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Unforced error? January 10, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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There’s a certain sort of depression that I get about political matters – Trump, Brexit (to an extent, or more accurately the ‘hard’ Brexit pursued by the Tories), and then the antics of SF MP Barry McElduff.

It could be an unforced error – after all it is difficult to see how SF profit from this, or he directly. It could be a grim misreading of the public or of what he perceives to be his public. It could be, at worst, intentional in every respect. Impossible to know at this remove.

But it raises issues about what is the proper sanction. SF has gone for a three month suspension.

There is a deeper context, of course – The Broken Elbow provides an important post here offering same.
And there’s also the contemporary reality – and that is one where this sort of behaviour – unintentional, intentional, whatever, is deeply counter-productive, injurious to those affected directly and simply wrong. It really is a case of if he didn’t know he should and if he did know he shouldn’t have done it.

Susan McKay notes in the IT:

But just suppose one of the DUP politicians who thinks he’s funny had posed on the anniversary of the loyalist massacre at the bookies shop on the Ormeau Road with an Ormo sliced pan on his head and then said he was sorry but he didn’t mean to cause offence. Do we think Sinn Féin would have applauded the DUP for scolding him and suspending him for three months on full pay?

They surely wouldn’t and they’d have been right not to.

Of course there are hypocrisies in this – the burning of effigies on bonfires of contemporary politicians, vile and sectarian language and so forth. All true, but part of the process is not adding to them, not exacerbating them – and realising the distinction between being honest and blunt about critiquing such matters, exposing those hypocrisies and  – by contrast – becoming part and parcel of them. Those who were murdered at Kingsmill were innocents, were by their own actions people who managed to overcome sectarianism at a key moment, a moment when others might have held back, by attempting to protect one of their workmates from what they thought was a Loyalist death squad.

And that brings us back to the sanction. Clearly SF believed that the behaviour was worthy of some sanction – that it was, even if unforced, inappropriate and wrong. Many will feel that is insufficient, others will feel its too much. I’d be interested in views on here. My own sense is that in such a conflicted context as we see matters now in Northern politics something quite substantial is necessary both overtly and behind the scenes to demonstrate an actual understanding that words have effects and impacts. And that that works both ways.

Comments»

1. Jonah - January 10, 2018

I don’t for a moment believe that it was a deliberate sectarian provocation. Leaving aside, for a moment, whether McElduff is the type of person to do something like that – and it appears not – the shinner aren’t stupid enough do so something like that.

But I think some action needed to be taken because of the level of offence that was caused and I actually think it was a little too mild. Suspending an abstentionist MP is the stuff of comedy. I would have thought a fine paid to a charity working on behalf of the victims of Kingsmill would be appropriate.

I was actually talking about this to a longstanding Sinn Fein member last night who made the point that if a unionist politician had done something similar holding a loaf of bread with ‘Loughall’ on it on that anniversary no republican in the country would believe it was a coincidence so hard to condemn unionists for refusing to accept it in McElduff’s case.

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Liberius - January 10, 2018

Leaving aside, for a moment, whether McElduff is the type of person to do something like that – and it appears not – the shinner aren’t stupid enough do so something like that.

Stupidity comes in many forms though, the excuses that have been deployed to cover for McElduff essentially rely on him being a dimwitted buffoon which itself begs the question as to why he’s been allowed to be a political representative for over twenty years, you’d think if he were that thick they’d have questioned is suitability as a public representative.

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2. yourcousin - January 10, 2018

TBE’s post is interesting but as always Defenderism is bandied about as a comfortable scape goat for an otherwise “honorable” Republican enterprise.

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3. CL - January 10, 2018

There is a long history which has given rise to the two tribes locked into a seemingly inescapable mutually reinforcing sectarian dilemma.
It would be foolish from a distance to give advice to those stuck in such a situation.
Sinn Fein’s inadequate response to McElduff”s mockery of the murdered workers shows it to be a sectarian political formation. Support for Sinn Fein, north and south, cannot be seen as in the tradition of the left or or Irish republicanism.

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4. Jemmyhope - January 10, 2018

It wasn’t a long history that locked the people of the 6 counties into a sectarian dilemma it was British Imperialism.
Was McElduff stupid? Of course he was. The word Kingsmill on the bread should have been enough to warn him off. Do I believe he intended to mock the victims of Kingsmill..no I don’t. There’s no reference to it in what he says on the video and he has no history of such behaviour. Should he be suspended? Yes and I wouldn’t quibble with expulsion.
Sinn Féin is not a sectarian political formation except on the basis that its support comes mainly from nationalists..just like the workers party and PBP in the 6 counties.. but SF doesn’t promote sectarian policies. As to your sectarian comment that support for SF cannot be seen as in the tradition of the left or of Irish Republicanism you shoulda gone to specsavers.

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WorldbyStorm - January 10, 2018

Yeah, I think it’s too reductive to say SF is sectarian per se. Of course it is inflected by a sectarian context – the North, but so is everyone.

Re the WP, one of the genuinely huge challenges it faced was the reality that in such a divided context it was, near enough whatever it did, losing the SF in its name etc, always going to be viewed by those from unionist/loyalist backgrounds as being republican (not least in the sense it is anti-monarchical) and that immediately positions it as not being unionist or loyalist. And here we hit a problem because it is not per se sectarian for a unionist or loyalist not to want to support a party that is so diametrically at odds with their politics and national identity (or indeed the opposite, that it is not per se sectarian for a nationalist or republican to not want to support a party that is so diametrically at odds with their politics and national identity). But the way the term sectarian is often used I think has to be defined much more clearly.

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O'Connor Lysaght - January 11, 2018

The point about sectarianism is that it is not just a q. of being for or against union with Britain. The issue was grafted on to an existing established division of Protestant ascendancy v. rising catholicism. There was a strong element of sectarianism among the latter, tho’ it is mercifully declining. The element of sectarianism among the former was always stronger (the liberal unionist tradition recently boomed by BICO was always the minority strand therein); it has got stronger as it has seen its legal position weakened. If you want non-sectarian unionism go to Alliance, which is regarded very obviously by both big-U Unionist parties as being as much an enemy as nationalists and republicans.
This being said, I have no doubt that Macelduff’s tweet was sectarian. Quite simply, I can’t see the point of it unless it were to mock the Kingsmill victims. What other message could he have been trying to convey? If there was one, it might have been written in Sanskrit or ancient Etruscan as far as I am concerned.
Am I an ignorant jacket unaware of subtle Ulster innuendo? Possibly, perhaps Jemmy or Roddy can enlighten me.
At all events, SF should expel the clown.

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O'Connor Lysaght - January 11, 2018

Correction: an ignorant JACKEEN.

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Alibaba - January 11, 2018

Sinn Féin had two possible sanctions in this case: suspension or explusion. In my view, getting the leadership to decide the outcome was deeply misguided.

SF should have created an investigating body, but one that could be seen to be as impartial and independent as possible, meaning nobody close to McElduff or leadership members. This gives him the opportunity to explain/defend his actions and/or explore amends. Then plausibly the body presents a report to the leadership (or a conference in serious cases) to make a judgmental call.

Instead, by moving swiftly to a what is seen rightly as a token three month suspension, SF has given the hostile media—all too eager to attack it—an invitation to damage its reputation. Poor show!

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5. Oireachtas Retort - January 10, 2018

They are doing that thing this week where everyone pretends Sinn Féin are some sort of aberration or breed apart from how other parties operate. McElduff should have been sacked rather then merely suspended for his eejitry, we are told but when the last time anyone has been kicked out of an Irish political party?

Not Bertie, Lowry or anyone named in a tribunal. Ray Burke never even resigned as far as I know though Ivor Callaley did. Brian Murphy, the racist blueshirt councillor is currently suspend but can expect to be welcomed back just as Darren Scully was ahead of the 2014 local elections.

A few years ago a FF councillor and his brother were convicted of going into a pub and threatening someone with a screwdriver over money owed. An internal party disciplinary hearing “did not consider it conduct unbecoming of a member”. Beverley Flynn was kicked out as many times as she was let back in and all that was another story. There was a senior FG staffer and ministerial advisor still working away for the party while under investigation for very serious crimes back in 2013

I suppose Denis Naughten losing the whip over Roscommon hospital or Creighton and abortion rebels is close as any has come in recent times? Their only crime was disloyalty and before you nearly have to go back to the Arms Crisis, when Boland then too was only kicked after criticising Lynch. Millitant maybe? but that’s hardly the same thing.

Other than that, only John McGuirk has the distinction of being ejected from both FF & FG before he even graduated. But he is a complete gobshite.

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6. roddy - January 11, 2018

I am only engaging with the internet sparsely over recent months but having seen this column, I Want to state categorically that I do not believe for one minute that McElduff was engaging in mockery.Nothing that he has ever done or said has ever indicated such a mindset.Indeed when a remembrance service was disrupted a few weeks ago he used twitter to condemn those responsible and asked that everyone be allowed to commemorate their dead without hindrance.He has posted dozens of videos over the years with himself eating,brandishing and balancing various foodstuffs on his head.(he thinks its humerous for some reason which I don’t quite get).He obviously lifted the first loaf of bread he saw in the supermarket and was totally oblivious to that day being the kingsmill anniversary.O.pponents are seizing the opportunity to get him and the BBC ran a condemnatory spiteful interview of considerable length with Martin McAllister twice yesterday.They described McAllister as “a former IRA man” but neglected to tell us he is the most senior FF man in the north.Had they done so McAllister could have been asked about attacks very similar to Kingsmills carried out by FF founder Frank Aken when he ruled South Armagh by the gun.I was a teenager when Kingsmills happened and it totally sickened me at the time and continues to do so.I condemn it unreservedly but as far as I am concerned McElduff has no case to answer bar engaging in clownish behaviour which by the way he is encouraged to do by much of the media up here.Incidently Kingsmills has also been used to denigrate hunger striker Raymond McCreesh on the basis that six months later whilst still a teenager he attacked the British army with a weapon previously used at kingsmills.By that logic,a member of the Paras in possession of a bloody Sunday weapon six months later would be deemed to have killed 14 civil rights marchers .Similarly guilt would be cast on any RUC man, UDR man ,Loyalist,Stick or whatever with access to their respective organisations weapons which would be ridiculous.

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7. GW - January 12, 2018

I really don’t know enough about McElduff to judge whether, as Roddy suggests, this was just an accident from someone who likes horseing around on social media.

If it was a mistake then he should be put on a Social Meeja fast and the suspension; if not he should be sanctioned with something stricter than that three months.

The point that the hegemonic media tolerate from the DUP what they censure from SF is the essential one.

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O'Connor Lysaght - January 12, 2018

I agree, the trouble is that in the unfair world in which we live, SF has to accept that and walk carefully, unless it has some way of getting round it, such as i have not seen.

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