Micheál Martin slamming a heavy door on government with Sinn Féin will have wider ramifications

Fascinating manoeuvring going on in the Republic at the weekend. There’s been a lot of press speculation about the challenge an enlarged Sinn Féin representation in Dail Eireann will present to the two main parties.

Some SF TDs may struggle to hold on in places like Laois where boundary changes will force a defence of two seats, but the party’s single minded investment in the south (with accompanying disinvestment in NI), means there should be compensating gains.

With a Labour revival still looking unlikely under Brendan Howlin, a three-way (FG/FF/SF) scramble for Independent seats in the next election is on the cards. Unless there’s a radical break from current polling patterns (which can’t be discounted), SF could be king makers.

Sinn Féin’s plan was always to get in and devour Labour whilst pivoting towards their next target, Fianna Fáil. But the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has proven to be far from a cooperative victim.

After enduring a wafer thin advantage over SF for five years last year saw him doubling his Dail representation, and pushing significantly ahead of Sinn Féin. Martin has skillfully (and consistently) responded public events in ways that define certain key differences between the two parties.

Yesterday in the Sunday Independent, he responded to speculation that his party and SF would form the next government

Let’s put this Sinn Fein coalition nonsense to bed so more time can be spent discussing solutions to the rising emergencies in housing, homelessness, health services and Brexit planning. There is still a two-tiered recovery, which is still being ignored by government.

Fianna Fail’s established policy on Sinn Fein is that it is unfit for government in Dublin and we will oppose any and all efforts by them to get into government.

And for those who say “ah sure ,why should we believe you?” the answer is equally clear – Fianna Fail is the only party in the current Dail which was true to its pre-election statements on government formation.

While others changed their position in a most cynical way, we kept to a policy which we had been told in hundreds of interviews and columns wouldn’t be honoured.

I won’t delay you with reference to the litany of fruitless speculation that there could only be a grand FG/FF coalition after last year’s stalemated result. Martin has been a careful and cautious leader, sometimes to the frustration of many of his party colleagues.

Fianna Fáil has traditionally been a red meat sort of party. It likes its beef red and rare. But for his reputation as a softy, Martin has never pulled punches regarding Sinn Féin. He goes on:

We differ with Sinn Fein profoundly on many issues but particularly on economic and business policies. And as far as more fundamental matters go, it does not adhere to many of the most basic principles of democratic republicanism which are a prerequisite to any party being in government.

I have compared its behaviour in the past to that of a cult and I see no reason to change this assessment. In the 20 years since the last ceasefires, Sinn Fein has a 100pc record in putting the interests of the Provisionals’ movement ahead of the interests of the State.

In relation to Europe, Sinn Fein is our most consistently anti-EU party, which has campaigned against every single treaty, especially those which have been central to economic growth here.

When under pressure about crimes committed, Sinn Fein calls for people to “bring what they know to the authorities” – but no one ever comes forward.

People remain in Sinn Fein in spite of knowing the identities of people who committed repugnant crimes well after the Good Friday Agreement.

We had the grotesque reality of kangaroo courts being used to deal with child sex abuse cases – something which Sinn Fein leaders defended as they believed it was caused by distrust of the State.

So, quite frankly, we don’t think government is a place for a party which puts loyalty to its own movement first, which actively justifies appalling crimes committed and which has policies which could permanently destroy much of the economy and marginalise Ireland internationally.

That sound you can hear is one of a very heavy door slamming in the face of Sinn Féin. And it is one that should give the adventurist leadership of Fine Gael serious pause for thought. Not least in the way the fate of Northern Ireland’s democracy has been panning out.

Sinn Fein’s behaviour in Belfast shows that its only skill is in bringing down governments, not in using them to work on behalf of all people.

He pauses briefly to raise a fundamental issue for southern voters, the rather vexed and vexing matter of security…

The Northern Executive is not the government of a sovereign republic and there are direct limits on what any one party or the Executive and Assembly can do. A striking one is that access to security information is limited.

These limits do not and cannot apply to a government nominated by the Oireachtas.

The next time another Provisional IRA crisis emerges, such as those concerning sex abuse, punishment beatings or the murder of an innocent man sitting in a pub, how can the unreformed Sinn Fein be given a role in the response of our forces of law and order?

And finally, he highlights the sort of indolence that can arise from serial abstentionism…

We’ve seen in recent years, when either Dublin or London steps back from the North, or takes sides on the part of one or more parties, things break down.

Sinn Fein has had opportunities for more than nine months now to return to government in Stormont and it has not done so, even though Ireland faces its biggest challenge ever with Brexit.

It even rejected the latest attempt by the DUP to get talks back on track without giving it any consideration.

Sinn Fein has stood back while the working people in Northern Ireland are being deprived of public services because of the lack of any ministers being in place.

It has also chosen not to participate in Westminster despite having seven members elected. They have decided to wash their hands of challenging a potential hard Brexit by the Tories. This is in stark contrast to the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales.

This is in a context where SF (belatedly learning from their abstention from coalition talks last time) is already planning how to internally manage their passage into government next time out. However, they may find they’re now a tad late in their timing.

In slamming the door so hard on SF, Martin is not isolated. In contrast to the government party’s unequivocal support, his spokesman on Agriculture and Food, and on Community Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív has been unequivocal regarding blame for the northern breakdown:

Is it really feasible that if FF has been so emphatic in ruling out a partnership with Sinn Fein – particularly on grounds of law, order and security which are so close to the heart of many Fine Gael voters – that Mr Varadkar could sell even a supply and confidence deal with Sinn Fein to his own base?

There’s potentially a long way to go. The Taoiseach has had a good start and has tried to align himself with new popular liberal figures around the world. But he will be cognisant of the treatment Mrs May got for going back to the country too soon after the last election.

There are most of another four years still left on the clock, and the short term economic fundamentals are better than expected. Time is on his side, for now. But his policy of demanding a stand alone Acht na Gaeilge looks and feels to some suspiciously like a pre election understanding with SF.

That would be a hard sell to his FG base and a decidedly high price for SF to pay for its long promised (and long awaited) entry into southern power. With Gerry Adams’ 70th birthday coming up next autumn, time is not as plentiful for the SF leader as it was to keep up the waiting game.

And of course, the young Taoiseach may have developed other ideas by then.

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  • NewSouthernMan

    I believe that if, after the next election the numbers point to a SF/FF coalition, FF will not hesitate to dump Micheal and go into government with SF. They are not going to sit on the sidelines for another 5+ years just for his “promises”!

  • Karl

    FF politician makes pre election promise whilst sounding like he means it. Thats why he got to be chief. He’ll backpeddle soon enough for stability in the country and to fulfill the wishes of the irish electorate. And if he doesnt, they’ll get someone who will.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    FF (or FG) would be mad to go into coalition with SF. Any such government would be unstable. It would be characterised by never-ending crisis and repeated threats by SF to pull out if their latest loopy-left policy was not adopted. SF’s goal is to replace FF. To that end they spare no effort to smear FF relentlessly on social media. This would not stop if SF was in coalition with them. It would be similar to the DUP-SF coalition. SF would be part of the government, but acting as if they were also part of the opposition. They would sell their participation in an FF./SF coalition to their supporters as merely a tactic to destroy FF and they would use their position in government to advance that objective. FF would be crazy to be any part of it. It seems that Michael Martin is well aware of this – hence his unequivocal assertion that there will be no FF/SF coalition.

    Fortunately, the electoral arithmetic is such that an FF/SF coalition won’t be necessary. All the polls indicate that the combined FF/FG vote is about 10-15% higher than before the last election. FF’s best tactic is to honour the agreement with FG and let the current government run until early 2019 – that would mean it had lasted 3 years, a perfectly reasonable amount of time. Then if, as is very likely, FF emerge as the largest party at the subsequent election, FG will be honour-bound to return the favour.

    It used to be said that any FF/FG coalition would lead to a resurgent left and eventually a left-wing government. Well, they are not in coalition, but they are in a formal arrangement, the nearest thing to a coalition without being one. And guess what? The electorate seem to like it. The combined FF/FG vote in recent polls has been almost 60 per cent, compared with about 45 per cent in polls prior to the last election. Non-SF left-wing parties and independents have collapsed. This trend will continue and intensify if the economy continues to do well (very likely). Even if SF hold on to their 2016 vote (13.8%), there is a good chance they will lose seats as they get many more transfers from other left-wing parties and independents than they do from FF or FG. This pool of transfers is likely to me much lower in the next election than in 2016.

  • mickfealty

    I think that’s the general media assumption in the Republic. Personally I doubt it very much. Martin told his party it would take them 10 years years to get back into power, and so far his game plan has worked.

    It would be a brave man or woman who dumped him for a fleeting glimpse of a bird in the bush. Note, O’Cuiv fought him for the leadership in 2011, was dumped and is now in lock step.

    He’s also been thought an internal advocate for getting closer to SF. No more.

  • mickfealty

    Betting against a SF prediction is not as risky as some in NI seem to think. Martin has taken every single chance he’s had to hammer Gerry and Co, from that first autumn when they went head to head on policy.

    Note, that never happened again.

  • hollandia

    Micheal Martin may be in for a rude awakening, in one of two ways. If the numbers dictate, FF will dump him lickety split, or by ruling out SF may ensure that FF spends another five years in opposition by forcing a FG-SF arrangement. For reference FF tried to force a defeat on FG over the Judicial Appointments Bill. They failed because SF brought it over the line.

  • eamoncorbett

    Arithmetic can have quare consequences sometimes.

  • ted hagan

    Micheal Martin needs a history lesson. How does he think his own party emerged from the civil war…. with clean hands?

  • Conchúr

    The arithmetic of the next Dáil is irrelevant. FF are not going to go into coalition with SF. Period.

    The constant bleating to the contrary smacks of nothing more than wish-fulfilment nonsense by Shinners on the one hand and confirmation bias for “respectable” liberals/FGers/Greens on the other.

  • Conchúr

    The media in the South is overwhelmingly liberal/FGer and they have an almost [REMOVED] glee at the prospect of FF confirming their worst prejudices.

  • mickfealty

    Fairly quickly, and then moved pretty smartly to parliamentarianism. Dev was President of the Executive Council a mere eight years later. Adams is 20 years in (with some interesting and unparliamentary detours along the way) and is still struggling in the parliamentary foothills.

    When Dev was 75 he’d spent nearly thirty years in and out of leading governments or oppositions. Gerry at 68 still hasn’t begun. I wouldn’t take the parallels too literally. Dev spent most of his active political career fighting a long peace, Gerry slightly more of his advocating long war.

  • mickfealty

    Not sure about that last point. Organisation is better than any other left party. What may hurt them is a squeeze like 2007, if FF and FG can predominate the debate and push them out.

    And a collapsed NI could be a bit of a rotting albatross around their necks.

  • Zig70

    I read the Sunday independent article. Fairly dull and no where as varied as the one on Brolly. Even so, Martin appears on the defensive. Hard to believe he could go back to the FF root supporters and say he doesn’t support an Irish language act. Almost unionist in his tone with purely anti SF rather than promoting FF

  • Karl

    After how many years did people stop bringing up the 2800 people killed by the IRA in the war of independence and the civil war?
    When did politics become more important than history, because NI isn’t there yet?

  • mickfealty

    That IRA won, this one didn’t. That and the huge contrast in the length of the respective campaigns, are probably the biggest differences.

  • Damien Mullan

    There is always a strand within the population of almost every advanced developed democracy, both a slither on the right and left, that has nothing but utter contempt for democracy, that contempt varies in potency, from outright loathsome hatred to the more nefarious subterranean.

    There are undoubtedly shades of nefariousness cult like instincts in Sinn Fein’s modus operandi vis-a-vis its democratic undertakings. Democracy and its inherit imperatives, exist suppressed by other imperatives, the imperatives of; party loyalty, the cult of leader(s), the ends-justify-the-means historiography of The Troubles. All these self interested truths trump the natural instincts of a outwardly functioning democratic perspective and party.

    This is what separates the revolutionary generation from the Shiners and Provo’s of today and the yesteryear’s of The Troubles.

    The language of the Proclamation is replete with the inherit constitutional pretensions of the Irish nation. The envisioned speedy restitution of democratic government after the emergency period of provisional government. These educated intellectuals, Dev and Collins among them, could not ignore, nor wished to ignore, the illustrious past titans of Irish constitutional parliamentary democracy, of O’Connell and Parnell, of their achievements, the movements they led, and both the party and policy change they championed.

    That revolutionary generation, caught in the maelstrom of turbulent and revolutionary times, often forwent party loyalty or ideology, in the pursuit of their inner convictions, ultimately coming to blows over the strength of their convictions as the Treaty Debates and its fallout unfurled. But they often found solace in recounting the stewardship and statesmanship of these proactive and assertive giants of Irish parliamentary democracy, insofar as that limited democracy could carry their ideas and movements forwards within the confines of the union. Collins and Dev, as well as whole swaths of that revolutionary generation, loved the intricacies of parliamentary practice and procedure, their major gripe, like much of the Irish population more generally after Easter 1916, was that it was not wholly and sovereignly Irish. It’s these instincts that made them such committed and competent politicians and parliamentarians.

    In short, these intelligent and intellectual characters knew their history, and had the intellectual wherewithal to become great practitioners of parliamentary democracy, like O’Connell and Parnell before them. Feats made all the more telling, by the suffocating of nascent democracy, among those newest democracies in Eastern Europe created in the aftermath of The Great War.

    Their greatest legacy is the creation of one of the oldest continuous democracies on the face of the planet. But they would also rightly point to it’s origin, not entirely in 1916, but further back, to O’Connell and Parnell, and perhaps even to Grattan too, as Daniel O’Connell and Charles Parnell would have insisted it should.

    I’m not sure how bound to this Gerry Adams quite is, I’d venture to guess, not too much.

  • puffen

    The Republic is a functioning, neo liberal , Democracy, PIRA , has a very small place in its political furniture,

  • Timothyhound

    Martin is getting desperate. Leo Varadkar is seen by the middle class urbanites in the Republic as the best option and Fianna Fáil are continuing to struggle for relevance in Dublin in particular. Sinn Fein are arch pragmatists and not half as left as their opponents would like us to believe – 12.5% corporation tax rate for example. So all told Martin knows there’s only room for two major parties. The Shinners are FF’s biggest threat – hence the door slamming.

  • Georgie Best

    Those associated with FF did not win the civil war.

  • mickfealty

    Where does it say that Zig?

  • mickfealty

    True. But see my previous?

  • Ruairi Murphy

    The far more likely prospect would be for FG to return the favour of a confidence and supply deal in order to keep SF out.

  • mickfealty

    I don’t think that they are the greatest threat. FF rarely takes his eye off the government. Their big challenge is to make the hard yards against FG, and to do that they need to bring those who abandoned them for independent TDs back into the fold. SF is an obsession for Northerners because they’re the only party in the Republic we think we understand.

    The point I make in the OP above is that Martin has used his occasional public encounters with SF to define important differences between his party and the insurgent SF. As we’ve seen within northern nationalism it is important that these differences are clearly and consistently defined in the mind of the voter to maintain your independence against such arch pragmatists. In terms of pragmatism, FF was there first.

    Failure to do so results in decline and potentially long and lingering death. The biggest existential danger point for FF was the last Dail. Martin got them through that first caol or “narrows” if you like, the next election will be a second, involving the no less arduous (but certainly less dangerous) task of scaling up numberic representation when there’s far less free ground to obtained.

    Dublin is an issue for the reasons you suggest, but they had no one there before last year, now they’ve five (I think) with some usefully close races to come in Dublin North West, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin South Central. Darragh O’Brien (now in the Dail rather than the Seanad) has put in a decent shift and the matter has settled some jangling nerves.

    As for SF, their timing issue goes back to 2007, which put them out of sequence for larger gains in 2009’s local elections and the 2011 general. That in turn meant that the gains last year they made were much more limited than they might have been, allowing FF to get off and down the road and way out ahead. The existential fear which was palpable before last Feb amongst FFers has all but disappeared.

  • A Bit Left and a Bit Lost

    It’s a risky move by Martin. If he can’t get above FG in the polls what is the strategy for getting to power?

    I think he opens himself up to attack from within from more pragmatic elements who may see SF coalition as best way to get back into power.

  • Karl

    All FF / FG will need is a small excuse and they’ll lie down with SF. Gerry stepping down or agreeing not to be Tainiste will do it. If the numbers add up a deal will be done.
    Do FG mistrust SF more than FF? Hard to tell.

  • sparrow

    There were many, many murders and atrocities carried out by the IRA and Free State forces throughout the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War. Some of those who carried out these deeds, or ordered them, or acquiesed in them, went on to play leading roles in the government of the 26 counties. De Valera would have been counted amongst those. The only difference between then and now is that many within the political establishment today, north and south, have a vested interest in making sure that Sinn Fein’s link to the violence is kept alive in the minds of the electorate. It stinks of double standards and political opportunism.

  • mickfealty

    It’s far from the only difference. Laying aside those I’ve already mentioned above, by some measures Dev was a far more decisive and ruthless character than Adams. Less than twenty years after the war of independence he was hanging former comrades. His decision to become slightly constitutional in 1926 was both focused and ambitious from the get go.

    Adams’ equivocation (in common with other former paramilitary leaders like David Ervine for instances) has been seen by some as a strength in terms of bringing the Provisionals to peace, but it has blunted the next necessary stage of that journey into
    genuine power.

  • mickfealty

    There’s a risk (how novel is that to our northern eyes?), but it’s a limited one. If anything it catches FG out on the wrong side of their own lines in the sense that I think Coveney’s partial favouring of an outcome he cannot control in NI is in danger of looking like cosying up to SF.

    One factor in the last GE had little to do with the shadow puppetry of LH than with the outbreak of the Kinahan Hutch feud in the first week of the campaign. FF won momentum from that because they’d been positioning themselves cleverly on the various Garda scandals, and with SF over law and order.

    Positioning matters in politics, and sometimes (often much) more than concrete policy. This move is all in the longer term also intended to undermine an young and inexperienced partnership between the Taoiseach and the Foreign Minister. It’s called strategy, something we rarely get to write about in NI pols.

  • epg_ie

    FF and SF are fighting over the same voters, whereas there’s not much overlap between FG and SF, whose voters are divided by socio-economic status. (For this reason, I think the speculations on a FG-SF coalition are too strong. Forget Brexit and NI, and it’s hard to see what’s in it for the bread-and-butter desires of their southern voters.)

    SF got many FF supporters in 2010-12, particularly low-earners in urban areas; FF would like them back, while SF would like more of them. FF also has nowhere else useful to direct attacks: Its criticisms of FG tend to conclude with climb-downs to avoid an election, and no party other than the big three has breached 8% in a year of polling. As Mick says, policing was a surprising and big issue last time that worked more favourably for FF than SF, and this time the government has a little progress to show on it.

  • Conchúr

    He does support an Irish Language Act but he’s most certainly against SF weaponising it.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    I think we’re looking at years of government by FG supported by FF alternating with FF supported by FG. Neither party will enter coalition with SF. Hard to see SF pulling ahead of either of them.

  • Conchúr

    Wishful thinking.

  • mickfealty

    You’re right in terms of Dublin, and maybe Cork. But the FG/FF interface is a much longer front with many more seats having a potential to change hands back and forth. As such it is much more valuable in terms of political strategy.

    FF is mostly it for SF, but the Coveney NI offensive is FG putting in a forward defensive wall against SF. So there are felt vulnerabilities there too. Limerick FGer Patrick O’Donovan sees himself as Republican as any FFer.

    But this interplay shows just how interconnected the fabric of southern politics is. So Martin is playing off any perceived FG weakness on SF every as much as pinning SF back within the limits of its own historic narratives.

  • Ciarán

    In a recent interview (23 July 2017) with Hugh O’Connell of the SBP, Martin ruled out coalition government with Sinn Féin after the next election. However, he did not rule out a confidence and supply arrangement with Sinn Féin. Crucially, Micheál has suggested on several occasions (e.g. on Newstalk, with the SBP and eolas Magazine) that confidence and supply arrangements are the future of governance in Dublin.

  • Ciarán

    One must also remember that Micheál Martin is an unrepentant ditherer. If the grumblers within his own party have their way, then short of success in the looming GE (made unlikely by FG’s Leo bounce), this could well be his last shot at becoming taoiseach. There are many successors waiting in the wings within FF who could accommodate SF, with gritted teeth or otherwise.

  • Barneyt

    All the main parties in Ireland have a violent past. Just different eras. FF made this clear in 2016 as they celebrated their 1916 heroes ( heroes in retrospect for many). The two larger southern parties can go and swing. I’ll give SF credit for their consistency in regarding old and new campaigns alike. Equally unionism takes an equally consistent view of the distant and recent past, by regarding both sets of “risers” as terrorists. FF need to decide where they are going to hitch their wagon.

  • Barneyt

    That matters little Mick in terms of the past and the deeds they regard as necessary and both still hold respectively in high revolutionary esteem. In the early part of the 20th century you could hardly separate keys ambushes from the 1979 warrenpoint attacks. The difference is, independence for 26 counties arose as a result of the deeds of the 20s. One could argue the gains in the north and recognition on the international stage were triggered by the last 30 years of that same century. If FF want to take the moral high ground ( not withstanding many other intolerable deeds of the modern troubles) they must surely renounce their past and previous glories?

  • Barneyt

    Two leaders emerged from the territory that had yet to be freed from British rule. You applaud your Herod in the context of events that occurred into the 26 counties. Up went the draw bridge. In the 6 that has not gained independence there were conditions that could equally foment cause. How would we look on mcguinness and Adams had Northern Ireland gained British independence in the 90s. Some 25+ years later, we might take a different view of these established parliamentarians. Now imagine the 26 counties of the republic were also ruled by England right through to the present day and the politics of the south was as mature as the norths. Your heroes and of course ours, would have an Adams/provi pariah status no doubt in Westminster. Just as the dail has for the north and its political products

  • mickfealty

    I think we can take the brutality, particularly of the civil war, as read. I’ve been to Kilmichael, so I know where you’re coming from. But the earlier conflicts were over in four years and had a definitive end.

    Our last victim was months ago, and two years ago one very awkward political assassination nearly brought Stormont crashing but for that okey cokey routine of Robo’s. For which he was duly ridiculed.

    But the insouciance with which that particular killing was greeted was an ominous sign that we have normalised all manner of behaviour that the southern state has never tolerated. This is the key difference.

    And it’s an important one. There are reports of early Troubles IRA volunteers refusing to steal cars ahead of an operation because it was immoral. By the end, the structure was their own authority.

    That’s been in train for forty years now. And people muse on why SF won’t come back and discharge their constitutional duty? It’s because they don’t feel bound by the same rules as the rest of us.

    That’s not what happened in the 1920s and that difference is the real measure here. The old IRA murders in West Cork were as opportunistic as the Provisionals campaign in the border areas.

    But it is what came after that defines the difference between the parties that arose from both conflicts. They may hate each other politically, but FGers and FFers know they are accountable to the state. SF doesn’t.

  • Timothyhound

    There isn’t room for three main parties in the South. The point is that at some stage individual parties are going to have to nail their colours to the mast. Fine Gael are making a play for the urban middle classes eg those in work who see the Republic as a liberal European democracy. Varadkar has set out his stall and for his audience is widely seen as being streets ahead of Adams, Martin, Foster and tellingly – Theresa May. Sinn Fein are meanwhile rattled by the performance of PBP and know they need to mind their left hand flank. Their performance on water charges shows that clearly. Meanwhile Fianna Fáil remain the arch pragmatists – the most successful populists in Western Europe. However they are at last having trouble running with the hare whilst hunting with the hounds. They will never reach the giddy heights of single party government – thus they have to choose their likely coalition partners – in shutting out SF Martin runs the risk of being accused in the future of being a total hypocrite. He won’t be the first Fianna Fáil leader to have to face such an accusation. However FF and SF have more in common than either dare admit.

  • Damien Mullan

    That’s nonsense. O’Connell’s and Parnell’s legacy straddles the border, it encompasses all of Ireland, it belongs equally to those in the north as it does to those in the south. That legacy did not terminate at the border in 1921/22.

    All of those who engage in insurrection and rebellion naturally enough invite the wrath of the established powers they are attempting to overthrow. But the truth is in the eating. We can assess the legacies of both these sets of people, of Dev and Collins, in comparison to, McGuinness and Adams, as political and parliamentary figures, there’s no necessity to enter the realm of the hypothetical. Let us also not forget that both O’Connell and Parnell had to operate within the confines of the union throughout their entire political and natural lives.

    Without question the conditions in the 6 counties legitimately gave rise to protest and resistance, The Civil Rights movement being the most obvious, the Stormont/Westminster response coupled with the PIRA, delivered a suffocating pincer movement that all but snuff The Civil Rights movement out.

    Adam’s and McGuinness’s legacies are in peril because of the deficiencies of their characters, in both current and historical evaluations, which for historically prominent and controversial individuals never ceases.

    Collin’s and Griffith’s legacy as midwifes to the newly infant Irish State, assures their place in the annals of Irish history, of taking the gut wrenching and all to knowingly divisive proposals of the Treaty and winning their acceptance, in the face of fierce opposition which shredded both friendships and lives apart. The alternative however, would have been to consign to a watery death the prize of sovereignty, however limited in its extent over the entire island it was, a ‘stepping stone’ was better than no stone at all.

    And as for Dev, his legacy is assured largely as a result of his decision in 1927 to enter Dáil Éireann, and thus ensure that the new Irish state, sovereign and independent, maintain its ancient tradition of constitutional parliamentary democracy. Dev’s decision however must also be assessed in context, not just of political expediency, but of character too. Given the climate, not just domestically but abroad, he could have choose a different path, of illiberalism and totalitarianism, which would have been completely alien to Irish tradition and sensibilities, a tradition first learned by the masses of the Irish nation at the feet of Daniel O’Connell in the 1830’s and 40’s. Dev’s decision solidified democracy in an independent Ireland, it confirmed the best instincts of the emerging Irish political class, with the precedents established and exercised by those previous Irish generations during in the 19th century. All this is augmented by Dev’s international standing, symbolized with his election as President of the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1938.

  • Damien Mullan

    It must also be added, that as deserving as Michael Collins is, of the prominence of his portrait in the Taoiseach’s office, I think it would also be fitting to have prominent portraits of Daniel O’Connell and Charles Parnell also. This is not a criticism of Collins portrait, which is an appropriate addition to the office of any Taoiseach, especially a Fine Gael one, but the absence of other Irish historical figures, particularly O’Connell and Parnell, in the obligatory photo-op or news reels that follows from dignitaries pressing the flesh at Government Buildings, is I feel a missed opportunity to broaden out the conversation and raise the profile of these titans, whose achievements at shepherding and cultivating the Irish attachment to democracy, and particularly of parliamentary democracy, has become over the centuries a signature feature of what makes us who we are.

    It’s not enough to name streets and refurbish statues, these men and their legacies ought to be in the national conversation more often that they currently are. Independence would have been fruitless had these men not displayed, despite the limitations of the day, the power of democracy and politics to change and move events, this was a necessary prerequisite for any established Irish state to be both stable and successful.

  • Zig70

    Saying SF should accept DUPs suggestions of a parallel process. Any fool can see it is a ploy to bury the demands for a ILA. MM here is seen to support that. God help them coming north in 2019 as I’ve seen promoted on twitter in the past week.

  • mickfealty

    We can also make ourselves believe seven impossible things before Breakfast. 😉

  • mickfealty

    I think you’re making the mistake of forcing a time frame on when FF return to government. Some folks may be desperate for the ministerial offices (and private en suite bathrooms). There are historical forces of course. This is the longest FF has ever spent out of government. But the truth is that the party has since the 26th Dail adapted reasonably well to the reality that it will likely never again govern alone. And the out of government rubicon was crossed about year before the last GE.

    However, Martin knows only too well that going into government with SF is unsustainable. The scorpion and frog episode of the last ten years in Northern Ireland demonstrates very well that – even if they wanted to – SF could not hold its end up inside government. It is far too paranoid about what its base makes of anything it might do inside government, and although it has talent on its southern front bench – Toibin, O’Broin, O’Reilly and Doherty – bar Adams its senior leadership is not in the Dail, and yet holds all the cards. No one inside any putative government would have any sense or forewarning of when they would nip the neck of their host/carrier.

    Martin is laying down clear lines now in order to argue for a return to minority government, with a similar arrangement to the one currently in play, with either it or FG in the driving seat. But his appeal will include one for SF to support his government’s policies, not as a formal arrangement, but as a political challenge. I suspect he is looking for a fight, but one fought on his terms, not SF’s.

    FG’s adventurism into pan nationalist rhetoric over Brexit and the collapse of Northern Irish democracy is an odd gamble on their part. It certainly won’t sit well with border Protestants, nor the blueshirt factor further south. More importantly, it will make resisting some kind of accommodation with SF politically harder to effect for FG. Martin on the other hand will be much freer (again) to hit out with both fists.

  • Timothyhound

    My point isn’t really about when FF end up in government. It’s more about the challenges a populist party has in the republic when it tries to be all things to all people. Yes by definition that’s what populism is. The bigger point is that as FG increasingly identify with business and the urban middle class (their natural constituency) how do FF challenge them and where do SF fit? I still see room for only two main parties and I think FGs role is clearer – especially under Varadkar. That leaves FF and SF looking for the less well off vote with perhaps a more nationalist leaning. At some stage they’ll get closer – how close remains to be seen. Meanwhile many will never forget Martins role in the last discredited FF cabinet and Independent News & Media will froth at the mouth at the mere mention of SF. It keeps FG sitting comfortably and SF and FF in competition with each other. At some stage they will get into bed to thwart FG.

  • mickfealty

    Last year’s Dail results will frame the possibilities of next year’s election. And it’s really a two horse race with SF taking up the rear.

    What happens between FF and FG is less relevant than the likelihood that it is going to happen a good way up the course from where SF’s election drama will take place.

    This is interesting from Martin Ferris’ former advisor Dr Matt Treacy, on where SF find themselves now https://goo.gl/3c1yHK:

    They are really in a bad place, they have to get into coalition down here. And all their chips are on that, they want to get into coalition with Fianna Fail after the next general election. It’s whether Fianna Fail go along with that, or not.

    They are simply running out of options. In the north, the DUP are going to be calling the shots. If they go into Stormont the DUP are still dominant party. If they go into coalition here it will be as the junior partner, but they have to”.

    Almost everything SF has managed to do so far has been at the point when necessity forced some new class of invention. For instance, Brian Feeney writes in today’s Irish News that “they’d been led by the nose for ten years” by the DUP.

    In so far as that is true, it was done willingly by Sinn Fein. The first moment they dropped the hot pan in Northern Ireland was after an Opposition took hold (which they actually voted for) and made it impossible to do anything other than cowpe when there was no one other than the DUP to blame.

    What Treacy highlights here is that the search for a coalition partner now is not a translation of strategy, but an necessity in trying to remain relevant. This was recorded in June after the DUP Con deal, when it will was still in the air how FF might receive an offer of coalition. We now know.

    How SF stay relevant to the debate is their problem, particularly if there’s a sustained ding dong between Leo and Micheal. And whilst the Stormont collapse may free resources, it will be hard to hide the fact that they collapsed it out of weakness and an unwillingness to face open criticism.

  • mickfealty

    Barney, that’s a party generated talking point. Just putting this here: https://goo.gl/Cn8BJa

  • Timothyhound

    I guess a lot of what you say is predicated on FF and FG staying as the main options in the South. Such an outcome would be unusual in Western European terms. The electorate see little between them but recognise a closer affinity between FF and SF as do many in the respective parliamentary parties.

  • mickfealty

    It is. But as an axiomatic reading of the local data, it’s not entirely unreasonable. The STV PR system is unique in Europe (and on several levels, I view it as a bit of a post-colonial trap).

    If you take a long view of the current scenario, FF doubled in the same period Pasok melted. Ireland is due to leave deficit next year (whilst Greece has barely begun to address hers).

    Economic agency is returning and self belief may return soon after. At that point, there will be limited choices that will not be entirely feed by desperation, or anger.

  • Zig70

    Very good. Took me a while Alice.