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Future politics… January 20, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Pat Rabbitte had a piece in the SBP at the weekend that looked at the political landscape in the wake of the pandemic. In it he fixes upon the question…

Will the political landscape after the next election be dominated by Fine Gael and Sinn Féin? Ireland will always have a conservative party and, the argument goes, Fine Gael appears to have the edge. Given that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin broadly identify with the same tribe, the momentum appears to be with Sinn Féin.


I am not persuaded of this plausible but all too neat conclusion. Enormous undercurrents are at play in Irish politics. For instance, exploiting Brexit to force the pace of change in North/South relations is fraught and may well backfire. The anti-establishment segment of the electorate may be angry, but not because they are being refused a border poll.

Is that the dynamic at work though? SF’s rise is not predicated on a border poll alone, or perhaps to any great extent. It is – as I’m sure he’s aware, more immediate issues. Housing, healthcare, and so on. And to feel strongly about them is hardly ‘anti-establishment’. Yet he doesn’t mention those issues at all. Indeed he pivots to… the North and the conflict!

One recently published book that McDonald will not be recommending to her constituents is Who Was Responsible For The Troubles? by historian Liam Kennedy. The book examines a parade of candidates that includes the unionist government, the RUC, the British state, Paisleyism, loyalist paramilitaries, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), and unthinking rhetoric in the Republic about the fourth green field. None of these actors is entirely exonerated from some degree of responsibility – albeit in some cases unwitting – for the murder and maiming that blighted the lives of so many families.


However, the author does not equivocate about the conclusion that responsibility primarily rests with the Provisional IRA. 

And Rabbitte quotes Kennedy writing “many of the key reforms in housing, local government and voting had been conceded by the time the Provisional IRA went on the offensive”. Some might find that a little reductionist – even in the framing that some have sought to reposition the PIRA campaign as one for social justice. And Rabbitte continues.

The fact that Sinn Féin leaders continue to defend the “armed struggle” not only flies in the face of history, but may also fix a boundary to the party’s electoral march.

This I wonder about. Not least given we have been told on many occasions previously that SF’s electoral march was fixed in the teens or the twenties percentage wise when it was in the teens and twenties. Now it is nudging 30% plus, and that after the last election. There may well be limits to SF’s march but if so they’re not ones determined by defence of ‘armed struggle’. Indeed it is telling that Rabbitte seems only to be able to regard SF through this particular prism. Indeed by doing so it allows him to make the following most curious statement:

Crucial will be how Fianna Fáil emerges from the present government, an outcome that will determine the success or failure of its rivalry with Sinn Féin. 

But FF has more or less explicitly turned away from any opening to the left – however cosmetic. And that surely is more key to the ability of that party to regain lost ground from SF.

But then Rabbitte pivots once more, this time to the Labour Party ‘The question then arises as to whether there is still a social democratic space in Irish politics as distinct from the opposition-ism of the far left.’

He argues that Labour held that space since the foundation of the state. Did it? Some would wonder about that too. Then he offers a rather sour analysis about an ‘early merger’ of the LP and the Social Democrats not taking place until ‘ the former members of the Labour Party who founded the Social Democrats move on’ and likens reunification to that between the LP and National Labour way back when. I know a few of those people and they’re not perhaps as old as Rabbitte is implying. He may be waiting.


1. NFB - January 20, 2021

At some point Labour Party grandees may have to realise that the SD’s perhaps don’t want to merge with them, and indeed do not need such a merger.

Using the “armed struggle” as a stick to beat Sinn Fein doesn’t hack it anymore. There are plenty of voters on the register who weren’t alive in 1998.


WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2021

It’s interesting to see him go for that particular line of attack, isn’t it?


rockroots - January 20, 2021

The irony is, Labour are using the same ‘unthinking rhetoric’ in waiting for the SDs to come to their senses and rejoin the family.


WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2021

Indeed, that’s very true.


2. Future politics… | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - Xandoblogs - January 20, 2021

[…] Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized. trackback […]


3. oliverbohs - January 20, 2021

Wasn’t Rabbitte part of a Democratic Left party that merged with Labour in 1999, to little initial success, indeed stagnation at best, at the nearest election after? For their next trick they agreed to have an alliance with FG next time out, which was also unsuccessful? Every time this charlatan gives his two cents about anything all this needs remembering. And obviously their indecent haste to get back into the scratcher with FG in 2011. Amazed he’s still getting paid to spout shite about politics tho, so fair dues to his grift if nothing else


4. dublinstick - January 20, 2021

Im going to go a little off the reservation with this. Liam Kennedy isn’t exactly an unbiased observer, haven’t read the book but if everyone seems to be getting a blame for the troubles I’m sorry to say the Official IRA should be there, we have to be honest. Being a key, if not the key, driving force behind NICRA which let a genie out and called on the forces of reaction, then also keeping the IRA alive as an organisation that could then spawn the Provos. The ‘Troubles’ were never their intention but good intentions played a central role in unleashing the forces that could not then be controlled. Pat needs to consider this.


WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2021

And from whence came the the INLA too. But the Officials were a far from ignoble organisation that much of the time did their best as they saw it in a broader context of a completely distorted polity etc. It’s the problem with blame, at some point it becomes impossible to neatly parcel it out.


dublinstick - January 20, 2021

Yes, the blame game is not one to play. The underlying forces that were at play in Northern Ireland society were played on by actors, I’d concur that it was the Provos who had the power to stop the ‘Troubles’ and that is what they belatedly did.


WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2021

Interesting point that. They did have that power to a degree (mind you so did the British) but they were never a monolithic organisation with a leadership able to implement by diktat their will. They went through at least two splits before getting to a point where they were ultimately able to stop and that across arguably twenty years. Strikingly many of the same problems they faced were faced by the Officials/WP before them but perhaps the difference being their size and an ability to grow politically despite moving from militarism. But that was a double edged sword – bringing a much larger military machine to a halt was always going to take longer (and I don’t believe that as early as 1982 that was the intention either). Without ignoring the pain and suffering I’m just glad it’s all over.


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