Jude Collins

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Running in Louth: how big a gamble?

In retrospect, it was an obvious move. So obvious that none of the pundits even sniffed it. Sinn Féin allowed several days for them scratch their heads and wonder who might run in Arthur Morgan’s vacated seat, mmm, , maybe some young guy, mmm maybe a dark horse, mmm, you never know with these things. Well now they know. Gerry is running.

And the reason Gerry Adams will stand for election in Louth and give up his seat in Stormont and Westminster is that Sinn Féin are safe in the north. Martin McGuinness’s performance at ‘East Belfast Speaks Out’ last week confirmed that he is not just popular among republicans and nationalists but that a considerable number of unionists have a regard for him that is becoming less sneaking by the day. In part it’s got to do with McGuinness’s trenchant criticism of dissident republican activity; it’s also got to do with the confidence and firmness he projects. He may not be someone who has matters firmly by the throat but that’s how he comes across. A lot of unionists are reassured by that, especially when they glance from him to the grey figure of Peter Robinson. As for the SDLP, their leader Maggie Ritchie’s performance at their annual conference last week confirmed what most people would have thought impossible: she makes Mark Durkan look good. There is only one question mark hanging over the SDLP and that’s at what pace they are moving towards final asphyxiation. For the Shinners in the north, it’s mission accomplished.

The south is another matter. Sinn Féin’s last electoral outing wasn’t disastrous but it was nothing that called for street celebrations. Mary Lou MacDonald is struggling to create the firm electoral base she must have if she’s to become the foremost Sinn Féin figure in the south. With the economic crisis biting to the bone and the established parties clearly clueless about how to turn things around (who are the economic illiterates now?), Sinn Féin should be moving to fill massive electoral gaps –- but they’re not. Gerry Adams hopes his appearance at the polls in the south will act as a catalyst for a Shinner resurgence throughout the state.

Some say the Sinn Féin president is gambling for very high stakes, and so he is. If he doesn’t win Morgan’s seat at the next election it’ll be a body blow to Sinn Féin prospects in the south, already less than rosy. But all politicians gamble, each time they go to the polls. Gerry Adams gambles but always as carefully as possible. He takes chances – you haven’t forgotten he led republicans from war to the Good Friday Agreement, have you? – but the chances he takes are always as minimal as he can make them. So while Morgan gained only the fourth seat in Louth last time out, it’s still a Sinn Féin seat. Had Adams gone after a non-Sinn Féin seat or gone head-to-head with some senior figure in one of the other political parties, tried to break new ground for Sinn Féin, that would have been truly daring. Going for Morgan’s seat is a gamble but one he can expect to win. Which leaves us with the main question underlying the whole exercise: will his presence in the race provide the electrical surge that’s needed if republicanism in the south is to be revitalised and resume its onward march? Six months from now we should have the answer.


  1. The Sinn Fein vote in the 6 counties is secure. Gerry's West Belfast seat is the most secure in the island. Sinn Fein will hold that seat even if they were to stand an unknown.
    Martin McGuinness is the face of Sinn Fein in the 6 counties. Adams is a polarizing figure, still loathed by Unionists. Unlike West Belfast Catholics, Protestant Ulstermen don't easily tolerate white lies like 'I was never in the IRA' even if they are for political expediency.
    In the South, despite the worst economy in history and the most reviled politicians of all time, the Sinn Fein vote is averaging 9 percent. It is shocking how little relevancy they have, and all attempts to make Mary Lou MacDonald the face of Sinn Fein in the south have been rejected.
    One more dismal election in the South for Sinn Fein and they will be buried and the whole political project laughed at.
    However, Gerry has always enjoyed a personal popularity in the south, and is always in the top 3 respected leaders. This is a chance for him to lead the Sinn Fein team in the south, restore some of the credibility he has lost through the scandals of family abuse, hunger strike and brendan hughes allegations.
    The southerners just showed how much they appreciate the peace process by chosing John Hume as greatest Irishman of all time two weeks ago in a TV poll.
    Gerry saw an opportunity to build on that as he was the other leg of the Hume talks.
    He's a wily old fox.
    Some say the real reason is that Gerry is an egotistical ******** and is a figure of derision outside west belfast. He needs something to restore his media profile.
    You choose.

  2. Interesting thoughts, Roibeard. You seem to be saying that Gerry Adams figures his running will boost Sinn Féin in the south, which is what I've said in the blog. 'Was GA in the IRA?' is an irrelevant marble that the media like to toss into the game from time to time. You might as well ask 'Was Ian Paisley in favour of violence?'

  3. Jude mo chara,

    We differ in that you think Gerry's decision to stand in the South is 'obvious' as if it is another suave calculated move by a political genius.
    You think his running is to boost Sinn Fein in the South; you give him too much credit.
    I think his running in Louth is purely opportunistic and more to do with SAVING Sinn Fein from impending political obscurity in the South, as they have already reached political irrelevancy.
    Mr Adams' decision to stand in Louth seems more like the last desperate move of an increasingly frustrated egotist to prove that the political project and peace process he chaperoned, was really about winning Irish Unity and not just about advancing equality for Catholics in the North.
    Despite the most severe economic crisis in history and the apppalling performance of the 26 county parties, Sinn Fein, the party of protest, struggles to maintain support of 10 percent in polls and even less when elections are held. The Labour Party, full of ex Sticks, has been the recipient of surging opposition to the coalition government, not Sinn Fein. Irish Unity is not in the vocabulary of the South's populace. Let's be honest Jude, apart from Pearse Doherty, there isn't much up top in the way of quality Sinn Fein candidates. The Mary Lou project was gullotined on the necks of longterm Dublin Councillors. Another election debacle for Sinn Fein in the South would be the death knell for the party, and probably for Gerry's leadership, with a sure guarantee of another exodus of long time, suffering southern activists.
    Despite years of electoral support, the MP for West Belfast represents an area that has the worst infrastructure, social and economic conditions in the North, plagued with unemployment, crime, and alcoholism.
    Where are the factories, the investments, the improved roads, the progressive amenities?
    Well, we do have the West Belfast Feile, so I guess we shouldn't complain, but if you spare me a second, we need to look at the record.
    Housing overcrowding, Parks littered with bottles and used condoms, GAA grounds are locked up and surrounded by barbed wire. It is a deathwish to walk alone at nighttime, the area is awash with drugs, booze, joyriders, knifings, kickings, stabbings, house robberies, vandalism, and suicides.
    Course we do have the Brits to blame for all that. Just ask Gerry.

    The North's nationalist population has been placated and snoozed into acceptance of the partitionist state. The Irish Unity Campaign overseas has embarassingly petered out through lack of interest and the South not only couldn't give a damn about Irish Unity, they couldn't afford it even if they did.
    Come to think of it, County Louth is as safe a haven as any to get away from all those failures.
    Good luck to Gerry, he is going to need it.

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  5. Warm welcome from 'Down There' for those of us from 'Up Here'


  6. Jude,

    then why all the waffle about a truth recovery process? Do you not see how he devalues the concept? Is that one truth not to be recovered? Do you not appreciate how these denials completely mock the idea of truth?
    Good piece all the same

  7. Thanks for compliment, Anon - and the implicit criticism. There are a lot of disputed matters about the past which a truth recovery process would, one assumes, resolve. Why not let this disputed one - although I still think it doesn't in the end matter - Gerry Adams is unambiguous, always has been, about his complete support for the IRA - be included along with the others? And a final thought: shouldn't the focus be on what impact the move to Louth will have, not on what role he played twenty or thirty years ago?

  8. Jude,

    to the extent to which it is true that the move to Louth should be the focus the matter of trust will arise. The incident allegedly involving his brother will cause problems. People will ask questions and if he is so fundamentally misleading on major issues what chance accuracy on this one? As, well, if 30 years ago does not matter why bother with the truth behind Bloody Sunday or Pat Finucane. In my opinion the truth abut both is essential but we can hardly call for some of the truth. Imagine in court proclaiming 'I swear to tell half the truth'. Laves too many holes for my liking.

  9. I think that your article is very interesting and I also believe that whilst Martin McGuinness may be increasingly viewed in a more favourable light within the Unionist community, the perception of Peter Robinson within the Nationalist community of Northern Ireland has equally undergone a positive transition. As a nationalist, my view of Mr Robinson has greatly transformed in recent months and I, as well as many other of my friends now view Mr Robinson in a very positive light and appreciate his role as First Minister. In recent months, the relationship between McGuinness and Robinson has dramatically improved and both men have been entirely constructive and responsible in helping to build a shared society in Northern Ireland. On another note I think that Peter Robinson is another but grey - except in appearance however!

  10. My bet is on Gerry, Very smart move. Shake things up.