Irish Politics

nigel_irritable mmcdon at
Tue Feb 13 18:05:37 MST 2001

> From: Philip Ferguson <plf13 at>

> >> A while back I looked at the local body elections.  I was actually
> >> surprised SF had done so well.  Places there was hardly any
> >> when I was a member now have SF local and county councillors.  If you
> >look
> >> at their showing in Monaghan and Cavan, I would think they have a
> >> reasonable chance of picking up a second seat there.
> >
> >It's not beyond the realms of possibility, and to get four or five seats
> >they'll have to win a second there. The problem is that none of the
> >TDs look all that vulnerable and O'Caolain has frankly been useless.
> I can imagine that of Caoimhin.  He's probably quite good as a local
> councillor, arguing for improved roads in Monaghan but he certainly
> the sharpest knife among their southern candidates for Leinster House.

The man is a cretin. You get used to Sinn Feiners turning up to a
demonstration or picket for fifteen minutes, rushing out front with their
little placards (half of which are always about the RUC - regardless of the
purpose of the demonstration), jumping in front of any cameras and then
leaving as soon as the press go. That just amuses me. O'Caolain though,
makes my hackles rise. I can't recall him saying one useful thing since he
was elected, not one. I'd suggest to Sinn Fein that they get Sean Crowe a
mask and pull a switch, but Crowe managed to disgrace himself recently too
by giving out about travellers in Tallaght.

> >[snip SF have a popular leadership]
> >
> >That one is a double edged sword. Adams and McGuinness raise their
> >but also cost them votes. You will note that the North is not used as a
> >major selling point by SF in urban constituencies in the South.
> But haven't things changed quite a bit?

In some ways.

  Now that the war has been packed
> away, Adams can actually appear as some kind of Nelson Mandela figure
> (which, indeed, he is).  The southern masses have always been quite
> anti-British imperialism, and SF is the party with the street cred on the
> issue.  With the war over and the anti-republican censorship in the South
> lifted, I would think that the northern leaders are a huge asset to SF in
> the South.  In fact, I think Adams could win a seat in Leinster House.

I suspect you'd think wrong - he'd have no local base :-)

More seriously, the Northerners aren't always an asset. They paticularly
hurt SF when it comes to lower preference votes. They don't get any
transfers worth speaking of - and that's a result of the North and its
corrolorary, the 30 year propaganda campaign in the South.

> I noticed recently, that there was a poll among teenagers or high school
> students and SF ranked the second most popular party (behind FF).

You will note that none of those people have the vote. Seriously. SFs
support is rising, but they will have to be patient about seat gains. And
to be fair to them they're being cautious. They understand the
demoralisation which could result from over optimistic predicitons. I stand
by my predictions - one to five seats, most likely two. I could be badly
wrong though - STV is a very difficult system to predict.

> Of course, they would then be faced with forming a coalition with FF.
> Hopefully, this would be the last straw for whatever remains of a left
> within SF/IRA.

There's no doubt that a coalition with FF is the plan.

> >Tony Gregory is still there. He is an extremely hard working
> >TD and he has no interest in broader matters whatsoever at this stage.
> >None. I don't think that he would even mention the "s" word or that "r"
> >word in public.
> I never really worked him out.  For someone who came out of the socialist
> republican tradition to be happpy ensconced in Dublin-Central and
> uninterested in anything outside of it always seemed strange.  He did
> to be a sponsor for the anti-extradition campaign, and allowed his name
> be associated with various other progressive causes, but basically he
> turned into a gas and water local politician.

You've summed him up pretty accurately there. He is very effective at
getting the footpath fixed or getting liscenses for street traders, but
there isn't anything else to say about him.

> >Nicky Kelly is a funny one. He was never a TD, by the way.
> >
> >He is a councillor and is no longer associated with the IRSP. He also
> >to have dropped any anti-establishment views and - wait for this - was
> >talking about joining Fine Gael last I heard. He has an outside chance
of a
> >seat in the next election.
> Yes, I heard that from someone else just this morning.  Ironic that FG is
> headed by Noonan, who was justice minister when Kelly was fitted up, and
> bashed up, by the state 'Heavy gang' in the 70s.  How the wheel turns.
> Nicky always struck me (I only knew him slightly in the late 80s/early
> as a man with an eye for getting on for himself.

I only know him by reputation, so I was astonished to hear that he is now
on the Fine Gael fringes.

> >>  If these left forces (whch
> >> have the TDs but not  many troops on the ground) and SF (which has the
> >> troops on the ground but only one TD) came to some electoral
> >the
> >> LP in the south could face a really major challenge.
> >
> >Absolutely no chance. Sinn Fein's strategy is to get into coalition with
> >Fianna Fail as quickly as they can manage it. They have no interest in
> >associating with the left, when there are ministerial cars to the right.
> I don't think SFers are actually interested in ministerial cars.

Not the present leadership, but certainly a layer of newer people are. That
wasn't what I was getting at though - I meant the opportunity to take part
in a right wing government, not the actual cars and salaries. Sloppy
phrasing on my part.

> The problem was always that revolutioary nationalism was an unstable form
> of politics.  It was a good starting point, but unless revoluionary
> nationalists progressed to revoolutionary socialism, they were going to
> backwards to bourgeois nationalism.
> The critical period in SF/IRA was the late 80s/early 90s, when the
> 'pan-nationalist alliance' position won out over the left-wing of
> republicanism.

Here we are re-entering more difficult territory. As I recall, it was about
this point that we recently broke off a squabble about the republican

While I'm not sure if I want to get back into the broader issue here, can I
clear something up? Do you rate this change in the RM as a consequence of
the 1986 split?

> >The smaller groups you seem to be referring to are the Socialist Party
> >the STWUAG. The Workers and Unemployed Action Group are unpredictable,
> >I'd be surprised if they want any part of Sinn Fein. As for the
> >Party - well our relationship with SF is less than friendly. From
> >McGuinness shafting the term time workers in the North, to their Dublin
> >Councillors recent antics in helping through a service tax on working
> >families, SF are not a left wing party.
> In the early 1990s, SF started to describe itself as a 'republican
> party.  I note that they still use this term and would certainly see
> themselves as on the left.

It depends on the time and place. They'll campaign in Southern urban areas
on some labour issues, but they don't mention anything leftist in more
rural parts. Its all a question of tactics to them.

> To the best of my knowledge they strongly opposed the bin charges in
> Dublin.

They announced their opposition to them in Dun Laoghaire -Rathdown
(Southeast Dublin) and promptly abstained from helping in any way with the
campaign. The SWP were of more use!

They actually voted for the Bin charges in Sligo.

In the Dublin Corporation area, again they announced their opposition. This
time, though, they were slightly smarter than they were in Sligo in
slipping the knife into our backs.

The three major right wing parties on the Corpo, Fianna Fail, FG and Labour
were coming under serious pressure from central government to vote in the
new tax. So they cooked up a slimy deal to avoid anybody taking the blame.

Some councillors from each party would vote for the tax and some against. A
majority would vote for, so the tax would be brought in, but some
councillors from each party would vote against. In the confusion, Dubliners
wouldn't have any obvious targets to hold to account. There was a snag
though - Sinn Fein.

In the Corporation area, SF present themselves as the anti-establishment
party. How they would react was unpredictable. In North or West Dublin,
where the Socialist Party have councillors, the right wing parties know
better than to try a bin tax. They remember the water tax campaign. But in
the Corpo area the primary threat would be SF.

Labour wouldn't come on board for the deal, unless SF could be neutralised.

A couple of weeks before the meeting, somebody leaked to us that two of the
four SF councillors would fail to show for the big vote - what should have
been the most important vote since their election. The Socialist Party went
to print about the rumours in the January issue of the "Voice", pointing
out that for SF to take part in such a deal would be an appalling betrayal
of their Dublin support.

A few days later, the big vote. Sure enough two of the four SF councillors
didn't show. The vote was passed, with the predicted split in the right
wing parties and the two SFers who did show up voting against. The latter
two SFers further disgraced their party by voting against publically
recording the votes of each councillor - further helping the right wing
parties sow confusion.

I'm sure that the two absent SFers have sick notes of some sort.

In short, SF voted for the bin tax in Sligo, took part in a slimy deal in
the Dublin Corporation area and took no active role in the campaign in Dun
Laoghaire - Rathdown.

> But, tell me abut McGuiness and the term time workers in the north.

That one is a simpler story. Basically his Ministry refused to pay a large
number of low paid school workers for the four months a year that schools
are shut. As an added bonus they weren't eligible for Social Welfare
payments during those periods either. The wonders of ministerial office in
a right wing government, eh?

This led to industrial action, unsurprisingly. The Socialist Party's End
Low Pay Campaign awarded McGuiness their Christmas "Scrooge Employer of the
Year" award - and he proceeded to lose the plot. He wrote a vitriolic
attack on our organisation in the Irish News and a long, very public and
unpleasant correspondence began.

I'm afraid that I haven't been keeping up with recent developments in the
term time dispute, but if you're interested I can ask one of our Northern
comrades for more detail.

> >Nor do they have all that many troops on the ground, at least in Dublin.
> >What they have is money. Bags of it. Donated by American businessmen.
> >have so much money in fact, that there was an idea floated recently by
> >of the establishment parties (whose local business donors don't have the
> >same financial muscle) of banning donations from outside the state.
> Well, that's a hoot.

It was quite funny when the idea of banning foriegn donations was
mentioned. The establishment parties didn't even bother pretending that
such a law would be for any purpose other than separating Sinn Fein from
their American loot. They now recieve more cash in donations than any other
party in the Southern state - including Fianna Fail last year.

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill

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