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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Belfast Hot Air

ANC President Mbeki was arrogant and disingenuous enough to claim publicly, soon after the elections that, (the people) "have spoken loudly and said that they have understood the truths the ANC has communicated to them, and understood the falsehoods that others have told. They have firmly rejected the false claim that their movement, the ANC, has failed them".
- Dale T. McKinley April 2004


Anthony McIntyre • 17 March 2007

Another election behind us. The greatest bore show in Western European politics keeps running, the audience always willing to come back for more. Not for us the luxury available to the British public, aptly described by Peter Preston in the Guardian: 'Yes, we mainlanders can relax, switch off and concentrate on global warming, not Belfast hot air.'

Those of us who felt Sinn Fein would be hard pressed to make gains this time round were wide off the mark. Although according to Sinn Fein members the party too was as wrong with its predictions. The result not for the first time surpassed its own expectations. The 2001 Westminster election where Sinn Fein took over from the SDLP as the leader of northern nationalism was one that had jumped the queue. Prior to it the Sinn Fein president felt it would be the election 'after next.' This time the SDLP despite claiming to have installed the proper brakes to arrest its own decline failed to apply them. While not faring as poorly as its lacklustre UUP counterpart across the sectarian fence, it could ill afford to lose the two seats that it did. Sinn Fein proved much more resilient and in the North at least is now over the setback it suffered as a result of the accumulative effects of the murder of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank robbery.

As expected the bottom has dropped out of the UUP's future. It will be a major achievement for the party if it can hold onto Sylvia Hermon's Westminster seat at the next British general election. Overall, the DUP emerged as the big winners with Sinn Fein coming in a close second. Had it not been for the double whammy of the Northern Bank/McCartney Sinn Fein would be much closer to the DUP. The party has now begun to make the advance onto the electoral terrain it failed to take in the wake of those two events. Fortunately for it, but not for the SDLP, there is more ground to capture.

Whatever the opinions we hold on Sinn Fein it would be stingy not to admire the efficiency of the party's vote management. Almost laser guided in its precision, it is the sort of activity authoritarian parties more than their democratic counterparts can be expected to excel in. It is no surprise therefore to find that those quickest out of the traps to follow Sinn Fein's example are the DUP's vote managers. Tight dictatorial control, euphemistically called 'discipline' by some media commentators, is an essential management function in authoritarian parties.

Even at that, the vagaries of the electorate can upset the best of plans. Sinn Fein failed to get it right in Fermanagh South Tyrone where the leadership's preferred candidate, Sean Lynch, was outdone by the sweeper Gerry McHugh. The chances of Sinn Fein now being able to eventually replace Michelle Gildernew with the affable Lynch, a former O/C of the H-Blocks, are slim.

For all the talk that this was the first 'post-troubles' election where for once the issues were 'real', whatever that is, it was the same as all other elections; what colour complexion future governance shall acquire.

It might be more accurate to describe the election as more post-republican than post--troubles. The republican project is effectively over with the one time republican opposition having been incorporated into the structures of the British state in Ireland. It supports the partition principle, euphemistically termed consent, accepts the legitimacy of the police force whose historical function has been to suppress republicanism, and like the other parties it long opposed is now eager to work within the parameters of an internal settlement.

Abandoning republicanism has proved a successful strategy for Sinn Fein. It can now advance its own bureaucratic interests through structures never devised to facilitate republicanism. In return for Sinn Fein having gaily somersaulted the DUP is reluctantly moving along the path towards accepting that the nationalist party, because it is now loyal to the police force of the British state, should be allowed to administer British rule which the police force will ensure is upheld.

Sinn Fein has merely done what many one time radical parties did to stay in business. The politics that brought the social movement into being often have to be abandoned for the same movement to stay in existence and prosper. Chief revisionist of the German Social Democratic Party, Eduard Bernstein, recognised it two centuries back when he argued that "the final goal is nothing ... the movement is everything."

It is the staple diet of reformism everywhere. Jeremy Paxman knew what he was about when he reportedly advised a former IRA prisoner to stop pretending he was still involved in a revolution.

The election ended up being a sectarian headcount. Sinn Fein and the DUP benefit from the forward momentum of each other. Sinn Fein, once it shafted Trimble prior to the November 2003 assembly election, effectively ensured the hegemony of the DUP within unionism. The spin off for Sinn Fein was that with Paisley installed as Big Chief Orange Face, Big Chief Green Face was needed to curb him. Gerry Adams, a long time ethnic warlord and the undisputed leader of sectarian nationalism was always better positioned than Mark Durkan to serve as a foil to the ethnic warlord now leading unionism.

Where it all goes from here is a moot point. The 'extremes' have been pulled onto the centre ground as society wonders whether it is broad enough to contain them. Or are they likely to outbid each other to the point where the whole edifice collapses under the weight of contradictions it was never designed to support? If the institutions are to survive until the crucial point of seeing policing and justice powers devolved the battle a day scenario predicted by Gerry Adams may have to be abandoned in favour of the Martin McGuinness prognosis of mutual back scratching. Wake us up when it's over.
















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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18 March 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

How I Almost Got My Ass Kicked at the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Lived to Tell About It
David Kruidenier

The Protestant 'Pat Finucane'
Father Sean Mc Manus, President, Irish National Caucus

Green Party Declines White House Invitation
Green Party Press Release

Assembly Needs an Opposition
David Adams

Belfast Hot Air
Anthony McIntyre

Citizen Tom
Dr John Coulter

A History of Nationalism in Ireland
Liam O Ruairc

Review of Challenging the New Orientalism
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Two Sides of a Coin
Dr John Coulter

Anthony McIntyre

Sinn Fein Batmen
Brian Mór

Launch of
Colm Mistéil

Reject the 'New' RUC
Republican Socialist Youth Movement

32 County Sovereignty Movement: Water Charges Are Illegal
Kevin Murphy

The National Irish Freedom Committee on Gerry McGeough
National Irish Freedom Committee

NIFC Free Form Video Discusses Elections, Abstentionism
Saerbhreathach Mac Toirdealbhaigh

America's 'Global War On Terrorism'
M. Shahid Alam

Iñaki de Juana Chaos
Anthony McIntyre

14 March 2007

Legal Aid Wrangle Continues
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Statements on the Arrest of Gerry McGeough

Campaign for Noel Maguire
TJ O Conchúir

Paisleyites & Peelers
Anthony McIntyre

Equating Spectacle at Stormont with United Irishmen is Perverse
Tommy Gorman

Seacht mbuicéad caca go dtite ar a gcinn
Michael Gillespie

Nothing But the Truth
John Kennedy

Snapshot, 1993: Voters' Rights, MI5 Wrongs
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

Broad Church for Unionism
Dr John Coulter

The Man Without the Mask
Anthony McIntyre

The New Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

UUP Possibilities
Dr John Coulter

Blinkered Vision
Anthony McIntyre

Damned by Debt Relief
Pauline Hadaway



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