Thoughts on elections

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 09.04.01

OK, think positive. As the appalling sight of Fianna Fail making a full recovery looms, and that party and Fine Gael face the ghastly prospect of having to dance with each other, let’s consider a few random points on elections in general and the south’s in particular.

  1. “I’m not remotely interested in the south’s election – it’s got nothing to do with me or my family  here in the north”.  That was the judgement I heard from one man during the south’s campaign. I’d say he’s not alone and I’d say it’s a serious pity he and others think that way. What happens on the other side of the border matters because the people involved are our fellow-countrymen and women. If you insist that it’s got nothing to do with you, you’re subscribing not only to the maintenance of partition, you’re echoing the gospel according to M Thatcher: “There is no such thing as society – just people and their families”.
  2. “All politicians are liars – they’re all the same” – another statement I heard over the past few weeks.  There certainly are lying politicians – you only have to look at the promise list  waved about before the south’s last election to appreciate that the Father of Lies has had a field-day there over this past five years. But to declare “They’re all the same” is a counsel of despair as well as breaking a basic rule of logic: you can’t argue from the particular to the general. You might as well say “All lorry-drivers are liars”  or “All doctors are liars”, because you’ve discovered one or more who don’t mind lying.
  3. The south’s media take a line on Sinn Féin which sits somewhere on a continuum from Distaste to Contempt.  Two examples : last week’s Sunday Independent had at least three articles attacking the republican party, led by Ruth Dudley Edwards who rolled out an imagined first 100 days of Gerry Adams as Taoiseach.  As for RTÉ:  on Friday it played a clip featuring a man on Grafton Street interrupting a speech by Mary Lou McDonald. When asked his identity, he declared himself “a concerned citizen”,  adding that Sinn Féin were intent on ‘stripping the poor people of Ireland’ with their policies, that he wouldn’t be voting for them and would probably vote Fine Gael. Later on Friday it emerged, via social media, that this man is the CEO of a financial institution who drives a Merc.  RTÉ News couldn’ t possibly not have known this, but that didn’t prevent them running the same clip on Sunday, with the Concerned Citizen as irate and concerned as ever over “poor people”, but no mention of his well-heeled position.
  4. In a fateful Castlebar speech, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny got fed up with people criticizing his government’s performance over the last five years.  In his speech he said they were refusing to recognize how much better things now are and that they were, essentially, a bunch of whingers. He stressed to reporters that he was talking about local people only, in his own constituency, not throughout the state.  Besides not being a very diplomatic thing to say to people whose vote you are seeking,  this effectively conceded what many have claimed: that the recovery hasn’t been felt by an awful lot of people.


Final point: As Gene Kerrigan, perhaps the best columnist in Ireland, indicated in his Sindo column last Sunday, the big fear that southern voters have with Sinn Féin is not that Mary Lou will suddenly produce an AK47, but that Sinn Féin will allow itself to be sucked into the old, tired way of doing politics in the south.

Final final point: anyone who didn’t bother to vote deserves all the pain they got.  You could have influenced how you’re governed and you didn’t bother taking the opportunity. Blame yourself for the government you got landed with.

And now I’m off to Greencastle in County Tyrone to take part in a 5-mile protest run. They’re objecting to the fact that a Canadian mining company is planning to dig for gold in one of the most picturesque spots in the Sperrins and in the teeth of objections from local people, who don’t fancy their countryside being raped and toxins drained into their water.



30 Responses to Thoughts on elections

  1. Cushy Glen February 28, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    The performance of the independents is encouraging.
    Ireland must now have one of highest levels of independent parliamentarians in Europe.
    Political parties are failed entities inserting themselves between the people & government.
    It is perfectly possible to run a modern democracy without political parties.
    Maybe this will be Ireland’s gift to the world one day soon.

    • jessica February 28, 2016 at 9:26 pm #

      “It is perfectly possible to run a modern democracy without political parties.
      Maybe this will be Ireland’s gift to the world one day soon.”

      I heard Fianna Fail try to push this line, forming a government with all of the parties and thrashing things out between them all instead of an opposition.

      It is ludicrous and will not be entertained. Nothing more than an attempt and getting out of the quandary they find themselves in.
      Can you imagine far right and far left views trying to decide and agree on anything?
      The number of independents is a result of the end of civil war politics in Ireland forever, and that is a very good thing.

      Either FG and FF form a government together or another election will be called.

      In the mean time, independents will align with political parties as at least 7 seats are needed to have speaking rights in the dail.

      Sinn Fein are now set to be the largest party in opposition and they will effect the greatest changes, not the independents.

      It will be interesting to see who aligns with who though.

      • cushy glen February 29, 2016 at 11:52 am #

        Jessica: “It is ludicrous and will not be entertained.”

        Hmmmmm. A bit Stalinist in your attitude to discussion & debate, Jessica.

        We’re trying to build a democracy. In case you hadn’t noticed.

        • jessica February 29, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

          “We’re trying to build a democracy. In case you hadn’t noticed.”

          No CG, we already have a democracy, we should be trying to form a government.
          Instead, FG and FF are trying desperately to avoid having to work together despite the mandate the people have given them.
          Their policy differences are negligible and between them the people gave them sufficient seats to form a government with a healthy majority.

          • giordanobruno February 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

            I can’t help feeling you want FF and FG to form a government, not for the good of the country, but for the good of Sinn Fein.
            That way they get to be the main party of opposition which is a good position for them.
            If they cannot work together on principle they are entitled to say so. If SF refused to work in a government with one of the other parties would you respect them for it or see them as letting the voters down?

          • Jude Collins February 29, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

            I’d see them as a bunch of rogues and renegades, myself…

          • jessica February 29, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

            “I can’t help feeling you want FF and FG to form a government, not for the good of the country, but for the good of Sinn Fein.”

            In my own opinion, getting rid of the political domination of FF and FG is what’s best for the country gio.
            Sinn Fein are the only other party in a position to replace either at the helm and they are an all Ireland party which is also good for the country.

            “If they cannot work together on principle they are entitled to say so.”

            They are indeed gio and call another election which is what I expect will happen.

  2. jessica February 28, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    “I’m not remotely interested in the south’s election ”

    Most people I know are of a similar view though were more interested in the result.
    I imagine a lot of people in the south felt the same way though.

    Partition has been dealt with in the north.
    The GFA is a written agreement that reunification will happen when a 50% + 1 majority want it north and south so we know where we stand.

    The English tax payer forks out 10 billion each year to subsidise partition in the mean time which we need to milk and use this to rebuild the infrastructure prior to reunification.

    The possibility of a brexit has perhaps woken up the south that partition could potentially have more impact on the south and whoever is in power needs to do more to encourage the reunification of this island. It is the responsibility of the Dail to look after the interests of all Irish citizens on this island, not only the 26 counties.

    The people have spoken in regards the negative anti sinn fein bashing campaign run by Fine Gael and Labour with their media mogul cronies.

    It is up to them whether they learn from it as it clearly backfires.

  3. Sammy McNally February 28, 2016 at 12:36 pm #


    “The south’s media take a line on Sinn Féin which sits somewhere on a continuum from Distaste to Contempt. ”

    There is a legitimate opinion in the South – though not one I agree with – that ‘armed struggle’ was not justified in the North.

    There is also an legitimate opinion in the South – though one I would agree with – that because SF has residual issues from that armed struggle that renders them unfit for government in the South. Examples of this are the killing of Robert McCartney and the subsequent cover up, the shooting of Kevin McGuigan and the operations of Mr Murphy along the border.

    It is reasonable for the media in the South to highlight these issues and and to recommend the people of the South not to vote for SF until all issues linked to the ‘armed struggle’ are closed down.

    The nature of the untidy peace in the North means that this tidying of issues is unlikely to take place in the short term – to years and that SF may well have to wait until after that to get into power in the South.

    I’m not sure given the circumstances SF could and can handle things any better than they have – and Gerry has done a great job in getting it so far -but I’m not sure he or the party can make the necessary next step to get into power into both parts of Ireland.

    Passing off the legitimate concerns of the Irish people/media as simply some sort of ‘free-statery’ does not take account of the almost impossible situation SF finds itself now in.

    • jessica February 28, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

      “I’m not sure given the circumstances SF could and can handle things any better than they have – and Gerry has done a great job in getting it so far -but I’m not sure he or the party can make the necessary next step to get into power into both parts of Ireland. ”

      I would say Gerry has planned things well as usual and apart from a slip up in Donegal and a few expected seats in Dublin missed the results are pretty much what he wanted.

      The immediate aim was for Sinn Fein to be the largest party in opposition, to become the third choice to lead the dail which has been totally dominated by 2 parties since conception of the state and to introduce the new talent and the evolving and impressive team that Sinn Fein are building.

      I am excited with some of the new faces and impressed by their abilities.

      The conflict is over and those who used it for political advantage were punished heavily by the Irish people who understand very well that the problem was not caused by the IRA which no longer exists anyway.

      After a few years in opposition, Sinn Fein will clean up in the next election.

      Fianna Fail know this and now have a dilemma.

      Fine Gael will have a marginal lead over FF and only those 2 parties who have similar policies can form a government.

      That means the only justifiable reason for not dong so would be tribalism and not for policy differences.
      Lets see how that sits with the public should a second election be called over their failure to put the people above party politics and tribal differences over a historic civil war.

      If they do form government, I look forward to the defections from Fianna Fail by true republicans who want to join the only all Ireland party who will be sure to be in power in both parts of this island in the near future.

      I would say everything is going exactly as he planned Sammy. I would say he may not have expected FF to get so close to FG but it is only going to make it harder for them to not work together. The man remains a strategic genius.

      Gerry will know when and if he should step down and will not put himself above what is best for the party.

      I have said it before, Gerry is the best Irishman since Michael Collins. I am confident Mary Lou will be the first female taoiseach at some point in the future however.

      • Sammy McNally February 28, 2016 at 10:48 pm #


        This was a disappointing result for SF – they have improved significantly but not to the extent that Marty was talking about a few months back ‘Government in both parts of ireland’.

        I dont think the nature of the peace settlement in the North tidied up the conflict sufficiently to allow SF to sever its ties with its former activities and people in the South will not vote in sufficient numbers to let SF govern as long as they are still linked to their former activities.

        That is reality of the election result. Replacing Gerry wont change things on that score dramatically – one difference with Michael Collins (as you like to compare the 2) is that Collins took his foot soldiers into the armed forces – Gerry didn’t have the luxury of doing that e.g. the Mr Murphy (The good republican) turning up in court.

        • jessica February 29, 2016 at 9:56 am #

          “This was a disappointing result for SF”

          I disagree Sammy.
          The IRA no longer exists.
          I want to hear more about what new faces such as eoin o broin have to say about Ireland future not about irelands past.

          It wasn’t Sinn Fein punished for focussing on negative topics and the past, I don’t think they should have to entertain this crass behaviour any longer.

          I also don’t know what young eoin and his colleagues could possibly say about it any, it is so long ago now.

          Ireland already has armed forces and a police force, what we need to do is merge the PSNI into the gardai over the coming decades. Gerry wont be around forever, and the people he is introducing into Irish politics will be up to the job.

          There is a new beginning in Ireland, don’t be disappointed. The future looks very bright fir Sinn Fein. Even the media will come around, wait and see.

          • giordanobruno February 29, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

            “Gerry wont be around forever,”

          • Jude Collins February 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

            Good man, gio – stay predictable…

          • giordanobruno February 29, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

            It is jessica uttering sacrilege not me!. (Though for once I agree with her).

          • jessica March 1, 2016 at 10:59 am #

            “It is jessica uttering sacrilege not me!. (Though for once I agree with her).”

            Well, none of us will go on for ever gio.
            It is just a pity we don’t always appreciate what we have while we have it.

          • jessica February 29, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

            “Gerry wont be around forever,”

            What do you think of some of the new faces gio?
            Exciting times lie ahead I would say.
            Looking forward to them representing the whole of this island in our capital city.

  4. Perkin Warbeck February 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    Wouldn’t blame you one bit , Esteemed Election, for running from as distinct for General Election 2016.

    Especially as you are running in the ancestral homeland of the best columnist south of Black Pig’s Dyke in the pre-Gene Kerrigan era. That would be the peerless Desmond Fennell whose column appeared in the now defunct Sunday Press.

    That column was the main reason why the Free Southern Stateen didn’t entirely recede into a primitive state of anti-intellectual barbarism during the politico-cowardly reign of error instigated by the clearly deranged and censorious Conor Craze O’Brain.

    By opting to detach yourself from the air-raves of RTE you will have been most unfortunate to have missed a hilarious blasteen from the past in the personable person of Noel Dempsey. He is the former Minister of Transport who helped massively to steer the economy of the Good Ship FSS successfully on to the avoidable rocks of Cape Bankruptcy.

    Assuredly not a member of the People Before Profit Party this Fianna Failure is in receipt of an annual public pension of 120,000 smackeroos in recognition of his prophetic performance in incorrectly forecasting the turbulent financial downturn.

    With Sunday Morning coming down and rising from the barnacle-encrusted depths of political oblivion, plus the trident of Nepotism still firmly in his right hand, Noel D. was awarded nul points for logic (imagine!) . Like when he stridently excluded the possibility of the Fianna Failures / The United Ireland Party forming ‘a coalition with the Shinners’.

    Why / Cen fath/ Pourquoi, pray?

    Lowering his voice, he lowered the boom to put the No firmly into the Noel:

    -Because Sinn Fein still has issues. Such as those on the other side of the border who are really pulling the strings.

    Did one remark that the prim, proper and bravehearted Dempsey’s once political stronghold was in Trim, Royal Meath?

    PS: Whatever about pulling strings make sure you don’t pull a hamstring today, EB.

    Is fear i gconai rith maith na droch-sheasamh.

  5. Iolar February 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    Prior to the Irish election, officials in the European Commission decided to hold back a highly critical report outlining the lack of funding in education, the high cost of childcare, problems in housing, the increase in poverty and income inequality. It warned that long-term unemployment and the low work intensity of households remained a concern, as did mortgage arrears. Irish public services came in for criticism with the Commission warning that they are well below the EU average.

    The decision to delay the report was undemocratic. The Irish people do not need a report from bureaucrats in Brussels to recognise unemployment, homelessness, waiting lists, poverty or inequality. Governments get punished when promises are made and not kept. There are clear messages in the outcome of the election for the failed politicians who tried to justify austerity policies for the “good of the country” and “in the national interest.”

    There are 32 counties in Ireland and there is only one party that has an electoral mandate for the whole country. The outcome of the election reflects the fact that roughly half the population wish to support austerity policies with the other half demanding progressive, dynamic government which will render critical reports from EC bureaucrats to the dustbin of history. It is time for a Ré Nua.

  6. billy February 28, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    number least maggie thatcher was right on one thing.

  7. Ryan February 28, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    I was reading an article in The Newsletter written by Ben Lowry. Now Ben is well suited to the Newsletter, his stance on things like Sinn Fein, the IRA, etc would be no different from Gregory Campbell’s but his article yesterday was on Sinn Fein’s success in the South. (Ben wrote a previous article where he dealt with British Govt collusion. As predicted, he dismissed collusion as nothing more than Republican propaganda, despite the tons of evidence and the hundreds of dead Catholics in their graves)

    Ben’s article was titled: “Why Unionists should care about SF success in the South” or something like that. To cut a long story short Ben argues that SF are only successful in the South because of Unionism (yes, because of Unionism…) going into power sharing with them in Stormont. It was the same argument Seamus Mallon used about John Hume bringing SF “respectability”. Ben then goes on to say Unionism should be fearful of SF’s success in the South because it would aid SF in “rewriting the history of the IRA” and “legitimatizing the IRA”. Ben’s logic is if SF, with numerous TD’s, MLA’s, MP’s, MEP’s, Councillors, etc keep going on about collusion (which Ben regards as lies and propaganda, despite the evidence) then it would be accepted as fact by many people, especially abroad because of SF’s obvious electoral success.

    Ben then goes on to say that for decades the people in the South held contempt for SF because “of the IRA’s violence”. He, as usual, makes no mention of Unionist violence, British Army violence, Unionist sectarianism, Ian Paisley Snr, etc. Ben owes SF’s success to younger voters (which is true, 1/3 of younger voters in the South vote SF). He says they vote SF because they don’t have memories of the past (even though all the public in the South are constantly reminded of SF’s past).

    If Ben is ever in need of a new job, I’m sure the Irish Independent or RTE might be able to sort him out something.


    The South’s election is pretty much unfolding like many have predicted. Fianna Fail are the big winners in terms of seats, Labour has been crushed (though poor Joan kept her seat but her leadership is certainly at an end) and Fine Gael similarly got a bruising.

    As I type this Sinn Fein have 21 TD’s but there’s still 18 TD’s to be elected. So far SF have increased their TD’s by 50%, a great success for any party but I think the party would be more content if they got 25 TD’s or more. I always thought they would get 27 TD’s or maybe even as much as 30. Its unlikely now but still possible. Over all its been a good election for SF but it could get better if Fianna Fail and Fine Gael create a coalition and leave SF as the major opposition party, which creates a platform to build for the 2021 election. Another good thing for SF is the election of many very articulate and impressive young people to the Dail, any one of these people could potentially be leadership material in the future.

    I have to agree with Jude, anyone who doesn’t use their vote, whether its in the North or the South, has no right to complain, none at all. The Nationalist community is suffering very badly with the issue of people not voting and it needs tackled and should be a top priority for SF to get those who don’t vote out to vote. Elections are an opportunity for people to help themselves and those who don’t take that opportunity cant blame anyone but themselves if nothing changes or if their straddled with a Govt they don’t want.

    • billy February 28, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

      get those who dont vote out to vote..
      how could they do that.most people i know dont vote why would they vote for another stormont were nothings changed.

    • jessica February 28, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

      A few things are quite crystal clear as a result of this election.

      The abuse of the media bashing Sinn Fein, almost certainly cost them a few seats but overall, the Irish people will not see Sinn Feins association with the IRA so long as it no longer exists, any differently than that of the other 3 parties connections with the IRA.

      Unionism has absolutely no value in the south. They do not engage with the south so why should their needs be valued at all?
      If unionism s going to exist in Ireland post reunification, they will have to engage. They will have to do that on their own terms and in their own time.
      I suggest we leave that to them and focus on what is best for Ireland.

      We have witnessed the end of tribalism between civil war politics in the south, reunification will likewise end it in the north but in its own time.

      Labour are finished for good.

      Fine Gael will rebuild, but Fianna Fail are about to face the biggest crisis in their history. Both of these parties could implode. They absolutely detest one another moreso than any northern party Ryan.

      Lets see how this unfolds.

      I cannot see anyway they will do the business and another election will be most likely called in a few months time, possibly in May along with the North’s elections which will make it even more interesting.

  8. michael c February 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

    Cushy glen,many of the independents are rejects from FF and FG and would vote accordingly when required.

  9. Sherdy February 28, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

    Ryan, – You either deserve credit for your bravery in reading the DUP sponsored Newsletter, or you’re suffering from a severe dose of masochism.
    But take comfort from the fact that Mike Nesbitt is always calling for better mental health services in our Sick Counties.
    Scanning your Lowry summary, I think that writer could avail of such services for his Sinn Fein phobia. A strong word, but it does mean a strong fear or aversion to someone or something.
    UUP’s Mad Mike must be well aware of many of his ilk suffering from this, and realises that some treatment is needed!

  10. Colmán February 29, 2016 at 12:06 am #

    Fair play for supporting the local community of Greencastle Jude. That situation reminds me alot of the Ros Dumhach/Rossport fiasco.

    Regarding your article I think you have understated the impact of the decisions taken in the south to the northern economy. The 2008 financial crash in the south was quickly followed by a recession in the north.

  11. Jim.hunter February 29, 2016 at 8:42 am #


  12. MT February 29, 2016 at 11:21 am #

    The Provos only got 14%: is that right?

    Surely that’s a disappointment after all the hype?

    • Jude Collins February 29, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

      I assume when you say ‘Provos’, you’re referring to the Sinn Féin party? I think if you check the record, ALL and ANY hype came from the media – at no point did SF say other than ‘We’re hopeful we’ll improve our representation’ – hardly hype. Stick to the facts, mebbe?