Sinn Féin’s red lines? : “So you had the Irish language act, there was a thing called the bill of rights and there was another issues.”

Launching the Sinn Féin manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly election a couple of weeks ago, the party’s appointed ‘leader in the North’, Michelle O’Neill, declared that

“You’d be very aware that I won’t be drawing any red line issues…”

Since then she has allowed the impression to be created that the one ‘red line’ the party does have is the nomination of the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, as First, or deputy First, Minister before Judge Coughlin’s inquiry into the RHI scheme has been completed.  That’s despite initially telling the BBC’s Mark Devenport on 3rd February that it, too, “would have to be discussed in any negotiations after the election”.

At the end of last week the former Culture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Carál Ní Chuilín, was blaming the British and Irish Governments for the lack of an Irish Language Act, rather than the DUP, which is progress of a sort.  [But which Act? – Ed]  Indeed.

And she reiterated the party line,

When asked if Sinn Féin would be prepared to go back into government with the DUP even if they do not commit to the act, Ms Nί Chuilίn said “issues need to be resolved in negotiations”.

But around the same time, another Sinn Féin candidate in Belfast, Pat Sheehan, was setting out three ‘red lines’ for the party.

The outgoing West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan was speaking at an event for young people in the area on Thursday night.

He told the BBC’s Stephen Nolan: “We are not going back into the Executive until all…… There were three issues that have been agreed previously.

“So you had the Irish language act, there was a thing called the bill of rights and there was another issues. An agreement with regard to dealing with people killed during the conflict.

“We need to see those agreements implemented.

Asked if it was a promise that they would not go into government, he replied “yes”.

“Unless the outstanding agreements are implemented.” [added emphasis]

Mr Nolan said the ultimatum was given at least three times by Mr Sheehan at the event to those in attendance and the politician was there on behalf of Sinn Fein. The broadcaster said he spelt out the position “emphatically” while delivering a speech.

As the News Letter’s Election Diary points out, those quotes were given by Pat Sheehan in an interview with Stephen Nolan after the speech.

Which rather begs the question of who is the actual leader of Sinn Féin “in the North”?  [No-one? – Ed]  And what is their strategy tactic for today?

Because if you think that getting agreement on an Irish Language Act is going to be difficult, you can double that for any Northern Ireland specific ‘Bill of Rights’.

The initial attempt ran into the sand when it became a wish-list for virtually every lobby group in existence, to the extent that, back in 2009, even the erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill”, Professor Brice Dickson, was calling for a radical rethink.

Five years ago, in March 2012, when the former International Representative for West Belfast, then temporary Crown Steward, now Louth TD, and Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, was blaming the then NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, for, among other things, being “less than helpful on [] the Irish language” and “blocking a Bill of Rights”, I pointed out that,

The blockage to a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland [and an Irish Language Act – Ed] is the lack of consensus within the NI Assembly.  More specifically, the lack of consensus within the Office of the First and deputy First Ministers.

The logic, such as it is, behind Adams’ latest finger-pointing is that he wants those things imposed upon the NI Assembly  [Direct Rule Now! – Ed]  Indeed.

[It’s your fault! – Ed]  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…

But if there was a lack of consensus within the NI Assembly then, there’s arguably even less consensus now.

On the other hand, a “British Bill of Rights” might yet come to pass as a result… and include Northern Ireland in its remit.

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  • Robert ian Wiliams

    And respect MUST be mutual..accepting there are two nationalisms on this island.. Irish Republican and Irish British.

  • file

    Irish British?? I could go with this. I hope it catches on and replaces Ulster Scots. Or why not go the whole hog and use the recognised term Scots Irish/Irish Scots to denote that sub-section of our population?

  • Obelisk

    Irish British, a term seemingly coined by yourself, maybe short-lived as the very word ‘British’ continues to slowly deconstruct across the water there.

    So yeah, Scots Irish/Irish Scots as file suggests is probably a better option. More accurate to boot too.

  • file

    And also that is the term used when talking about the group and its influence on the U S of A, particularly its record in presidents. Ulster Scots is the made-up term for here to avoid the I word.

  • johnny lately

    “Unless the outstanding agreements are implemented.”

    Nothing has changed since they collapsed the assembly Sinn Fein have not changed position and still hold all the aces no matter how much unionism and the British government attempt to divert attention. All they need to do is keep demanding the above, no re-negotiation, no new demands and keep the pressure on the Irish government to demand that border poll.

  • burnboilerburn

    Pa Sheahan was probably thinking about his grassroots when he delivered his redlines, although its confusing how this could render anyone confused as to who is the SF leader in the North. Faux confusion, just to have something empty to say perhaps? Maybe, indeed (ed)

    It should be clear to Unionism now (if clarity is important) that the shopping list will indeed have to be dealt with before the institutions awake. Sheahan gave that info at just the right time, to turn up the heat on the DUP (are there enough pellets though?), maybe not… (ed) indeed. Only days to go to find out.

  • Jag

    If memory serves, Radio Face said last week he was trying to get a comment from SF press office as to the official position ie was Pat Sheehan talking for the party when Pat referred to three red line issues. There was no response from SF press office, so we’re none the wiser.

    At this stage, unless there is an earthquake under the DUP’s support in the next four days (seriously Opposition, it’s going to be freezing for the next few days, you have a slam dunk with RHI), it will be stalemate after the election. If there are SF red lines be they the simple one of Arlene stepping aside or the complex ones involving a Bill of Rights, then we’re surely into second election territory and in all likelihood direct rule.

  • mickfealty

    Yes Mr B, I concur with your fictional editor for once. It is all your fault!! Seriously I sometimes think the only way to make sense of all of this to quietly pretend it’s not being said.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Or’ Irish’ and’ imported Unionists’.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I’m not sure that we want to take the dubious credit for ownership of Unionists in Ireland. There was two way traffic for hundreds of years between Ireland and Scotland, and the results are too mixed now to describe only the later settlers.

  • file

    Scirish?

  • Mike the First

    Where have people like me been “imported” from, in your jaundiced worldview?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Aye, that’ll do. It has a scurrilous sort of ring to it.

  • Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    You mean use the ‘I’ word??!!!! Forsooth!!!!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    The first batch of ‘imports’ were a mixture of Gaels, jacobites and border reavers, hardly ‘unionists’, followed by various waves of Scots.

    Unionism developed from their Irish descendants.

  • burnboilerburn

    Don’t pay any heed to that bullschith

  • burnboilerburn

    Don’t heed such nonsense.

  • burnboilerburn

    I like the description ‘Brirish’.

  • Jollyraj

    Sinn Fein seem to be clear only that they will not go into government unless their key demands are met (or unless they actually won a majority, of course!). None of the key puppets in the party seem to know what those demands are – sort of like a Freshman student protest at QUB, in fact.

    Looks like SF are hoping for a period of Direct Rule, in all honesty – to cover the fact they can’t actually get a majority, for the PR value, and perhaps to get some real politicians in to clear up the mess the Shinners helped create and now cannot cope with.

    Why now? Opportunism, one supposes, since SF were unhappy with the 2016 election and, taking advantage of the long, drawn out collapse of MMcG’s health, not being democrats, refused to accept it.

    Even if the cost to the rest of us is another election and 6-12 months of going backwards.

    How can we save ourselves from this? Vote SDLP, UUP, Alliance, Greens….anybody but SF/DUP!

  • Jollyraj

    Scots Irish isn’t accurate, the people whom you’re using it to refer to not being ‘Irish’, per se.

    ‘British Irish’ could certainly be handily employed to accurately describe the NI Republicans, mind you.

  • file

    Yeah but you should spell it ‘Brish; to avoid the repeated sound which would just be ignored like in ‘deteriorate’.

  • file

    The ‘I” word is the shibboleth in these here parts, as is the ‘NI’ word and the ‘Long Kesh/Maze’ word and the ‘GFA/Belfast Agreement’ word, and all the other wee linguistic tics by which we reveal and conceal our background.

  • Redstar

    Has any other senior SF source backed Sheehans stance or has he went off message totally?

  • file

    Ignore that last message. Too early. ‘Brirish’ it is then?

  • file

    Nothing personal as loads of people do it and it will soon be ‘correct’ usage, but, as an aside, what is the crack with the verb ‘to go’ round here? Is it not taught in schools? Past tense = he went; Past participle = gone; Pluperfect tense = he has gone.

  • file

    The people I am referring to are Scots Irish when they end up in America. Why should they not be Scots Irish when they stay here?

  • Granni Trixie

    There you go again….

  • Barneyt

    It’s an Ulster Scot thing largely. Some argue it’s not always incorrect. Sometimes it’s well off kilter however. Pat Neven uses phrases like , “he’s went up the line and put a decent cross in”. It’s the difference between the correct use of the past participle ( he has gone) and the past tense ( he has went). You find this usage of English in Scotland ( more prolific), Northern Ireland and in parts of the English north east.

  • Redstar

    All very interesting but with respect sod all to do with my query

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As they are living in Ireland, howbeit a partitioned segment, they are “Irish” clearly, but I’d be questioning the only recently accepted homogenisation of the identity of the north entirely into “Scots Irish” myself. I have strains of “Armagh” north of England planters, a smidgen of Welsh descent from Monaghan and a strong Scots element (from the first plantation) alongside my Huguenot and native Irish blood. Outside of our local genepool I have some US French and even Spanish and Jewish blood (ancestral marriages), but even taking only the planter genelogical mix, simply saying “Scots” is far too simplified a generalisation of the actual local plantation identity, and has, I feel, been politically developed in a particular manner across the last century in order to more effectively “grow” an “Invention of Tradition” style “local non-Irish” identity of a sort which would have been impossible to imagine for pre-Great War grandparents and great-grandparents of quite recent generations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course a “Scot” was a millenia and a half back an inhabitant of Ireland……..

  • johnny lately

    Key demands Jolly ? They are simply asking Unionists and the British government to honour commitments they made in both the GFA and St Andrews it’s like the commitment Arlene Foster give to the banks on behalf of those who invested in the RHI scheme, aren’t those RHI claimants now demanding the same as Sinn Fein and aren’t the banks who also invested expect her to honour those letters. What difference will it make voting for a UUP/SDLP partnership hasn’t that already been tried and rejected years ago and are the UUP really any different in their attitude towards Nationalists than the DUP.

  • file

    Soccer players, and commentators, are notorious for their misuse of English. Like I said, ‘he has went’ will become accepted usage in Standard English over the course of the next 20 years. And Standard English is no more ‘correct’ that other forms of English (see Oliver Kamm on this point), but it is the form that should be used in certain registers (eg The Education System, Government documents, academic debate … but not Slugger O’Toole).

  • file

    It is one of my only real interests in life, Granni. I only pretend to be interested in other things, like politics.

  • Granni Trixie

    Refreshing answer.

  • file

    Thanks Seaan. I was not advocating Scots Irish to refer to everyone living in Northern Ireland, just those who have some trouble with the term Irish. Here is a description of the Scots Irish in America – sound familiar?
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/07/the-scots-irish-as-indigenous-people/#.WLQHylXyhQI

  • file

    File – refreshing the parts that other posters do not reach.

  • file

    Well go and look up the Sinn Féín website or have a look at some news websites and see for yourself.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I don’t know who ‘people like you’ are. I know there were a large proportion of protestant settlers imported into Ireland – it was known as the “Plantations” – look it up.

  • Mike the First

    That was 400 years ago. None were “Unionists”. Neither is any iDVD then still alive.

    Who, alive today in Northern Ireland, do you believe is “imported”?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Okay – semantics – we all know what I am referring to. The importation of protestant English and Scottish settlers to displace and “pacify” the existing native population. And as you say they mostly made up what became Unionists, later.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Unionism is still an import – it has not become integrated into the whole of Irish society, but exists as a carbuncle on the island, looking over to the UK for life-support and encouragement.

  • Granni Trixie

    Fertile ground for your hobby?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Maybe we should have saved a lot of trouble and stayed there!

  • file

    It’s my life, Granni, not just my hobby – ask my children who are tormented with the done/did seen/saw conundrum to such an extent that they no longer talk to me! I actually get paid for doing it, but also do it when I am off duty. The problem started when I heard the phrase: imprecise language is both a cause and a symptom of imprecise thinking.

  • Granni Trixie

    I had crap parents but they still brought me up to “pronounce my
    ‘Ings'” and corrected my dones and saws. I did the same for my children because Unfortunately people tend to judge you in life, at job interviews for example, by how you present yourself (a la Erving Goffman).
    Never really got that that clause, kind and function thing drilled into us at school though I expect you did.

    (Oops getting off topic,sorry)

  • Mike the First

    Saying Unionism is an import is different from saying Unionists are imported, as you did.

    It’s also incorrect – it’s quite obviously indigenous to “here”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And missed all the fun? Bannockburn? Flodden? Marie Stuart? The legitamist efforts to restore the true line of Royal Succession from 1688 until 1753?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d certainly read that, file, but any excuse to publicise my own brand of intensive pluralistic Irishness!

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    If there had been no imported Protestant settlers, there would now be no Unionism. The two are inextricably linked. The settlers brought their allegiance to the UK Crown with them, and retained it.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    That all sounds eminently miss-able.

  • file

    Irishness is a state of mind, if you don’t mind what a state the state is in.

  • file

    I am younger than you, Granni, and they had stopped teaching parsing and grammar by the time I entered the Murder Machine. I had to back-engineer my knowledge of English grammar in order to help me learn the other languages I was studying. So it is my own fault.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Eminently missable, Boney, but if what I have been told from the Scots end of my family is true, we didn’t!

  • Jollyraj

    Because they weren’t Scots Irish when they went there. Erroneously tagged as such and the name stuck.

  • lizmcneill

    Got a UUP leaflet through the door, thought at first it was warning me off the fires of hell, but no, just the DUP and RHI.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    It’s not semantics if you speak of us as imports in the present tense. We may as a rule of thumb have planter roots but there’s been more mingling than most people are prepared to admit.

    To speak of us in such a way implies a disenfranchisement of sorts which i’m sure you wouldn’t tolerate if Scottish unionists applied the same attitude to the Glasgow Irish.

  • lizmcneill

    “The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essential to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and verce visa).”

    1066 And All That

  • Reader

    “he has went”
    Well OK file, but do you agree with Barneyt that it’s Ulster-Scots? I always associated the phrase with West Belfast (and spreading) rather than e.g. Ballymena.

  • Redstar

    And so now we have the UDA openly campaigning for the DUP.

    What with their various members and candidates past and present being UVF/UDA men and Fosters excellent relationship with various shady loyalist paramilitaries-it seems long gone are the days when some thought it was only SF who had connections/ candidates etc with dubious backgrounds whilst those stirling upholders of law and order would have no truck with drug dealing sectarian thug types

    How times ” change”

  • file

    It is no more Ulster Scots than my Granny (who was not Ulster Scots). Plenty of English people say the same thing.

  • file

    What were they then? They were Scots when they left Scotland and came here in the 17th century. Then in the 18th century, having been in Ireland a while and thus being Irish, they went to the USA. Where they were – and are – Scots Irish. So all historians who use this term for the ethnic sub-group in the USA are wrong and you are right? Is that your actual proposition?

  • Granni Trixie

    So self taught,not caught,eh?
    Disappointed that you are not including capital letters in your mistakes hunt – which is just as well as I’ve given up on rectifying predictive text “corrections”.
    I am not familiar with the Murder Machine, does it refer to uni?

  • file

    The fact that you are unfamiliar with The Murder Machine is proof, sort of, that it is still operating.
    http://www.cym.ie/documents/themurdermachine.pdf

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As you may imagine, bedtime reading for my daughter from her early years, “1066 and all that”….

    I am still hopefully waiting for Am Ghobsmacht to write a similar hsitory of Ireland, but if he delays a few more years I may take up the challenge myself, when my current book in progress is with the publisher who asked me to write it.

    I may even quote Dr Ian Adamson on the Picts if he will permit me to do so! He leaves that part you quote from “1066 and all that” light years behind……….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An important insight about the motivations of the “commercially oriented” education process, “The Murder Machine”…….

    My grandfather knew two people who had been to St Endas, so My own perception of its inestimable value is not all from my reading only.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Granni, it refers to the idea that the only reason a person should be educated is to get them an income. Pearse identified it with the nineteenth century British education system as it was practiced in Ireland, as against his own child centred system, derived from Maria Montessori (for example) and many other advanced European education theorists. You can get something of the flavour of how such a system differs from usual educational practice from this site’s list:

    http://ageofmontessori.org/ten-big-differences-between-montessori-and-traditional-education/

    I have some practical experience of this sort of educational practice myself as my daughter went to a Montessori system junior school in the 1970s.

    Many people seem to concentrate on the local and national elements of St Endas and do not begin to look at other significant aspects of Pearse’s approach to educating the entire person in order to encourage them to have a full intellectual life and not simply an existence dedicated to production. I’ve (rather provocatively, alas) said a few times before on Slugger that Pearse the Revolutionary was a tragic waste of Pearse the educationist.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘practiced’! And from you of all people

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Welcome back OM, long time no see! While I usually disagree with you, I’ve missed your interesting points. Thank you for the correction, I’ve made it now myself to avoid confusing anyone who tries to understand what my occasionally chaotic speed typing had [mis]written.

  • Jollyraj

    “So all historians who use this term for the ethnic sub-group in the USA are wrong and you are right? Is that your actual proposition?”

    Nope. And if you read what I wrote instead of plunging into the default, shrill denunciation of the great Satan Unionism, you’d have realized that.

    What I wrote was:

    ‘Erroneously tagged as such and the name stuck.’

    See, they were inaccurately labelled as Scots Irish at the time, and that is now the commonly accepted term, but it stuck.

  • Jollyraj

    “Key demands Jolly ? They are simply asking…”

    Simply asking would allow for the asked party not to agree to the request. SF are demanding, otherwise they are ‘gravely threatening'(TM) not to honour the wishes of those who elected them by going into government.

    Sinn Fein are, in effect, holding their own voters to ransom, since the obvious goal they are pushing for is Direct Rule by the Tories.

    In this election, a vote for SF is a vote for Direct Rule from Westminster. Let’s hope the media hold them to account 6-months down the line when they are crying about Direct Rule which ‘they themselves’ have brought about.

  • Jollyraj

    Certainly “I done” is Shinner English. And certainly not one SF Education Minister to date has been able to speak English correctly.

    Mind you, they are all ESL I suppose, and every grammar mistake is after all a bullet in the struggle for Irish freedom….

  • file

    I can read. I was demonstrating that the label was not ‘erroneous’.

  • Granni Trixie

    That is fascinating Seaan,I had no idea what was behind Murder Machine. The educational ideas you refer to however resonate with my own teacher training ( for 4 years!) in the 197Os (holistic,child centred etc).
    Sounds like Montessori was influential more broadly than as relates to younger children. Pearce, well I know little about him. But open to learning.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    OK – I’ll take that on board.

  • Sharpie

    That sounds like you are in a pub in Marbella telling the locals you’re from London innit mate.

  • johnny lately

    Which is why Sinn Fein keep asking for the Unionists and the British to honour the commitments they both previously made in both the GFA and St Andrews because they also already know that the DUP has already set its red line that they will never implement an Irish language act and the British are already in the process of ensuring the commitments they made regarding legacy issues will never be honoured. The only ground you hold in any negotiations is the ground you held the night before and unfortunately for unionism and the British they hold no ground other than broken promises. Yes it will be a long period of direct rule although that depends on how much the British government want stability in the UK.

  • file

    Ho ho!

  • file

    You could do worse than listen to this TED talk as well re the education system. Ken Robinson – so good he had to emigrate.
    https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms

  • woodkerne

    My sincere hope is that Sinn Fein can achieve parity with the DUP in this election. Not because I’m supporter – I’m not and won’t be so long as they remain a party of radical catholic nationalism rather than a force for left-social democracy – but because they clearly are and the DUP demonstrably are not committed to re-newing the vows represented by the foundational principles of the Belfast Agreement.

    As has been noted on this site many times before now, the leadership of SF and the republican movement have not yet transitioned out of the era and rhetoric of ‘national salvation’ into one of ‘national popular’ politics of parliamentary democracy (as necessary, in alliance, that is, with parties opposed to austerity and to brexit, including, on contingent basis, as needed, with liberal unionist and liberal nationalist, as well as nonsectarian ‘others’ in the Assembly). On this point, I agree with an earlier critique regarding disquiet among nationalist and republican voters at large who, “look at their two parties and have concluded that … nationalism needs to sharpen its game.”

    And although not exactly a mea culpa for their failings in handling the reptilean DUP with kid gloves hitherto, the SF strategy of ‘constitutionalising’ the election, does implicitly acknowledge that too much ground was conceded under the erstwhile imperative of shoring-up the institutions of power sharing. Their aim clearly in 2017 is to cauterise, as far as possible, a nationalist-republican bloc equivalent to the DUP muster based on a two-pronged pitch to their public. First, appealing to disaffected republican voters, to their left, who might otherwise migrate to PBP, to come back into the fold. As well, at the same time, making an unity-appeal to respectable working class and middle class catholic electors (mirroring in this respect the DUP’s demonising playbook) to avoid splitting the nationalist vote and thus permitting the DUP to prevail again.

    Minimally, in the true interests of the nationalist and republican electorate (a continuum let’s not forget), SF’s objective of achieving equivalence with DUP in MLA seats, merits a change of tactics and disposition on SF’s part. That rather than behaving always like the party of manifest-destiny, SF need to engage with the sinews of the actually existing realpolitik. More focus on socio-economic politics and the material interests of electors and less of the teleology. Equally, it seems to me, if minded to serve their electors, the SDLP really should accept that outside of the affluent suburbs, the volume of transfers from/to UUP can only be small and that failure to acknowledge the wishes of the pan-nationalist electorate succeeds only in staving the DUP. In other words, as well as reaching out to UUP voters, which is a laudable departure, the SDLP and SF need to talk and collaborate on areas of mutual interest. Further, what I’d like to see is all the parties who support the principles of the Belfast Agreement and the (interim) practice of power sharing to express and exercise affinity with each and all of the others on that continuum.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Pearse came quite late to seriosu seperatist politics, althoughhewas alawys a cultural nationalist, but that’s a quite different thing. The best work on the school has (arguably) ben done by Dr Brendan Walsh whose “Boy Republic, Patrick Pearse and Radical Education” came out in 2013 and is raesonably cheap on Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boy-Republic-Patrick-Radical-Education/dp/1845887964/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1488267785&sr=8-10&keywords=St+Endas

    There is an inevitable emphasis on Easter 1916 in most work, but I’d looked at the Belfast poet Joseph Campbell’s very short spell as a teacher there, and researched around this to look at what he and other significant writers and artists were actually doing. It all bore out the high praise heaped upon Pearse ‘s shool both by those two friends of my grandfather who had attended and other sons and daughters of others who had been there and whom I met. All siad something like “that’s teh school I should havea ttended too.”

    There are many other European sources for Pearse’s ideas, walsh is very good on this. Maria Montessori was influential for both junior and secondary levels in her time (I have some of her books) and was incorporated into Giovanni Gentile’s supprisingly liberal first Educatio reform for Mussolini (who caught on quickly and got another education minister fast). Her techniques are direct and experiential, centred on the individual, as you probably know.