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Some table you got there Dr. Paisley and Mr. Adams…or remarkable scenes at Stormont March 26, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, Ulster.

Hmmm…well that was momentous. Seriously. Yes it was.adams372.gif

This is going to be one of the defining images of Irish history in the early 21st century…that is if it all works out for the best. What to love? The Easter Lily on the lapel. The restricted cúpla focal. The stern expression on Paisley’s face. And then the almost tentative smile in the photograph above.

Perhaps they like each other. Perhaps not.

Anyhow, not sure if it’s just me, but I find the image almost unbearable to look at as if in some fetishistic way (and I mean that in the original sense of the term) it will all go horribly wrong. Actually there are those who would argue that for it to reach this point it already has. Roll on Channel 4 News which is always entertaining for it’s slight sense of bemused detachment when dealing with the North [most engaging gaffe by Alex Thomson saying to Mitchell McLaughlin and Sammy Wilson that this mean ‘power sharing was over’ – very possibly. Second most engaging gaffe, Mitchell McLaughlin being asked by Thomson if he liked Wilson and replying ‘yes, of course’ while Wilson was rather more circumspect…although equally telling was Thomson saying how the two men had been ‘joshing’ prior to the cameras coming on].

Attention has already been drawn to the diamond shaped table with Ian Paisley and his minions on one side and Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald on the other (incidentally googling “Paisley Adams” for pics brought up some old Assembly material and some…er…highly pornographic ones too, so exercise caution if you go looking for them – anyway not entirely sure what that’s telling us one way or another).

What to make of it all? Being entirely cynical this was so well choreographed it’s hard to believe they didn’t have at least one run through already, like many a wedding. And the reports from RTÉ that both sides were well pleased afterwards would seem to confirm that.

But…choreographed or not it is something else. I had significant doubts that the DUP would jump over the weekend. Seems those water bills just gave it the edge required.

And from the Sinn Féin point of view this will be hard to beat if the Executive is up and running by May. And the fun we’re about to have. The regular meetings between the First and Deputy First Minister which are slated to take place over the next six weeks.

Speaking of Mary Lou McDonald, yesterday her canvassing in Dublin Central by the Fire Station on North Strand. This evening…why none other than Patricia McKenna.

All the stars – eh? I’m very much looking forward to the distribution of first preferences at the GE.


Two more thoughts. Hain saying that he hadn’t expected a public press conference with the two men. Don’t buy that at all.

But more significantly the absence during that conference of the British or Irish government representatives. That tells us something in itself.


1. Dan O Neill - March 27, 2007

Fantastic blog….Brilliant stories!!!!I’m certainly glad I stumbled across it….

Check out mine if you have the chance..Not half..in fact a quarter as good but check it out anyway.


i’ll put a link to this site on it…slán


2. Ed Hayes - March 27, 2007

Interesting to see Mary Lou at GA’s side last night like she was deeply involved in the whole process. She is working very hard in Dublin Central and it will be a right battle. Expect the big guns from the occupied six down in droves as rumour has it that the base in Cabra for Nicky Kehoe was more than a little put out by his being replaced. There is also a local community candidate going into the mix there so it will be interesting. great to see powersharing at last etc etc except…is anyone else deeply depressed by the whole sectarian crave up and the smug grins Mr. amoral Blair and Bertie desperate to have ‘solved’ the Irish question?


3. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2007

Actually Ed, I’m very intrigued by the ‘community candidate’ in DC. That may eat into much of the first preference ‘left’ vote. Not good for PK or MLM there, although the transfers will presumably go en masse to TG or to MLM.

Ta Dan. Used to be up in Eric Byrne’s neck of the woods with DL. A good man.


4. Mark P - March 27, 2007

I presume the “community candidate” mentioned is Ciaran Perry. Perry stood in the last local elections as an independent on an anti-bin tax platform. He polled very well and came within a few dozen votes of election, which would have been a major surprise but also indicates that he’s very well known in the area. Perry was associated with the loose Working Class Action grouping, and may still be.

He’s a good candidate, but will struggle to get anywhere near the race because of the high profile candidates battling for a seat. It is interesting though that his votes will likely come from Cabra for the most part, given that McDonald really needs Kehoe’s base in that area to get out and vote for her. If Perry polls even a thousand, let alone two thousand, votes his transfers will play a big role. They are at least as likely to go to Gregory as McDonald.

I still think McDonald will take a seat mind you, despite all the speculation that she has encountered various difficulties. Huge resources will be put into her campaign, she’s high profile and all she needs is a slight rise in either the SF vote or a slight improvement in their ability to gather transfers and she is home. The SF vote will be up nationally and she will certainly be more transfer friendly than Kehoe was. It might not even be the last seat.

Having had the displeasure of hearing her speak on numerous occasions, I don’t think that McDonald will much improve the poor Dail performance of the SF TDs.


5. Ed Hayes - March 27, 2007

She’ll have a slightly different accent though! Is it just me, actually it probably is, but the slightly D4 inflections just sound wrong for a Shinner. Yes, I meant Perry as the other candidate and he is well known in Cabra. I’m sure SF will put a huge amount into getting Mary Lou in. It will be interesting to see if FF decide she is a threat and turn loose the dogs of war and try and descredit her. Which is of course why she was parachuted in over Nicky in the first place…


6. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2007

Sorry Mark P, I was using ‘intrigued’ in the rhetorical sense.

WCA split some time ago with some activists going either with Perry and others with Gregory.

I agree with you that McDonald appears to be best positioned to take the seat, although McKenna has upped her game in the last week or so. But I’m sort of expecting to have some of the leading lights from SF to arrive at my door. My sense is that no-one bar Ahern is entirely comfortable with this contest, and not even him for his own reasons.


7. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2007

What though is to discredit Ed? Her dark and sinister past in…FF!

Although when you put it that way.


8. Mark P - March 27, 2007

I’ve just looked it up. Perry polled 1,753 first preferences in Cabra/Glasnevin in the local elections. That actually put him ahead of Maurice Ahern. On the tenth count Ahern and Mary Fitzpatrick were elected, leaving Perry on 2,612 votes and not elected. He was never eliminated so we have no way of knowing where his transfers would have gone.

It’s difficult to know how he will actually poll. He has a local base, is very well known in the area and polled well before. It has to be said that he will be facing much higher profile and much better financed opposition this time, which you would ordinarily expect to result in him being squeezed. However, when he just missed out in the locals the poll topper was none other than Nicky Kehoe, easily the most popular politician in the area. This time no Kehoe, means that Perry doesn’t have to deal with the big dog in his own area.


9. Ed Hayes - March 27, 2007

My abiding memory of Mary Lou is of an appearence on Questions and Answers during the 2004 US elections. The panel were asked who they would like to see win. The FF guy, said we’ll be friends with the US no matter what but I think we all like the Democrats over here don’t we? Whoever else was on said yes, Kerry all the way. Then the dreaded Eoghan Harris gave one of his populist masterpieces whereby he argued that if you did not support Bush you were a elitist snob. Mary Lou ‘took the fifth’ (her words) she couldn’t actually say who she supported, presumbly either not having asked Connolly House what the line was or being told by them not to express a preference. This however and her former membership of FF (and its armed wing, the Irish national Congress) will not lost her too many votes in Dublin Central.


10. Mark P - March 27, 2007

I’m impressed with your information gathering if you are right that WCA has split! They must be one of the lowest profile left groupsings we’ve had in years. It’s not difficult to believe though – their get something done in the local area political approach isn’t miles from Gregory’s own, at least since he gave up on everything outside Dublin Central. Was Perry standing the trigger for the split? And is his candidacy designed to get into poll position to take the old Gregory vote when Tony finally goes?

To be fair their members are solid workers on the ground but I think the only time they’ve ever interacted with the rest of the left was during the bin tax campaign (where incidentally they played a good if small role). Do you know if WCA still formally exists as the group around Perry (and presumably Joe Mooney)?

How do you know so much about their recent activities, and what do you make of them?


11. Mark P - March 27, 2007

I broadly agree with you about McKenna doing well by the way. She’s a good candidate and one who I have to say I have much more sympathy for than McDonald. She represents the radical component of the Green Party’s past, while McDonald represents the grim mainstream future of Sinn Fein. Not that I’ll be voting for either of them, mind you.

The problem for McKenna is simply the numbers. The Greens have never had them in Dublin Central and the population profile is all wrong for them. McKenna is a strong candidate, but she is surrounded by well entrenched high profile candidates who already know they are in a real fight. It would take a real citywide surge by the Greens (by no means impossible) to see her take a seat, and if that happens it will alter the situation so much that there is no guarantee that it would be McDonald to lose out.

McDonald has the numbers on her side.


12. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2007

No, WCA split before Perry’s solo run. I understand they were in talks with the ISN on some sort of merger but it never went anywhere. In any case they’d have overlapped to a considerable degree with Gregory’s operation, the distinction being generational.

As a group it’s pretty much defunct, although JM and Perry may well have plans to reformulate it in the wake of the election.

I know some of those involved in both camps. Hard workers, but without a base and no coherent ideological programme – since some would be Maoist, others Republican Socialist etc, etc. So I’d be sympathetic, but fairly sure it’s not going to go very far. In fact I’d be worried that without an organisation it will devolve into an apolitical oppositional approach based in community activism and electoralism.

Completely agree about McKenna. A good wind behind her and she should do well, but…not well enough.

In fairness to MLM, Ed, I’ve heard her speak at residents and community meetings and found her fluent, and well liked by those in the constituency. Whether that translates is a different matter…


13. Wednesday - March 27, 2007

rumour has it that the base in Cabra for Nicky Kehoe was more than a little put out by his being replaced

And Nicky himself has been working overtime to make sure the Cabra base knows that it was his own decision not to run. That vote can’t be taken for granted, but from what I’m hearing it looks as though it will hold up for us. To be honest I’d be more concerned with the North Inner City vote, due to the particularly clientelist nature of politics there and the fact that ML’s other roles within the party limit the amount of groundwork she can do. But the canvass team there seems pretty optimistic.


14. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2007

“And Nicky himself has been working overtime to make sure the Cabra base knows that it was his own decision not to run.”

That too is the message I’m hearing on the ground.


15. Wednesday - March 27, 2007

BTW, I got a leaflet through my door tonight with a business card attached reading – “Councillor Maurice Ahern: Not Just At Election Time”.

Now when do you suppose was the last time I got something from Councillor Maurice Ahern?


16. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2007

It’s like a rash. They’re spreading far and wide…


17. franklittle - March 28, 2007

Just to add to the thread careering off topic, Kehoe’s decision not to contest the general election was not only his own, but by all accounts everyone from Adams down tried to convince him to change his mind.

The Shinners, whatever else they might be, are not stupid. If they’d run Nicky they would have taken a seat. Running McDonald puts the gain at risk and if she fails to get elected, she won’t hold her European seat (Doubtful anyway if you ask me) and her career would be pretty much over. It’s not a risk they would have taken if they could have avoided it.

Considering SF’s preference these days for style over substance it is easy to see how the rumour got started though.


18. Ed Hayes - March 28, 2007

Ahem. Forgive me for being cynical. Do you think the Sunday Worst and Paul Williams will be able to smear Mary Lou? Now reverse the question. Nicky Kehoe is a good representative and I’m sure Mary Lou will be as well but there is way too much historical baggage associated with Nicky for SF to want that image being hyped up in Dublin in the run up to the election. BTW I know Mary Lou is quite good but my point was she was not able to give her opinion on whether she wanted Bush or Kerry to win (and she was not saying a plague on both your houses either). I’ve heard her numerous times on Sam Smyth who has her down along with the McDowells as a favourite guest and when questions come up about the IRA’s record she is lost.


19. franklittle - March 28, 2007

Ed, I think an attitude of cynicism towards Sinn Féin from people on the left is, to say the least, understandable and for people like Mary Lou should probably be the default option but Williams et al will try and smear anyone, and they have gone after her on a couple of occasions. Sure, they’d have better traction going after Kehoe, but they’re going to be raising McCabe, the IRA backgrounds of various candidates and so forth anyway.

I can certainly understand why people think Nicky was shafted. The reality is that he wasn’t. He chose to go and the Shinner leadership tried to persuade him not to. I think you underestimate just how electoralist the SF leadership is.

Ask yourself a single question, is Sinn Féin’s chance of a seat better with Nicky as the candidate working his ass off for five years since 2002, or with a middle class parachute arriving in less than 18 months to the election whose entire political career, in which Adams & Co have invested a lot, is put at risk if defeated and who will have to deal with accusations of having shafted a beloved local councillor?

Bums on seats comrade, that’s what the boys and girls in Connolly House are concerned about.


20. Ed Hayes - March 28, 2007

I take your point about the ultimate bottom line in all this. But without being completly tabloid, there was a greater potential for scandal with the former candidate and the Shinners know it. Consider the amount of embarrassment that had to be swept under the carpet because of William’s exposes in Dublin et al over the last few years. SF have a neat balancing act to do; win support on the high profile as peace makers in the north; trade off whatever glory is left for having fought the war (some kudos still there for the younger set who don’t remember it in particular) win a broader electoral base of people who are put off by the NKs and even DE’s of this word. In the latter case the constituencey is still sufficentially old school to be risked. But I’m sure SF would like most candidates to not have a sniff of the old days. The world began in 1997 post second ceasefire, everyone who was killed in the north was killed by the Brits/Loyalists, (same thing really) we offer a constructive alternative to the corrupt politics of the south but were not so made that we’ll frighten away foreign investment. God I am cynical.


21. Wednesday - March 28, 2007

I’m cynical too, but in this case you’re simply wrong. The fact is that Nicky was telling people close to him and within the local organisation that he wasn’t going to run again from practically the moment the 2002 count was concluded. It was kept well enough under wraps (in part because of a refusal on our part to recognise that he really meant it) for long enough that by the time it started to leak out, ML had entered the public’s consciousness and it was easy enough for people to put two and two together and come up with five. But the simple truth is that he had made his intentions clear long before anyone ever dreamed of running ML in that constituency.

You can ask him yourself. He’ll be the first to confirm this.


22. Ed Hayes - March 28, 2007

Do the words ‘army’ and ‘orders’ mean anything to you? it had not been unknown for people to swear blind that they are delighted to be replaced. its not the labour Party we are dealing with here as well you know. people don’t go squealing to the media or splitting easily from SF. Anyway I am in a minority of one and I shall retire from this subject. NK is a good councillor. Mary Lou is a good politician. But SF like Mary Lou’s image a whole lot better these days than hairy ex-prisoners.


23. Wednesday - March 28, 2007

people don’t go squealing to the media or splitting easily from SF.

Funny, I seem to have noticed quite a number of former comrades splitting and squealing in recent years.


24. Mark P - March 28, 2007

It actually doesn’t matter much either way if Kehoe jumped or was pushed. Nobody doubts that the SF leadership would shaft him in a second if it was deemed advantageous and nobody doubts that he would swear blind that he desired nothing more than to be shafted if he was required to.

There are perfectly good reasons for the SF leadership to have shafted him. They already have more than enough scary mumbling sorts in the Dáil as it is. They are sorely lacking in someone a bit glossier who gives good soundbyte and makes them a bit more palatable to the urban middle class voters they want to woo. Given the choice between McDonald and Kehoe, they pick McDonald every time.

There are also perfectly good reasons for them to have preferred a Kehoe run. It was a guaranteed seat instead of a very likely seat. They could keep McDonald in Europe instead of having to build a profile for her replacement all over again.

Either way, he’s gone, he’s swearing he jumped and he is in political terms history. McDonald is the new face of Sinn Fein in the South, unthreatening and utterly without leftist instincts or a background in working class politics. If the loss of Kehoe was accident rather than design it only sped up a process that was underway anyway. We are going to see quite a number of well groomed, upwardly mobile, ambitions and obviously non-military SF candidates from here on in.


25. WorldbyStorm - March 28, 2007

And in a way that’s a pity. Part of SFs rise has been down to the discipline of the organisation, as indeed was the rise of the WP before it. Where it all goes wrong is when that starts to weaken. However, I see precious little evidence of that so far.

Ed. There’s much in the broad sweep of your analysis. However, when one reflects on it, it is far from unknown in either the Labour party or other parties in the state for candidates to be imposed kicking and screaming over the heads of local cumanns. Actually, surely the LP forged this path in the late 1960s with the glittering ones such as the Cruiser, who turned out to be rather less gliterring in practice (not that I’m quite that old that I remember it personally).


26. Ed Hayes - March 29, 2007

Thats true bit I meant it in terms of how parties like Labour usually suffer some major internal ruction that eventually becomes public; think Orla Guerin and Bernie Malone, Whereas SF are great at keeping a lid on things. Yes, the invasion of the intellectuals of 1968 really did cause havoc for Labour after a media friendly promising start. Well when I say the media I mean the Irish Times. Its funny how so many confuse popularity and soft soaping from a media outlet with genuine support. I remember the last general election when the Indo and primetime both contrived to state clearly that Martin Ferris would not elected in north Kerry. I wonder if pat Rabbitte ever pays attention?


27. Wednesday - March 31, 2007

Ed, surely you must see the weakness of that argument.


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