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A carnival of [overwrought and exaggerated] reactions… that talk of a Sinn Féin/Fine Gael lash-up… June 1, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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It’s the Bank Holiday. I’m on holiday, but I thought it worth noting rapidly the absurdity of some of the language we’ve heard this week during the elections. Or rather one very specific usage of language. Because, I was taken a little aback wandering through Dunnes Stores in Maynooth yesterday morning to see the cover of the Mail and read the headline that Fine Gael would ‘talk’ to Sinn Féin. But I was in a hurry and didn’t catch any details. Later I heard Enda Kenny had nixed such talk, but again I didn’t hear any further details.

So imagine my surprise when I read last night in the Irish Times that this wasn’t some local election candidate chatting off the top of his head but no less than the wisest of the wise, that Solomon of electoral skills, ‘top Fine Gael strategist’ Frank Flannery.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny today rubbished speculation the party was ready to agree a pact with Sinn Féin to oust the government.

The Opposition leader insisted there were no plans for a deal despite remarks from a top Fine Gael strategist that they would work with Gerry Adams.

Mr Kenny said he would speak with his national director of elections, Frank Flannery, about the comments reported in today’s Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Since Kenny would merely have to cross a corridor, or whatever, you know what I’m saying, to ‘speak with’ Flannery this presumably has either happened or is about to.

But read on, a chairde…

“I made it perfectly clear that Fine Gael would not be doing business with Sinn Fein and I have no intention of revisiting that,” said Mr Kenny.

I’m certain that he means it today. But what of the day that the numbers come up in a certain configuration, what – for example – if Fine Gael received high, but not quite high enough numbers to form a government and the only other option in the face of a diminished Green Party was a baleful Labour Party with close to forty or even more seats. Would Fine Gael really want to divide the spoils of office with a party that has a history of demanding a certain level of participation up to and including a rotating Taoiseach? Although granted it never received said Taoiseach. Rotating or otherwise

But let’s put that aside, for it’s the sort of musings that only occur to politically interested observers like myself and…er… political strategists like… Frank Flannery.

The real nonsense, and this is saying something when it comes to the hate hate Fine Gael/Sinn Féin relationship, almost predictably, emanated from Fianna Fáil.

But Fianna Fail claimed Mr Flannery¿s remarks should be taken seriously.

And…

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said it was “stomach-churning” that the self-styled law and order party Fine Gael would consider entering a coalition with Sinn Féin.

‘Stomach churning’? I think our beloved Minister doth protest too much. After all, was it not his government that was more than happy to oversee something akin to a shot gun wedding of first Sinn Féin with the Ulster Unionist Party, and then when that led to a bitter and acrimonious divorce oversaw (chaperoned?) a subsequent ceremony with the Democratic Unionist Party. That has played hard on ensuring that this state has good relations – er, well, whatever – with the resulting union, an executive in the North which comprises of these supposedly ‘stomach-churning’ characters… who, by the by if I drag my Good Friday Agreement out of coldish storage could well be part of… and I quote…

NORTH/SOUTH MINISTERIAL COUNCIL
1. Under a new British/Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of relationships, and related legislation at Westminster and in the Oireachtas, a North/South Ministerial Council to be established to bring together those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland
– including through implementation on an all-island and cross-border basis – on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South.

Burp… sickly feeling in stomach…

2. All Council decisions to be by agreement between the two sides. Northern Ireland to be represented by the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and any relevant Ministers, the Irish Government by the Taoiseach and relevant Ministers, all operating in accordance with the rules for democratic authority and accountability in force in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas respectively. Participation in the Council to be one of the essential responsibilities attaching to relevant posts in the two Administrations. If a holder of a relevant post will not participate normally in the Council, the Taoiseach in the case of the Irish Government and the First and Deputy First Minister in the case of the Northern Ireland Administration to be able to make alternative arrangements.

Face turning green. Nausea.

3. The Council to meet in different formats:

(i) in plenary format twice a year, with Northern Ireland representation led by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Irish Government led by the Taoiseach;

(ii) in specific sectoral formats on a regular and frequent basis with each side represented by the appropriate Minister;

(iii) in an appropriate format to consider institutional or cross-sectoral matters (including in relation to the EU) and to resolve disagreement.

Reaching for the antacid…

And what about this?

11. The implementation bodies will have a clear operational remit. They will implement on an all-island and cross-border basis policies agreed in the Council.

12. Any further development of these arrangements to be by agreement in the Council and with the specific endorsement of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Oireachtas, subject to the extent of the competences and responsibility of the two Administrations.

All those… meetings… nausea increasing…

13. It is understood that the North/South Ministerial Council and the Northern Ireland Assembly are mutually inter-dependent, and that one cannot successfully function without the other.

Stomach churning… churning…

How will he survive through the establishment of free-standing mutually inter-dependent bodies? How would any of us?

Although Ahern, to be fair to him – kind of sort of, does raise a point, and not a bad one either…

“Frank Flannery isn’t some unimportant official,” he said.

No he’s not… so what is he precisely?

“He is the architect and conductor of all Fine Gael strategy under Enda Kenny.

“He never says anything in public which hasn’t been prepared well in advance as part of a clear blueprint.”

Well, I’d beg to differ given his comments this weekend, but…what did the hapless strategist say?

Mr Flannery is quoted as saying Sinn Féin had moved fully into the mainstream and that Fine Gael was willing to work with them.

So… that said and in the public domain, let us reveal this weeks barrier to the supposedly ‘mainstream’ party…

But the close advisor to Mr Kenny also said there were outstanding issues like “their private army” and a resistance by some candidates to condemn the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe.

Mr Kenny said the remarks were a personal opinion that had nothing to do with Fine Gael policy.

While he highlighted the International Monitoring Committee’s verdict that Sinn Féin have cast aside violence, the Fine Gael leader said a political deal was not on the table.

“They have an army council so I don’t intend to revisit the issue,” he said.

What on earth does that mean?

Unless… unless… it’s all a not entirely clever ploy to try to prise transfers from SF voters…

Nah, even I don’t believe that. And not even ‘the architect and conductor of all Fine Gael strategy’ could make me do so…

Happy holiday, as they say… somewhere or another…

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Comments»

1. Keith - June 1, 2009

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have been operating an opposition “coalition” (joint decision making and voting pact) on Dublin City Council since Labour dumped FG a couple of years ago when they couldn’t get their Councillors to turn up and vote (which caused the Labour/FG coalition to lose a Lord Mayor vote).
The current layout of Dublin City Council has Labour and Fianna Fáil operating a Mayoral vote pact (no joint decision making though), and Fine Gael Sinn Féin operating what appears to be a full pact in “opposition”.

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2. WorldbyStorm - June 1, 2009

Yeah, that’s very true. They’re certainly closer than one might imagine from the language of Kenny. Is it my imagination Keith or did they at one point recently issue a joint statement?

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3. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

even odder, perhaps, but i think there is/ was a ‘left’ majority on the last DCC? – 15 Lab, 10 SF and at least two left of centre independents =27/52…… so why would FG/ SF have an arrangement?

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4. Leveller on the Liffey - June 1, 2009

Is it a working arrangement because Labour won’t play ball with the Shinners?

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5. Killian Forde - June 1, 2009

WBS – the parties had an agreed position on the Dublin City Council Budget and released a joint statement on it. Sent out under with their group Leader, Cllr Gerry Breen’s name on it.

Sonofstan – Labour refused to talk to SF about a left coalition in any structured way. At their group meeting where it was raised there were at least four of the fifteen cllrs who stated they would not support a vote for a SF Mayor or deputy Mayor. None of the fifteen seemingly had any problems with voting for a FF Mayor. This was even after the 07 election, the elevation of Gilmore and the withering of the Mullingar Accord.

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6. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

Thanks Killian:

It would seem worth resurrecting the idea after Friday – there should be comfortable Lab/ SF majority on the new council, and it would work to the advantage of both sides, however little love is lost.

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7. Leveller on the Liffey - June 1, 2009

And not just to the advantage of “both sides” – to the advantage of the people they represent.

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8. Daniel Sullivan - June 1, 2009

That agreed position on the Dublin City Council Budget and joint statement on it had all sorts of leftish notions like freezing or was it even reducing the burdens of rates business in the city so it was truly amazing that FG could bring themselves to support it. 🙂

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9. WorldbyStorm - June 1, 2009

That’s the one Killian… thanks. Very fair point Leveller. And yeah, I won’t disagree Dan that FG could support such proposals, one just hopes (or actually perhaps not if one is looking for an amalgamation of the left 😉 ) that FG might continue such a useful approach – for both parties – up the political scale.

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10. Daniel Sullivan - June 1, 2009

All of this puts me in mind of the constant refrain from some in the left that FF and FG have so little differences that they should merge while ignoring the fact that the parties on the left appear to have so much differences between them that many of those involve can barely bring themselves to walk on the same side of the street as one another.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that FF and FG are broadly the same and are of the right (not that I agree) than that is 2 parties representing 60% plus of the electorate meanwhile allowing 5% or so for independents of various non-hues we have 30% of the left represented by the Labour party, the Workers Party, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Sinn Féin, People before Profit, the People’s movement, the Communist Party of Ireland and various Gregoresque/Healyte local action groups. And in order to get to that 30% we have to throw in the Greens. I think solidarity and working together were meant to be trademarks of the left.

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11. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

2 parties representing 60% plus of the electorate

Under 60% on recent polls, and well under 50% in Dublin

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12. Jer - June 1, 2009

This has not come out of no where. FG are on course to be in Govt. soon and that govt. will need to be a coalition. Seeing as how the pds are dead and the greens are lemmings then its not prescience to spot this as being a strategic consideration.

Its unusual that the FGers came out and said it though.

The sinn fein keep left blog has been mulling over this concept already:

http://sinnfeinkeepleft.blogspot.com/2009/05/article-submitted-by-sf-member.html

http://sinnfeinkeepleft.blogspot.com/2009/05/i-received-this-article-as-comment-to.html

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13. Leveller on the Liffey - June 1, 2009

I think it’s more about signalling to FGers their boy is safe and they can then hold their noses and vote Mary Lou if it means shafting Eoin Ryan and increasing the chances of forcing a general election without Eoin O’Duffy turning in his grave.

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14. Dr. X - June 1, 2009

I noted the FG man on sunday’s radio news was very careful to say nothing about whom blueshirt voters should transfer to.

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15. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

This is all fascinating…….
When Gilmore was talking last week about a fundamental realignment in Irish politics, he was onto something!

Seriously, there’s a scent of carrion in the air with the public death throes of FF, and it’s suddenly dawning on everyone what that will mean; it will push FG and Labour apart, since they’ll be competing for the lion’s (or vulture’s) share of the slightly spoiled meat, and will, piquantly, put SF into the traditional labour third party role – can’t wait for the first time ‘the national interest’ is invoked, either by them or their prospective partners as a rationale for coalition.

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16. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

…oh, and apparently – I didn’t hear it – Cowen was on the news warning Dublin voters against voting left on Friday in case it might scare away d’investors – a red scare on the horizon….

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17. anthony bosco oneill - June 1, 2009

This is one of the oldest political tactics, get someone of prominence to give a personal opinion while the leadership stands back and assesses the reaction.

Heal of the hunt Adams would probably have a harder time selling that to his grassroots than kenny.

DUP is one thing but Fine Gael is a step to far. As for labour Gilmore is not to be trusted changed horses to many times in his quest for power.Any socialist leader who can top the poll in Dunlaoghaire is doing something wrong

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18. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

Any socialist leader who can top the poll in Dunlaoghaire is doing something wrong

Why? Dun Laoghaire not anything like as middle- class as popularly supposed and for as long as I can remember there’s been at least one left seat there.

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19. anthony bosco oneill - June 1, 2009

Dun Laoighaire has a left seat no doubt and labour has , as far as i can remember held it. Topping the poll shows that you are popular, in a largely middle class area like Dun Laoighaire it also means that you are broadly acceptable.

You cannot be all things to all people and hope to represent your core constituency which is the working man. Gilmore is more a Social Democrat in the Fianna Fail mould than a socialist. There is nothing wrong with that but lets be real as long as labour depends on middle class liberals there will be know realignment in irish politics.

Labour is currently on a high at the expence of FF, but FF are only wounded not dead and if there was a GE as a result of fridays outcome we would have a knew government. A FG/Labour is the most likely, and as sure as night follows day FF will be back in power in 5 years.

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20. sonofstan - June 1, 2009

in a largely middle class area like Dun Laoighaire

I don’t know if Dun Laoghaire is ‘largely middle- class’ which was my original point. Since the constituency includes Killiney and Foxrock, it probably does contain a lot of people whose incomes would skew the average to somewhere much above the national average, but there are sizable parts of the town itself that are working- class by any definition. It tends to get used as a handy placeholder for ‘south Dublin middle-class-ness’ and it’s not really like that much. the DL-R council area might perhaps be more accurately described as ‘largely middle-class’ since it includes much of the Dublin South constituency which is i think, the best off in the country.

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21. Eamonn - June 1, 2009

“Heal of the hunt Adams would probably have a harder time selling that to his grassroots than kenny.” – Anthony you gotta be having a laugh. Upholding british rule, supporting the RUC, surrendering arms, calling for the jailing of irish people, introducing anti working class legislation, closing down irish newspaper etc.., . SF voters would accept whatever they are told…poor souls.

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22. Fergal - June 1, 2009

On the very first day after the 2007 election when the Greens officially became FF’s crutch didn’t Trevor Sargent suggest to Fine Gael that they could have been in govt. via a kind of super inter-party govt.but Kenny couldn’t stomach the Shinners.Said this to a blueshirt and ha almost choked himself!Must be on the Dail record or I’m losing it!

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23. CL - June 1, 2009

A party that had Gerry McGeough on its Ard Comhairle should surely find much in common with a party that had Eoin O’Duffy as its first leader.

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24. sonofstan - June 2, 2009

CL,

*applause*

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25. Paddy Matthews - June 2, 2009

A 2010 election will be 13 years after the Provisionals called their second ceasefire.

John A Costello became Taoiseach in 1948, 14 years after he’d announced in the Dáil that “the Blackshirts were victorious in Italy and that the Hitler Shirts were victorious in Germany, as, assuredly, in spite of this Bill and in spite of the Public Safety Act, the Blueshirts will be victorious in the Irish Free State”.

http://www.oireachtas-debates.gov.ie/D/0050/D.0050.193402280015.html

The “decontamination periods” required would be similar in length.

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26. Mark P - June 2, 2009

Sonofstan:

It shifts around a bit, but Dublin South, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin South East are consistently the three wealthiest constituencies in the state. The demographics are not as they were twenty years ago when Gilmore built a base as a Workers Party representative. As in the two neighbouring constituencies mentioned, house prices went absolutely through the roof and many of the less wealthy areas were subject to rapid gentrification.

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27. sonofstan - June 2, 2009

Mark P.

You’re right I’m sure: nevertheless, I don’t think DL is entirely or solidly middle-class; a constituency could have a very high mean level of wealth thanks to a fair number of very well off people, while still having quite a number of those on below average incomes. For that matter, neither is South East all that solidly middle class – Charlemont St, Upper Rathmines, Ringsend all have large working class cohorts (and in Charlo, anyway, John Gormley does surprisingly well, I think)

Dublin South would, i reckon, be the only one of the three to merit the description ‘solidly middle-class’

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28. Fergal - June 2, 2009

Mark P. + sonofstan,
What is middle class and working class?Not being smart or anything but I think it would clarify your spat over Dublin south.
Is working class a skilled manual worker?An immigrant worker earning just above minimum wage?
What will Charlemont St be like in 20 years’ time now that Dublin City tenants can sell their flats?Is working claas only people living in municipal accommodation?Does it include somebody on rent allowance in a modern(private) apartment?Is a nurse living in a two bedroomed house in Cabra working class?Is a semi-d house in Rathfarnham middle class even if it has two or three immigrant families families in it?Is class linked to income,housing,job or all three.
When I was younger very few people had a car,the odd one had a phone and holidays abroad were really rare.What I’m getting at is how do you measure class in modern Ireland?

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29. Garibaldy - June 2, 2009

Fergal,

Conor at Dublin Opinion had some great articles on this using Michael Zweig’s work. Well worth checking out.

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30. Crocodile - June 2, 2009

SonofStan is right about DL. There’s a wide variation in the area and it has been very volatile as a Dáil constituency, partly for that reason. It has elected many left-ish TD’s, since there’s a great concentration of liberals along with a bigger working class vote than people think. Back when I was signing on in DL dole office, during the last recession, we had Barry Desmond as a Labour TD, but also the excellent Monica Barnes – FG but to the left of most Labour TDs nowadays.

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31. Colm B - June 2, 2009

Since I haven’t lived in Dun Laoghaire for nearly a decade (I now live in a ‘middle class’ area of that most working class of cities: Glasgow) I can’t really vouch for the effect of the Celtic Tiger/gentrification on the area. However, I was born and brought up there, some of my family and friends still live in the area. I was a WP/DL/Ind Left cllr. representing the Central Ward (DL town, dalkey etc.) from 1991 to 1997.

For arguments sake lets just take the term ‘working class’ to mean what its commonly taken to mean (though from a Marxist perspective this is clearly an inaccurate definition): people who largely work in manual or low-paid service jobs, who usually live in neighbourhoods of council-built houses or flats. By this definition, at least until the late 1990s and I would be confident this remains the case, large swathes of the Dun Laoghaire constituency were/are working class. In the ward I represented areas such as Sallynoggin, Monkstown Farm, Mounttown, Glasthule and the west-centre of the town of DL were overwhelmingly working class. In fact one of the reasons I was elected in this area was because of my involvement in a housing action campaign in the 1980s whose central demand was the refurbishment of the 900 early 20thc council houses/flats that still did not have indooor toilets/bathrooms. Yes you got that right in ‘middle class’ DL up until the early 90s there were thousands of people living in council houses/flats with outdoor toilets or no baths/showers!

When I was elected the vote I got was overwhemingly concentrated in these working class enclaves and the same was largely true for the other WP cllrs elected in the constituency at that time. In fact the other parts of the constituency had much larger working class neighbourhoods than the ward I represented including Ballybrack/Loughlinstown, Rathsallagh in Shankill etc. DL town area has a history of working class activism stretching back a long time including a radical Housing Action Campaign in the 1970s, the election of a left-wing Labour cllr. Jack FitzGerald in the 1960s/70s etc.

Now this all means that unless things have changed drastically Anthony has his facts wrong on Dun Laoghaire. That does not necessarily take from his point that Labour’s vote in the area is partly or primarily made up of ‘middle class’ liberals. I suspect in Eamon Gilmore’s case he gets a big middle class and a big working class vote. I know during the 1990s he used to outpoll almost all the other candidates put together in the solidly working class areas of Loughlinstown/Ballybrack. All that said I agree with the other point Anthony makes: Labour will surely form a coalition with FG and its just the same old merry-go-round.

Since I can’t vote in the Irish elections would all the Cedar Lounge Lizards please vote for me in proxy: Number one for Joe Higgins please!

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