likely to give SF their first or second preference. So the party is steadily growing. Of course, eternal opposition is not ideal but there is a palpable shift to the left. A few more percentage points and it would be very difficult to keep SF from government.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You’re thinking in a partitionist way Robin.

    Sinn Féin are an electoral threat to the big parties in the south. Unionist parties are not. It therefore suits parties in the Dail to make allegiances with the unionists. It suits them to side with the British government in. Joint authority context.

    I don’t think you have thought any of this through.

  • james

    And here was I hoping to get away with my outrageous lie. Only to be thoroughly proved wrong with Robin’s careful analysis. Curses!

  • james

    To my mind they eat up the disgruntled protest vote, and that is all they are ever likely to do. Unless you are hoping for bad times in the Irish economy in perpetuity I cannot see them holding together their grumbling fragile raft. In NI the strategy of creating a perpetual feelbad factor is actually working for them, but they cannot afford the trick of creating and then stoking ethnic tensions in Ireland proper, can they?

  • james

    I’d say, sadly, that (much like Jimmy Savile) history will remember him for what he was – but until then the mysterious fear factor will insulate him.

  • Mike the First

    There’s a really odd comment from Feeney in the article when he says that people, especially unionists, haven’t noticed under the GFA, if devolution falls then the British-Irish Intergovernmentl Council takes over the running of Northern Ireland. Where on earth did he get that from?

  • Mirrorballman

    Looks like the SOS might have let the cat of the bag today re Welfare reform.

    As long as SF promise not to come back looking more money in future then they might get the deal everyone has said would be impossible….

    Maybe they do have a plan and maybe its working…..

  • Catcher in the Rye


    I’m happy enough about SF being in power in the RoI.

    As a majority party they’ll go the same way as Syriza – forced to confront the reality of the lack of sovereignty a small country has on economic matters.

    As a minor party they’ll be chewed up and crushed by the compromises they have to make to stay in power, just like the PDs, the Greens, and possibly Labour.

    Are you sure that SF being in power is necessarily going to be a good thing ?

  • Chingford Man

    At least Danny Morrison, the republican with a Planter’s name, has conceded there won’t be a united Ireland by 2016 as Gerry and Marty were predicting at the start of the century. Progress of sorts.

  • Robin Keogh

    You make an assumption that is not unique. That being SF’s fundamental understanding of how globalization and integration have watered down the sovereignty of nations. SF are aware of this and their policies reflect such. Syriza coming to power in a country with an almost collapsed economy and a dysfunctional tax and public service regime holds no comparison to SF coming to power in exactly the opposite circumstances.

    SF are committed to shifting the revenue distribution in a way that supports the local economy and moves people safetly away from the poverty trap. Moreover, SF tax policies are not draconian, they will still leave ireland at the middle range of the scale compared to other eurozone countries. SF and responsible left parties in general dont want to ‘scalp’ the rich. They want to shift the tax burden fairly.

    Sinn Fein will get kicked out of government the same way as other governments are removed by a fickle electorate.

  • barnshee

    I`m not just happy I am keen

    ” As a minor party they’ll be chewed up and crushed by the compromises they have to make to stay in power, just like the PDs, the Greens, and possibly Labour.”

  • mac tire

    I think you’ll find they said it was achievable, they didn’t predict it WOULD happen.

  • the rich get richer

    Sinn Fein could do with the present Leadership eagerly passing on the baton of leadership to a younger generation.

    McGuinness and Adams are old men.

    Will Sinn Fein be able to do this in an orderly manner ?