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Political attack June 23, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Of all people, it is Miriam Lord who points in the IT recently as to why some of the Fine Gael attacks on Sinn Féin fall so woefully short.

There was the Tánaiste last week arguing that Pearse Doherty was using ‘cheap shots and personalised’ remarks when the latter brought up the not so small political issue of the leaking of a confidential document by said Tánaiste in a different role, a matter still under investigation. And what does Varadkar do? 

He ‘dredged up a 1999 court case involving a 21-year-old Doherty and fellow members of Ógra Sinn Féin who were arrested and charged with abusing a garda on O’Connell Street in Dublin’

“You only got away without a conviction because of your age at the time,” harrumphed Leo, using young Doherty’s run-in with the cops to highlight “the huge number of convicted criminals” in Sinn Féin “and your wider republican family”, along with the party’s known “attitude to rapes and paedophiles”.

Lord concludes:

Leo Varadkar had more than enough ammo to throw at Pearse and his party — which has more skeletons than there are cupboards to hide them — without having to scrape the barrel with the hardly unusual case of a young Shinner barely out of his teens roaring abuse at the rozzers all of 23 years ago. Isn’t that just what they did back then?

Careful now, Leo. Given Sinn Féin’s growing lead in the opinion polls, Fine Gael’s acute exasperation might start looking like desperation.

And that’s almost it in a nutshell.

The attack on Doherty tilts into the personalised and the cheap shots (there’s a separate argument entirely about whether the investigation into the Tánaiste is a small matter or not; some might think not). And to what point? It doesn’t work. The shot is, well, literally cheap. But this has been characteristic of the inability of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to really hit Sinn Féin.

I’ve long wondered about this in the way of ‘Is there a limit to SF’s vote?’ –  and I’m beginning to think not. Or rather, as IEL says, they could hit 40% in the polls sooner rather than later. I’ve wondered about it because I suspect that in some ways the almost baroque attacks on Sinn Féin across twenty years proved to be entirely counter-productive. It’s not that there was no reason not to attack, for example, armed struggle while it was being prosecuted. It is that after there was a clear decision to move to cessations the inability of some commentators to rein in their previous language was a strategic error. 

Simply put, it undermined more measured criticisms and critiques of Sinn Féin. The assertions that they were fascists, or anti-democratic, or covertly seeking armed struggle or civil war (or whatever the superheated rhetoric of the day required) was so evidently at odds with the reality that it appeared near-unhinged. This isn’t to say that Sinn Féin, like any party, was beyond criticism, both for its past and its present, but if you say someone is a fascist when they clearly aren’t it does tend to make more mundane but not unimportant criticisms appear beside the point.

And Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael raced into that area, tumbling after the commentators who indulged in that rhetoric, albeit being a little bit more reserved about going full Eoghan Harris (to pluck a phrase from the ether). Which meant that engaging with Sinn Féin as it grew, and at a time when memories of the conflict were fading and when it was also clear Sinn Féin might, just might, offer even the mildest of alternatives to the old crew who had passed power back and forth across near enough a century became even more difficult. Are you going after Doherty the financial expert, or Doherty the Sinn Féin member in 1999, or Doherty as a member of an organisation that was linked to PIRA with all that entails, or who?

I almost (almost but not quite) have sympathy for Fianna Fáil’s and Fine Gael’s quandary. How does one deal with a problem like this? They couldn’t in and of themselves treat Sinn Féin like any other party. And as SF’s popularity rose, they had the problem of trying to work out how to pull back those who supported it without alienating them for their new choice in a political home for their vote.

Which is why I think Lord is wrong about them having enough ammo to throw at ‘Pearse and his party’. That sounds good on paper, but in practice? In a context where FFG have delegitimised themselves to large cohorts of voters? 

So here’s a question: if it were us, what lines of attack would we take? And more to the point would they work?


1. NFB - June 23, 2022

I would drop all references to the IRA, criminality, etc quickly and instead focus squarely on the dual issue of SF inexperience in government and costings for SF financial plans (raising the spectre of increased taxation as much as possible).

Perhaps on an individual basis there might be scope for attacks on the basis of personal failures – I’m thinking social media flubs and the like, that too many in SF have been susceptible too – but that would be about it.

In truth, any strategy to combat SF in a bid to attract their voters should be based more on internal change and not outward attack.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - June 23, 2022

That I think is a very sound strategy. They surely know the references don’t work any longer. In a way, your last point is the key one. They’d have to be one sf in some ways to stop them – but that’s an impossible ask for those parties


2. irishelectionliterature - June 23, 2022

The problem for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil especially is that whatever they attack Sinn Féin with, many voters ignore it and ask “would you ever do something about housing?”

Fine Gael’s latest lines of attack are aimed to appeal to the voter that will never vote Sinn Féin. It’s to set themselves up as the most anti Sinn Féin party.

The stuff about Mary Lou going first class to a big expensive fundraising do in the US doesn’t wash as many of the parties have fundraising dinners that aren’t cheap.

What SF did in Government in the North doesn’t matter either as they had to work with the DUP and a Tory Government.

The planning applications one used regularly is also a non-runner as most party reps object to planning.

There’s a few areas that they could attack Sinn Féin, like them not being as socially liberal as voters may think but that kind of exposes the non progressive elements in FG and FF.

Another area would be their environmental credentials. How do SF plan to get to net zero when they are still championing turf, etc?

The usual things about increasing taxes and borrowing, fiscal responsibility etc might also wash with some voters.

Liked by 3 people

3. roddy - June 23, 2022

The IRA stuff can be easily batted away due to the fact that the worst actions of the troubles were replicated just a few decades earlier by those who went on to found FF/FG.There is not a single action carried out by the Provos that was not equalled 1916 to 1923 (actions many of which I could never defend) but note how amnesia set in about these actions virtually straight away in Free State politics.Imagine Dev or those on the FG side barracking other about what each side did decades later.However 50 year old incidents from the Northern troubles are still hurled at SF from the political and media establishments.

Liked by 2 people

banjoagbeanjoe - June 23, 2022

A distinction can be made, I think, between people who lived through the years of the Troubles and people who became adults after the Troubles had ended. So my generation of southerners – I think (or maybe, I hope) most would still not vote SF because of the Troubles. So for them the IRA stuff cannot be easily batted away.

But those who only came of age after 2000 or so, a big majority of them will vote SF.


roddy - June 23, 2022

But it was easily batted away in the case of FF/FG who ensured their atrocities were never discussed in the Dail or elsewhere once the dust of the civil war had settled.


banjoagbeanjoe - June 24, 2022

I wasn’t around in them days. I was around in the seventies, eighties and nineties.


4. Bartholomew - June 23, 2022

Not even the TCD Alumni Association in Sydney is convinced by Varadkar’s attack on SF:


Liked by 2 people

5. AdoPerry - June 23, 2022

FG and FF attacks on the Shinners have a dual purpose – to discourage voters from supporting them and to shore up their parties’ own hardcore vote. They’re trying to outscore each other on the anti-shinner agenda.

Liked by 4 people

6. Wes Ferry - June 24, 2022

The only way for FFG to stymie SF is to actually deliver visible and evidenced results in cost of living, housing, health, transport in Dublin and for commuter counties with initiatives to improve day to day living.

That, however, would require a political gear change and cross-party unity of purpose to prevent FFG TDs squabbling in dog fights to own the good stuff.

Too much of an ask, I’m sure. But if if you can’t demonstrate that the economy and structures are better for voters in your hands as ‘responsible’ parties after umpteen years, then don’t be surprised if exasperated voters swamped by bills look at giving a go to someone else offering fresh change.

IRA stuff when the Peace Process has become the norm and SF poll topping in North is for history books except for committed FFG voters.

Mary Lou flies first class to USA/Australia – so what? So would we if we could. Mary Lou can fly to the moon and back on a golden unicorn if her party can get my bills down.


WorldbyStorm - June 24, 2022

“But if if you can’t demonstrate that the economy and structures are better for voters in your hands as ‘responsible’ parties after umpteen years, then don’t be surprised if exasperated voters swamped by bills look at giving a go to someone else offering fresh change.”


Liked by 1 person

polly - June 24, 2022

There is a third path, but I don’t think FF or FG will see it to take it. It is to keep asking for transparency about the party policy machine behind all the shiny young candidates. I don’t feel confident that there is either a will or a capacity or an intention to control those individuals in the party who want victories and revenges more than they want good economic and social management of the country.


WorldbyStorm - June 24, 2022

That might work but I wonder is it only going to work with those who particularly care about policy and transparency.


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