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Sinn Féin’s nine months of madness continues December 26, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Democratic Unionist Party, Ireland, Irish Election 2007, Northern Ireland, Republicanism, Republicans, Sinn Féin, The North.
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Beginning with a public apology to WBS for leaving him so long to carry the site by himself, something he is more than able to do I should point out. But the strains of moving house in December caused more than a little difficulty in the Little household.

It’s a pity, because when I read this fantastic story  where, as I’m sure people already know, Sinn Féin’s former Unionist Outreach official Martina Anderson argued that immigrants were the wrong sort of Catholics I would have given a great deal for a good broadband connection. Beneath the lunacy there is a serious point that nationalist areas continue to be more economically deprived than unionist areas and there is, I suppose, a legitimate concern that Polish immigrants might skew the numbers due to their ability to get jobs when the Sinn Féin voters of West Belfast cannot. But the manner in which it was made, and Anderson’s failure to realise that it is Sinn Féin’s habit of thinking along sectarian lines (Not the same, before the crypto-provos that I was amused to see inhabit the site descend on me, as saying it is a sectarian party) that created the problem in the first place.

It is difficult to think back to the position Sinn Féin enjoyed in the second week of March. They had just achieved another triumph at the ballot box in the Northern Assembly elections, managing to give the SDLP a kicking on one of their flanks, and a motley crew of alternative republicans a kicking on the other side. The party leadership had delivered an endorsement of policing by the members little short of unanimous and they faced into an election here in May with every chance of doubling their seats in Leinster House and livening up their Dáil team. There was an expectation of a dividend from Southern voters for the Assembly being re-established and the image of Paisley and McGuinness sitting down together drawing a line under so much of the negotiations impasse. If there was a slight cloud on the horizon political anoraks might have noticed Adams’ appalling performance on A Week in Politics the night of their Ard Fheis, but few people watched that show and surely they would have sorted out the problems, such as not knowing what tax rates his party was proposing, by the election.

And then, it all went horribly wrong and has been continuing to go wrong since. The election result in May has already been analysed to death but the party has lost a number of councillors since then in the South. Some for political reasons, some for personal ones and some for ‘personal’ ones. I reckon a number of people saw the bandwagon was running out of steam and decided to get off before it collapsed altogether. The DUP have bitch-slapped them around the place on the Irish Language Act, which the Shinners concentrated their attentions on while ignoring economic issues. Caitríona Ruane has proved an unmitigated disaster in education with her handling of the classroom assistants dispute set to enter the textbooks of administrations on both sides of the border about how not to handle an industrial dispute. Her proposed alternative to the 11+ is confused, scanty on details and poorly thought out. There is no sign of any momentum for devolution of policing powers and indeed the resignation of their Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA and former Agriculture Spokesperson Gerry McHugh along with the refusal of Sinn Féin councillors in Strabane to sit on the Policing Boards shows that the anti-policing section of the party retains some pull. Conor Murphy hasn’t done a bad job on water charges, approaching it in a sensible fashion regardless of what the far left thinks, and Gildernew has managed to hold the fort in Agriculture as well, but there has been nothing spectacular from Sinn Féin in the North. Except for attacks on Margaret Ritchie of course, which seems to have a lot more to do with attacking the SDLP regardless of what they’re doing than anything else.
Down here, the party has reviewed itself thoroughly and decided that it did nothing wrong, or at least its leaderships did not. It is telling that despite Fine Gael’s success Kenny fired Phil Hogan and a question-mark remains over Kenny’s leadership. Rabbitte and the authors of the Mullingar Strategy in Labour have been cast aside. Sinn Féin’s upper leadership remains intact and the move of key northern activists like Declan Kearney into positions of authority in the party in the South suggests that Adams, having listened to the opinion of Southern members for the last six months has decided to ignore it and continue to centralise control in the mistaken belief that someone other than him, and he alone, is responsible for the party’s disastrous election campaign. The murder of Paul Quinn brought out the standard Sinn Féin approach of blackening the name of the victim with accusations of criminality that seem unproven. What seems more clear is the eager desire among their political opponents to hi-jack the Quinn’s case to attack Sinn Féin, but they would have no campaign to manipulate were it not for Quinn’s murder and how Sinn Féin handled it.

WBS has already looked at the coverage of the Sinn Féin conference and the only thing I would add to that is McDonald’s comment that Sinn Féin does not have an ‘open door’ policy on immigration is no policy shift. The Shinners, despite the accusations of far-right lunatics on Stormfront, have never had such a policy but the party’s strong support for immigrant rights has often seen them cast that way, though like WBS I don’t think it affected their election performance. What interests me is the conference in Dublin Airport, at which the press were not welcome, held a couple of weeks beforehand. Criticism of the leadership, and of Ruane’s performance in education in particular, was much in evidence and my Southern SF based source who attended was slightly surprised to see the extent of the internal criticism of Ruane from Northern colleagues.

For the Shinners, they have two opportunities to get themselves back in the game in 2008. The first is their Ard Fheis in March. The reality is that the party is still shaken and still lacks energy. The Ard Fheis is also the most likely time and place for leadership changes to be announced with members of the current leadership not contesting positions and newer, probably Southern, people being put forward for one or two of them. It will also be interesting to see if there are candidates against leadership choices for the main positions from the grassroots. If there are to be some of the serious internal reforms the party needs and have yet to appear, this is the place for them.

The second is the EU Reform Treaty. This brings me neatly to a favourite topic, which is the madness of Vincent Browne who argues at the back of the current edition of Village that Sinn Féin has not made its position on the EU Reform Treaty clear and it is his opinion they are likely to back it. Ahh Vincent, take thy head out from the Mahon Tribunal and read a paper. Sinn Féin’s party leadership, and McDonald & Adams in particular, have been making clear their intention to not simply oppose the Reform Treaty, but to lead the opposition to it. Most recent press statement from the party on it is here. What makes Browne’s error all the more mystifying is that the former Sinn Féin European Director Eoin O Broin now writes for his magazine. This referendum campaign gives Sinn Féin the opportunity to portray itself as the ‘real’ opposition to establishment centrist politics and even the possibility of fighting a winning campaign, which would be a massive boost to a party going into Local Elections in 2009, and European Elections where only a miracle will save their seat in Dublin.

As for the party in the North, it’s not my area of expertise but I suspect the DUP and the Northern Ireland Civil Service will be allowed to continue to drive the agenda on important issues while Sinn Féin shout about the Irish language or wrestle with the conundrum of whether Polish Catholics are ‘real’ Catholics or some sort of ‘provisional’ Catholic. There is an old saying that in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is King. Lacking such a person, I suspect for Sinn Féin in the North it will be whichever one of them has the stick.

A long way from the heady days of March 7, 2007.

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1. Phil - December 27, 2007

Just a thought on the Martina Anderson thing. Census takers find it incredibly hard to get answers that are both straight and reliable to questions about how well off people are. Consequently, people analysing census returns tend to resort to information that’s easier to get and harder to fake, but still maps onto high and low levels of household wealth with relatively few false positives and false negatives. ‘Number of cars’ is a favourite: all other things being equal, a household running two cars will probably be better off than a comparable household running one. The term of art is ‘proxy measure’.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. What Anderson’s saying is that ‘Catholic’ is a proxy measure: all things being equal, a Catholic household in the North will probably be…

Um. The politics come in when you ask what it’s a proxy for. Of course, there’s a perfectly good answer to that question – being a Republican in the North isn’t some kind of free-floating lifestyle choice. But there’s a bad answer too (viz. “one of ours”). More to the point, I’d imagine there are quite a few people who’d reject the idea of ‘Catholic’ being a proxy for anything – or rather, reject the idea of a Catholic identity being less important than other allegiances it might be associated with. Which in turn would make it the bad answer look more relevant.

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2. ejh - December 27, 2007

Sinn Féin’s former Unionist Outreach official Martina Anderson argued that immigrants were the wrong sort of Catholics

Isn’t the point she’s making actually correct, though, in terms of what the statistics are supposed to be meauring? If, for instance, I were to move to NI – being an English atheist of Catholic extraction – wouldn’t I, indeed, be the wrong sort of Catholic?

I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine from West Belfast (who may, for all I know, read this site) about another friend, a Liverpudlian Catholic, who married the daughter of an Ulster Protestant who had probably been involved in sectarian killings in the Seventies. The father had had no problems with the marriage. My West Belfast friend said sure, he probably didn’t, but he wouldn’t have looked on my Scouse friend as a Fenian in the first place. Which may or may not be true, but I can see the point.

So we have this term “Catholic” which in the context really means “originating from a certain community within Ireland”. So if Anderson is wrong to make the point she makes, how would people prefer these classifications to be made? And if they say that the classification should not be made at all – quite possibly a defensible position – how then do we measure whether or not discrimination and inequities continue?

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3. chekov - December 27, 2007

Funnily enough I had recourse to this anecdote about Anderson’s statement at Christmas dinner – as a demonstration of how SF have degenerated into a sectarian caricature in the North.

ejh is of course right, that in sectarian terms she is right – the catholics versus protestants thing is intended to be a proxy measure of taigs versus huns, themuns versus us. However, to me it just yet again illustrates the inevitable silliness that ensues from a political settlement which is based upon the assumption of an eternal bilateral nationalist division of the population. Human populations have a terrible habit of drifting and adopting a diverse composition over time. The catholic-protestant proxy measure was never more than a statistical approximation of opinions on one particular question. Any other measure would have revealed a much more complex division of the population – a world which couldn’t be neatly divided up into two competing tribes.

The consequence is that the political forces who came to power on the back of the sectarian agreement have an active need to re-inforce the idea of a rigid sectarian division of the population and hence we get avowedly ‘republican’ politicians putting out statements about how poles are not what we mean by catholics here.

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4. Pete - December 27, 2007

I’m afriad i have to disagree with frank on the ‘open door’ imigration policy – I’m afraid as much as SF did have any coheent policies on this issue they were ‘open door’, the Mary Lou speech on this issue was a major turn around for the party which had to be fouht for tooth and nail by elements that do not just want to be the southern mud guard for Gerry and the Nordie roadshow. Whether us lefties like it or not southern SF stratgisits with a brain did feel the lack of a coherent immgration policy did damge them in the election, what they had was a throw back to the auld Provo position of the Belfast clique of we’ll do the shooting and the Trots can make up what ever crap they want as our social-economic policies. If the Provo SF manifestion is to survive elements with in that party will have to get beyond this dynamic once and for all.

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5. Pete - December 27, 2007

As for their actions inthe North – they are not a left wing party from what I’ve seen and read the DUP are more concerned with serious bits of redistrubution than they are it’s about time the left in the north got real and developed some sort of broad based structures which will get their arguements heard. p.s. what is less left wing than covering for a gang of hoodlooms that bring a lad to a shed and then beat him to death

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6. WorldbyStorm - December 27, 2007

No need for apologies FL!

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7. sonofstan - December 27, 2007

they are not a left wing party from what I’ve seen and read the DUP are more concerned with serious bits of redistrubution than they are

Interesting point – do you think it might because there’s a kind of instinctive ‘labourism’ within the Loyalist working class, due to traditions of employment within secure, unionised heavy industry?

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8. WorldbyStorm - December 27, 2007

I don’t for a moment agree with Anderson. But…to be honest, I find the whole sectarian agreement stuff fairly pointless. If the divisions were simply political, instead of also having a nebulous cultural/religious element as well, then the term (which is intended perjoratively) would never be used. Yet it’s far from the only place in the world where socio-political divisions have a cultural/religious aspect (think of Belgium) and in a way it’s so useless. Sure, we can berate the GFA for being ‘sectarian’, but I see no way by which an agreement could be found between the various groups within the North which wouldn’t in some respect appear to have a ‘sectarian’ element if only because of the necessity to ascribe categories to those who appropriate Unionist/Nationalist/Republican as political terms yet where those terms link into broader cultural or (somewhat) religious aspects of identity. And in that sense the ‘sectarian’ jibe becomes not merely unuseful, but arguably profoundly destructive.

It’s also worth pointing out that in the action of the Assembly the categorisation is strictly secular… sure… we ‘know’ what they mean, but…

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9. CL - December 27, 2007

Anyone care to hazard a guess how Fianna Fail’s move North will affect the fortunes of Sinn Fein? To republicans in the South a lot of the attraction of Sinn Fein was that they were a 32-Co. party. Now that the ‘republican party’ is becoming organized on a 32- Co.basis..is Fianna Fail a new Sinn Fein? .It seemed a few years ago that Sinn Fein had become the Fianna Fail of the North. Is there room for 2 Fianna Fails in the North? and 2 ‘Sinn Feins’ in the South?

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10. sonofstan - December 27, 2007

If the divisions were simply political, instead of also having a nebulous cultural/religious element as well

The cultural/religious element is not what makes the divisions so intractable though – it’s the incommensurability of the political objectives.

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11. WorldbyStorm - December 27, 2007

Very true, hence – with no option of a majoritarian ‘solution’ – consocietational structures have to develop. But these structures still depend – as any would – on blocs of people who – however much I agree with Chekov as to the vague nature of their self-identifications – still ascribe certain definitions to themselves. Which leaves people in the position of having to define themselves according the political situation before the structures rather than that which they now find themselves in. What will be really significant will be any change in self-identifications as ‘bread and butter’ issues achieve a predominance – if they do, and here for example your point SOS about a labourism is very important. I can’t help but think that there is within the complaint at the extremes taking hold in the North something of a class element as well as the Unionist/Loyalist and Republican/Nationalist working class parties (or at least parties which largely identify with same) move into pole position, but as I’m always saying ( ;) ) we’ve seen this one before with FF where left populism (actually even a sort of clerico left populism) shifts over time into essential conservatism…

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12. sonofstan - December 27, 2007

Thing is, both the DUP and SF are, in the same way as FF were in the 20s and 30s, alliances of nationalist rural conservatives and the urban working class; so it’s quite likely that both will find it just as easy to abandon whatever trace elements of leftism (in SF) or ‘Labourism (the DUP) as they get used to governing. And the working classes will go back to being unrepresented in any way except tribally.

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13. WorldbyStorm - December 28, 2007

Interesting, but this assumes that the working class itself doesn’t change or that the tribal representation maintains its position as a (not necessarily the) primary identifier. I’m not entirely pessimistic on that question. I think the Ulster nationalism the DUP seems to be pushing is a fairly clever (and sensible) means of bridging the apparently unbridgeable political objectives. And one that on a purely tactical level locks straight into the realities (and the narratives) of a Sinn Féin which as our commentators above note with some relish is a party already divided North and South. And drawing a little way back, who would have predicted even a year ago that the enormously ‘sectarian’ or ‘tribal’ GFA would see SF and the DUP working the structures together with considerable ease? Sure,the DUP remains tribalist, but logic dictates…

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14. WorldbyStorm - December 28, 2007

CL, that’s something we’ve wondered about here for a while. The general feeling (as if we know anything!) is that for the moment it’s not a serous ploy by FF so that eventuality doesn’t arise in the North. However in the South I’d agree, FF have prime mover status embedded for decades, which is not to say SF can’t make some gains or find a niche, just it’s a smaller niche than they’d like.

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15. Tom Griffin - December 28, 2007

The whole thing seems very short-sighted to me. There must be a good chance that a lot of Poles will be socialised into the nationalist community within a generation, (like the Italians before them). Why put up barriers to that process?

I can see why unionists would want to defend the status quo. They are the majority bloc, after all.

If Sinn Fein are serious about achieving unity by consent then, they have to reach out to whatever middle ground there is.

I can’t see the nationalist community reaching 51 per cent organically any time soon, but I can see it reaching a position where the constitutional issue becomes less of a tribal headcount and more of an actual political debate.

In that context, the growth of an uncommitted middle ground should be seen as an opportunity not a threat.

That’s not to say there may not be a valid point about continued under-representation of people from an Irish Catholic background in the PSNI, but it needs to be dealt with in a more nuanced way.

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16. WorldbyStorm - December 28, 2007

Absolutely agree Tom. Hard not to think this is a seriously misguided and tactically inept way to progress this debate by certain people inside SF.

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17. sonofstan - December 28, 2007

I can’t see the nationalist community reaching 51 per cent organically any time soon, but I can see it reaching a position where the constitutional issue becomes less of a tribal headcount and more of an actual political debate.

As WBS pointed out above, the DUP’s move to Ulster nationalism may be an interesting glimpse of a sensible settlement – an Ulster with Dominion status rather than part of the UK? a common currency area with the republic and harmonisation of tax rates? all of these would be possible without any ‘surrender’ of sovereignty.

For me, I don’t really care who has the ‘freehold’ on the North as long as the island can move towards justice and away from ghettoisation; a few small points – the north western counties of the republic are (supposed to be) further from major hospital services than anywhere else; except they’re not – there’s a big general hospital in Derry. Why can’t Altnagelvin be developed as a regional hospital for the whole north west? If hospitals can cope with public and private patients in the same facilities, i see no reason why two separate public health systems couldn’t be coordinated in some way – a similar argument could be made for a university of the NW with campuses in Derry, Letterkenny and Sligo.

What is important is that such cross border stuff is presented as what it is – sensible utilisation of resources, not agenda driven. The north’s economic future looks increasingly like it will have more to do with this island as a whole and less with the other one; maybe letting that happen and parking the sovereignty issue

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18. sonofstan - December 28, 2007

‘…..is the way forward’ or something is how that should have ended

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19. franklittle - December 28, 2007

“What is important is that such cross border stuff is presented as what it is – sensible utilisation of resources, not agenda driven.”

But that’s kind of the problem isn’t it? Health access in particular for border areas has been a point that, in fairness to them, Sinn Féin have been arguing for a very long time. It’s common sense and a reasonable approach to the utilisation of resources. But it is still something unionism seems loathe to move on, partly I suspect because they see every little move of this nature as the slippery slope to a united Ireland despite what SF signed up to in the GFA. And also, to be blunt, because they know the people living either side of the border aren’t their ‘sort of people’ anyway.

Ejh: I agree with your point about Anderson’s comments and made that point in my original post but there are ways of doing this. I think WBS was spot on when he referred to this as a ‘a seriously misguided and tactically inept way to progress this debate’.

Pete: You’re free to disagree with me on whether Sinn Féin had an open door policy or not, but the reality is that the party has stated on at least one occasion prior to this that they are explicitly not ‘open door’ and their position has always been for a sustainable immigration process. Simply because their immigration position is vague (Untenably so)does not mean you can use that vagueness to pretend it is something else.

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20. jake - December 28, 2007

i think its just wonderful a) to see you crypto-provo, ex-stickie creeps all in a dither over the mess the big lad has made, dashing your hopes that he could do now what you manifestly and thankfully failed to do in the 1970′s and b) to see the chucks disintegrate in the way they are doing, being brought down by their ego-driven, dictatorial leadership’s inability/refusal to recognise reality and their own failings – just as you sticks disappeared up you own rear ends, it couldn’t happen to nicer people! byeeeeeeee!

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21. WorldbyStorm - December 29, 2007

First you accuse us of blindly following the leadership of a party we’re not aligned with. Now you seem to be accusing us of… er what? Being in a dither? When people here openly criticise the trajectory of PSF?

I don’t think we can win in your eyes.

FWIW, I’m a strong supporter of a non-coercive UI, but I’ll live with a transitional arrangement much like sonofstan articulates above. So… how is that 1970 all over again when OSF effectively underwrote a majoritarian parliament at Stormont, something I think was wrong then and is wrong now.

Oh, sorry, you don’t do discussion or debate do you?

Go start your own blog, a chara, where you can pump out bile to your hearts content…

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22. Phil - December 29, 2007

I don’t think we can win in your eyes.

Jake’s comment reminded me of one of l’Unità‘s recurring lines on the Brigate Rosse: they were fascists, but fascists who had the effrontery to claim to be Communists – a claim which simply proved that they were liars, and let’s not forget that lying is the hallmark of fascists… Sometimes orientation only works if you already want to be oriented.

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23. sonofstan - December 29, 2007

I’ll live with a transitional arrangement much like sonofstan articulates above

……..Transitional implies a teleology, an end result, which is why Unionists get nervous. Hard to see how nationalists might stop thinking that way, though.

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24. Pete - December 29, 2007

“OSF effectively underwrote a majoritarian parliament at Stormont” – that is because the majority are the working class – it’s sad to see someone with a stickie bacground still hold a candle up for the ethnic division of Irishmen – and why this longin for terretorial unity I’d rather seen a united Northern working class any day before theri assimaltion into what is a gombeen southern state that unless things really cahnge is set to contiune as so – and by the way a do live in Dublin and see nothing but guber goombeenism all around as personified in that powdered ponce Ahern and his afemainte pop family – give me big Ian any day of the week please – but if you mean Irish unity where this southern mess and it’s poltical class are smashed then we’re talking until then allow at lest one part of this island to be goverened beyond gombeenism

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25. WorldbyStorm - December 29, 2007

Pete, a majority can be wrong, can impose repression, etc, etc. And that is precisely what we saw in Stormont pre 1973. I’m more than flexible enough in my political thinking to assimilate the concept that we’d see a form of overlapping identity on the island both North and South. Indeed I’ll live with long term transitional arrangements that lead to a progressive end. And yes, the end goal is a Republic which sees a complete reworking of what we’ve seen before.

sonofstan… since it’s not just hard, but impossible to see an end to nationalists being nationalists, and conversely unionists being unionists, some sort of flexibility is necessary (indeed how is it possible realistically to see either concede to the other their self-identification?). What is crucial is to move away from zero sum arguments (and end points). That doesn’t mean that I don’t want a Republic, but, I want a Republic which is both strong enough and open enough to allow those within it to have overlapping allegiance, identity and so on. I’m sort of hoping the current trajectory of the UK will assist that process significantly.

Phil, great point. We’re clearly – in Jakes’ eyes – sticks who are provo’s. Yeah. That makes sense… particularly since we’re neither sticks nor provos.

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26. Pete - December 29, 2007

Christ I thought we were stiks on here – there is nothing to be embrassed about with that. The only thing some people may have got wrong is that they hoped Gerry was still one too

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27. Pete - December 29, 2007

Of ocurse that should be STICKS

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28. WorldbyStorm - December 29, 2007

Pete, some are sticks, some were sticks, some never were and some aren’t.

You’re absolutely correct, there’s nothing to be embaressed about being one, or indeed not being one. It’s certainly not meant to be an environment which is hostile to sticks, or indeed any other group (perhaps I’ll make an exception for the Sparts though…).

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29. franklittle - December 29, 2007

I was brought on to cater to the non-stick market for example Pete.

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30. Mark P - December 29, 2007

1) Franklittle may be surprised to hear that I actually agree with him that Conor Murphy has behaved “sensibly” over the water charges. He has brought them in in a way calculated to make life difficult for those forces in society which want to oppose them. From the point of view of a right wing Minister in a capitalist government, determined to impose a regressive tax on the working class he has indeed behaved sensibly. I’d go further and say that he has been clever.

2) I disagree with him however that Catriona Ruane handled the term time strike badly. Again, from the point of view of a right wing Minister in a capitalist government, she handled it well. She bitterly opposed the strikers, desperately tried to undermine them and then, finally she saw the strike defeated. That may be handling things badly from the point of the view of the odd grumpy provo rank and filer who still has delusions of radicalism, but it isn’t handling things badly from the point of view of a right wing government. It saves the state money that would otherwise be spent on pay increases and it lets business know where the government and SF stand on uppity workers.

3) I can get back to agreeing with him, this time more wholeheartedly, by saying that I will be amazed if SF don’t oppose the EU treaty. From a purely pragmatic point of view there is nothing to be gained from lining up with all of the other parties when a large swathe of the population will oppose it. Why fight with FF/FG/Lab/PDs and probably the Greens to be the best representatives of one half of the argument?

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31. Ciarán - December 29, 2007

franklittle: it is Sinn Féin’s habit of thinking along sectarian lines (Not the same, before the crypto-provos that I was amused to see inhabit the site descend on me, as saying it is a sectarian party) that created the problem in the first place.

I realise I haven’t been around much recently, but where are all of these crypto-Provos who keep getting mentioned? What makes one a crypto-Provo anyway? And surely if a party thinks along sectarian lines then it can be considered a sectarian party? (Does defending the Shinners on occasion make one a crypto-Provo? Does that make you a crypto-Provo for defending Conor Murphy?)

But to get to the point, I think Martina Anderson was fundamentally right in what she was saying, but the issue goes far beyond that of immigrants. I’m not a catholic or religious in any way, but I am a nationalist and a republican and a socialist and a Gaeilgeoir (and I could go on for a while) but none of that matters because whenever I fill out a job application form, and some other forms, I’m asked what religious community background I come from. Sufficed it to say that there are many catholics out there (especially well-off ones) who certainly aren’t nationalists or republicans or whatever. So the religious card (and who really surprised at that sectarian identifier being used by the British civil service) doesn’t really work as an accurate representation of the conditions of Six-County táigs.

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32. Ciarán - December 29, 2007

Pete: from what I’ve seen and read the DUP are more concerned with serious bits of redistrubution than they are

How so? By handing over a tourist centre at the Giant’s Causeway to good friend Seymour Sweeney? By having the Chuckle Brothers in the US together asking for more Seagates to come over and rob us blind before alighting to where the labour is even cheaper? By continuing to oppose the end of academic selection at 11 despite unionist working-class areas performing worst in the transfer test?

sonofstan: Interesting point – do you think it might because there’s a kind of instinctive ‘labourism’ within the Loyalist working class, due to traditions of employment within secure, unionised heavy industry?

I think that that most loyalists with any continuing labourist sensibilities would vote for the PUP, which has led the DUP to nickname their one MLA “Red Dawn” (and not in a nice nickname way, apparently).

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33. sonofstan - December 29, 2007

I think that that most loyalists with any continuing labourist sensibilities would vote for the PUP, which has led the DUP to nickname their one MLA “Red Dawn” (and not in a nice nickname way, apparently).

Yeah, guess you’re right; maybe what I mean is the North has remained much more statist than either the rest of the UK or the republic, and the working- classes remain more likely to be urban, and tenants,rather than become homeowners in far flung suburbs (and on the loyalist side, less likely to have their kids groomed for escape through education). It probably doesn’t add up to “labourism’ in any conscious idealogical way, but there may be a more than residual class- consciousness.

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34. Cartons - December 30, 2007

Don´t underestimate the importance of the immigration speech by Mary Lou recently. The inclusion of the “Sinn Fein is not in favor of an open door policy” and “we need to manage migration” was agressively opposed by many in the party, with backroom rows on the text of the speech up until Mc Donald delivered it. The row was between two wings which are emerging following the May 07 election, specifically a “pragmatic” whose ideology seems to be – its winning thats counts- and a more ideological wing that wants to be right, as in correct. These two wings developing cross the border and generations and it appears that either Adams and Co are happy to see which grouping manages to convince the grassroots before they anoint their approval.

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35. The Youngfella - December 30, 2007

As an ex shinner myself, I find myself in agreement with most of your article. The distance between SF and reality is sometimes astounding. SF have a habit of thinking of everyone else as being right and them wrong. Your point about the contrast with FG and labour is very valid. SF don’t have a culture of overthrowing the leadership. When grassroots members (as happened in large numbers in recent years) start to question the leadership’s motives, it is them that areput into a position where they feel they have to resign. The shit will never hit the fan for the likes of Adams and Kearney. They and their ilk will continue to dictate to the grassroots. When I recall the feeling of abject despair I felt everytime another legitimate criticism was patronisingly brushed aside, it confirms to me that I was dead right in deciding to leave the party almost a year ago.

The situation that SF find themselves in now is one where they are merely a rubberstamp for British policies designed to re-inforce the elite. When I see SF heads dismissing the claims of the classroom assistants, it makes me want to puke. It furthermore brings home to me the reality that their talk of socialism was a lie, a half-arsed lie designed to attract gullible young fellas like myself into the party.

When I look back at it I realise it was never fleshed out and that their socialism revolved around a one line clause put into their constitution as a token gesture. The fact that those who clearly opposed this claim to support socialism were not only not asked to leave the party (which I as a committed socialist would have advocated), but were not really discouraged in any way.

SF’s inherent contradictions will one day destroy that party and that is their own fault, however, what causes me much more distress is the fact that they may have set back the cause of radical socialist republicanism for many more years to come.

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36. Joe - January 2, 2008

First, great article Frank. Sums up what I have been feeling and whispering about SF for a few months now. They’re in trouble. As a proud ex Stick, it all reminds me of how the WP collapsed. The two parties have many similarities in terms of internal dynamics – a leadership based on Army command style loyalties, a membership happy to go along with that until the leaders’ feet of clay are revealed and/or internal contradictions become too much. Can’t think that anyone in SF these days can be feeling anything but a tad demoralised and disillusioned. The pity is that there’s little prospect of an organised left filling the gap as SF shift to the centre.

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37. WorldbyStorm - January 2, 2008

Well, it may not be quite that bad yet, but hard to disagree Joe. Left of Labour formations are notoriously difficult to sustain.

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38. Garibaldy - January 3, 2008

The WP would never have suffered the split it did without the collapse of the USSR. Added to which, the Provos had an ideological split in 1986. And the reality revealed then was confirmed in the subsequent peace process – very few of them had any principles to start with. I think that while there are ostensible similarities, the differences are much more telling.

“A proud ex Stick”. Not sure which bit you’re proud of :)

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39. Joe - January 3, 2008

“A proud ex Stick”. Not sure which bit you’re proud of …”

Proud, I suppose, of having been part of a real party of the working class in the 1980s and of being part of a party which took the stand that it did on the North. Not so proud, I suppose, of having gone along quietly with Stalinist lines and the odd OIRA punishment beating.
Proud to have been a Stick. Happy to now be an ex. Still have much respect for many former comrades in and out of the WP.

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40. Justin - a stick who stuck - January 3, 2008

“A proud ex Stick”

The country appears to be teeming with ex-sticks, some of them raving neo-conservatives with dubious TV debating abilities, some of them Social Democrats who have left their wild days behind them and some of them “proud ex-sticks”.

Any chance that those in proud cohort might think of joining up again? After all, as they do say overseas, A Luta Continua!

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41. Justin - a stick who stuck - January 3, 2008

Eamo McCann has a good piece about Martina Anderson’s remarks
here
http://www.sundayjournal.ie/eamonn-mccann/Neither-them-nor-us.3614768.jp

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42. Ed Hayes - January 3, 2008

A ‘Stick’ urging us to read McCann! Now times really have changed!

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43. Justin - January 3, 2008

Hi Ed
Didn’t quite “urge” you. Don’t agree with lots of his politics but he’s a good journo. I also read ,and would recommend, the Financial Times. Doesn’t mean I urge you to buy shares and vote for Brown.

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