These days on Slugger (since Twitter stole our capacity to break news quickly), I often wait a few days before writing on a news story. But two this morning I think are worthy of immediate treatment.
Eighteen months after they suffered one of the biggest negative swings in parliamentary history (18.5%), the Sinn Féin “leadership” in Belfast has sacked the entire “leadership” of Derry Sinn Féin.
Aoife Moore reports in the Examiner:
Multiple sources within the party North and South have confirmed that a number of individuals in the Derry Comhairle Ceantair were stood aside last week after a long investigation into the local group regarding election performance and governance.
The investigation focused heavily on elections after two disastrous days at the polls. In the most recent local elections for Derry and Strabane council, the party lost five seats and its position as the largest party. In the UK general election, then-MP Elisha McCallion lost the Foyle seat to the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood by more than 17,000 votes.
Ms McCallion, who was later appointed to the Seanad, then stood down after it emerged she had received £10,000 in a Stormont Covid-19 grant for which she was ineligible. Her resignation was seen at the time as “the final nail in the coffin” for the party’s hopes in Derry and an in-depth investigation was launched.
Much of the direct quotation of party spokesmen is pretty vague and even suggests there are innocents amongst those who have been sacked, which only really serves to obscure the question of responsibility.
Although this sentence is striking:
There’s very little confidence in the party in the town (Derry). I’ve never heard it as bad, it ranges from questioning decisions to complete hostility, some people are hated and it’s a sad reflection on everyone in the party. [Emphasis added]
Aoife also comments that…
…some of those asked to stand down are family members of Sinn Féin elected officials in Stormont. It is understood that all were requested to keep the decision out of the public eye.
Silence is pretty much a standard operating procedure for Sinn Féin at such drastic points of departure. What’s not clear is what will happen to SF’s elected representatives in future elections in the city.
As we have seen in Scotland, once voters find an upgrade, they take a long time to go back the way they’ve come. Especially if the public perception was of “a core group making decisions about controlling power”.
This happens if you close down the only means of legitimate democratic representation for the whole of Northern Ireland for three years. And perhaps a long range consequence of losing Martin McGuinness’ steady hand on the Stormont tiller?
Nature abhors a vacuum. What it has to ask itself now is how many more vacuums have arisen in the same time elsewhere. Phillip’s overall figures suggest that nationalism is stuck rather than lost, but that’s more reflective of SF than the SDLP.
What seems to have gone missing from the public commentary (and oddly enough the polls) is that the SDLP vote total across Northern Ireland in the 2019 elections increased by 3.2 percentage points to 14.9%. That looks like re-alignment.
In the meantime, Sinn Féin will be hoping that the silence that triggered these events continues to prevail.
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