Thrilling election we’re having, wouldn’t you say?

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 09.08.46

Is it just me? In the north here, there’s an election campaign going on here, and even though we’re less than a week from voting, I find I’m only marginally interested in it. Not like me. Maybe I’m coming down with something.

Or maybe it’s just that the election in the south and the manoeuvres of the two big parties there has fascinated me. That’s fascinated as in there’s- a-snake-trying-to-swallow-a-frog fascinated. Or maybe the other way round. At the time of writing, the two parties are finally moving to consummation point, which is fun to watch even if you do feel a bit dirty afterwards. And there is a colour and variety to some of the political figures south of the border: the Healy-Rae brothers, that little FG chap with the lisp, Michael Noonan, Shane Ross. All human and some near-human life is there.

In that respect, you could feel a bit sorry for northern unionists. For them, the south is a weird, limited place. Great scenery,  especially in Donegal; funny accents, some of them impenetrable; people who perversely don’t see London as the centre of the universe. Dublin – a good place to go for a rugby match or a stag party but really that’s it.

And then it struck me: maybe northern unionist thought has moved on. Could it be that, far from being a little bored by the south, northern unionists are looking at southern politics with increasing interest? If they are, I suspect the reason for it can be summarized in two words: Sinn Féin.

Ah. Sinn Féin. The party which the DUP warns its followers about. The party that’s an increasing threat to unionist hegemony in the north. The party which keeps on getting more Dail seats in the south. And nightmare of nightmares, except the ‘Keep Arlene First Minister’ posters work, Sinn Féin the top-dog party in the north. Worse still, Sinn Féin in power in both parts of Ireland – is it becoming a when rather than an if?  An unnerving thought.

Certainly it’s Sinn Féin’s ambition. Not to unnerve unionists (although they could live with that) but to be in power in the south and in the north. It will send a strong message to the world, never mind Westminster, that Ireland is a country that’s been artificially divided. Come the day Sinn Féin is involved in a major way in government north and south, comes the day when Irish unity is imminent.

But would it be? Yes, Sinn Féin could some day be in power throughout Ireland, and yes, that would be more than a little unnerving for unionists. But would it actually mean that a united Ireland was just round the corner?

No, because there will be no change in the constitutional position until a majority in the north and the south vote for that change in a referendum. And there are an awful lot of what could be passed off as nationalists both north and south who would baulk at the idea of putting an X in the Yes box in a referendum.

That’s not to say Sinn Féin’s growth in the south hasn’t been spectacular. In a little over ten years, it’s gone from having four TDs to having twenty-three. Such progress must be heartening for nationalists/republicans and heart-scalding for unionists. But what they and a lot of nationalists/republicans north and south of the border tend to turn a blind eye to is, what comes next? Sinn Féin dominance in politics north and south is a stirring story. But the fact is, there will still be an awful lot of work to do after that.

Watching the growth of Sinn Féin throughout Ireland must be a heartening experience for the party’s supporters. But that growth alone won’t provide a final answer to the Irish Question.



23 Responses to Thrilling election we’re having, wouldn’t you say?

  1. jessica April 30, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    “And then it struck me: maybe northern unionist thought has moved on. Could it be that, far from being a little bored by the south, northern unionists are looking at southern politics with increasing interest? ”

    Probably more to do with getting some tips on how to further attack Sinn Fein and irish republicans from the experts.

    What is quite clear, there is only one true republican party on this island.

    I know there are some who think Fianna Fail are worth hoping for but they are not, they are beyond redemption. Yes, there are good people and good republicans within the party but sooner or later they will just have to accept that they are part of a 26 county only establishment party with no principals beyond their back pockets and that have no relevance whatsoever to the Irish Republic declared in 1916.

    What has changed for me is that I now feel the same towards the people in the south and will judge their desire for unification of this island and the establishment on an Irish republic based on their support for Sinn Fein and nothing else.

    The truth is, unfortunately, there is nothing else.

  2. jessica April 30, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    And another thing, between the parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.

    Only one can say their name has any relevant meaning in 2016. I mean, the tribe of gaels or the soldiers of destiny, come on guys… really????

  3. MT April 30, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    PSF’s rise in the South has been achieved by moving away from nationalist politics towards populist left politics. It doesn’t reflect any great increase in nationalist sentiment in the South.

    • Jude Collins April 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

      “It doesn’t reflect any great increase in nationalist sentiment in the South”.

      Really, MT? Who told you that?

    • Ryan May 1, 2016 at 3:42 am #

      MT, every single poll I have ever seen conducted in the South, the 26 counties, is supportive of Irish Unity. The last one conducted was in 2012 and it showed an increase in support for Irish Unity (over 60%) and a decrease in opposition to it (20%).

      So to claim that Sinn Fein’s raise in politics in the south is down to just left wing politics isn’t a good argument and, forgive me, I get the impression your just in denial, many Unionists on twitter react the same way.

      Sinn Fein aren’t the only left wing party in the South, in 2011 they got an extra 10 TD’s. The Labour Party got more than that, I think. There’s also People Before People who are left wing too. So its not as if people wanted to vote left and only had Sinn Fein to vote for.

      • Ryan May 1, 2016 at 4:13 am #

        Sorry People Before Profit*

  4. billy April 30, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    people have more to be doing than thinking about glorified council elections,whatever the outcome it wont make one iota of difference in peoples lives.suppose it keeps the brits happy giving them a mandate for british rule for another five yrs.

  5. BYC April 30, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    Good points Jude. Ireland had near blanket Sinn Fein representation in 1918 outside what became NI and all it did was cement partition. And, taking your point about funny accents, it’s not as if there weren’t northern (or Protestant) voices amongst republican and nationalist leadership in 1918.

    Persuading northerners to vote for Irish unity needs a second and maybe a third all-Island party or political partnership. Southern social democrats talking to northern liberal lefties. Southern centre-right people talking to northern Tory types.

  6. Iolar April 30, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    “In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. P.H.Pearse, Dublin, 30th April 1916.”

    100 years on Pears continues to command attention, as his letter is expected to sell for in excess of £1 million at auction. What would Pearse et al make of the men/women who have no qualms about putting a price on Irish sovereignty yet the State is unlikely to bid for his letter given the estimated selling price. What would Pearse have to say about a 30 year old man found dead, clutching a sleeping bag in St Stephen’s Green this week? We do not have to guess, we have his written words:

    “…if I had the years I would squander them over again…a man shall scatter, not hoard…Shall do the deed of today, nor take thought of tomorrow’s…ye shall scatter not save…”

  7. Eolach April 30, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    Oh the unionists are wearily and nervously keeping a close eye on SF…..they know that the super county council, alias ” our wee country ” is being undermined , a steady chip,chip,chipping away. What happens to unionism when SF achieve power in both jurisdictions and 50% +1 is upon them…..will they suddenly appear with rational and reasonable ideas for their own survival , I don’t think so , they have a closed mindset unable to grasp the concept of equality……..for centuries they have said NO , .they have convinced themselves and their flat-earth supporters that N.I.will always exist and to imagine anything else is incomprehensible ……they can see whats happening but believe that they’ll awaken from this nightmare and the fourth green field will be theirs again ad perpetuum.

    • KopparbergCentral April 30, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

      Republicans often project their own innate tribal bigotry when discussing and demonising Unionists. It’s a common trait to be found time and again when reading the online comments of quote-unquote, egalitarian Republicans.

  8. paul April 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Does it not carry that Sinn Fein with a large percentage vote north and south cements the referendum result in favour of a United Ireland.
    Your right about not IF but WHEN. And Its not hard to see the efforts of Sinn Fein ongoing in the north being made to Unionists regarding Equality and Justice for All the people on this small island of Ireland regardless of Creed Or Colour.

  9. Perkin Warbeck April 30, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    Dull and all as you paint the General Election in Norneverland, Esteemed Blogmeister, it can hardly plumb the same depths as those in GE 2016 down here in the Free Southern Stateen.

    While the Rotund Spare Rib aka the Broad of Beam has yet to sing in either election, nonetheless it will be shown –in the dullness of time – that our one was definitely the yawn of a new era. After all, our House of Parliament is hardly called Dull Eireann for nawt.

    There were two reasons for the dragging out of the cabinet-making process, apart from drag being the d-word du jour down here, every jour. First, the temporary one, to enable Enda go down in backstory as the first Back to Back Blueshirty Prime Minister. Second, the perennial tactic of keeping the Shinners in the bin with the lid firmly intact.

    Nevertheless, there have been a handful of diverting side shows. Not least the role of the Independents. Two in particular, those who have been most forward in declaring their eagerness to prop up the rear end of Enda, as it were. Call them the, erm, prop forwards, to borrow a term from the rubric of one of the two state religions.

    There are two kinds of Independent of course – the Sunday and the Daily – and known as the Sindo and the Dindo, respectively, in the vernacular.

    As it happens, the two prop forwards in question are of the Dindo type which is unsurprising on two counts: both are very, very Dail-y types and also, Dindo is the pronunciation if not the spelling of the French word for, erm, turkey.

    Two finer examples of the art of political gobbledegook one could hardly expect to meet in a day’s trot.

    First up in strictly alphabetical order is one, Michael Lowry. Formerly a Blue and Yellow shirt, the county colours of his native Tipperary , the fellow then shed the yellow and donned the gansey of Blue and blue alone. Later on, and through many an elbow, knee and shoulder schmozzle he was to emerge from smoke-choked rooms and gloomy financial tribunals, minus his Blue alone shirt. Now, through a vast vicus of recirculation, he is finally back in the fold, if only on the subs bench.

    While his namesake LS is synonymous with matchsticks as in matchstick men, Michael is more evocative, unfairly in many fair-minded folks’ opinion, of, erm, fiddlesticks. There is always, they claim, the vibe of, erm, something which has fallen off the back of a Lowry about Michael, bless ‘m.

    It had often been observed by the cognoscenti of whom there are plenty in the FSS that inside every Blueshirt, of the party of chic probity, is a Soldier of Destiny, of the party of chicanery, trying to get out. This observation is a long way from the Tipperary TD, who gives off all the opposite impression of a Soldier of Destiny trying to get back inside his discarded Blueshirt.

    Regarding the other turkey of a Dindo, national anthems always come to the inner ear, as well they might. For in the weather cock colony of West Britannia one day we are blown in this direction and in the next, in the other. Right now at this moment in strict march tempo, going f., we are answering Ireland’s Call, shoulder to shoulder while the next we are singing the Soldier’s Song. Which latter, of course, also calls for much shouldering as in the penultimate line:

    -Seo libh canaigi, Amhran na bhFiann / Shoving Connie around the Green.

    One feels it in one’s water that Katherine Zapone (for it is she !) will put an end to all the tantrum-inducing uncertainty about the National Anthem.This she will achieve by compelling us all to settle on the centuries old and still eminently whistleable melody from the tune-smith of Nobber, Royal Meath, Turlough O’Carolan:

    -Fanny Power.

    End is right, for Ms Zapone is possibly the very first surnamed member to take her place with an initial commencing with Z. That would be Zee, rather than Zed, as the man said. Not only that, but a Z-initialed member with the X factor but no Y front of any kind. What you can read on the can, is what you can get.

    Her Bostontatious accent is sure to make her stand out as one who controls the zapper when it comes to channel hopping in the Doll’s House. And most crucially of all, at the end of the day, when the House is compelled to stand to attention for the playing of:

    -Fanny Power.

    Having already been nominated to the Seanad by Dame Enda, later on and with a commendable absence of Aunt Samantha-style brashness the modest Senator Katherine shyly proposed on RTE Wireless to her lady-love, Ann Louise.

    Even as the right-on results to the Rainbow Referendum began to flood in, on a wing and a tear. In an three hanky remark she thankied on air her betrothed who had replied not in a negative way , she joyfully informed the listeners of Leprechaun land how ‘ she was feeling emotional from the top all the way down to her toes’. Indeed.

    One listener, at least, was so moved as to remark:

    -At last, Darby O’Girl’s day has come / Ta la DOG tagtha, faoi dheireadh.

    Already she is been spoken of as the first of Les Girls to hold a ministerial rank at the cabinet, or even at the cabinet table itself. But, which Ministerial Portfolio? As Dame Enda is widely expected to throw in the towel by, at the latest, a face-saving August, now that his place as the only Back to Back Blueshirty PM in backstory is secure, who will replace him as PM ?

    -August ?

    Who else only the loin-girding Lion named Leo who, it is also widely whispered, as Sheriff with the non-Sheriff Street accent will appoint Deputy Zapone to the new department.

    -Minister for MMA .

    And, again, in keeping with the red-bearded zeitgeist, to the stirring military tattoo-like chorus of the McGregorian chant:

    -Minister for Mixed Marital Arts.

    Already, of course, the prophets of gloom, the naysayers and the killjoys of Begrudgery Central are out in force, arising out of allegations which surfaced regarding her claiming excessive amounts for mileage expenses .

    None more so than the (gasp) Sunday Times which, on March 16, thundered that ‘Deptuy Zapone stood to earn 80,000 euros in expenses in the next five years from these expenses as she claims to live more than 25 km from Leinster House.’

    The august paper of record, thundering on, reports that ‘the AA’s route planner puts the distance at less than 22 km’.

    The Deputy for Dublin South West, who gallantly scraped in after demanding a recount, is understood to have submitted documentation to the Oireachtas claiming that her normal place of residence is in fact more than 25 km from Leinster House.

    The only wonder here is that the Sunday Times stopped short at referring to her as:

    -The Countess of Recounts.

    The tone, indeed, in which the report was couched would suggest one was dealing with Al Capone rather than Katherine Zapone. And that if she had been Whitey Bolger in a workin’ class accent of Southie rather than one with a Dworkin class accent down here in Southie, the tone would have been modified, markedly so.

    This class of back of the class, bullyboy ballyragging must stop:

    The Time has Come

    The time has come to call the bullyboys’ bluff
    And call a halt to all this male supremacy stuff
    Gals as well as chaps
    Are able to read maps
    You’d imagine she’d contrived to detour via Muff.


    • Jude Collins April 30, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

      Speak not ill of Muff, Perkin – I once lived there ( almost said ‘was that soldier’)

  10. Cushy Glen April 30, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    As someone born into the Ulster protestant culture & who used to be a unionist, I might be able to shed some light on this.
    Half my family came from the south prior to partition. So it was never a foreign country to us. My father although a protestant was an Irish nationalist. My mother a staunch unionist. Strangely none of my family were in the Orange order.
    As an 11 yr old I was on holiday in Dublin for the 1966 commemorations of the Rising. I became fascinated by the story of the Rising. To a young boy it had all the elements of a great adventure story. I became quite the little republican with the proclamation on my bedroom wall.
    I grew up through the worst of the violence in the north. I had friends killed. Attitudes & tribal loyalties kicked in. I reverted to type & became a unionist & remained so until the last 10 years or so. Now I would describe my politics as republican & in favour of a United Ireland. I mean ‘republican’ in the broadest sense & not simply in an Irish context.
    What changed?
    Many things. The world around me changed in many ways.
    Being British became meaningless. The corruption & elitism within the British state became nauseating. Being Irish became less problematic. For one the Catholic church ceased to have a major role in the government of the south. It seemed it was possible to be Irish & protestant.
    Violence was no longer an aspect of our politics.
    The conservatism of unionist politicians did not represent me.
    I developed an interest in Irish history (we were not taught much at school).
    Then last weekend I was at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. Not as a member. That’s still a step too far, but as an exhibitor. I met some prominent Shinners as well as some ordinary members & councillors. It was a poignant moment in my political journey. I was impressed. There was an energy, an openness & a confidence. I didn’t feel in anyway threatened. I felt relatively at ease, bizarrely much more so than I would in a room full of unionists.
    Politically & spiritually I was now much closer to these Shinners, many of whom had no memory of the worst of the violence. Although I was sure there was many ex-IRA around , it didn’t bother me. Many of us have our pasts in this country. It’s what we’re about today that matters.

    As far as a United Ireland is concerned I think it could be closer than is commonly supposed. There are a number of straws in the wind beyond these shores. Scottish independence, Brexit, growing tensions within the British state & the potential of Jeremy corbyn as UK PM in 2020 or earlier.
    Within these shores the unionist position is continuing to diminish. Unionism has no hope, confidence or energy. While republicanism continues to grow in confidence. Ultimately unionism will implode irrespective of what the GFA says.
    In addition the southern state is changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep track.
    How Irish republicanism embraces Protestants remains to be seen. I hope the natural generosity of spirit of the Irish wins through.
    As for protestants like me our politics must remain an unknown factor. Like many, to declare my sympathies would undoubtedly put my family at risk & lead to homelessness. That may seem like cowardice. But I am in my 60s & have been homeless once already.
    I hope one day soon I will be able to speak out.

  11. Belfastdan April 30, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

    I have big worries that the nationalist vote will show a further decline. People are disengaging with the political process and the likes of PBP will pick up seats more through discontent rather than support for their rather vague policies.

    This has been a lack lustre campaign and it does SF no favours and as an end note when will Alliance stop insulting the people of West Belfast as their candidate seems more interested in Game of Thrones than the constituency she is allegedly vying to represent.

    • Ryan May 1, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

      Have to agree with you Belfastdan, the low voter turnout in Nationalism is disturbing and it needs sorted out. The numbers are there, the issue is getting them out and voting. How that can be done is up for debate.

  12. KoppabergCentral May 1, 2016 at 3:30 am #

    Erm, like what EXACTLY? What are these mythical, masterful grand gestures? When OO Halls are still being burnt down and the OO demonized. SF project fear into Catholic voters and SF produce a sectarian P v C headcount brochure in North Belfast and yet SF say they are “reaching out” ?

    • Jude Collins May 1, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      “SF project fear into Catholic voters” – not sure what this means, KC. Are you suggesting SF follow voters into the voting booth? With baseball bat in hand as they look over trembling voter’s shoulder?

      • KoppabergCentral May 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

        More or less, yes.

        • Ryan May 1, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

          Kopp, how do Sinn Fein put fear into Catholics exactly? Are you sure your not confusing them with the DUP? I was only 7 when Martin McGuinness beat Willie McCrea to take the Mid Ulster Westminster seat. Willie McCrea said in a threatening speech “Nationalists of Mid Ulster will reap a very bitter harvest”. He said this in reference to the fact they used their democratic vote to vote for SF instead of DUP. Later on Billy Wright and his gang murdered many innocent Catholics in the Mid Ulster region, this is the same Billy Wright that McCrea shared a platform with only recently around that time.

          So we see how the DUP tried to put the fear into Catholics. Tell us exactly how Sinn Fein put fear into the Catholic electorate?

  13. Ryan May 1, 2016 at 4:05 am #

    Good article Jude and many good points raised.

    I think it is pretty much coming down the line when Sinn Fein will be in power in the South and the North. Well they already are in power in the North and having the job of First Minister wont make a difference except in a symbolic sense. I think it will be a psychological blow to Unionism if Martin McGuinness is First Minister and I think the likes of the TUV will gain more support when that day comes, regardless if Martin changes the title of the “First and Deputy First Ministers” to “The Joint First Ministers”. It would also expose the impression the DUP like to give that they rule the roost on the Hill. As the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood said in the Leaders debate: “We wouldn’t have signed up for Stormont if the First Ministers roles weren’t equal”.

    When it comes to Irish Unity it says in the Good Friday Agreement that Irish Unity can only occur if a majority consent to it but it looks like the GFA could be void soon enough, especially if the UK leave the European Union. I think it was Chris Donnelly who said if the UK leave the EU then a new GFA would have to be discussed and implemented. I personally have never regarded the GFA as anything more than a sticking plaster. Republicans now are in a much, much stronger position politically than they were in 1998. Indeed President Clinton in phone calls to Tony Blair in 1998 (these files were released earlier this year) said that he believed David Trimble only signed the GFA because he could see Catholics becoming a majority and feared Unionists “becoming an irrelevant minority”.

    I honestly don’t think Irish Unity will occur through a referendum, I’m not saying its not possible for Irish Unity to occur through one, I just think more political chaos will come sooner or later and the British and Irish Government are going to say “Enough is Enough”, they were close to doing that in May 2007. Currently the way things are set up the border will just fade away anyway, even many Unionists have admitted this but like to add bitterly “but not in your lifetime”. I don’t agree, I think it will happen a lot sooner……

  14. Perkin Warbeck May 1, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Speak ill of Muff, Esteemed Blogmeister ? Never !

    Muff has much too much going for it. One reckons one would as lief speak ill of the divine Benny Hill.

    Not the least of its virtues is the tough-mindedness which its inhabitants are, of necessity, endowed with. One has no doubt that your temporary sojourn there, EB, contributed at least in part to your own estimable tough-mindedness.

    The tough-mindedness of Muffians is one that, say, a Boy named Sue would not be entirely unempathetic with. And to a lesser extent, perhaps, male natives of a town like, f’instance, Alice Springs.

    Another of its many selling points would be that the Big M is, indubitably, the ultimate 4-letter word in topographical justification of the revival of Leprechaun.

    Ii is also the main, if not the sole reason itself, why it ended up on the other side of the Border Line. If in doubt on that score , check out the redoubtable Gregory of the Crooked Mouth’s inner straight-laced prude.

    One was only ever in Muff but for one brief, flying visit and if one is to badmouth the attractive village (which is anything but a dive, to use a tasteless Americanism) it is on account of a sin of omission. That would be its failure to erect a plaque on the birthhouse of its most celebrated native son.

    The Lack of a Plaque

    Flak is due to the lack in Muff Upper
    Of a plaque on the wall of Alf Tupper
    With no gyms way,way back
    The slim Tough of the Track
    Became fast by fasting all day till supper.