Taoiseach pins blame for Northern Ireland’s impasse on Sinn Fein

As noted previously, Micheal Martin’s public determination to isolate SF seems to be giving rise to those aforementioned wider consequences. From playing up to SF a few weeks back, if this exchange is anything to go by, the Taoiseach is hardening his line:

This section is part of a longer tetchy exchange (the Belfast Telegraph has a more complete video copy which shows where the Taoiseach set out from, ie putting blame on both the DUP and Sinn Fein, gets blown off course by the intemperate nature of Mary Lou’s intervention)…

The fact that Sinn Féin and the DUP have not come together to form a Government is letting down the people of Northern Ireland. It is not good enough always to be asking others to make compromises. Politics is about compromise and Sinn Féin will have to make compromises to allow an Executive to be established.

Is it any small wonder that the people of Northern Ireland don’t have a First Minister or deputy First Minister, [or] an Executive or an Assembly? Because this is the attitude of Sinn Fein: constantly hectoring, smart Alec remarks, lack of temperance, lack of respect for other people, and inability to listen to them and an inability to listen to compromise.

It should be of no wonder whatsoever that we’re in the situation where the people of Northern Ireland have no government, have no voice because this is the style of politics and this is the style of debate and the style of negotiation favoured by Sinn Fein, which is to interrupt people, to shout them down and just show total disrespect for anyone who doesn’t share their views.

No ambiguity there.

UPDATE: In conversation below and digging back through the record at KildareStreet.com it seems this was the moment it all started getting interesting:

Deputy Micheál Martin: In August, the Taoiseach unveiled his new Brexit policy in Belfast which, in spite of the enormous spin, amounted to saying that he was not going to propose anything until London had proposed something. After nearly a year and a half, he could have come up with something better than that. Without question, the Brexit debacle and mess is 100% the fault of the British Government. However, the lack of specifics in our position is becoming ominous. That is particularly dangerous in the context of Northern Ireland, where the assembly and Executive are not running. Northern Ireland essentially has no coherent voice in respect of the Brexit negotiations.

I have been very critical of the collapse of the Executive and believe Sinn Féin was instrumental in contriving it. Given the enormity of Brexit and the extraordinary negative consequences emanating from Brexit for this island, it is incredible that the Executive and assembly are still not up and running. While all parties have to contribute, including the Democratic Unionist Party, I do not buy what has been happening for the past nine months. This periodic, serial creation of crises in the Good Friday institutions and framework is not acceptable.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Deputy Martin’s words demonstrate remarkable ignorance.

Deputy Micheál Martin: I have been there. I have been in negotiations with all parties.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: I have been there with the Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: She was never in negotiations.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: I have, and I have seen Deputy Martin at close quarters.

Deputy Micheál Martin: When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy McDonald, was nowhere. What tended to happen was that certain people came out for the photo calls. The Deputy was never at negotiations with me or Shaun Woodward. Commitments that were given then were not dealt with or seen through. Every now and again it suits to create a crisis. There is a media acceptance of this which, at times, we all get a bit tired of. The endless crises, the suspension of judgment—–

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: The Deputy should get on the field and puck the ball.

Deputy Micheál Martin: We have the same sort of choreography going on there all the time – the same drama and melodrama of meetings, and will the crisis be resolved?

Clearly the removal of that mysterious fourth wall (sustained by still a too pliant and incurious media) by which the polite fiction is continuously spun by hacks (who do actually know better) that SF’s public voices have any real role or voice in what the party ends up doing was too much for the Deputy to endure.

Perhaps it’s this sidelining of the party’s own democrats which is fuelling the flow of resignations from its southern councillors? It also demonstrates a longer game where Martin has been positioning himself strategically between (at least) two senior opponents.

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