Abstentionism may have a place, but hedging on Northern Ireland’s anti Brexit interest is another matter

As Andrew Rawnsley recalled at the weekend, it was Lyndon B Johnson who declared that the most important talent in politics is “the ability to count”. He said that in the context of Theresa May’s tricky arithmetic at Westminster…

There aren’t enough people who can count around Mrs May. The fatal flaw in her plan is that there is no majority for it in the House of Commons.

Or rather, just the thinnest majorities for some of it in the House. The irony, not lost on domestic politicians in Ireland, is that the gaps are such that seven SF MPs could make a significant difference.

Some of it quite big stuff…

On RTE, SF’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill stonewalled accusations that her party had abandoned Ireland’s interest in the Brexit question by picking out the one measure that received cross-party support (refusing a border down the Irish Sea).

Ironically, through her defensiveness, she highlighted a key point, even though it blows a hole in her own (and An Taoiseach’s) position that an E-W border would be an outcome of hitting the backstop. It was always wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, the trashing of a common Customs Union is a function of that aforementioned inability to count. That embarrassingly SF sized hole is where a power shot could have been punched across the Eurosceptic prow but wasn’t.

Over on Newstalk, Micheal Martin was asked about Sinn Fein’s “No Show” by Ivan Yates on his Hard Shoulder programme on Newstalk…

He raises two points worth contemplating. One, the backstop cannot be a win for anyone other than the crash-dummy Brexiteers. Banking on it was always going to be a losing position. [See Frankl on the need to steer upwards to hit a mark.]

Two, rather than pleading with Sinn Fein to take their seats in Westminster, he asks why did they even run for seats when the only effect would be to gag the public voice of NI’s anti-Brexit majority?

Last word to Northern Slant’s fearless Heather Wilson…

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