Friday, May 7, 2010

As Pat Doherty might say...

What a marvellous win for Sinn Fein in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

But today its more apt to quote Arlene Foster : "This will lift the whole country ". I think you might be right Arlene. You might just be right.

Boy was it close but what a testimony to the hard work of the whole party to stand its ground against the orange order candidate and the rather paltry attempt by the SDLP to aid him.

The republican struggle is not about electoral politcs and is not epitomised by electoral politicals. It is epitomised by the hard work, tenacity and commitment to win through and step by step build the republican project in the 32 counties as demonstrated by Michelle Gildernew and all the Sinn Fein team who supported her.

This not just another electoral result. This is a testimony to the trust that voters in FST and across the 6 counties placed in SF yesterday.

Indeed this was a marvellous win. Fair play to Michelle and all the team. You did us proud.


  1. This was a massive result for Michelle and the broad coalition who supported her. It's quite likely (to my mind) that if the DUP and UCUNF had run separately she would have faced a potentially more dangerous assault from Arlene Foster with Fearghal McKinney being a relatively strong SDLP candidate. Rodney Connor running on a sectarian platform galvanised the nationalist vote and that really backfired on them.
    This election was interesting. First, the SDLP vote collapsed (more than evidenced by their vote) swinging in the main for Michelle. At the same time, many progressive and liberal Protestants could not vote for Connors, his history and what he stood for. In the main, they switched to the SDLP (which accounts for the vote they received).
    On the other hand, there was a far wider coalition of non-aligned progressives who worked hard to swing non-voters, community activists and the disillusioned middle-of-the-roaders behind Michelle not because of SF's record in the area (which is very poor) but because Rodney Connor is a hate figure for anyone progressive in Fermanagh. He pissed a lot of people off who ordinarily wouldn't vote. One unaligned person told someone I know that he would walk 5 miles to vote against Connor.
    Parallel to that, word is that hardcore dissidents (RSF, etc) swung behind SF given the 'orange' nature of the Connor candidacy but that those who split off more recently and are associated with eirigi urged their supporters to not vote at all (there are rumours current that about 60 ex-SFers voted for Connor).
    This was not really a vote for SF. Michelle is undoubtedly well liked in the constituency and she's seen as a hard working representative. Many nationalists were disgusted at how she was targeted and there is certainly a defensiveness for her. All the same, SF reps themselves didn't make this an easy campaign. When Connor left the council, the SF council group leader was effusive in his praise for Connors (where he should have been silent if he couldn't be more truthful). Serious questions as to the cosy relations existing remain unanswered. This nullified the ability of SF to attack Connors' history of decision-making in the council which includes a huge variety of reactionary, pro-business moves and blatant anti-nationalism.
    This was not a vote for SF but in defence of Michelle and against the connivance of big-house unionism and its orange foot-soldiers.
    This result is hugely significant. It may herald the defeat of the unionist unity project in FST and that would be very progressive. If Connors bows out of politics now, then it may well open the field to a wider variety of voices. Unless SF begins to radicalise itself in the constituency, this will represent a high-water mark for their support.

  2. Interesting analysis anon. Not sure I agrtee with your statement that this was not really a SF vote. The vast majority of it would seem to me to be the vote Michelle got at the last Westminster election. As to voting by other erstwhile friends Bernadette (Devlin) Macaliskey speaking at the Crossbarry commemoration in Cork a few weeks ago urged all those present not to vote for SF. She stated that she would not vote for SF and that she would indeed not be voting at all. You obviously have a good knowledge of the FST constituency.Can you go any deeper into your point about the lack of progressive politics by SF in FST.?

  3. RR,
    Obviously many voted for Michelle for purely sectarian reasons (i.e. on the basis of the party representing their identity) but there was more than that in this election - she could not have been elected simply on a sectarian vote. Many others, voted for her as the best way to defeat the orange card and stop the Tories. SF have massive power in FST but have delivered very, very little. It's a long way off West Tyrone in management and professionalism but shares all the latters right wing politics.
    As for examples, you have only to look at Michelle's backing of the Sean Quinn mandated worker protests (seeking to reverse the regulators decision rather than focussing on the main question i.e. that of the private ownership of the company), the failure to call for the nationalisation of the Quinn group as the only viable method of saving those jobs and the warm words issued freely by party representatives when Rodney Connor left the local council. It's all consensus politics, competing with the SDLP in delivering on the parish pump, being 'business friendly'.
    It doesn't exactly conjure images of Connolly does it? There's far more but its just the general way with SF in the rural north - the party isn't radical, it's nationalist. It doesn't speak to working-class Protestants, in fact it hardly speaks to working-class Catholics and it competes to project itself as the most loyal friend of local business. Connor was the agent of his own defeat, SF have been given another lifeline, they can choose to ignore it again or to try better.

  4. In F/ST if you pinned a tr-colour on donkey in this election it would have been voted for by republicans/nationalists and still would have won!!!
    This was a purely sectarian headcount nothing more nothing less. But it still does not get us away from the divisons in republicanism in the area. Hopefully, SF have not been reduced to British election wins as their sole measure of success or their raison d'etre!!!

  5. Anon

    "SF have massive power in FST but have delivered very, very little."

    Mqybe thats the case but specifically what are the failures?

    " It doesn't speak to working-class Protestants, in fact it hardly speaks to working-class Catholics and it competes to project itself as the most loyal friend of local business."

    It hardly speqks to the working class?

    This is a dqngerous yardstick for the left to swing. Look at the vote of the hard left across Ireland. They dont speak to the working class do they. demonsrably not considering their vote.

    I want us to be a radical party but if we start talking about speaking to workers then lets take a hard look at who is doing that successfully at the moment and lets not fool ourselves into thinking that parties with 2-3% are doing it better than we are or could.

    look at the drop in the unionist vote for signs of an end to sectarianism and the warmth of candidate Stevenson to Gildernew to see the end of community politics.

  6. Mick, I disagree. This was the first election I've seen that actually transcended the old sectarianism of the past - as Michelle said herself. She is well aware of who voted for her and who didn't. It was a mixed bag. Similarly, there were Catholics who voted Connor - not many but a few.
    So I don't think a standard SF 'donkey' would have won. Michelle is a good person and it comes across - she's just not very radical and maybe that helps her win middle class support. Turnout in working class areas was still dreadfully low for both sides of the community - this was largely an election fought out in the rural areas.
    The problem I have is that you can't pretend like many here do that this was a result of SF's radical politics. SF are not radical in FST any more than they are radical in WT or MU. In fact, unfortunately SF are not really radical anywhere from what I see - c/f the support given to the bank bailout.
    What obtained support from non-nationalist or anti-SF republican voters for Michelle was a variety of causes but mainly it was the strength of opposition to Rodney Connor's own background and politics. This was a negative not a positive inducement to vote. And sometimes that's enough. But I think you only have to look at the fall in the nationalist vote across the north to see that this negativity (the least worst option) is having the effect of disengaging people from supporting parties at all. That might help win a sectarian headcount but it doesn't help create change.