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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

St Bore's Day


Anthony McIntyre • 6 March 2007

The election is looming, tomorrow in fact. Gangs of boring politicians have been roaming the streets making promises they have no intention of keeping. A journalist remarked to me a matter of days ago something along the line that it is the 33rd election in an equivalent number of years. Each, we are assured, is always more crucial than the one before it. Crucial to what is another thing. Not crucial to the economy because it remains in its perpetual state of stasis. Nor is it crucial to a vibrant democratic polity because elections have not yet produced one. Crucial, arguably, to the British state which, for the first time since the second world war, has now a selfish strategic interest in Ireland in the form of the territory hosting MI5, and can benefit from a puppet regime content to live with the new strategic dispensation. Crucial, yes, to the bank balances of the wannabe ruling class and the legion of functionaries that manage to live off it. The 'attraction-repulsion dynamic' so at play in the electorate ensures that despite being the most useless political class in Western Europe, ours still manages to get itself elected to some gravy train.

The pundits have been out and about trying to make sense of it all, but they have laboured to sound either interested or interesting. A prominent member of the commentariat sat in our home last night seemingly as bored with it all as we were. Given that no pessimist was ever proved wrong here terra firma usually supports every Jeremiah that cares to stand on it. For those eager to see the reestablishment of the political institutions the most pessimistic outcome is a post-election scenario in which the DUP had lost so much ground to either apathy or the Bob McCartney anti-deal critics, that it dared not risk forming part of a British administration with Sinn Fein. The chances of that happening are slim. Pollyanna should on this occasion trump Jeremiah. Unionism in general appreciates that the DUP has put manners on Sinn Fein and should vote accordingly.

In seeking to ensure that it does just that Peter Robinson has amplified the siren, warning all that Sinn Fein could become the largest party in the assembly if it can comprehensively see off its nationalist rivals in the SDLP. Robinson has astutely pitched his distress call at a level where it shall be impossible for it to go unheard. Unionists fearing the horror of Martin McGuinness as first minister will stampede in behind one unionist party, Paisley's, to prevent the nightmare scenario. There is not a lot of choice. It is hard to see circumstances in which the UUP will fare anything other than poorly. When it lost David Trimble as leader, it collectively sensed that it was a party going nowhere and so picked a leader who would take it nowhere.

If all other things were equal this would produce a dynamic within nationalism somewhat to the detriment of the SDLP whereby voters would feel inclined to form behind Sinn Fein in a bid to push it over the finishing line either breathing down the neck of the DUP or ahead of it. Voters who might otherwise consider casting their ballot in favour of the SDLP will sense that in the absence of any effective brake being placed on the acceleration of Paisleyism from the UUP the best check lies with Sinn Fein. Certainly, Sinn Fein canvassers in West Belfast have been using scare tactics to get the vote out. Those brave enough to tell Sinn Fein teams at their door that they will not be voting the party this time round have met with the retort that the non-voter will be responsible for the DUP's Diane Dodds getting the seat.

Unfortunately for Sinn Fein, all other things are not equal and the dynamic that will ensure DUP supremacy within unionism is heavily tempered within nationalism. Sinn Fein, unlike the DUP, is faced with a reasonably robust rival within the nationalist community. Despite a tangible flatness in presentation Mark Durcan is au fait with policy detail in a way that Gerry Adams clearly is not. The Sinn Fein leader's woeful performance on RTE two nights ago has left him dangerously exposed as a flapper. There is no way that Durcan would have proved so inept. In a northern election it would not be so damaging if Adams' poor grasp of Southern economics was the only sphere he struggled in. His detail deficiency is compounded in that on both the role of MI5 and holding the British state to account for past actions vis a vis the now abandoned OTR legislation, Durcan has proved much more sophisticated than Adams, mastering the detail in a way that makes the Sinn Fein leader appear ungainly.

Conjuncturally, the balance of political forces does not point to Sinn Fein getting the booster it needs. At most those forces will prevent the SDLP playing catch up, little else. The election results are unlikely to produce any significant reconfiguration in the balance of power within northern nationalism and should confirm the arrest of both the SDLP decline and the forward momentum of Sinn Fein. Republican candidates stand little chance of taking any seats but in Derry, Fermanagh/South Tyrone and Newry/Armagh they could block Sinn Fein adding to the number of seats it already holds, and allow the SDLP to maintain what it might otherwise have lost.

The time for Sinn Fein to have emerged as the nationalist party with supremacy rather than the more limiting superiority it currently enjoys was in the Westminster elections of 2005. But the goodwill the party was claiming in interest as a return on it having deposited peace in the consciousness of the nationalist electorate was first questioned as a result of the Northern Bank robbery and then seriously undermined by the murder of Robert McCartney. Sinn Fein's subsequent failure to trounce the SDLP at a time when the DUP was running the UUP off the park has placed the Adams outfit at a serious disadvantage in its confrontation with Paisley's party.

Because the SDLP manages to hang on tenaciously the DUP is likely to emerge as the real victors in this election. Unable to establish a 'Provopoly' within nationalism which would give it greater leverage against the DUP, Sinn Fein on the back foot has shed republican tenet after tenet to the point where Jeffrey Donaldson can trumpet that its "decisions are a million miles away from 1916 and the declaration of a 32-county republic. In short, the IRA has lost the battle for a United Ireland."

Tomorrow's election is not going to alter that.
















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

6 March 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Irish Republican Ex-POWs Against the RUC/PSNI & MI5

Whispering Past the Graveyard
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RSF Campaign Reports
Tony McPhillips – Election Agent

Save Derry
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Support Peggy O Hara
Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans Against RUC/PSNI & MI5

Only the Beginning
Mick Hall

St Bore's Day
Anthony McIntyre

SS Sinn Fein
John Kennedy

Election Guarantees Nothing
David Adams

Coulter's Pre-Election Report
Dr John Coulter

Others Promise...
Brian Mór

The Curse of the Caudillo Complex
Mick Hall

Rest, Do Not Surrender
Dolours Price

...We Deliver
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Super Six Dictator
Dr John Coulter

Anyone Up for a Serious Alternative?
Philip Ferguson

The View from Outside
Jerry Pepin

Boom to Bust?
Dr John Coulter

Tyre Trees
Anthony McIntyre

Cleanliness Not Next to Godliness in the Shankill
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Leadership Needed
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Where Does the State of the Union Leave the Rest of Us?
Richard O'Rawe

22 February 2007

Litter & Glass
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Not Worth the Paper Its Written On
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Ballot Box Pressure
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Commission of Truth Needed, Says O Hara
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Press Release

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British Policing Must Never Be Acceptable in Ireland
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The Next Step
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Conclusions from the Ard Fheis
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McAleese Should be Criticised
David Adams

The Best Woman to Succeed
Dr John Coulter

Fred A. Wilcox

The Critical History of (Irish pop) Noise
Seaghán Ó Murchú

No Clean Hands
Anthony McIntyre



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