21 June 2007 Edition
I have not been a regular reader of your paper for a long time but having read reports of the debate taking place in it about Sinn Féin’s election performance on the internet I picked up last week’s edition. I think the party and paper should be congratulated for having such an open and honest debate. It is extremely rare in politics, especially left-wing politics.
I wanted to disagree with two points made by Ms Joanne Spain. She argues it was only on taxation that the party’s policies shifted and that the other proposals on health and housing were very radical. I agree she is right, but it is like a builder wondering why people don’t pay attention to the nice house he has built and instead focus on the fact that it has no foundations. For any left party taxation is one of, if not the most, fundamental issues. A shift to the right there is, by definition, a shift to the right on the whole.
I agree with her argument that the performance of Mr Gerry Adams in the debate did not cost Sinn Féin the election. But I remember listening to his first performance of the campaign on This Week and being stunned at how unprepared he was.
In part, Sinn Féin performed poorly in the media because the policies made no sense, and in part because people with no understanding of Southern politics were put up against people who are experts. There was no one disastrous performance, just a steady drip of very poor ones. I can assure Ms Spain from personal experience that it cost your party votes.
Finally, although very disappointed in the party’s economic positioning in this election I did vote for Sinn Féin this time, in large part because of the work done in my area, and also in hope that the mistakes made by the party in this election will be rectified and it will return to it’s socialist roots.
I may be an outsider with only a rudimentary understanding of Irish politics, but I have a simple explanation for Sinn Féin’s disappointing election performance. It has to do with the contrasting political landscapes in the North and South. In the South you have a dominant traditional Irish Republican party in the shape of Fianna Fáil with a significant and and longstanding loyal voter base. Hence the great difficulty for Sinn Féin to make any inroads into this. The legroom simply isn’t there. Contrast this with the North, where Sinn Féin have the republican arena to themselves given the absence of any serious counterpart, as the SDLP define themselves as constitutional nationalists rather than Republicans.
I’m puzzled as to why the main parties of the left – Labour and Sinn Féin, didn’t call a meeting of all left-of-centre TDs after the election to agree on a bottom line for negotiations.
Fianna Fáil could not have achieved a majority without some of the Labour, Sinn Féin, Green and left independent TDs. Therefore, if they had co-operated sensibly, the left could have achieved at least some modicum of progress on:
• Reversing the worsening of the 2-tier health service (including handing over public hospital lands to for-profit developers);
• Restoring people’s ownership of our natural resources (including the Shell oilfield in Mayo);
• Ending the facilitation of the war in Iraq and torture flights via Shannon;
• Re-routing major roads away from national monuments (including the M3);
• Ending corporate donations to political parties
Unfortunately, because the Greens were skillfully played off against other possibilities, not an iota of progress was made of any of the above.
Dr Sean Marlow.
On 24 June republicans from all over Ireland will assemble in Kildare for the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration at Bodenstown. The Marie Wright/Joe Cahill Sinn Féin cumann Kildare, was formed in 2005. Central to its formation was the then Leinster organiser Daithí Forde who sadly passed away in October of the same year. Since then we have held an annual post-commemoration function. This has proven to be a great republican family day out with numbers increasing every year. I would again ask republicans to join us in keeping with this tradition and as a mark of remembrance to our good friend and comrade Daithí Forde.
The function will be held in The Town House Hotel, Newbridge Road, Naas immediately after the commemoration, with music by the Celtic Paddy’s.
Cristín Mc Cauley