Nothing succeeds like success, but it has to be carefully managed. The days and weeks after a huge victory can go from euphoria to a sense of anti-climax, disappointment even. The victory flame has to be fed.
Which is precisely what Sinn Féin are now doing. They’ve had three big rallies – in Cork, Dublin and last night Newry – each attracting around 1,000 people. Sinn Féin says it’s to inform their supporters, to take questions, to help them understand what their base support wants. It also has the benefit, less talked about, of holding the feet of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to the fire as they make overtures about forming a coalition. The sight of Pearse Doherty addressing people outside Liberty Hall, people unable to get in such was the audience size, rams home the message that this is the most popular political party in the state.
Most of us would lay claim to being independent thinkers. We assess the facts for ourselves, we make our own decisions about what we like and don’t like. But there is no denying that being surrounded by like-minded people is a mutually-encouraging experience. You’ve always thought this way, and here you are, crammed cheek-by-jowl with people whose thinking chimes exactly with yours. You feed off each other.
These meetings also provide an opportunity to focus on serious matters, and there has always been a strong public appetite for that. You mightn’t think so looking at the popularity of dross like The Late Late Show or the various soaps. But people ache for the chance to engage in real thought about real politics, and the Sinn Féin rallies are providing just that.
And of course the wisdom of crowds throws up the occasional neglected nugget. The rally in Newry last night had one of the audience tell Conor Murphy he had nothing to apologise for. When questioned afterwards by a journalist, the man pointed out that the PSNI, the gardaí and Bertie Ahern had come to the same conclusion as Conor Murphy at the time of Paul Quinn’s death.
And a cherry on top: the odd turn of phrase that brings the house down. I like the Greens, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to think of them again without hearing in my head the man at last night’s meeting who declared they were Fine Gael on bicycles. Comedy gold.
Now, where’s the next rally? Derry?