not a member? click here to sign up
Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail – the perfect match?
Why the similarities between FF and SF may be greater than first anticipated. Plus: linguistic weirditude on The Irish Times letters page and our columnist launches a new book which gleefully satirises the Northern political process.
Eamonn McCann, 05 Nov 2004
he Yanks have gone and done it now.
They’ve elected a president who’s going to stay in Iraq until opposition to their imperial presence has been eliminated; who promises pre-emptively to blitz any State anywhere adjudged to pose a threat to US interests; to hunt down and kill individuals categorised by US intelligence as “terrorists”; to imprison indefinitely without charge or trial people against whom no credible evidence of wrong-doing can be produced: and to torture them; to ignore the Kyoto Treaty on climate change; to refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over US personnel; to finance, arm and uncritically to support the Israeli government in efforts to obliterate the Palestinian people; to put America first in all discussion of world trade; to make the interests of US business the sole determinant of US action on any matter whatsover in any region of the earth; and everywhere, always, to define freedom primarily to mean free-market capitalism.
Which reminds me...
On RTE’s Questions and Answers the other night, I heard that annoying little git with the insanitary moustache Willie O’Dea giving Mary Lou McDonald grief over the Disappeared.
The Limerick twerp has denounced as “Trotskyite wreckers” anybody who opposes Shannon airport being put at the disposal of armed groups illegally en route to bomb people attending weddings or out shopping or whatever in Iraq. This brings into focus the fact that Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein will have to sort out their policy differences if they are ever to come together in government.
I’ve already drawn the political violence problem to the Shinners’ attention. The problem is, the Provies just don’t think big enough.
Fair enough, they shredded 11 Prods in one blast at Enniskillen, nine on the Shankill, etc. But those successes were years ago. Fianna Fail would need fresher meat than that for satisfaction.
And while the Enniskillen and Shankill numbers may have been impressive in parochial terms, they are hardly the sort of body-counts which would lead Fianna Fail to offer to faciliate more of the same.
The other supposed FF-SF difficulty has to do with economic policy. This was mentioned on Q&A by the former president of the Irish branch of the Joseph Stalin Appreciation Society, Eoghan Harris, who, in an intemperate outburst, accused McDonald of socialist tendencies.
How could FF, committed to free-market capitalism, work in harmony with SF, intent on the overthrow of world capitalism?
McDonald didn’t rise up in righteous anger against this foul slander – reasoning, perhaps, that leaving it on the record might do no harm at all to the party’s reputation with the radically-minded.
Actually, I had the advantage over the Q&A panel on this one. I’d discussed these matters with McDonald just two days earlier at the European Social Forum in London.
If Sinn Fein was opposed to free-market capitalism, I’d wondered, how come they’d acquiesced in the privatisation of health and education by the Stormont Executive?
McDonald’s a woman of stern self-control. No righteous anger at this, either. It had been “necessary,” she explained. If the party’s ministers hadn’t availed of private finance, certain new schools might not have been built.
But that’s what they all say, I persisted. I’d have mentioned, had I thought at the time, that it’s what the FF-PD coalition says about the School of Music in Cork. First, you make no public provision for funding the project. So it’s either private finance or the project’s a goner. Then you argue that privatisation is “necessary”.
I don’t think McDonald would have been fazed by the specific example. This wasn’t a woman in apologetic mode. Not only had her party privatised public services, she spelt it out, there’d be more of the same when/if they returned to government. “If it’s necessary.”
Difficulty reconciling the economic policies of FF and SF? I don’t think so.
Every now and again you come across a sentence which you cannot react to other than by staring at the words in numb silence until they merge into a blurry nothingness.
This one appeared in a letter headed “Future of the Catholic Church: reform or renewal?” from a Father Francis Bailey in The Irish Times (October 25).
“With the present falling away from Christian practice there has been an increase in superstition.”
Had the pleasure of launching Garbhan Downey’s rude’n’racy new novel Private Diary of a Suspended MLA at Bookworm. What a classy turn-out! Criminals, patriots, trendsetters, typesetters, lawyers, mudlarks and gothic yahoos. Plus regular folks like Garbhan and me.
Diary is the story of Shay Gallagher, a languages teacher at a Taig Derry school who by dint of a series of plausible accidents becomes a member of the Stormont Assembly just in time to be paid 40 grand the annum in proper sterling money for doing fuck all under the Brit Government’s “Peace through Bribery” programme, aka the Peace Process. Shay suddenly has so much money for doing so little he risks mistaking himself for an ex-paramilitary employed in Community Development.
Shay’s victory speech at the count hits the note: “I’d like to thank the Loyalist Action Group for bumping off the Shinners’ front-runner after nominations closed; Messrs Benson and Hedges for doing a similar job on the SDLP’s main attraction; the Derry Standard for exposing my fellow independent as a convicted pervert; and the PSNI for slapping me in handcuffs at the polling station and doubling my profile on election day. Oh, and did I mention my principal, Fr Know-All Giddens? Sit on this, you fat old git – and you can beat your Head of Languages job up your hole.”
Now that, you’ll agree, is more like it.
After lashings of free wine, small triangular sandwiches and traditional Derry samosas, and in keeping with the allsy-palsy ambience of the event, I invited the company to join me in a selection of the ceasefire ‘Ra ballads for which I have become known and loved in Provie bars across the north west.
The negotiating first battalion of the IRA...
Oh gra mo chroi I long to see a transitional arrangement in place...
The slim black briefcase of the IRA...
Every man will stand behind the men behind the desk...
Bookworm being on Bishop Street, just a stone’s throw (I once checked) from Bishop’s Gate, and in keeping with the statutory non-sectarian, parity-of-esteem requirements governing all public events, we finished the night with a verse in Ulster Scots.
When King James and his rebel band Rode up to Bishop’s Gate, With heart and hand and sword and shield, We forced them to retreat.
Garbhan’s Private Diary is available upon payment in cash money of the astonishingly small sum of £5.95. What that is in Eurodisneys, I wouldn’t know.
Oh, yes. The reason the US election result reminded me of Q&A is that the panel was asked whom they’d prefer to win. Broadly speaking, a left-winger would have said Nader, a centrist Kerry, a right-winger Bush. McDonald refused to answer, grinning, “I’m taking the Fifth.”
I told a leading Derry Provie that I’d assumed they’d be for Kerry. “Oh, no,” it was explained. “As a national movement, we have to maintain good relations with whatever administration is in office.”
What are they like?