“Anyone for more opium?”

The empty rhetoric of the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, in Downing Street last week…

Speaking at Downing Street, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that the party told Mrs May “very directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement” over the Conservative negotiations with the DUP.

…is neatly summed up in Ed Moloney’s blog post title, “Sinn Fein Meet May, Complain And Then Go Away……Move On, No Story Here“.

The party’s impotence, in relation to any arrangement between the Conservatives and the DUP, was further underlined when their planned publicity stunt the next day was upstaged by the DUP leader Arlene Foster meeting with new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin.

That meeting in Dublin could be seen as part of the process of “building a better relationship with the nationalist community” that Newton Emerson mentioned in yesterday’s Irish News.

Any doubts that devolution is returning have been dispelled by Gerry Adams. In a press conference before Stormont talks resumed, the Sinn Féin president offered to meet the DUP “halfway” on “outstanding issues” – a major shift in position, having previously defined those issues as outstanding agreements to be delivered in full. On the first day of talks, Adams added that Stormont is the route to a united Ireland, which can only have been about preparing supporters for the inevitable. Given current Westminster arithmetic, double-abstentionism is unsustainable for a party of Sinn Féin’s size. It has to show up for work somewhere and Stormont is the obvious choice. However, Stormont will be unsustainable if Sinn Féin has to slink back in with its tail between its legs. The DUP needs to invest some of its new political capital in a better relationship with the nationalist community, otherwise the executive will just collapse again.

In any event, as Patrick Murphy argued in the same paper, the “DUP’s deal with the Conservative government puts a new light on the election result, increases the chances of Stormont’s resurrection and presents a fresh challenge for Sinn Féin’s political strategy.”

So while Stormont was “bad” during the long war, “good” for the past ten years and then “bad” again since Christmas, it might be “good” again soon. (You may remember that the EU used to be “bad”, but the same EU is now “good”.)

SF’s fascinating and flexible use of language allows it to heavily influence the thought process of constitutional nationalists, as evidenced by the recent election results. It is tempting to examine it alongside George Orwell’s fictional Newspeak, an altered form of regular English designed to determine public opinion by restricting independent thought.

The party’s return to Stormont will be easy. It will just claim victory in overcoming its hitherto ill-defined concepts of corruption and inequality. The nationalist electorate will cheer. The party’s MLAs will return to eating assembly food, which is subsidised by the taxpayer, while 23 per cent of children here remain in poverty. Another victory for old Ireland.

But although SF now has absolute power over northern nationalism, it is no nearer a united Ireland. To win votes, both it and the DUP have had to heighten sectarian hopes and fears to the highest political level since the foundation of the state.

In opting to represent only Catholics in the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin remarkably passed up the opportunity to build the wider, non-sectarian base essential for Irish unity. The party’s Midas touch in turning everything into electoral gold also turns everything it touches into a sectarian issue. So the more votes it wins, the more divided is our society and the more remote is the possibility of a united Ireland.

Ah but, say SF supporters, look at the green half of the north’s new electoral map. Sadly, it is similar to the type of map which former IRA chief of staff, Sean Cronin, used to produce during the 1950s campaign. A gentleman, a top class military strategist and later a wonderful Washington correspondent for the Irish Times, he subsequently realised that struggles are not won by capturing territory. They can only be won by capturing the hearts and minds of those who live there.

There are a million reasons why the latest electoral map will not produce a united Ireland. They are all called unionists.

Meanwhile our ultra-sectarian society remains engrossed in watching a bizarre political pantomime, which is largely divorced from the real world, on both sides of the Irish Sea. As Marx might say, constitutional politics has replaced religion as the opium of the people.

Right on cue, Sinn Féin said this week that Stormont is a stepping-stone to a united Ireland. Of course, it is. Anyone for more opium?

Read the whole thing.

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  • Korhomme

    Just slightly OTT; Sky Australia had a photo of Gerry, with a strange caption. It said, in as many words, that ‘Mr Sinn Féin was a member of the Democratic Unionist Party’. Curiously, this has now been taken down.

  • aquifer

    May as well be a member. “the more votes (SF) wins, the more divided is our society and the more remote is the possibility of a united Ireland.”

    Or, – do turkeys ever vote for all island political Christmas ?

  • chrisjones2

    Be fair…he has done more to cement the union and drive ‘nationalist’ voters away from Nationalism than any Unionist Politician

  • Zig70

    SF are partly responsible for their electoral strength so you could be forgiven for thinking he is a member. Though I’m sure he would deny that. Funny how folks would believe him on that denial.

  • Ciara 007

    It’s interesting and somewhat bewildering that commentators seem convinced that Sinn Féin are likely to fudge their way back into the institutions. With a Dublin government on the verge of collapse and a second Westminster election likely within a year, there is no tactical or strategic advantage for them to row back on their pre election commitments. In fact, reading Declan Kearney speech this morning at the bodenstown commemoration, they sound more determined than ever to see those commitments through.

  • Casper

    There are plenty of pro-union people now holding Irish passports, they obviously see something that appeals to them.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “It is tempting to examine it alongside George Orwell’s fictional Newspeak, an altered form of regular English designed to determine public opinion by restricting independent thought.”

    ‘Newspeak’ is currently the preferred mode of communication for the “Establishment’ – wherever it exists, the UK, UE, Ireland, the US, China, Russia, – everywhere. To attribute it solely to SF is doing the world political scene a disservice. It exists even here on the editorial essays on Slugger, where there are obvious signs of axes being ground from time to time.

    Luckily in recent years thanks to the internet, the public have access to other sources of information. Unluckily, some of these are sources of dis-information, some set up by nutters, some set up by the establishment itself.

    The answer is to not go along with the crowd, to consult ones conscience, and stay true to your personal beliefs, while taking everything else with varying pinches of salt.

  • BERZERKERMG

    The opium is believing northern nationalists want a United Ireland anymore. In a few years they will run Northern Ireland. Why would they want to dilute their power in southern politics? There is no politics here and never has been, there has only ever been a numbers game, and once nationalists win that as they will in a few years that’s all that matters. It’s game over for unionism one way or another, simply because not to be in the majority in northern Ireland IS the endgame for unionism as we know it. Sinn Fein will go back to the institutions, barring any unforeseen circumstances, and they always were going to. I’m not sure where this idea that they rejected the Assembly in principle by walking out came from except perhaps Slugger’s need to pump out copy to keep up the interest of its (cough!) 75,000 readers a month readership.

  • ted hagan

    Quoting large tracts from favoured commentators is hardly analysis.
    Try reading Fintan O’Toole in Saturday’s Irish Times for a bit of balance and perspective.

  • ted hagan

    Account for their electoral support then, and their eclipse of the SDLP?

  • BERZERKERMG

    “Quoting large tracts from favoured commentators is hardly analysis.”

    In fairness, without that Slugger would be non-existent. It’s a good thing copyright laws are so lenient.

  • Nevin

    “That meeting in Dublin could be seen as part of the process of “building a better relationship with the nationalist community””

    It can also be seen as by-passing Sinn Féin, much like accepting the invitation to Our Lady’s Voluntary Grammar School in Newry. In a wider context, Arlene has also been considering the opportunity for strengthening the UK. I don’t see either of these moves pleasing Gerry – or improving the quality of governance here,

  • NotNowJohnny

    It would be interesting if Arlene adopted bypassing Sinn Fein as her policy on the basis that SF is refusing to work with her as FM. Start building [better] relations with the Irish government, with the Dail, with the Irish speaking community, with the SDLP, with the Catholic Church, the GAA, PBP and with nationalists areas and be generous to a fault in her dealings with them. Make it clear that the DUPs issue is not with nationalism, with irishness, with the south or with the Irish government. Obviously it would be difficult to drag the backwoodsmen in her party along with her but her position is a lot stronger now that it was 6 months ago. Some in the nationalist community might come to realise that you can get more by having a relationship with her than by voting for Sinn Fein.

  • chrisjones2

    I did and think he is too pessimistic …indeed, utterly wrong

  • runnymede

    excellent article

  • chrisjones2

    Really strange. We suddenly have a large number of completely new IDs on here that all seem to follow the same meme:

    1 Slugger is biased against U+Nationalism

    2 Mi8ck is anti SF

    3 Unionists are BAD PEOPLE who CANNOT BE TRUSTED

    4 A United Ireland is inevitable

    Has MIck annoyed someone ?

  • chrisjones2

    Account for the fact that only 19% of people in NI support a United Ireland

  • Gravychipplease

    Could it be true

  • hgreen

    As wrong as you were about Corbyn?

    To the Tories the DUP are like a dodgy take away after a night on the tiles. Tastes ok at the time but you know the trots are just round the corner.

  • BERZERKERMG

    New IDs happen for a reason, Chris old boy. The fact you haven’t been banned a few times is a bit strange to me, but thankfully due to technology I am back on here from a ban (yes, old impartial Mick with his 75,000 readers a month which unusually hasn’t changed since 2006 does ban people for daft reasons) but my general well-thought out point of view remains cogent and insightful I’m sure you’ll agree. Enjoy asking your nationalist First Minister where you can march, and seeing how far your stupid Polish Language Act gets you, chum.

  • the keep

    I think you prove Chrisjones point.

  • BERZERKERMG

    You’ll need to explain that, mate. I have a new ID but since it’s a replacement for an old one it’s not actually a double ID, which I think you might be getting at but I’m not sure. And to be quite honest, it’s not southerners with extra IDs you need to be worried about.

  • There’s still a large enough gap between the two camps though. I realize that the Unionist parties are over represented in the older cohorts but even with that would it not take 10 years (if not more) before there is a solid nationalist majority? Apart from that if Nationalists don’t want a UI then I don’t think the Unionist will care if SF run the North. They’re still part of the Union, which is what matters the most to them.

  • BERZERKERMG

    I don’t think so. Northern unionism was always about running their patch of turf, the “British” thing was mere convenience, a fig leaf for Ulster nationalism. Once it’s 50:50, unionism has lost – it’s a supremacist ideology, nothing more. Without that, it’s raison d’etre disintegrates.

  • So why do 40%+ vote for SDLP & SF? Something doesn’t add up, it’s either the elections or it’s that poll.

  • Accountant

    Like representation.

    I don’t get Ciara 007’s “let’s sit it out again”. It’s not like SF are waiting for someone to take the rap for a clusterf**k, the way Boris is.

    Is northern SF a player or is it going to make itself an irrelevance ? How will abstention x 2 play when NI can move forward with Westminster and Dublin support and no beards in sight ?

  • Nevin

    I’ve no special insight into DUP thinking, NNJ; the myopic approach of many Slugger bloggers sheds little light on the overall political landscape.

  • Croiteir

    It is not a fact

  • Accountant

    And if the Nationalists are going to admit, at least to themselves, the benefits of the trappings of power – or put more positively – secure an equal or better taking back/sharing of control (and back away from a UI) – why would they not take some ownership and credit for helping make things work for their and the unionist people “in the interim” ? It seems crazy that SF is not “covering that base”, as a further-devolved NI has to be the likeliest medium-term outcome.

    What is the “Union” now anyway, other than a financial crutch and a bit of a moral crutch for some insecure loyalists/unionists (which they are entitled to keep while the financial crutch is still, net, strong enough).

  • BERZERKERMG

    Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh

  • ted hagan

    It’s not a fact, it’s a poll. A previous poll less than a year ago showed 27pc backing Irish unity; There is a substantial majority support the UK union but I simply don’t believe there are many SF voters who oppose Irish unity, now or at least some time in the future; It doesn’t add up.

  • BERZERKERMG

    51 per cent nationalist vs 49 unionist will end badly for you, doesn’t matter if they want a UI or not. In 20 years you will be begging for a UI rather than be stuck in the SF state, haha. Every gorgeous village will it’s 40 shades of green with the right to show it’s name in gaelic, and twats like you can complain as much as you like. (more to come: redacted, haha… )

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “I can call spirits from the vasty deep”

    “And so can I and so can anyone,
    But will they come….?”

    What grounds, especially after what happened to the Liberal Democrats in their little boy embrace with big boy Conservatism? It would be useful for us sceptics to have some unpacking of such an irrational opinion!

  • Barneyt

    Whilst there are many in the Irish nationalist sector ( not republican) who are happy to remain in the UK, I think 19% is a bit low? It would be interesting to see your numbers. Reality is, it depends on the question and how it is asked.

  • Barneyt

    Something magical will need to occur for any firm of Irish reunification. Securing it through a poll in x number of years for me is the least desirable means. The division will make the brexit impact appear like a child’s picnic party in comparison. There is mileage in the idea that unionism is the only group, ironically, that can deliver a United ireland. Without closer ties developing and unionism taking responsibility for removing the demons of fear with the ROI, a poll north and south will not deliver a United ireland within the next 10 years. Fine Gael will surely campaign heavily against reunification if they see it gifting Sinn Fein or creating a more polarised society. Unionism needs to grab the unification bull by the horns and deliver it if we are ever going to have a stable and shared society on our island. The alternative is to let the numbers game usher in the change in time, but I’d prefer unionism to preempt and own it than take slim win

  • Nordie Northsider

    That’s true, Ciara. I watched the Sunday Politics yesterday where all were in agreement that the ‘mood music’ had changed – all this based on Alex Maskey’s perfunctory statement that the institutions could be restored very quickly IF… Another curious misapprehension among the Commentariat: that the DUP want to keep movement across the border as free as possible. That’s hard to square with Ian Paisley Junior’s insistence that the UK should leave the Customs Union.

  • Nevin

    Barney, that ‘fear’ is Humespeak and his context was Strand 2, the ‘island of Ireland’. Real fear continues to exist in those areas dominated by loyalist and republican godfathers.

    Folk have different aspirations and desires. EU enthusiasts seek ever closer union; unionists seek ever closer unity within the UK and nationalists seek Irish unity – though not necessarily ever closer union within the EU.

    I think Pearse was right: “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” I suspect the attrition game will continue and the unionist-nationalist gap will continue to narrow. What else will happen is anyone’s guess.

  • Roger

    London runs UKNI. The fact that the local council, oops ‘Executive’ is down for months and the place runs on shows that.

  • Roger

    Maybe it’s to do with money, not feelings. UKNI is a dependent place.

  • chrisjones2

    Probably even more woring but history will tell for all of us

  • chrisjones2

    And your jackboot style comments suggests you are just a green version of the OO …and will get just as far

  • chrisjones2

    “there is no tactical or strategic advantage for them to row back on their pre election commitments”

    Yes there is ….money

  • chrisjones2

    No …just a poll …what people said they thought

  • chrisjones2

    Well for starters over 70% of Stoop voters said they would not vote for a UI

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Great piece, nail on the head by both commentators.

    I agree with Emerson that we should try and give SF a soft landing. Foster may have been wrongfooted politically for several months but she’s neither as stupid nor as bad as she has been widely portrayed – and in the warm realtionship with Varadkar I see positive signs of the pragmatic and sensible person she can be when the sun is shining. We have seen her worst side already and frankly I’ve seen much worse in NI politics. Let’s try and be optmistic and hope the penny has dropped for her on showing more generosity of spirit and let’s hope SF can also find some from somewhere, perhaps in the bone marrow of the SDLP they have devoured.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Great piece, nail on the head by both commentators.

    I agree with Emerson that we should try and give SF a soft landing. Foster may have been wrongfooted politically for several months but she’s neither as stupid nor as bad as she has been widely portrayed – and in the warm realtionship with Varadkar I see positive signs of the pragmatic and sensible person she can be when the sun is shining. We have seen her worst side already and frankly I’ve seen much worse in NI politics. Let’s try and be optmistic and hope the penny has dropped for her on showing more generosity of spirit and let’s hope SF can also find some from somewhere, perhaps in the bone marrow of the SDLP they have devoured.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Also remember the demographics look to be favouring the Union being safe for the foreseeable future (proportions pro-Union are higher among younger than middle-aged cohorts). That’s even if either Catholicism or nationalism translated into United Irelandism, which they are far from doing, if anyone cares to look at survey results.

    That’s without reading latest L&T in detail though, so I should check if the youth trend is continuing.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    For unionists, the Union represents our country. It may not be yours, but surely you can respect and accept the different allegiances of others without belittling them?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But it’s not just that poll, it’s pretty much every poll. People from Catholic backgrounds will vote for nationalist parties to look after their interests. Not all necessarily want a united Ireland any time soon. It’s a very long term trend that goes way, way back. If the hope was that Brexit would change that a lot, all I can say is that it hasn’t so far. Call it getalongerism if you like but a lot of people on both sides fear NI going into meltdown if there were a UI. It is a major barrier. And with SF leading northern nationalism, it only feeds into that fear.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Pollsters advise reading a number of polls together not jump on one. But taken together the polls consistently put support for Irish unity in the 20s per cent, with confortable majorities for the Union. Might it be that people you know might not be typical of the wider NI public?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think she should be trying to please that idiot, the idea surely is to show respect for ordinary nationalist people rather than SF as such.

  • Accountant

    While I might belittle it, but I am also a defender of unionists’ rights, even to the extent that I would request the forebearance of nationalists not to insist on a change in status even when/if we reach a nationalist majority. I equally value their cultural rights, but I think (Irish/Ulster Scots languages and LGBT apart), no-one is being massively prejudiced, so why do we need this fight ?

    Is there so much Irishness or Britishness being subjugated that we should cause others this level of distress.

    I’m afraid, for nationalists that means I support the status quo – call me a default unionist pacifist.

  • Croiteir

    Excellent – so not a fact

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That is appreciated, thank you!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Brian, a poll will usually be based on questions which reflect the needs of those commissioning the poll. We are presented with polls as if they are something beyond such concerns, but it is always important to follow the money trail. Such questions work with media representations to craft a guided, usually positive, response which reflects how the commissioner plans to use the poll. They are also taken from a selection of the community, unlike elections, where there is a rather wider net.
    This is why polls can be so very, very wrong at times.

    Of course an effort can be made to craft a question in such a way as to elicit an “objective” response, but the objectivity itself will always be a relative thing, and until we actually have developed a complete homogeneity of thought across our community, motives will differ, and any slight rephrasing which touches on other motivations will invariably shift the weight of answers.

    MU says “But it’s not just that poll, it’s pretty much every poll.” but without the information about who is commissioning “every poll” it is difficult to judge what they actually mean.

  • mickfealty

    Ted, is there a point to your comment?