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1 April 2015 Edition

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Derry show of strength rattles Southern Establishment

2015 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, March 6th & 7th, Derry – Labour Party and Independent Newspapers spit bile as cosy consensus threatened

• 5 Cork East TD Sandra McLellan with Westminster candidate Mickey Brady MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

The Mail on Sunday, when not posing in front of Free Derry Wall, was snarking that Sinn Féin delegates wore ‘cheap suits’

WITH MORE than 2,000 people packed into the Millennium Forum in Derry, the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis was the biggest political show of strength in recent years. From inside Derry’s walls, a very clear message was sent to the Southern Establishment – that Sinn Féin wants to lead in government, North and South.

Embittered Labour Party dead-enders and pay-cap-busting special advisers – feeling the pain as their party disintegrates and their TDs are chased from former strongholds or smuggled in and out under police protection – saw red as the party was consistently called out on its abandonment of those it claims to represent.

The incredibly ambitious Labour Minister Aodhán Ó Riordáin TD is trying to be Labour’s rottweiller, spewing a particularly vicious stream of Twitter abuse for someone with special responsibility for “Equality, New Communities and Culture”. Joan Burton’s devoted puppy might be licking up to his mistress now but he’s eyeing up her job post-election (providing he can cling to his own seat, that is).

Joan Burton publicly and directly challenged Mary Lou McDonald to a public debate on the economy from the comfort of her party’s half-empty National (26-County – for the self-styled ‘party of James Connolly’, the nation stops at the Border) Conference in Killarney. But then Labour image handlers rejected approaches by TV3 and RTÉ to host the eagerly-awaited fiery debate. Joan turned tail and, during the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, her spin doctors told the media that it wasn’t happening after all. Mary Lou told the Ard Fheis in Derry to huge cheers: “Well, Joan, you know where to find me.”

The increasingly deranged and bizarre claptrap lining INM’s pages in the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Herald has even seen the Garda Commissioner’s office come out to refute a series of anti-republican articles in the creative writing genre by the ever-imaginative ‘Security Correspondent’ Jim Cusack, and repeated by Indo editor Fionnan Sheahan (former Fine Gaeler and now husband to Fianna Fáil’s aspirant leader, Senator Averil Power, though this is almost never mentioned in the mainstream media quick to quiz others’ political leanings).

While some Indo journalists are keen to emphasise they “aren’t that bad” in their coverage of Sinn Féin, a few hours after the Ard Fheis the Sindo’s editorial compared ordinary Sinn Féin activists to “Hitler’s soldiers” and Scientologists.

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Palestinian Ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek and his Deputy Head of Mission, Jilan Abdalmajid (left), meet folk singer Frances Black and Irene Sherry (right) of the Bridge of Hope project in north Belfast during the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Derry

The Sindo front page was a perfect example of how the Golden Circles, the media and the Establishment parties work together for their own mutual benefit to the detriment of ordinary citizens.

The Sindo carried a pathetic, fawning interview with the Celtic Tiger cubs of failed developer and Vico Road squatter Brian O’Donnell, whingeing that they didn’t realise their family were billionaires – or the extent of debt their parents had built up to make themselves billionaires. Apparently the €30million mansion on Killiney hill with sea views, a swimming pool and flash cars is not “lavish”. Would the Sindo have as much sympathy for a couple from Ballymun who ran-up €71million in gambling debts and then demanded that taxpayers pick-up the tab? Not bloody likely.

Juxtaposed to this, also on the front page, was a call from embittered former leader of the well-defunct Progressive Democrats and internment-without-trial aficianado, Desmond O’Malley. The PDs’ lost leader called for the pay of Sinn Féin TDs (who only take the average industrial wage) to be docked over Dáil comments about former TDs holding secret Ansbacher accounts in Switzerland. This paragon of fiscal rectitude is himslef  on a gross pension (and that’s gross in every sense of the word) of €106,000 a year stumped up by the taxpayer for the past 13 years and which he will be trousering for the rest of his life.

Mail on Sunday reporters, when not posing in front of Free Derry Wall or snarking that Sinn Féin delegates wore “cheap suits”, insisted that “Sinn Féin will do violence to our economy” and hit out at plans for an extra seven cent tax on every euro earned over €100,000. 

The Irish Times editorial could lead to a defamation case, while the more fair and factual coverage was left to the The Sunday Times.

The theme running through most of the coverage and commentary, however, is that the cosy consensus that exists at the top of Irish society must be protected. The bankers, the Golden Circles, the main parties and the mainstream media are comfortable, and that’s the way they want it to stay. But reality is beginning to dawn – the times they are a’changing.

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