Wednesday 28 September 2016

FF learns what 'guilt by association' really means

Published 05/12/2015 | 02:30

Lizanne Barnwall gets a selfie with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at LinkedIn Headquarters in Dublin
Lizanne Barnwall gets a selfie with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at LinkedIn Headquarters in Dublin

As Michéal Martin canvassed the support of voters in leafy Dublin 4 this week, he realised the true meaning of the term 'guilt by association'.

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Through no fault of his own, the Fianna Fáil leader found himself being openly linked to the notion of doing business with Sinn Féin.

The scene was set - a coalition, led perhaps by Gerry Adams, with Mr Martin being appointed his Tánaiste.

For the first time, voters could consider the prospect of a government involving the country's two so-called republican parties.

But the problem for Martin is he has no input into the script of a play which casts him as a central character.

That script, and the extraordinary political fallout that followed, was created solely by Gerry Adams just after midday on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Adams's decision to pointedly refuse to rule out the idea of a Sinn Féin/Fianna Fáil coalition stunned many of his own TDs.

But his remarks had a far more serious impact on the party that sits next to Sinn Féin in the Dáil chamber.

Fianna Fáil TDs, and senior party staff, entered a state of frenzy on Wednesday morning when the Irish Independent led with the story.

'Sinn Féin cosy up to FF for coalition deal', read our front page.

The mere association with Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil figures believe, sends a deep sense of unease throughout 'Middle Ireland'.

And it is a feeling that was made crystal clear to Martin, and other Fianna Fáil deputies, as the week progressed.

"You're not going in with that Sinn Féin crowd are ya?" Martin was asked as he canvassed in the capital. Throughout the party, TDs and councillors reported receiving similar feedback from voters.

But, in a strange turn of events, Sinn Féin headquarters chose a somewhat muted response to a story that the party's own leader had created by himself.

Despite a bizarre article in the Sinn Féin fanzine 'An Phoblacht' - which labelled the Irish Independent's story as "misleading" - the party seemed more than content for the newest coalition option to be discussed.

And in a further statement issued on Thursday night, Adams once again left the door open to the prospect of getting cosy with Fianna Fáil.

If Adams's manoeuvres this week were intentional and calculated, there's no doubt he took a significant gamble.

For the first time since he took over as leader, Sinn Féin TDs showed a level of discord over his decision-making.

But, on the flipside, Adams's stroke this week may well benefit his party in terms of votes as the General Election nears.

Even if such a coalition never materialises, the mere idea of anyone doing business with Sinn Féin in the Republic gives the party a sense of legitimacy that many feel it has not yet earned.

Irish Independent

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