“if Sinn Fein fails to increase its vote and share of Assembly seats under Michelle O’Neill’s leadership…”

With a stagnating vote evident in the last NI Assembly election – just 8 months ago – and a reduced number of seats available this time out, in the Belfast Telegraph Anthony McIntyre highlights a potential problem for Sinn Féin in their election gamble.

There is nothing complicated about the DUP pitch: despite the democratic veneer, the appointment of a non-martial politician to lead Sinn Fein in the north, the caudillo and his camarilla are still pulling the strings. A clear declaration of intent by the DUP to fight a bruising election battle, it leaves Sinn Fein to ponder the strategic matter of whether Michelle O’Neill can galvanise the party vote and energise the voters.

If Gerry Adams being replaced by Paul Maskey as MP for West Belfast is indicative of future projections, the trend will not be upward. How popular the appointment will be within Sinn Fein remains a matter for conjecture.

O’Neill was part of the Assembly team that has been accused of “roll-over republicanism”. Martin McGuinness’s palpable physical frailty came to personify an Assembly team malaise which saw it swallow ignominy after insult and which, up until it collapsed the power-splitting Executive, responded to DUP slap-downs as if they were pats on the back.

The deference, rather than defiance, shown to the DUP so inflamed the “sectarian” ire of the party grassroots that it felt sufficiently emboldened to trump the careerist cartel which the DUP had strategically banked on refusing to upend the institutions.

The corollary: if Sinn Fein fails to increase its vote and share of Assembly seats under Michelle O’Neill’s leadership, coupled with the possibility of the DUP ceding no ground to the UUP, or TUV, it will lead to her position being vulnerable.

Unlike Martin McGuinness, she is far from unassailable.

And, on the appointment of Michelle O’Neill as the “new Sinn Féin leader in the North“, John Manley in the Irish News informs us that

While most political parties run elections to select personnel for top jobs, Sinn Féin takes a different approach.

One party insider said an extensive review of structures in recent years, driven by long-time leader Gerry Adams, meant it was now within the gift of the Sinn Féin president to make such appointments.

When The Irish News asked the party about the process involved in selecting Mr McGuinness’s successor, a spokesman said only: “The Sinn Féin president brought forward a recommendation that was ratified by the ard chomhairle on Saturday.”


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  • Anthony O’Shea

    I think the DUP seat gain and vote share gain is far more problematic. Today we dioscover that Paul Givan gave 25 grand out to a Ulster Scots hall that doesn’t even exist.

    Oh and this from a post by Tel Irwin —

    “So tonight I decided to do some research myself into the R.H.I scheme and have been blown away with what I have discovered in less than two hours by simply using my phone and google. I believe I have discovered a link between Arlene Foster and the R.H.I scheme as far back as June 2008, and to be precise the 9th of June 2008 – the very day she took up her roll as Minister of Enterprise, Trade & Investment and on the same day a Mr Stephen Kingon was appointed director of Balcas Timber Limited, the company which would go on to become the largest wood pellet fuel manufacturer in Great Britain and Ireland, and has pioneered biomass renewable energy in the British Isles with an annual turnover of circa £100 Million.
    Coincidence??? I’ll let you decide for yourself, here is the timeline of events.
    1st of January 2005 –
    DUP appoint Mr Stephen Kingon as chairperson of Invest N.I (3 year post)
    9th of June 2008 –
    Arlene Foster is appointed as Minister of Enterprise, Trade & Investment – Mr Stephen Kingon is also appointed chairman of Balcas Timber Limited on the same day.
    29 December 2008 –
    Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has announced the re-appointment of Invest N.I Chairman, Stephen Kingon.
    2nd September 2009 –
    It is discovered that Invest N.I have awarded
    Balcas Timber Limited a grant of £113,000 and the chairman of Invest N.I & Balcas Timber Limited is the same person Mr Stephen Kingon, all this is overseen by the Enterprise, trade and investment department ministered by Arlene Forster, and what does he get for awarding his own company a huge grant from Invest N.I. well one would think the sack, no he stays on until the start on January 2011.
    1st of January 2011 –
    Mr Stephen kingdon completes 6 years in his post 3 of those years he was also chairperson of Balcas Timber Limited.
    November 2012 –
    Enterprise Minister introduces the R.H.I which leads to Balcas Timber Limited to become the largest wood pellet fuel manufacturer in Great Britain and Ireland, and earn Mr Stephen Kingon and his company over a £100 million annually and also cost the N.I taxpayer at least over £600 million which will be paid to god knows how many friends & family connected to the DUP.”

  • lizmcneill

    I’ve seen this causing frustration among Unionist leaning Christian friends. It’s kind of a betrayal.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    I’d say that most people who vote SF would be more centre-left nowadays ND. The orange and green issues would play a part to a certain extent also. Based solely on my own experience though, I’d say most SF voters still want to live in an all-Ireland republic and support them based on this. People Before Profit are pushing SF on the left-wing side of the electorate and their recent success seems to have been on the back of SF’s move to a more centrist position

  • North Down

    I think with the conflict now in the past, sf had to move to a more centrist position, especially west of the bann were in my opinion catholics there are very much to the centre or centre right, SF are lucky in the sense the sdlp are still rubbish, are they could easily get there lost votes back , over in the east they are much more liberal , people before profit could benefit, it’s a hard balanceing act for SF, I could be wrong, am a unionist so my opinion could be way off

  • murdockp

    Land ownership and wealth distribution are also relevant here as the RHI scheme can only be used by owners of land and commercial property. at a stroke the DUP have highlighted a massive wealth divide. I wonder how many unionists farmers paid for the land or are the farms hand me downs from the original planters?

  • murdockp

    the point with roi is an elite (backed by unions) do very well from the state. the will ensure this privilege continues whilst the rest scrape by.

  • Katyusha

    SF’s (and the SDLP’s) support in rural areas, west of the Bann, has always been unnatural, a strange product of the political circumstances of this country.
    It’s something of a product of its time; because all Catholics were subject to the same discrimination from the Unionist government, there was common cause between nationalists from rural/urban areas because the first concern was they had an unfair system to fight against , and they were fighting the same system. This applies to support for the Civil Rights movement, the SDLP, and latterly to SF, although not to the same degree.
    In a normal country with a normal historical development, these people would be much more likely to support a centre-right party like FF or FG. In the south FG and FF have huge amounts of support in rural areas, whereas support for Labour or the socialist parties is concentrated in the cities. It’s the same in most countries, so far as I’m aware.

    I would say especially in rural areas there is a massive potential vote for a centre-right, pro-small-business, nationalist party like Fianna Fáil to clean up – amongst people who currently either don’t vote, or vote for one of our existing parties very reluctantly.

  • Granni Trixie

    Talking of ANna Lo, will be interesting to see how Emmet mcDonagh Browne,Bradshaw’s running mate this time round, does in SB.

  • Granni Trixie

    Gee,thanks Anthony, couldn’t have put it better myself.

  • murdockp

    well for starters there is the good ole DLA coming in at a wrapping 212000 of the population and double the uk average. the injuries claimed by the nationalist community weren’t picked up serving in Afghanistan. the stats for West Belfast are 1 in 5.


    then there are dla cars a wapping 250% more provided in the NI compared with the rest of the uk


    there there are the houses and the benefits etc

    finally there is evidence from the jobs market. the signs in local factories such a Moy park are in Lithuanian and Polish as our locals won’t work there as it just doesn’t pay to work.

    you can bleat all you want but as a working Catholic nationalist I still maintain SF have created conditions where it does not pay to work for a large section of our society.

  • Granni Trixie

    For the record no one opposed NL – why would they – we are fortunate to have her.

    Crucially however she was elected by a vote at a party council which is attended by members from all constituencies. After that a vote for leader takes place annually. I think this is different to a system where one or a few at the top select a person to lead the party. There is a possibility therefore that if members think someone isn’t performing well they can oust the Leader.

  • Granni Trixie

    Apart from bias and rudeness have you any reason for referring to APNI as a Mickey Mouse party? I certainly dont believe I wasted my time being involved with APNI. Would you prefer people to sit on their hands during the troubles?

  • Anthony O’Shea

    I think two alliance candidates is a mistake there.

  • file

    Why ‘crucially’? Who says voting is the best way to choose a leader? Mister Hitler was democratically elected, you know.

  • Fear Éireannach

    A lot of nationalists would agree, the time is not yet. While being happy to wait to build towards a UI in the medium term, they do want what was agreed in the meantime; partnership government and recognition of the Irish dimension. However, we are not getting partnership government and Brexit promises the most inconvenient land border in Europe which makes a mockery of the concept of meaningful recognition of the Irish dimension. As AntrimGael said, positivity is melting like snow off a ditch. He believes that this will reduce turnout, I think nationalists should turn out and vote while the Brexit thing is still somewhat in the melting pot.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    What have Sinn Fein got to do with signs Moy Park erect? Give your head a wobble with that one. You can maintain that SF have created said conditions all you want but the fact remains that you’ve produced nothing of substance to back this up. Where’s the evidence? Where have you specifically heard SF reps advising people that they should claim benefits rather than work? SF didn’t create the Jeremy Kyle culture nor do they glamourise state handouts like Channel 4. And if you are a “Catholic nationalist” as you say, give your head another wobble for quoting anything to do with the Daily Gail

  • murdockp

    am a guardian man myself but I cannot abide fraud as it takes from the people who need it. my point moy park is highly relevant as our local unemployed are flatly refusing to work for them why is this the case?

    how can you argue against statistics that clearly show a higher that average percentage of our population receives government handouts compared with the uk and ROI.

    your head is in the sand, it really is and this is not a daily mail rant. this is a cut waste align our expenditure with roi and get the country United rant.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As I pointed out, Alliance is and will be the 5th political party in NI in a system which allows 5 MLAs per constituency. It may even rise to the 4th position.

    However, in most constituencies west of the Bann, the Alliance man is a Mickey Mouse candidate, with no hope of election, merely a waste of the tellers’ time.

    There is sometimes an unhealthy proliferation of candidates which damages the chance of a particular viewpoint getting its candidate in. Alliance also suffers from this, with too many other chancers putting themselves forward to split the Centrist vote: as I recall some of the most vocal critics of NI21 were Alliance party members.

  • Granni Trixie


  • Granni Trixie

    If you espouse fairness and claim to be democratically run party then having members chose a leader is an important symbol. I just know that present day membership would not wear a top down approach.
    Local associations chose candidates so sometimes may chose people who might not be ‘best’ from a Leaderships strategic POV. A price worth paying though I see the opposite arguement.

  • Old Mortality

    Of course SF wasn’t responsible fordesigning the social security system but I think it is fair to say that they have encouraged dependency upon it. Enthusiastic assistance with claims was an important building block in developing their support at the expense of the SDLP. I have frequently pointed out how this political opportunism is inimical to their long-term goal of Irish unity as voters in the Republic will be less inclined to assume the heavy burden that has been created.

  • Granni Trixie

    And weren’t people right to be critical of NI21 as it happens – from the get go they made big mistakes and had not credible leaders. WC may not have lasted but it made a much better fist or things.

  • Granni Trixie

    Astonishing but interesting. Who is Tel Irwin?

  • Anthony O’Shea

    I picked it up from LAD online who posted it directly from that guys FB page.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    There are only three clear quotas according to the 2016 results. One each for Alliance, SDLP and DUP. The Alliance quota is just about there so I would worry that poor vote management could result in both candidates struggling at the bottom of a very busy field after the first count with the Greens ahead of them benifitting from transfers from everyone as the count progresses. The shinners are going to burn their feet getting MoM over the line although, even with PBP in the field, he should be home on their transfers regardless. The greens should take the fifth seat so there will be one for everyone in the audience. However, if the Greens poll ahead of both Alliance candidates on the first count the DUP might sneak past on Unionist transfers to deprive Alliance of even one seat. Its an outside possibility but a possibility all the same. (I have it on good rumour that SF voters are talking about transferring to Alliance because of the UUP/SDLP love in, which is why I reckon there is no chance of a second SDLP seat).

  • Granni Trixie

    Regardless of sdlp generally I see hanna as a shoo in – she has a tremendous person vote and ofcourse she has no running mate this time. I think Mom will definitely get in – using his initiative to start up the Enquiry is likely to mitigate the effects of DUP-SF having messed up (and before you say it I know the blame for RHI resides more or less squarely on DUP ). The Greens sneaked in last time but Claire Bailey has not been so evident on the ground since so cannot take a return for granted.
    All in all Alliance are right in the circs to have two candidates (and one of them an Irish speaker!) .

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Well you would have my transfer over the SDLP anyday, if I lived there 😉

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Hanna will top the poll and be SDLP leader within 12 months. Remember I said it here first.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Ffs, SF aren’t going to advertise such things as policy but on a local level who doesn’t know of Shinners that stick their arm in regarding benefits or litigation?

    Even ex-British soldiers use SF approved lawyers to get claims off of the British army such is their expertise.

    That does NOT mean that every SF voter is something from the tv show Shameless but every one knows that SF aren’t exactly proactive in getting people off benefits or discouraging litigation.

    Please spare us the faux outrage and let us call a spade a spade and not a ‘down trodden work implement that constantly feels the heel of awpreshun upon its neck’

    You know it, i know it, everyone on here knows it, it is what is.

  • Granni Trixie

    Good man.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    “Ffs, SF aren’t going to advertise such things as policy but on a local level who doesn’t know of Shinners that stick their arm in regarding benefits or litigation?”

    Who are they will? If everyone knows about them then who exactly are they? Which Shinners? It’s a bullcrap narrative that had been bandied about for years. SF may help people who need assistance in claiming for the right type of benefit but the notion that it’s a free for all where thousands are actively encouraged to claim illegally is an outright lie. Offer us up your proof and not just your predjudiced personal opinion.

    “Even ex-British soldiers use SF approved lawyers to get claims off of the British army such is their expertise.”

    Who indeed are these “Sinn Fein approved lawyers”? Specifically name them. Tell us where and when they were “approved” and what the so called approval process is and what is involved. Buying into a Tory narrative that some solicitors are acting in an underhand manner and supporting the republican cause doesn’t make something true. Show us facts as opposed to your own world view. Or is it the case if a member of SF simply uses a lawyer then that lawyer automatically becomes “SF approved”? Complete and utter bollox of a thought process. It involves the exact same amount of intellectual effort to arrive at that conclusion as bog standard sectarianism.

    “Please spare us the faux outrage and let us call a spade a spade and not a ‘down trodden work implement that constantly feels the heel of awpreshun upon its neck’

    There is no faux outrage. This is the guff that we have to deal with on daily basis from unionists like yourself. “It’s just how we say it is, right?”. If you’re going to say something or make outlandish claims then at least have the cajones to back it up with actual facts or evidence. Because a lie has been repeated a thousand times will never make it true.

    That’s if you want a real debate mind

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Nobody was arguing against the statistics you presented, I was looking for evidence that SF were encouraging people to claim benefits rathar than work for a living (as you claimed). Let’s be seeing it

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I can’t prove that orange men sometimes come together to buy land to stop Catholics from buying it.

    But i know it happens everyone knows that it happens. Would you deny that this happens because i don’t have a paper trail?

    My friend is ex army. He and other ex army guys made use of a lawyer in west Belfast. I don’t know the name nor did I ask for businesses cards and there was a Shinner underling involved somewhere along the line

    Sorry if this shocks you and feel free to keep your head in the sand just because i don’t have a paper trail to back it all up.

    No doubt there’s a lot of exxageration from years of Chinese whispers but i can’t surrender what I know to be true just because you need receipts, names and addresses.

    Easy denial for you I know but i doubt if most people on here will share your rose tinted view.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    I’m not particularly interested in what most people on here think, I’m more interested in what the actual truth of the matter is. You can give us a “my milkman’s da’s grannies uncle’s auntie’s taxi man told me” story all you want but expecting to pass that off as the truth is a bit disingenuous to people’s intelligence.

    “I don’t know the name nor did I ask for businesses cards and there was a Shinner underling involved somewhere along the line”

    Is that the criteria used to determine if lawyers are SF approved? Utter bollox no harm to ye

    I don’t have my hand in the sand at all, it’s as clear as day that you do though

  • murdockp

    There are no enforcement agencies. Speaking to the Traffic wardens last week in Newry who tell me that disabled blue badge fraud is ridiculous with entire streets displaying badges and they see able bodied people alighting from vehicles. I asked about enforcement and they said they have no remit and told me that there are just two people in Belfast who look after the whole of NI.

    This is replicated across all agencies. The point I make, politically and historically, benefits was see as “taking from the brits” and no one cared it was a ‘fill your boots’ culture. Now SF are in government it is our money they are spending they need to enforce rules and balance the books, but there is no political will to do so.

    So although they are not encouraging it per say in a manifesto, they certainly are not eliminating fraud or even putting resources in place to tackle fraud.

    It is an unspoken truth in NI that no political party will discuss as so many people now benefit from handouts it is political suicide to speak out.

    We resemble a communist state in many ways, but the Westminster funding tap is being turned off and SF and DUP have done nothing.

    My business rates are double / treble what they should be if I was a UK trader in England, Wales or Scotland. What SF / DUP are actually doing is destroying town centres and local communities.

    The problem is the message is not getting out there as UUP / SDLP / Alliance are all equally complicit.

  • Westie tyrone

    your spot on there i agree ,she seems too be on the ball ,

  • Westie tyrone

    i really agree with that ,is easy saying your a christian ,but living the life off one ,is different ,but dont forget the dup was brought about by a free presbyterian ,and they are far from christian ,

  • Westie tyrone

    sadly the uup have not the people too ,vote for,very little new blood coming through the ranks ,unless steve aikein ,very capable , indeed and knows his brief ,its the dup bandwagon again ,and will ,be ,

  • Jollyraj

    Fair points, Mick.

    There are those on here, though, who attempt to shout myself and others down as rabid, Loyalist neanderthals simply because I, or we, disagree with the hard Republican viewpoint.

    I’ve suggested numerous times that we work to end segregated education, for example. Hardly makes me a fundamentalist DUP goon.

    I’ve voiced the opinion that money spent on Irish language, and the equivalent poured into Ulster Scots, might be more usefully employed on Spanish or French language teaching resources. Hardly makes me Uncle Andy to make that obvious point.

    It is, of course, rather tiresome to have a few posters here misrepresent my comments (I can just hear GOM flexing his fingers and scanning the keyboard for some combination of the letters M, O, P, and E, and reaching for the word ‘Pavlovian’ as I write) and when called on it resort to catcalling and abuse. So, yes, I’m snippy at times when I shouldn’t – and fair play to you for calling me on it.

    My comment to Anthony is, in essence that the overwhelmingly positive feedback he says there has been regarding Michelle’s elevation does not seem to be reflected on the boards here. In fact, the enthusiasm seems to be underwhelming to say the least, due to her track record in other departments, and the feeling that she was simply the least worst option available in a richly funded but poorly manned party. Anthony frequently makes these sort of grand statements and then refuses to back them up. My point that his ‘positive feedback’ claim lacked credibility was an attempt to engage in a conversation about it. Let’s see if he can justify it, hmm?


    I agree,cannot think of their present leaders name at
    the moment. says much about him.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    People can take it at face value or poo-poo it as they see fit, I only mentioned it as I feel it would no doubt resonate with the experiences of others on here.

    That you’ve led a life where you’ve never encountered such things and as such don’t believe that they exist is admirable but I’m not going to ‘un-know’ what I know simply because it’s unpalatable for you.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Apart from bias and rudeness do you have any objective criticism of NI21?

    I suppose we could say that it was so small it failed to transcend the rather narrow role of a promotional vehicle for the ego and libido of a single individual.

    I have little patience for parties of this size, which the politics of the United Kingdom ordinarily does not allow for: only in one benighted corner does the ad hoc local assembly provide for their proliferation.

    If you belong to a party of this size, then I would urge you to consider a merger with some other movement: in Ireland successful political parties are formed by mergers, unsuccessful ones by splits.