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27 May 1999 Edition

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Two nationalist voices

McLaughlin can join Hume in Europe



By voting for Sinn Féin on 10 June, Six-County nationalists will be voting to consolidate and build a strategy to achieve a lasting peace based on democracy, freedom, justice and equality.

Voters across Ireland are contending in their daily lives with economic neglect, urban and rural decline, unemployment, homelessness, inadequate housing, low wages, under-resourced schools, hospital waiting lists, corruption in government, centralisation of government and a complete lack of local democracy.

Sinn Féin is alone in running candidates across Ireland that are working to tackle these issues. In the Six Counties, Mitchel MacLaughlin is the Sinn Féin EU candidate.

This week, in an exclusive interview with An Phoblacht, McLaughlin outlines the case for giving Sinn Féin a number one vote in the forthcoming elections. He says that electing a Sinn Féin MEP would be vital to the peace strategy and argues that it is possible for Sinn Fein to take one of the two unionist MEPs' seats.

It is crucially important therefore, that all republicans turn out on 10 June (Six Counties) and 11 June (26 Counties) and vote Sinn Féin.



A golden opportunity to return a Sinn Féin MEP



In the Six Counties, the European election campaign is one of most challenging ever fought by Sinn Féin. For the first time, the party could swing an MEP seat from the Unionist camp. Here, European election candidate Mitchel McLaughlin talks to Caítlin Doherty about why it is so important for republicans to use their vote on Thursday, 10 June (polling in the 26 Counties is the following day).

CD: Why do you believe that Sinn Féin can win a European seat?

MMcL: On the last occasion, the unionists won a European seat with 133,000 votes. In the Assembly election last year, Sinn Féin polled 143,000 votes. So obviously this is a genuine contest. There are four main parties in the North and we are separated by just over 4 percentage points. Sinn Féin intends to and believes it will be successful on this occasion.

Clearly one of the phenomenons of elections in the North over the past five years has been the growth in the Sinn Féin vote. As a result the overall nationalist vote has increased dramatically and it now has a 45% share of the popular vote. So we are now in a period of transition that is totally changing the political landscape. This European election represents a further opportunity, particularly given the divisions in unionism.

 


CD: It has traditionally been a foregone conclusion that there would be two unionist seats and only one nationalist one. What has encouraged this growth in confidence that republicans can sway a seat from unionists?

MMcL: The growth of confidence is fostered by the fact that the Sinn Féin vote has increased in successive elections and that the increase shows no signs of slacking. We believe that not only in European elections but also in the next local, Westminster and Assembly elections that Sinn Féin is on course to becoming the largest party within nationalism.

We are putting out what is a very positive message for nationalism. In European elections in the past it was a question of there only being one nationalist. And perhaps from this has emerged this notion that John Hume should strive to get the largest personal vote. But the Sinn Féin message is more attractive. We are saying to nationalists that two nationalist heads are better than one.

 


CD: Why is a European seat crucial for republicans?

MMcL: We believe it is critical that we continue to demonstrate the advance and expansion of our electoral appeal. We also think that as we have proved to be a radical dynamic in local politics, we will pursue this path at the European level.

We do have to bear in mind that the incumbency in terms of the European seat in the North has presided over those policies that have given us rural decline, neglect of the inner city areas, and economic underdevelopment.

These are issues that Sinn Féin will address.

We also think that the international platform is vital for our party in terms of promoting our peace strategy and the role we have played in advancing the peace process so far. By voting for Sinn Féin on 10 June, nationalists will be voting to consolidate and build a strategy to achieve a lasting peace based on democracy, freedom, justice and equality.

    
  The European platform is vital in terms of promoting our peace strategy 
- Mitchel McLaughlin

 


CD: The election campaign is being fought on a backdrop of loyalist violence and murder bids. Do you not think that there is increasing scepticism towards elections given that very little is changing for nationalists in everyday life?

MMcL: I don't think this is true. If you reflect on the success Sinn Féin has enjoyed over the period since the hunger strikes, it was in the teeth of a very vicious counter insurgency war by the British. Republicans, however, showed their resistance and ability to stand up for themselves by going out to polls to vote for Sinn Féin. That same syndrome still applies on a reduced scale. I also think that the spirit of indomitable resistance will ensure that those who know the way forward is by demonstrating support for the republican analysis and republican representation. Far from being intimidated, people respond to suppression and repression by showing that they are not lying down.

 


CD: Is it not paradoxical that Sinn Féin ``critically engages'' with the European Union, given that the institution has a record of serious lack of democracy and accountability and has promoted social and economic policies that cause widespread concern?

MMcL: Clearly the European Union exists and clearly it impacts and in fact in many ways it dominates policy and service provision on this island in an increasing way. Sinn Féin's analysis of the EU and what it stood for has proved correct. At the time the debate on joining the EU was raging, Sinn Féin was the only party in Ireland that stood up and argued against it on the basis that it would detrimentally impact on the ability of the Irish people to use their own self-determination in relation to fiscal and economic policy. We have not been proved wrong.

We have also argued against enlargement and continuing centralisation. For precisely the same reasons we have to argue in the best interests of the Irish people and therefore provide effective representation at every level, may it be local, regional, national and now European level. We will make alliances with progressive forces within the EU who recognise and promote that same argument.

 


CD: Do you believe there is going to be any progress with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement before the European elections?

MMcL: That is down to those who are holding up that progress and those who are prepared to allow David Trimble to continue exercising a veto over the process. Essentially, that is down to Tony Blair. The ball is in his court.

He really has to confront the fact that David Trimble has broken promises, not just to the parties including ourselves, but also to Tony Blair himself on a number of occasions.

We are of a view that if David Trimble is allowed to stall the

implementation of the Agreement until after the elections, then he will produce yet another reason why he cannot proceed in the very mouth of the marching season. This means that the British government, while saying that they wouldn't park the process, have effectively parked it.

We have warned constantly of the danger of the attacks that will be mounted by loyalists in that political vacuum and the real possibility that there will be no process to come back to.

 


CD: What is your message to republicans who feel totally disillusioned at the way the peace process is logjammed?

MMcL: Reflect on all that we have been through as a struggle for the past generation and a half. There have been many times it seemed that progress wasn't possible. But republicans have always kept the faith. They have developed the strategies, they have revised them, revisited them. They were always guided by a clear vision of what our struggle was meant to achieve and that is a free and a united Ireland. We believe we can achieve that and

that our struggle, whilst going through many different changes and phases over that period, has been the one consistent factor of Irish life over the same period.

Keep the faith!


Vision and consistency


If Mitchel McLaughlin were to be summed up in two words, it would be consistency and vision. Aged 53, the Sinn Féin European candidate for the Six Counties, who is married and lives in the Bogside area of Derry City, is currently the party's National Chairperson and member of the party's Ard Comhairle. In this leading role one of his major responsibilities is to oversee the political development of the party and is in charge of its overall functioning.

He first became politically active in the Civil Rights Association in 1968. He then became a leading member of the National H-Blocks Committee and was elected to Derry City Council in 1985.

Mitchel has played a central role in formulating Sinn Féin's peace strategy, and was instrumental in the drawing up of the party's two peace documents: Scenario for Peace and Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland. In 1996, he was elected peace negotiator in the Forum election and was elected to the Assembly for the Foyle constituency in June 1998.

However big and important his political responsibilities are, Mitchel remains one of the warmest and most accessible political representatives.


EUROPEAN ISSUES


Sinn Féin is committed to working for reform, accountability and democracy in Europe, while advancing national democracy and economic and social justice and promoting a 32-County political and economic identity.
Sinn Féin believes that equality and ending exclusion and discrimination must be at the heart of EU social policy.
Sinn Féin is committed to the maintenance of positive neutrality and an independent foreign policy.
Sinn Féin believes that the manner in which EU Structural funds are allocated and controlled needs to be reformed.



Dublin could be heaven for Crowe



BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN

    
Sinn Féin's candidate is Sean Crowe, who narrowly missed out on a Leinster House seat for the party in 1997. It is recognised across the political spectrum that the party's support is growing in all parts of the city and that Sinn Féin can double their 1994 poll showing with ease.
A turnout of just over 37% in 1994 produced a 12-count election for the Dublin EU constituency. The end result was a seat each for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party. Sinn Féin's Larry O'Toole won just under 3% of the poll.

Apart from massive disinterest from the electorate, the actual campaign was characterised by dissent and disputes between party members. Labour Party leader Dick Spring insisted on parachuting in then RTE journalist Veronica Guerin alongside Bernie Malone, who had become Labour's MEP for Dublin when Barry Desmond retired to his £120,000-a-year tax-free job in the EU Court of Auditors.

Malone and a lot of Labour Party members in Dublin were seriously upset at Spring's actions. There were in essence two separate election campaigns. It must be dèja vu for Bernie Malone, as this time she has to contend with Prionsias De Rossa as her Labour running mate.

De Rossa had been elected as an MEP for the Workers' Party in 1989. As the party split with New Agenda and then Democratic Left (DL) emerging as a new political party, De Rossa gave up his MEP seat to Des Geraghty, who then prepared himself as the DL candidate for the Euro election. Election literature arrived at many Dublin doors with Geraghty's name and picture. However in early 1994, Pat Rabbitte emerged as the DL candidate. He was eliminated on the 11th count, leaving Banotti and Bernie Malone elected without reaching the quota.

The huge surprise of the 1994 election was that the Greens' Patricia McKenna topped the poll, followed by Banotti, Andrews and Jim Mitchell. Fianna Fáil had also run Olive Braiden as their parachute candidate but she failed to add to the seat chances.

This time around, Fine Gael is running the same team as in 1994. Fianna Fáil has inexplicably put two southside candidates on their ticket. Patricia McKenna is also seeking to keep her seat and should hold it against stiff competition.

Sinn Féin's candidate is Sean Crowe, who narrowly missed out on a Leinster House seat for the party in 1997. It is recognised across the political spectrum that the party's support is growing in all parts of the city and that Sinn Féin can double their 1994 poll showing with ease.

Across the candidates running you cannot but get that lottery feeling. Fine Gael ran two strong candidates in 1994 and won almost 24% of first preferences. Even a small slump in votes this time around could leave both Mitchell and Banotti out in the cold. The same logic applies to Fianna Fáil. If the vote for Andrews and Briscoe slumps, you could see either candidate slugging it out on the last counts to secure the one seat.

This leaves the way open for the other candidates and for a major upset, especially in the context of massive public disillusion with the three big parties. Maybe Seán Crowe should make sure his passport is up to date just in case.

Final prediction: FF and FG to hold one seat just, with a huge fight for the last two seats leading probably to McKenna and one Labour candidate elected. Use your preferences wisely.

 

 

The Ferris Factor



Martin Ferris is the key to victory and defeat in the four-seater EU Munster constituency. Sinn Féin polled 5,171 votes in this constituency in 1994. Then, most of party's efforts went into securing UDC and Town Commission seats for the party.

This time around. Sinn Féin is contesting over 30 council seats across the province. The party's strong showing in the 1997 Leinster House election has galavanised the party and sent a message that Sinn Fein are growing as a political force.

In 1997 Sinn Féin polled 8,879 votes just running in three constituencies, with Ferris pulling in 5,691 first preferences in North Kerry alone.

In 1994, Fianna Fáil's Brian Crowley topped the poll and was elected on the first count. After nine counts, Gerry Collins took a second seat for Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael's John Cushnahan and independent Pat Cox won the last two seats without reaching the quota on the 12th count.

This time around it will be a lot more difficult for Fianna Fáil to hold onto their second seat. Pat Cox has made the headlines recently with a strong performance in the European Parliament. It remains to be seen how impressed the Munster voters are with Cox's record.

The decision by the Progressive Democrats not to run a candidate in this election throws a wild card into the Munster pack. Dessie O'Malley took 8.7% of the vote here in 1994. His transfers were not distributed so it is unclear where the PD votes will go this time around.

Martin Ferris has been a strong performer for Sinn Féin nationally and is probably the best known Sinn Féin public figure outside of the three parliamentarians. It would be a long shot to say he can take a seat but ask any of the other parties contesting this election and they will tell you that Martin Ferris is the dark horse.

Certainly, like Seán Crowe in Dublin, Ferris will perform well and at the very least the Sinn Féin vote share should more than double from its 1997 outing. The second factor is where would Ferris's transfers travel to if he was eliminated. In 1994, Sinn Féin's Kieran McCarthy transferred votes acros the political spectrum.

Final prediction: One seat for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. After that the games begin in earnest for the last two seats. Again, Sinn Féin voters should use those prefernces wisely.

 

Confident mood in Cavan and Monaghan



Sinn Féin is standing 28 local election candidates in Counties Monaghan and Cavan, the most the party has ever put before voters in this sprawling Leinster House constituency. The Sinn Féin TD for the area, Caoimhghín O Caoláin, is confident that the party will make further strides in this election. Ironically, despite the major contribution made by Cavan voters to Caoimhghín's historic win in 1997, Sinn Féin currently has no councillors in that county. ``Given the work that our party representatives have undertaken, we are confident that this situation will be rectified after 11 June,'' says Caoimhghín O Caoláin, ``and we will also make further advances in Monaghan.''

Cavan


Peadar Neary, Belturbet ward, Cavan County Council.

Pauline Tully, Ballyjamesduff ward, Cavan County Council.

Paddy McDonald, Bailieborough ward, Cavan County Council.

Brian McKeown, Cavan Urban District Council.

Charlie Boylan, Cavan ward, Cavan County Council.

Harry McCabe, Cootehill Town Commission

John Martin, Cootehill Town Commission.

Benny Henry, Belturbet Town Commission.

Monaghan


Caoimhghín O Caoláin, North Monaghan ward, Monaghan County Council.

Brian McKenna, North Monaghan ward, Monaghan County Council.

Brenda McAnespie, North Monaghan ward, Monaghan County Council.

Owen Smyth, North Monaghan Urban District Council.

Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha, North Monaghan Urban District Council.

Seán Conlon, North Monaghan Urban District Council.

Pauline Martin, North Monaghan Urban District Council.

Gerry Loughran, North Monaghan Urban District Council.

Sheila McKenna, Clones ward, Monaghan County Council.

Brian MacUaid, Clones ward, Monaghan County Council.

Pat Treanor, Clones Urban District Council.

Debbie Moore, Clones Urban District Council.

Peter McAleer, Clones Urban District Council.

Noel Keelan, Carrickmacross ward, Monaghan County Council.

Francis Caraher McBride, Carrickmacross Urban District Council.

Matt Carthy, Carrickmacross Urban District Council.

Jackie Crowe, Castleblaney Urban District Council and Castleblaney ward, Monaghan County Council.

James Cunningham, Castleblaney Urban District Council.

Barry Cunningham, Ballybay Town Commission.

Gene Duffy, Ballybay Town Commission.



Sinn Féin in Leinster push



Sinn Féin is standing candidates in every county in Leinster bar Carlow and Kilkenny. The numbers of candidates standing in Louth and Wexford in particular are indicative of a resurgence by Sinn Féin in areas that would be regarded as traditionally republican, but like elsewhere, the party is confident that these local elections will be its most successful ever throughout the province.

Laois


Brian Stanley, Portlaoise Urban District Council and Portlaoise ward, Laois County Council.

Louth


Arthur Morgan, Carlingford ward, Louth County Council, and European election candidate for Leinster.

Pearse McGeough, Mid-Louth ward, Louth County Council.

Seán Kenna, Dundalk Urban District Council and Dundalk South Rural ward, Louth County Council.

Kevin Meenan, Dundalk Urban District Council.

Peter Dullaghan, Dundalk Urban District Council.

Maeve Healy, Drogheda Corporation and Drogheda West ward, Louth County Council.

Ken O'Heiligh, Drogheda Corporation and Drogheda East ward, Louth County Council.

Jim Gavin, Ardee Town Commission.

Kildare


Paddy Wright, Athy Urban District Council and Athy ward, Kildare County Council.

Meath


Joe Reilly, Navan Urban District Council and Navan ward, Meath County Council.

Tony Cantwell, Navan Urban District Council.

Offaly


Oliver O'Connor, Tullamore ward, Offaly County Council.

Joseph Coughlan, Tullamore Urban District Council.

Westmeath


Bill Cleary, Mullingar Urban District Council.

Ronan O Faoláin, Athlone Urban District Council.

Wexford


Geraldine Redmond, Gorey ward, Wexford County Council.

John Dwyer, New Ross Urban District Council and New Ross ward, Wexford County Council.

Maurice Roche, Wexford ward, Wexford County Council.

Ray Keogh, Enniscorthy ward, Wexford County Council.

Martin Sheehan, Enniscorthy Urban District Council.

Anthony Kelly, Wexford Corporation.

Michael Sheil, Gorey Town Commission.

Wicklow


Gerry O'Neill, Blessington ward, Wicklow County Council.

Marie Gavaghan, Bray Urban District Council and Bray ward, Wicklow County Council.

John Doyle, Bray Urban District Council and Bray ward, Wicklow County Council.
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