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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Jockeying for Position


Dr John Coulter • 23 October 2006

Move your big Northern guns into the South – that's how the Shinners will stand any chance of notching up between a dozen to 15 seats in 2007's Dail elections.

And changing their choice of nominee for Northern Deputy First Minister from Martin McGuinness to the 'squeaky clean' – in Provo terms – Mitchel McLaughlin will surely wipe the eye of the Paisley camp over the allegiance oath on policing.

Then again, if the Shinners do swear an oath to support law and order, the cops and the Policing Board, why not go the whole hog and take the oath of allegiance at Westminster and take their five Commons seats?

The problem with McGuinness as Deputy nominee is not his skills as a Sinn Fein negotiator, but that he was once the self-confessed second in command of the Provos in Derry. Then there's all the as yet unproven and unfounded allegations of the Mid Ulster MP being a British agent like the former – and now murdered – Sinn Fein Stormont administration chief Denis Donaldson.

In Unionists eyes, McLaughlin has no track records with the IRA. In Sinn Fein eyes, where does this senior Shinner go now that SDLP boss Mark Durkan has firmly secured the Foyle Westminster seat – especially if the SDLP does the smart thing and merges with Fianna Fail?

The main plank in Sinn Fein's Dail '07 campaign is that it is a truly all-island party. How does Fianna Fail combat this reality? Simple; just organise in the North by forming an official partnership with the SDLP, or rather swallow up the SDLP!

There's been a lot of gossip – especially in dissident republican circles – that South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane – another 'squeaky clean' Shinner – could also be a replacement nominee for McGuinness.

But that would leave a massive gap in South Down where Ruane has been building a fairly impressive power base waiting for SDLP stalwart Eddie McGrady to retire.

SDLP MLA and former Down District Council chairwoman Margaret Ritchie would be a hot tip to replace Eddie on the constitutional nationalist ticket.

She has already established a strong political persona within South Down – but would her personal SDLP ticket be enough to outgun the increasingly popular Ruane, who became a big hit with republicans with her involvement with the Colombia Three saga?

Now Ritchie running on a Fianna Fail ticket – that's a combination which could take some beating, even by Ruane's achievements.

The only wild card in the scenario is tactical voting by Unionists to keep Ruane out – or even such an finely split nationalist/republican vote, it allows an agreed Unionist candidate the seat.

However, in sectarian head-count terms, these are not the glory days of former MP Enoch Powell and his waffer-thin Unionist majorities. In hard, number-crunching terms – are there enough pro-Union voters to clinch the seat?

Once Auld Eddie hands in his political chips, the Commons seat is in grave danger of slipping into the Shinners' paws just as Conor Murphy snatched neighbouring Newry and Armagh when former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon retired.

Mind you, don't rule out the bold Conor as a dark horse nominee for Deputy should the Sinn Fein leadership decide to 'retire' Martin from the race to save the St Andrews Agreement.

But the last thing the Shinners want is to fight two elections on the island next year – the Dail General Election and an Assembly election. That would prove an enormous drain on funds.

The Shinners have five Dail seats, but apart from parachuting MEP Mary Lou McDonald into Dublin Central, the party badly needs the use of some Northern cannons to even pass the 10-seat mark, let alone chalk up 15.

With 15 seats, the Shinners could be in a strong bargaining position to negotiate with Taioseach Bertie Ahern about forming a coalition government with Fianna Fail, and persuading Bertie to dump the Progressive Democrats.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

25 October 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

From Up the Ra to Up the Rozzers
Anthony McIntyre

Just Say No
Martin Galvin

Whither Irish Republicanism
Mick Hall

The Three Stooges
John Kennedy

Jockeying For Position
Dr John Coulter

An Irish Agreement
Liam O Comain

Up the Garden Path
John Kennedy

A Gaelic Experiement
Nathan Dowds

Preventing Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre

16 October 2006

Friday the 13th — The Most Terrifying Deal Ever Done!
Tom Luby

Black Friday
Anthony McIntyre

When No Means Yes
Dr John Coulter

Blowin' In The Wind
John Kennedy

Time to Conclude NI Process
David Adams

Once Bitten
Anthony McIntyre

Dysfunctional Family Values
Mick Hall

Racism: The Social Uniter?
Dr John Coulter

Nobody Home
John Kennedy

'The Revolution is the People'
Jane Horgan-Jones



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