No reason to think that SF ditching Stormont for a year or until after the southern election will help

I’ll leave it to David and the panel later in the campaign to compare all the PEBs in this campaign. But last night’s from Sinn Fein was interesting for a number of reasons (and not just because they subtitled Michelle O’Neill the whole way through).

It seems to have borrowed tone of the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael PEBs from last year’s general election: in foregrounding ordinary people. The reference to equality with regard to LGB&T rights is in line with the respect line since they walked out and triggered the election.

The multiple references to nurses, of course, may be no more than a reminder that Ms O’Neill is the lately arrived Minister with an (albeit undetailed and uncosted) ten-year plan for renewing the NHS in Northern Ireland. [That’s something she can’t do from Dublin HQ. – Ed]

This (and having seen some of our commenters acquire egg on their faces over whether SF would even call this election, I say this advisedly) might also suggest that this is not a party preparing to ditch power in NI for longer than it can help it.

There is vague talk about legacy issues. The imbalance of what comes over Barra McGrory’s desk, as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has already admitted, has very little to do with the DPP and more to do with how the police choose to prepare which files to send to him.

Yet despite the protests, it’s real enough and a serious bone of contention which given the opportunity in negotiations the DUP will want to seize upon directly. Brokenshire’s outspoken views on the subject don’t augur well on that matter either.

There is also a cost to leaving the job at a time when constituents will shortly be getting a series of letters firstly charging them for bedroom tax, then notifying them of the covering payment, with a reminder that they are only covered up to 31st March 2020.

That won’t go unnoticed by rival parties. Time is no longer the same friend to Sinn Fein’s ageing leadership it has been in previous rounds.

A long break would free up resources to help jump start the southern project which seems to have plateaued. Sunday’s Red C poll showed no movement outside the margin of error, but 14% in what could be mid-term, is a long way back from the 21-23% range they got in the last Dail.

The friendly wall to wall media coverage they’ve received (usually at the expense of the DUP) in the southern press doesn’t seem to have provided much of a bounce. There’s no reason to think that ditching the Stormont institutions for a year or until the southern election is over will help either.

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  • Nordie Northsider

    “The friendly wall to wall media coverage they’ve received (usually at the expense of the DUP) in the southern press doesn’t seem to have provided much of a bounce.”

    Friendly coverage! Ah, now. One sympathetic editoral in the Irish Times doesn’t outweigh the industrial quantities of hostile ‘not fit for Government’ copy in the Indo, the Examiner and, indeed, in the Irish Times. You must have missed the hysteria caused by Enda’s coalition partner gaffe.

  • Barney

    “But last night’s from Sinn Fein was interesting for a number of reasons (and not just because they subtitled Michelle O’Neill the whole way through).”

    No big mystery, many people suffer from hearing loss

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Was gonna say the same myself. Even Hollywood blockbuster movie trailers go with subtitles now to cater for people with hearing impairments

  • mickfealty

    Thanks NN. Let me try to clarify?

    There’s been next to no negative coverage on the northern end of the equation for SF arising out of the Stormont crash. For example, I’ve encountered very little southern opinion (beyond the usual revisionist suspects) other than Martin was open and generous to Arlene and she arrogantly spurned his conditional offer of support on RHI.

    However, I’m arguing that this carries no valence with southern voters (just as southern stories carry no punch in the north). Most of the stick they are getting in the Republic relate to their own statements which may have been due to decisions the party has made subsequent to their evacuation of Stormont but which are not, in the strictest sense, consequential of it.

    In fact, it seemed to me that Enda got the worst end of that indecision of his over whether he might go into coalition with SF, before coming out to state the, erm, bleedin’ obvious (ie, Blueshirts and Provos under a single roof: I don’t really think so.) The key point is that crashing Stormont is not a good story for the southern project. If anything it only encourages their opponents.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    It’s an interesting analysis of (a bit of) the current state of play in SF and theres one good point there that is certainly worth making. In terms of foregrounding ordinary people on the broadcast, I’d like to see SF do this a lot more. Not just in broadcasts but when they’re speaking and making a pitch to the electorate. I think all parties should be doing this a bit more. Voter turnout is pretty poor where we live and it’s partly because people feel, rightly or wrongly, that politics and politicians are part of a system that’s stacked against them. People need to be feel much more positively engaged than they are at present.

    I think the rest just reads like an ad-hoc half term school report Mick if I’m honest. The bedroom tax, as far as I can tell in West Belfast, the majority of people are aware that it’s more of a Tory implementation rathar a Shinner one. Gerry Carroll and PBP will beat them about the head with it (as will others) but I don’t think it’ll cause them much trouble. They’ll get a bit of heat I think but thats about it. In terms of the polling, definitely disappointing numbers and probobly way off where SF had hoped to be by now however the Brexit situation gives them the chance to rectify that in the medium to long term as they’re in the unique situation of being an all-Ireland party and therefore their profile as such gives them a bit more spotlight that FF and FG can’t get. That comes with it’s own risks too mind but if ever there was a chance to showcase your USP then this is it you’d feel. They cannot afford to mess this one up.

    As for the “friendly” media coverage lately, that was more of a realisation amongst certain sections of the southern media that Martin McGuinness had done a sterling job as jFM and the DUP’s behaviour over the past while prompted them to do a bit of a re-think about what political unionism has actually delivered for the peace process and what danger the DUP’s stance on Brexit will mean for the island. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon

  • Brian Walker

    What files the police send to the DPP partly depends on what the DPP has decided in earlier cases to meet the test for prosecution and partly on the results of previous cases dealt with by the courts. So the relationship is partly cyclical. The police don’t take these decisions in a vacuum.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I take your point but while much of the commentary didn’t go as far as blaming SF for the collapse, it was framed in the usual eyes-up-to-heaven tones of ‘really, what are we going to do with them up there’. Totally agree that support seems to be stuck in the low teens. Their only consolation is that Labour aren’t recovering as many predicted they would. In the South’s 2 and half party system, SF looks best placed to make up the numbers.

  • Nevin

    “the police choose to prepare which files to send to him.”

    The police don’t necessarily act independently of government[s], Mick.

    “Brokenshire’s outspoken views on the subject don’t augur well on that matter either.”

    James’ views appear to be in step with Theresa’s. They and other politicians are responding to pressure from groups like Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans:

    The Telegraph reported Mr Hutchings as saying: “There are a few MPs who have had the guts to highlight the gross abuse and witch-hunts of servicemen and women of this country. “However, the majority of MPs in this and previous governments – and I include those buggers in the Ministry of Defence who have spent millions on inquiries in Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan – have done absolutely bloody nothing for us.”

  • Granni Trixie

    Is the elephant in the room not that on occasion it’s difficult to understand what she is saying. Having said that, she is not alone in this failing though on this occasion SF are advertising that they have noticed it too.

  • file

    This is Belfast-centric aural discrimination against culchie accents.

  • Granni Trixie

    I hold my hands up. Will try to do better in future.

  • file

    So long as you do not cover your ears with your hands while you have them up, I will let you away with it this one time.

  • Granni Trixie

    I enjoyed that even if I’m caught wrong footed.

  • john millar

    “This is Belfast-centric aural discrimination against culchie accents.”

    Its a reflection on the difficulty arising in trying to decipher speech patterns – people who are used to the clarity on BBC/RTE.

  • Karl

    Sinn Fein wont be going back anywhere until the hard Brexit has worked itself out – 3 / 4 years down the road. Reduced budgets, hard border, inflation up, exports tanking. With structural funds and farming subsidies gone, and the British govt not picking up the slack, the realisation will dawn on the Brexiteers.

    There is no elastic left in the budget to fend off new cuts like they were able to with prescriptions, bedroom tax and the like. They’ve been hammered in ROI for opposing austerity and yet implementing it in NI. They’ll be adopting a consistent approach north and south. The southern incomes streams will support the northern activists who lose out on Stormont incomes.

    They will push the equality agenda in talks, GFA being undermined, EU legal protections, flags, strand 2 and anything else they can think of, and the unionists will play their not an inch card which will suit SF down to the ground, because they’re just playing for time.

    The ultimate aim is for a border poll, which they will get as opinion polls will move towards unification, and which they see as the starting point for the southern parties to take unification seriously, ie they will have to come up with policies in support of unification. This is the aim, not whether they pick up an extra seat in the Assembly and have to DUP agreement to enact legislation already up and running in Britain, vis a vis marriage, minority languages and womens rights.

  • eamoncorbett

    I think SF are eyeing up junior coalition partner with FF in any future Irish government with an eye to getting the Foreign Affairs portfolio.This would give them extra leverage in dealing with Northern affairs as many in the grassroots of FF wouldn’t have too many objections to such an arrangement. It’s a long shot but don’t rule it out.

  • file

    You should get out more. Turn off the TV and talk to real culchies, a lot of whom call Trump Trumph, for some reason.

  • john millar

    “You should get out more”
    I never stray into Ballymena (or Tyrone) without an interpreter

  • the moviegoer

    “crashing Stormont is not a good story for the southern project.”

    This is only true if they refuse to go back in after the election. I see no evidence that this is their aim. If they go back into the executive they have the best of both worlds – being seen as responsible by working the institutions but also reminding people they’re no walkovers. Unless they have completely ulterior motives, the snap election is a win-win for them. It gives them a crutch to beat the opposition with during a southern election campaign about being against corruption, and it forces the DUP to take them seriously in the north.

    How engaged the southern electorate are in the RHI story is beside the point, they will use it ad nauseum during a campaign until it becomes a Trump-like soundbite. In a way the less details the electorate know about the story the easier this will be to achieve.

  • fordprefect

    File, that’s funny, because Trump’s real name is Drumf or Drumft.

  • Granni Trixie

    Me too.

  • Nevin
  • Gaygael

    Sf on queer equality.

    Sorry to burst the bubble but Michelle was the health Minister that refused to extend NICE guidelines 165 which would have provided fertility access to same sex couples. These were introduced in the rest of the uk In 2013.

    That will do for now, but there are many other examples.

  • file

    You should also make sure your visa is up to date when you visit those territories in the first and half world east of The Bann or north of Glengormley..

  • T.E.Lawrence

    3 / 4 years political vacuum in our Wee Pad ? I very dangerous game me thinks for the Shiners to Play ? Unless Butterfly Bobby thinks he can keep a lid on it ?