Hard to know where to start (though that could be the sleep deprivation). First is, don’t get too over invested in your own story. SF’s March advance sustained itself to the point of gutting their own nationalist rivals, but it also inspired the DUP’s rather powerful fightback.
The increased totals in places like Lagan Valley not only took Jeffrey Donaldson back to the popularity of his UUP days when he took over from Jim Molyneaux in 2001, but in about six Assembly constituencies it offers the DUP an expressway to putting back the seat advantage they lost in March they lost to SF.
However this is spun, SF’s clear advantages coming out of this election, only accrue to it as a party, and not northern nationalism or Irish Republicanism as a whole. No unionist was converted to the cause in this election, and indeed some of the more blatant and nasty aspects have strengthened Unionism.
Calling Bangor a ‘shithole’ at the sight of kids in Orange collarettes was one example. Rounding on a candidate’s father for his paramilitary background in a TV debate was another. Sinn Fein politicians (and some of the media) have gotten too used to turning a blind eye to this sort of casual abuse.
The cumulative effect on voters and ordinary members of the public is to traduce the nobility and attractiveness of its cause, and it puts serious limits on progress towards their stated ambition of a united Ireland, exposing the party’s tactical rather than strategic focus.
Killing the SDLP’s representation at Westminster may leave it in an invidious position of facilitating a Tory-DUP coalition. Who saw that coming? Well, I did mention on Wednesday on the Last Word on Today FM as a wild but credible scenario. One that SF seems not to have prepared for.
Two, a referendum is a loaded gun, and you can easily shoot your own toes off with one. There were two victims last night, not one. Nicola Sturgeon had a forceable end put to talk of a second indyref, when she suffered unforeseen losses. And Mrs May who over played her hand.
Luckily for Mr Adams, he won’t be allowed get that far. Having made the election a referendum on a referendum, he loses that bet. But Sinn Fein and wider nationalism should review carefully the sorry pass calling for a poll and losing it has meant for the Tories and the SNP.
May’s public incoherence on the matter (whatever about her private preparations) in part comes because her party is terminally split over how to handle the whole process. That’s in part because she treated a narrow win as a carte blanche to pander to a small ideologic extreme.
Most people who voted leave did not need or want the Farage version. But a sudden poll taken out of sequence and out of an incredibly abstract but ideologically driven idea becomes incredible toxic to those who call it or cause it to happen.
That’s before you consider the fact there’s not a government now. There will be much to ponder over the next few days both at the national and the local NI level. No government, no negotiations at Stormont I would guess.
And that in itself is the third matter here. Having strengthened the DUP’s hand viz a viz the Assembly, what has SF to trade to get back into Stormont? I asked that question before Christmas when they walked out in the first place, and the answer now is even more difficult to contemplate or fathom.
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