“a strategy which now views the very presence of devolved government in Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip with the Government and with the DUP.”

In the News Letter, Sam McBride provides an astute assessment of the “profound consequences” of Sinn Féin’s decision to resign Martin McGuinness from the Northern Ireland Executive Office.  From the News Letter article


Mr Adams now appears to envisage yet another round of ‘crisis talks’ in Belfast in attempt to extract further concessions from the DUP and the Government, which Sinn Fein can then sell to its supporters in order to justify its continued position in a power-sharing arrangement with a party whose policies are far more right wing and far more unionist than those of Sinn Fein.

The price of power is compromise, and, having compromised on its goal of a united Ireland, Sinn Fein is struggling to sell further concessions to its supporters.

There is a second profound consequence of Sinn Fein’s actions yesterday.

Mr McGuinness’s message yesterday could be crudely summed up as “the DUP are bigots” and he cited the party’s approach in areas as diverse as gay rights and the Irish language as evidence.

That is starkly at variance with what Mr McGuinness has been telling the public for more than a year since the (now seemingly inaptly named) Fresh Start Agreement – even though the DUP’s position on those issues has not changed.

Little more than a year ago, Mr McGuinness said: “Our political institutions are the best way forward. The First Minister and I are absolutely united on this.”

And since the election the DUP and Sinn Fein have been working together in unrivalled harmony, even joining forces in the Assembly to lampoon the SDLP and UUP.

Their excuse that it was the smaller parties who were responsible for past Executives’ failures was removed in May with the creation of an Official Opposition and the Executive’s determination to present a united front was evident in the hiring of the respected journalist David Gordon as spokesman for their joint message.

In an article which it is understood was drafted by Mr Gordon, the ministers said: “We made promises to voters that we will keep – taking on the heavy responsibilities that come with elected office, governing in their best interests, tackling head-on the tough decisions.”

Those “promises” have been shredded a matter of weeks later, as has another pledge in the same article that they would not be “filling the airwaves with endless squabbles, making the Assembly a by-word for division”.

That united front went on despite Sinn Fein having known the brutal scale of the RHI losses for more than a year. It continued into what is described as a cordial Executive meeting on December 14 – a week after the BBC Spotlight programme.

It therefore appears that Sinn Fein’s decision has been taken in haste in a belated attempt to placate a nationalist electorate which believes that Sinn Fein either has been too soft in government.

And, through largely unrelated personal circumstances, the architect of that calculatedly temperate approach to the DUP may never again return to Stormont Castle.

Read the whole thing.

  • anon

    That’s one interpretation. Another is that SF have bent over backwards to keep the show on the road in the face of DUP arrogance, contempt, incompetence and alleged corruption and the camel’s back has been broken by RHI and Liofa. This is the message being put out by the party faithful.
    It’s also eloquently expressed in today’s BelTel:

  • johnny lately

    Pete is demanding the DUP honour the commitments they made when signing up to St Andrews now being described as new concessions ?

  • ted hagan

    Agree, SF bent over backwards to placate the DUP and have now been reined in by their grassroots supporters. The trouble is the whole mission of getting a full public inquiry into the RHI debacle has now been lost in the fog of war.

  • Gingray

    Very interesting that Pete and Micks favourite journo Sam McBride is still being given so much airtime, particularly given his repeated failures to actually understand anything about non Unionist voters.

    And more interesting to see how some on Slugger are essentially churning DUP press releases, blaming SF with ZERO accountability for Arlene or her party. Bravo.

    SF have gained nothing by collapsing the Executive, but they have had to recognise that once the DUP turned down solution which was agreeable (other than Arlene standing aside for 4 weeks), their voters had had enough.

    But Sam, Pete and Mick don’t understand this – to them, this is all the fault of SF, the rascals.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Sam McBride writes: ‘Mr McGuinness’s message yesterday could be crudely summed up as “the DUP are bigots” …

    Is he suggesting that they aren’t?

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Its not about “further concessions” its about proper partnership in government. Partnership cant work if one party makes all the compromises and the other just walks all over them. Its easy to blame SF, the default position in the right wing media is to blame SF no matter what the issue. We are now at a point where Unionist Leadership make a clear choice between respecting their nationalist neighbours or no government. That is essentially the situation. There is no going back to the recent past in terms of DUP sectarianism and blockading.

  • Obelisk

    Pretty much this. The perception that Sinn Fein has been too soft in government is valid because it is true. Nationalist good faith has been rewarded with slaps in the face time and again and Sinn Fein have taken those slaps, because to respond in kind might make them look bad to potential voters down south. Enough is enough. It’s time the DUP learned that the ‘people of Northern Ireland’ means more than those who vote DUP and that Nationalism cannot be perenially ignored. Course whether Sinn Fein can do that is another matter entirely…

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Thats the problem. SF cant do it alone. In the past the Irish and British govs could coax unionism along and persuade them to reluctantly play fair. Now however we have a Fianna Fail/ Fine Gael government who would happily sit back and watch the North go up in flames if it meant stealing just one vote from the Shinners in the South, we also have a London gov who couldnt care less either way.
    Worst of all we have a Unionist leadership who preferred the troubles era when they could point at Republicans as the evil incarnate and rally their troops accordingly.
    whatever one thinks of Blair and Ahern, this schit simply would not have happenned on their watch.

  • Surveyor

    That bastion of impartiality The News
    Letter. Why should we take any notice of what they print?

  • Paul

    Sorry if I miss anything out but this just a short list is off the top of my head…

    Blocking Irish Language Act
    Failure of Maze Project
    Blocking Gay Marriage
    Blocking any Abortion reform
    Charter NI
    Cutting Liofa funding to zero
    Increasing Funding of Flute bands

    Yet somehow this is all Sinn Fein’s fault???

    You can try to keep selling it but i’m not buying it…

    Sinn Fein are right the Executive cannot be reformed unless we get a proper powersharing govt. Up until know it has been lip service to powersharing from the DUP, Sinn Fein have finally listened to their voter base and said enough is enough, maybe belatedly but at least it’s happened and it will be welcomed.

    The blame for this can be laid squarely at the DUP a compromise on a few of the issues named and I would guess this wouldn’t have happened but they gambled that they could tough it out and nationalists/republicans would roll over again, they lost. I think they’re going to find Sinn Fein a very different animal to the one they’ve been used to for the past 6 months.

  • file

    At least he noticed the charge of bigotry. But no one so far has disputed the charge of bigotry contained in McGuinness’s resignation letter. In the absence of any argument to the contrary. therefore, we should all accept that the DUP and its supporters are bigots and are content to be called bigots. Not the greatest boast in the world, but they have little enough to be proud of these days. DUP = Desperate Under Pressure

  • Gary McCool

    The SDLP (and the Ulster Unionists) electing to go into ‘Opposition’ precipitated this collapse of the Assembly. SF were being hung out to dry by virtue of the fact that their electoral arse was exposed by the absence of the SDLP in the Executive

  • scepticacademic

    Why should SDLP, UU and Alliance support a forced coalition whose agenda/policies they don’t support? If a government can’t command the confidence of a majority in the elected chamber, call fresh elections… like everywhere else in the EU. This latest fiasco just highlights what many of us suspected all along – the GFA / St. Andrews institutional fudge was a dysfunctional sham democracy.

  • Cushy Glen

    The RHI scam was known about a year ago. The BBC first reported it 6 months ago. Nobody took any interest until Mcguinness became ill.Then the BBC jumped all over it in December & whipped it up into a political crisis.
    Anyone would thing the Beeb were politically motivated.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Great point. In a sense we should be pleased – it’s how coalition politics should work.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Taking a step back, isn’t the problem that we have the two hardline parties in coalition and something like this was always likely to happen?

    The lesson I take from this is that an Alliance/UUP/SDLP coalition offers a lot more hope than those two bunches of dunderheads.

  • Gary McCool

    I wasn’t at all suggesting in my comment that SDLP et al should support a forced coalition…

  • scepticacademic

    Sorry, it read like you were blaming SDLP and UUP for the collapse of the assembly (or at least that’s how I read it). I would suggest the FM (with her apparent blend of incompetence, denial and out-of-touch arrogance) is the prime suspect for that.

  • Gary McCool

    Sorry I didnt mean it to read like that.
    And I think SF, for the very same reason, (ie electoral backside being exposed),will never go it alone in an Executive with the DUP again. I also think SF would have tolerated Arlene and the DUP in all their forms if the SDLP were still in the Executive.