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