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So just when will SF be allowed to participate in government in the South? January 20, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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An Irish Times podcast [Whats at Stake in #GE2020 – available on iTunes etc] with Fintan O’Toole and Pat Leahy where O’Toole looked at the broad political context of the election, and mighty intriguing it was too. Intriguing not because of the usual complaints of clientelism which we’ve heard before, but rather because O’Toole raised a basic question.

At what point is this polity going to accept Sinn Féin’s bona fides. And he pointed up the absurd paradox whereby two national governments and various parties therein strained every sinew to demand, indeed argue strenuously, that it was Sinn Féin’s duty to go into government in Northern Ireland, but when it comes to the Republic seemingly neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil will accept their democratic legitimacy.

And he noted this wasn’t about policy, so what was it about?

You can’t keep saying… you can say it’s their policies, though that’s never been an issue in Irish coalition building… it’s being used as an excuse because people don’t accept their legitimacy.

Pat Leahy was like a man stung, racing in with

We don’t know who the real leadership of SF is…the lie that Gerry Adams was never a member of the IRA was something everyone had to pay obeisance to…

In passing I find this a ridiculous argument (aired again only this last weekend by Eoghan Harris of all people). Anyone with even the faintest knowledge of political parties will know that there are inner groups, whether councils or advisors or bureaucracies which exert considerable influence over the direction of them. Sometimes, as with the further left parties, that’s quite organised, in other instances these develop or exist. Anyone who thinks that FF or FG policy is driven by TDs and Senators and members alone is remarkably naive (and even in terms of leaderships these are internal, not external, processes). The odd thing is we have a pretty good idea of the broad coalition of forces that SF represents, between the leadership, those who have been long involved in the movement, members and so on. It’s far from perfect, nothing is, but nor is it more anomalous than the history of the party and movement would suggest.

Hugh Linehan made then point that FG wouldn’t go into power with the then WP…

…since it was only twenty years since they’d been engaged in active terrorist acts, questions over their democratic structures and so on…but within a few years it was in government [with WP people].

Granted under a different name, but one wonders if a ‘reconstituted’ WP, of the sort envisaged by the parliamentarians wouldn’t have done the trick, if not in the mid 1990s then a little later.

Leahy then argued that the entire history of Irish politics has been of people and parties doing things they would never do and “…that time will come with SF. My view is it won’t come after this election.”.

The numbers?

No, the numbers are perfect for SF and FF. I don’t think it will happen.

What about FG?

The reaction amongst FG party would be even more virulently negative.

But it will come within an election or two.

As O’Toole said, ‘lets be honest with the electorate. In terms of government formation your vote doesn’t matter.’

And that’s it. For SF the waiting must continue. Is it a case of this generation must retire? Martin Ferris and Gerry Adams are not contesting their seats. I don’t know if Dessie Ellis will be. But that – naturally – will mean a changing of the guard. Perhaps that will be sufficient for FF and FG. Perhaps not. Whatever, as O’Toole notes, this provides a weird block on Irish politics and a quarter of a century or near enough after the conflict was brought to a close.

I don’t often find myself on the same page as O’Toole but this time, surely.

Comments»

1. tafkaGW - January 20, 2020

To answer the question: probably not this time around.

As I think Roddy said, perhaps it’s better for SF to sit this one out, if neither Tweedledum or Tweedledee are willing to talk seriously about their conditions for coalition.

But tell me, have the Irish media (or more correctly the Irish media bosses) decided that SF should get a fair say? Or does the demonisation continue?

Perhaps the Greens in government with one of the Tweedles will demonstrate once again that they can do nothing significant in terms of the climate emergency and absolutely nothing for the working class based in Ireland.

Perhaps the electorate may learn. One lives in hope.

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2. CL - January 20, 2020

“Mr Martin said, while he welcomed the return of Sinn Fein to the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, he would not like to see Sinn Fein in power in the Republic of Ireland….
It is the PSNI and MI5 and others pointed to the continued existence of the army council….
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/election-2020/fianna-fail-leader-says-he-does-not-trust-sinn-fein-in-government-38856448.html

“FIANNA Fail TDs want to go into Government with Sinn Fein but are being shut out by leader Micheal Martin’s refusal to entertain the idea, Pearse Doherty has claimed.
The Sinn Fein finance spokesperson told the Irish Sun that several Fianna Fail politicians have told him and his party colleagues that they would be open to forming a coalition with Mary Lou McDonald’s party….
It comes as Fianna Fail’s Pat The Cope Gallagher went against the party line this weekend and said he would like to go into coalition with Sinn Fein.
The Donegal TD told Raidio na Gaeltachta that parties should not be worried about Sinn Fein because they do the same work as other politicians across the country to benefit society.”
https://www.thesun.ie/news/5002700/fianna-fail-coalition-pearse-doherty/

“Speaking in Sligo on Monday, Mr Martin said he believed Sinn Féin’s elected representatives were not in control of the party, with decisions being made by “shadowy figures” and “unelected officials”.
Asked about Donegal TD Pat “The Cope” Gallagher’s recent comments in support of a coalition with Sinn Féin, Mr Martin said this was not party policy. He said he believed the vast majority of the parliamentary party supported his position on the issue.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/micheál-martin-rules-out-future-coalition-with-sinn-féin-1.4145385

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CL - January 20, 2020

“Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil tell us that Sinn Féin is a “political untouchable” –
Don’t depend on that injunction being set in stone. Dáil arithmetic will tell us much more about it once the dust settles on the counts and any recounts on February 9 and 10….
Sinn Féin is pretty much everyone’s least favourite government collaborator. But in life one’s favourite option does not always come up – and the least likely outcome of this election is another general election just weeks later. It might take a long time – and last time it took 70 days – but our politicians will make do with what they have.”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/john-downing-smaller-parties-will-play-their-biggest-role-ever-in-this-intriguing-election-campaign-38875674.html

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3. Pasionario - January 20, 2020

While I’m not in favour of shutting out SF from government, I think the point about “inner groups” running the party is a valid one.

With FG and FF, we know it is Varadkar and Martin who are ultimately in charge, even if they rely heavily on behind-the-scenes advisers.

Not so with SF or the left-wing parties (who don’t even make public their own party constitutions).

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WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2020

I’m with you in part – I think the issue of inner party democracy is something that should be transparent, naming no names we’ve discussed parties here where we have little sense of their inner workings. That said I would’t overegg the pudding on the other side, Varadkar has overall authority in certain instances, but he’s not a free agent – he has to play off one interest group within a party with another etc. He can call the election, but… he can’t ignore his PP or indeed membership, or not entirely. Nor is it clear that membership votes actually inflect policy in the way theoretically they should. Nor do we live in a presidential system where we vote for an individual as leader as distinct from a party. Talking to people in the LP over the last decade there was a clear sense that there was an inner unelected circle close to the leadership which certainly inflected policy and approaches to an extent that they found problematic, yet no one is arguing the LP isn’t suitable for government. SF is fairly transparent and the ‘felons club’ stuff is absurd. I’ve met SF advisors over the last twenty odd years, they’re not exactly hidden, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find out who they are.

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4. Dermot M O Connor - January 20, 2020

Love the Batesonian double-bind the D4 shites made for SF.

1. “Yiz won’t go into government yiz are hurlers on the ditch”.
2. “We won’t go into government with you yiz are scary”.

So there’s nothing SF can do to satisfy the clever people! And ‘clever’ RTE ‘interviewers’ can repeat ad nauseum the trite question “Why should people vote for you because you won’t be in government”?

God, the Irish chattering classes are the rat’s anus.

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Daire O'Criodain - January 21, 2020

The concept of a clever RTE interviewer is as much an oxymoron as The Irish Independent. Unelected movers and shakers are not confined to Sinn Féin. Older readers will remember the men in mohair suits and the National Handlers associated with FF and FG respectively.

It is probably a fair line to say more softly distancing language like “We wouldn’t like to see SF in government” because to say otherwise is politically self-harming but to say they are not fit for government at all has passed its sell-by date and possibly resonates only with people who would never vote for SF anyway. I respect Pat Leahy and have no idea for whom, if anyone he votes. But I would be fairly comfortable he is not an SF voter.

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