The Shinners, Fianna Fail and the state of southern Irish politics – a conversation

The other day I was talking to one of my long-time best mates in Ireland about stuff and thought chunks of the conversation – it was on messenger – would make interesting material for this blog.  My mate is a longtime (southern) republican and OKed the following.  We’ll call him ‘Eamon’.

The conversation actually began with other subjects, like the problem of (religious) sectarianism among some Shinners.  Then it moved onto a mixture of discussion about Sinn Fein and southern politics, interspersed with various personal recollections and comments, which aren’t appropriate here.

Eamon: A Shinner asked me today to delete my latest post on my facebook page!

Me: Typical.  Hey what did McElduff say?  I think FF and DUP love stuff like this, as it enables them to take the moral high ground, covering over their own sins.

SF has basically chosen in the north to be a catholic/nationalist party instead of a republican, let alone socialist-republican, party.  So McElduff is just doing what a bunch of Shinners (and some of their support base) is thinking.  The leadership will be fucked off because he is doing in public what they are thinking.

E: True. Hey, it looks like Mary Lou will get to be leader unopposed.

They knew what they were doing when Michelle O Neill was appointed leader in the North…..With McDonald being the president of Sinn Fein there would be no opposition from Belfast about the president been from Dublin with O Neill in the North…..Very clever move….

Me: Adams is nothing if not crafty.  A worthy heir to De Valera in that (horrible manipulative) sense.  O’Neill and McDonald are also lightweights, so Adams will be able to string pull after he retires.  SF have been reshaped entirely as an Adamsite party.  His creation.  Quite sickening really.

E: SF folk seem to think with Adams and Martin gone that they will fly it now in the South……That the IRA monkey is off their back……But they are wrong…..After all Adams topped the poll in Louth and brought in another SFer on his surplus.

The Irish electorate have long forgotten about Sinn Fein’s past……  Still, I would bet anybody a thousand euro that SF will not get more than 15% next election down south.

And 15% will not get them into government, even in a coalition.

The careerists in SF will not stay there forever in opposition….. I predict some will walk after the next election…

Me: Adams was contradictory in terms of popularity.  He was the Shinners’ biggest asset (gunman turned statesman, although he apparently never did fire a shot), but he was also their biggest liability.  Fine in Louth – and he would have been very popular in Monaghan and Donegal if he had’ve stood there – but of less use electorally in Dublin or Cork.

I think there is a reasonably big space for SF’s politics – the gap left by Labour and FF since they are discredited by imposing austerity.  But the closer the Shinners get to a whiff of “power”, ie Leinster House government, the more respectable they become.

I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t eclipse Fianna Fail – which isn’t to say I think they will.  Actually, they seem to be stalling.  Also, I think a dose of SF in coalition government will undermine them as any sort of ‘alternative’ to the establishment.

It will be interesting to see what the upper limit for SF is.  Will it turn out to be 15%?  20%?  More?  I have no predictions and am too far away.  But your judgement was always pretty good on these things.

E: I don’t agree with you……I think they [internally] will fragment a bit if left in opposition.  Things may change Phil……But if there was an election tomorrow they would poll about 14%

Me:  I’m not actually ruling that out.  I just don’t know.  Like I say, I can’t see any reason why they automatically couldn’t become a much bigger force, but that doesn’t mean I think they will.  In any case, on these kinds of matters I would tend to bow to your judgement.

E: The Independent group of newspapers are doing serious damage to them here every week……I’d say that newspaper group are costing SF about 3% of the electorate not voting for them

Me: So, if they polled just, say, 14%, where would the currently pissed off voters go?  Abstain?  A chunk go back to FF?  For instance, I can’t see the Trotskyists winning much more than they already have.  Also, the SF TDs (and senators) are chancers/opportunists, sure, but they may decide the rewards are bigger with SF than on decamping somewhere else.  Also, most of them are there because of the SF brand, so would lose their seats if they went independent or joined FF.

E: SF are doing everything to move on etc…..  No talk about “the troubles”……  But people just keep bringing it up in a bad way…..  Most people don’t care, but some are listening.

Me: It’s funny how ungrateful a section of the southern ruling class is.  Adams has destroyed the IRA and radical republicanism and yet they still won’t welcome him into their club.

E: The Shinners are not going to drop below 10% either….. I can see them hovering from 12% to possibly 16% for the next 6 or 7 years.

Me:  When will the next Leinster House elections be?

E:  Very likely in the next 3 to 4 months; FF are ready to go.

Me: So you think FF will pull the plug soon?  Like, when they decide the time is best for them?

E: Yes …  The dogs on the street know the election is very close.

Me: I assume SF is well-prepared too?  They don’t have people of principle but they have good organisers in terms of bourgeois elections – and they can bus in loads of experienced election activists from the north.

E: Not true…  They are not well prepared this time out……  A lot of people down here are pissed off that Stormont is not up and running…  Some blame the DUP….Some SF……Some blame both.

Me: I would guess that SF is bigger than FF in terms of active members – ie SF’s total 32-county active membership as compared to FF’s total 26-county active membership.  And there are chunks of the south that are still greenfields for SF – ie if they can get campaigners into those areas they can pick up votes.

When I was talking about being prepared, I didn’t mean the voters, I meant the SF organisation.  I assume that is well-prepared and has loads of funds.

E:  SF have more members than FF true…  But FF are about 12% ahead of them in latest opionion polls.

FG and FF will govern together to keep SF out of government… Sure, they are effectively doing that now anyhow..

FF even go to Cork these days for the Michael Collins anniversary !

Me: And I would think that closeness would be to SF’s benefit.  The more FG-FF are forced together, the better it is for SF – allows them to be the opposition, even though we know it is fake and they would leap into bed with FF at the sign of a nod and wink.

E:  Hmmmnnn kind of…… But they are still on the opposition benches in that scenario

Me:  When FF came to power in 1932 that forced the right-wing parties of that era to merge.  In NZ, Labour swept into power in 1935 and the two Tory-type parties merged.  The rise of SF is pushing FG and FF together even though they kind of hate it.  But they hate SF and the thought of sharing the booty with the SF upstarts even more.

E: But the thing is Phil, the new FG and new FF do not hate each other… It’s changed a lot here

Me: Funny you should say that.  The moment I wrote that bit about FG and FF hating each other, I realised I might be wrong, because there is a new generation of FG and FF people and those old Civil War hatreds might have died out.  Also, FF have become more socially liberal and also more free-market, so the divisions over economic and social policy have faded away too.  I mean in the 1980s who could imagine FF ever telling their TDs they had to go out and campaign for gay marriage!!!!  Yes, there is less reason to maintain two parties, especially in the face of the rise of SF and the Trotskyists.

E: I can remember when I was young in my village we would know things like “hey that’s a FF house…”  In other words everybody in that house votes for FF…….  This can  no longer be said of many households

Big business have a lot of say as well…..  And they are telling FF and FG to do whatever has to be done to keep SF out…….  These guys keep these parties well financed.

Back in 5 minutes…..  Going for a fag.

Me: It was like that here too, there were Labour households and National Party households and, from the Depression on, people generally voted the same way as their parents and grandparents.  National was the party of big business and farmers and Labour was the party of the union leaders, union members and some small businesspeople.  Now, both are essentially parties made up of liberal urban professionals.

Hardly any workers are involved in Labour these days and big business people are much more flexible about alternating support between National and Labour, while farmers no longer play the key role in National they used to.  A lot of the Labour and National MPs are interchangeable.

Actually, the last National Party government was led by a multi-millionaire who came from a working class pro-Labour family background and was economically to the left of Labour on several important issues, because he hadn’t entirely forgotten where he came from and how hard life had been for his mum (the father deserted them).  The previous Labour government was headed by the daughter of well-off Tory farmers and she was a snob through and through.

E: You see the real problem facing SF is not FF and FG….. It’s the other smaller parties and Independents…. They have copied SF in working on the ground in local communities… I don’t like some of them but they are working very hard and it’s almost impossible for SF to steal their votes and/or dislodge them.

It’s much easier for a Shinner to convert a FF voter than the others I mentioned above; their vote is very solid, more solid than the SF vote even.

It’s very stagnant now for SF.

Me: I dunno, I could see Solidarity losing their seat in Cork and their seat in Dublin south-west, and only Coppinger holding her seat.  And I could see People Before Profit losing two of their Dublin seats with just the posh guy in Dun Laoghaire holding his.

E: I’m not sure Phil…… But you could be right……  Also new people emerging, Independents etc.

Stormont not up and running here during an election gives FF and FG ammunition….. The Shinners are very aware of this… It’s a huge problem for them at the moment.

If they bow to the DUP and re-enter Stormont they will lose out to the SDLP….

They are in a very difficult place……. That’s why G Adams is moving on…… Gerry knows the craic.

Believe me Phil, if Adams thought that SF had the slightest chance of getting into government, he would NOT GO.

And I will give him credit for one thing: he knows how to read what’s happening.

Me: Yes, Adams is astute.  Crafty as a fox.  The de Valera of our time.  But conditions have been different, precluding him from being as successful as de Valera.  I think he would love to run for president.  But he won’t do so unless he is fairly sure he can win – I think they got McGuinness to run to test the waters and start the process.  But Adams would have to do massively better than MM and I don’t see him being able to pull that off, although I think he’d love to park his ass in the Aras.

E: I don’t know what SF can do at the moment…. They are fucked.

He might pull it off… Only if the other candidates were weak.

Me: Interesting!  So just treading water?  And you can only tread water for a limited amount of time.  You either find a life raft or you go under.

On the Uachtaran thing.  I assume that little gobshite from Galway will run again.  I’m sure he just loves being president.  Liberals like him always love that kind of shit.

E: If the Shinners can’t crack 20% next time out they are in serious, serious trouble internally.  On the presidential election, yeh, it looks like Higgins will run again.

In the north, the DUP seem happy enough with direct rule…They know it’s causing problems for SF in the 26 counties.

Me: But where would potential SF defectors go?  They are, after all, careerists.  FF already has a load of careerists competing for the goodie basket.  They won’t welcome a bunch of SF chancers will they?  And any SFer with half a brain will know they are sitting in Leinster House because of the SF brand not because they are personally loved by their voters.

E: Believe me Phil some of those new SF TDs would join the Tories to become Ministers….. Not all of them but at least 5 I could think of.

FF would love to see a sitting SF TD coming over the fence… It would be a massive coup.

Me: But why would the Tories, let alone FF, want them?  If I was an aspiring careerist FF TD the last thing I would want is to have to compete with some SF careerist for nomination for a given seat.

E: FF would take anybody Phil……It’s a numbers game.

Me: Yeh, it would be a coup in terms of Micheal Martin, but not for local FFers who want to be TD.

E: That kind of stuff has never worried the FF leadership in the past……The Wicklow Independent TD joined them and the leadership in FF told the local Wicklow FFers to fuck off when they protested.

Me: Yes, there is that.  FF head office rules the roost.  I guess they can always get a new local branch.  Interesting times.

E: FF don’t really hate SF as much as they say they do…….They don’t like some of their policies……But one SF TD joining them is not going to change their constitution etc….

Posted on January 14, 2018, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, Blog News, Civil War period, Corruption, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Irish politics today, Labour Party, Partition, Provos - then and now, Public events - Ireland, Social conditions, twenty-six counties. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Shinners, Fianna Fail and the state of southern Irish politics – a conversation.

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