Friday 23 February 2018

Get ready for the Sinn Fein split — will Mary Lou end up leading Labour?

After this election we will enter a period of splits and mergers likely to tidy up a fractured political landscape, writes Jody Corcoran

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

So, now that even Sinn Fein members believe the Provisional IRA calls the shots and, as we have reported, even one-fifth of Sinn Fein’s own supporters believe the party is not fit for government, what happens next?

After this election, more likely than not a minority Fine Gael Government will be supported (in Opposition) by Fianna Fail until such time as Micheal Martin believes it opportune to pull the plug – at a time which best suits Fianna Fail.

At that point Enda Kenny will retire, honouring his commitment not to seek a third term, and Fine Gael will be in a leadership contest.

But after that, what will happen, other than the obvious, which is another election in, say, 18 months to two years?

In my view, between now and then we are facing into a period of splits and mergers which will tidy up a dysfunctionally fractured political landscape.

But in two years time, mark my words, Gerry Adams will still be leader of Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA in Belfast will still be calling the shots, down here and in the North.

So original thinking will be required, not before or immediately after this election, the outcome of which is becoming more and more evident, but before the next election in 2018.

Sinn Fein will still be untouchable then because the Provisional IRA will still over arch, Gerry Adams will still be in situ and Mary Lou McDonald will still be cooling her heels, and going into hiding every time the latest skeleton escapes from the closet.

In short, stable government here can not be formed, will not be formed because of Sinn Fein, which remains the problem not the answer; a fly in the ointment, a wasted vote in terms of government formation until Gerry Adams is removed, and that is not going to happen any time soon.

But whenever it does happen, the Provisional IRA will decide that a nice, privately educated, middle class girl like Mary Lou is not going to cut the mustard, much and all as she ambles up to Belfast every now and then.

Here is an example of the predicament in which she finds herself: “I have never killed anybody. Correct the record.”

She had to say that at the time of the debate on the Mairia Cahill issue in Dail Eireann. That she had never killed anybody.

She said it to the Labour TD, Robert Dowds who had said he knew many Protestants in Northern Ireland who had “lived in terror” for 30 year: “Deputy Adams should not laugh,” he said, “There is a smirk on your face ...”

Whatever the honour Labour has on this issue, and Robert Dowds is an honourable man, the party remains at 7pc in the opinion polls, even after the so-called “giveaway” Budget.

In the 2007 election, Sinn Fein won 6.94pc of the vote, thereabouts where Labour is at now, which translated into just four seats.

Labour is transfer friendly, but is still facing catastrophe in this election, like Fine Gael in 2002 and Fianna Fail in 2011.

But both of those parties were big enough to withstand the loss and rebuild. As a smaller party, Labour is at an even greater critical moment, from which it will emerge, but in a radically different formation.

Now to that original thinking: electoral stalemate will remain, in my view, until Sinn Fein splits again, the third such split in its recent incarnations.

The party remains r uled with an iron fist by the Provisional IRA in Belfast and anybody who tells you otherwise is either lying or deluded.

And that includes those clever young Shinners who last week tried to turn the PIRA Army Council elephant in the room into lame duck social media humour.

Here is a simple question: why did these young Shinners not speak out with the moral authority required when the Provisional leadership in Belfast held a disgraceful line on its history of child rape and cover-up, as eventually admitted by Gerry Adams? There was no hiding place on that one — but they hid.

The same Gerry Adams will remain the leader in 2016 and beyond, stretching into a fourth decade, until his day eventually comes, later rather than sooner, probably when he pops his clogs.

And as long as he is in charge, the Sinn Fein/PIRA political project — that is, government north and south — will stall, if not wither, as time passes.

Eventually this will dawn on those young Shinners, who are obliged to hand over most of their salary to further a political project dictated by a handful of blood-soaked Provos, at the head of a cabal which retains military structures and weapons, carries out surveillance on ‘touts’, applies rough justice, and does all of this, and more, in the 21st century, for heavens sake.

Already word reaches us that Sinn Fein TDs are grumbling at having to forgo the lion’s share of their €90k salary, plus expenses, to make do with the average industrial wage, more than enough they will say publicly — but not enough for for a plate of tiger prawns in Blackrock, which many of them are so fond of.

While Sinn prepares for another split, along the lines north and south, further to the Left of Labour remain those parties which have made their name on austerity, who are generally supported by Facebook malcontents.

By 2018 their time will have come and gone, if it has not already passed.

The austerity debate is over in terms of future application, so whatever fresh hell awaits it will not be fresh austerity, unless the world’s economy all goes belly-up (again) and the ECB has to intervene.

As to the merits of austerity, I am of the view that Ireland only came out of recession when austerity ended, not because it was applied (for so long); austerity prolonged the recession. As a macroeconomic tool, it was more a failure than a success.

In any event, time is also running out on the anti-austerity parties, who in the election after this will be left with no real platform from which to agitate.

That is not to outright dismiss the Right2Change movement this time around, but to acknowledge that its level of support, at less than 10pc, fails to match its profile.

Fear not, because in the election after this, the Labour Party nest will be all but vacant, awaiting its latest cuckoo after Democratic Left.

After the split, those bright young Shinners may lead the tentative left wing alternative in Labour, joined by those in Right2Change with no home to go to.

And who better to head such a new alternative than Mary Lou McDonald, leader of new Labour, but with no overarching army council calling the shots?

At which point, she will flee to the middle ground where – and this is the reality — voters here have always turned to chose their governments, and always will.

Sunday Independent

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