Bruce Arnold: Fianna Fail outflanked by McGuinness Aras bid
SINN Fein have put themselves at the centre of the presidential campaign with the nomination of Martin McGuinness. In so doing they have stripped the mantle of main opposition party from the shoulders of Fianna Fail and have changed fundamentally the dynamic of the campaign for Head of State.
In the days leading up to the announcement last week Fianna Fail were floundering in confusion and internal division and strife, much of it focused on the decision not to contest the presidential election. Now they have been laid open to the charge of political irrelevance in the other issue facing them: their replacement by Sinn Fein as the main party of opposition. Micheal Martin has lost authority and control. He faces the danger of being dismissed or of losing what little backbone is left within the party.
This further attack, by the nomination of McGuinness, on Fianna Fail's growing political irrelevance was a primary objective of Sinn Fein and has been convincingly achieved already without even a campaign utterance. The new shape of the presidential battle will have a similar sobering impact on the candidates from other parties as on Fianna Fail. The developments represent a major change in Sinn Fein's political strategy. Up to now the party has viewed the presidency as of marginal importance, even irrelevant. Gerry Adams has expressed his views about the presidency in the following terms: "We are only interested in elective positions as part of that process of bringing about change for the benefit of the people." And he also said, on the same occasion: "We have a slight difficulty in that a lot of our very public leadership is identified with the North. . ."