So, I’ll put my neck where Brian wouldn’t and say, crisis, what crisis? There are two reasons this won’t lead to a real crisis in Stormont. One is that the party who pulled it down last time is in the one that’s in the dog house this time.
Two, if the others have learned anything from Sinn Féin’s collapse of the institutions in January 2017, a collapse brings no good to anyone (including Sinn Féin who lost all the ground the made in March and June of 2017, and a lot more last time out).
It seems the Sinn Féin leadership thought it was clever to instruct Michelle and Mary Lou and other senior elected Sinn Féin members of the northern and southern institutions (including Finance leads Conor Murphy and Pearse Doherty) to get to Belfast.
This was Doherty’s flagrant attempt at what Donald Trump might call ‘truthiness’ in order to massage ‘the facts’ and kill the story on RTÉ (second tweet down)…
— Norn Eye (@NornEye) July 2, 2020
Doherty will also know that if he has any ambition to replace Mary Lou in the future he had no choice but to say ‘how high’ when his party’s hard men said ‘jump’. Nor indeed Michelle O’Neill whose political position has been weakened by the whole affair.
This is why none of their explanations make any sense to anyone other than the most committed inside their own movement. I’ve seen attempts online and in broadcast media to deflected this as a criticism of the whole west Belfast population.
Amongst ordinary moderate Sinn Féin voters, there is what can only be described as a deep disappointment that someone whom they looked to for leadership and guidance has let them and the personal sacrifices some of them have made down.
It is all the harder to explain to the public because it has been Michelle and her party who’ve been resisting the very measures, like opening churches and cemeteries that might have allowed Wednesday’s funeral to proceed in the manner Sinn Féin wanted.
Attempts too have been made to frame this as a tribal scrap. Much as some unionist politicians are trying to render it true this incredibly shallow analysis ignores the fact that Ms O’Neill’s recklessness puts executive colleagues in an impossible position.
Could she have resisted pressure from her senior bosses to pay fealty to the old IRA man? Perhaps a stronger individual might but that’s not the way the party works. Her loyalty will have been tested before she was given the nod. So too, Mary Lou.
Knowledge of how Sinn Féin’s internal power networks have long been know but little talked about in the public. See Killian Forde’s powerful but withering analysis of the subject from back in 2010?
Not only did Colum Eastwood pull no punches on Nolan yesterday, he also revealed that Sinn Féin activists in Derry were busy contacting local people to travel to Belfast but to turn up in the black and white ‘uniform’ that was on display on the day.
— The Nolan Show, BBC (@BBCNolan) July 2, 2020
Public signs put up on Kennedy Way and outside Casement Park giving directions to St Agnes’ is future evidence of the determination of the party to get big numbers out and a show of strength, in disregard of O’Neill restrictions she endorsed.
Alongside these breaches, news has filtered through that the whole affair required stewards and the crowd was such that Roselawn cemetery was closed to others allow Storey’s cremation to take precedence over other funerals.
When, in May, former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt broke lockdown, Mrs O’Neill said, “We are in difficult times but none of us are exempt from these regulations“. [Emphasis added] With a fine Trumpian swagger she turned this previous statement on its head:
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) July 3, 2020
Well “bending the truth” [out of all recognition? – Ed] about her party’s multiple breaches of the restrictions in both the south and the north is something they’ve been doing for years. But she’s wrong about one thing, the Executive is not split on the matter.
It’s simply that Sinn Fein has chosen to recharge and reload Orwell’s Animal Farm line all citizens are equal, but some are just more equal than others… Her opponents won’t walk out on those grounds. Better for them just to let the damage stick.
We saw from last years elections they are now vulnerable on two fronts, Alliance on one side (who, in Kelly Armstrong were amongst the first to call time on this hypocrisy), and the SDLP. Colum Eastwood hasn’t let this non-apology go unpunished:
The other parties would be well advised to keep Mrs O’Neill in precisely the awkward position she has worked her way into without the least help from any of them. It will go away, but she’s been forced to ship an awful lot of unnecessary damage.
“Gerry Adams, Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at the 2017 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. Hello Mary Lou – Adams’ likely successor could be first female Taoiseach.” by “Gerry Adams, Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at the 2017 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. Hello Mary Lou – Adams’ likely successor could be first female Taoiseach.” is licensed under “Gerry Adams, Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at the 2017 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. Hello Mary Lou – Adams’ likely successor could be first female Taoiseach.“
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