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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Price the Working Classes Pay For a Pedestal These Days
Mick Hall • 18 January 2004

After last year's Assembly elections in the north of Ireland, most commentators in the Media seemed to feel Sinn Fein is on an ever-upward march. They are now the largest 'nationalist' party, as far as votes cast for, in the North of Ireland and using the same criteria the second largest 'Republican Party,' behind Fianna Fail in the South. During the last two elections on both sides of the border, they have been able to steadily increase the number of votes cast for them. However the question that now needs asking is this, is much of this deceptive? Or can SF carry on moving forward on it's ever upward march to eventually become the largest Party on the Island.…

In the North further political expansion on the part of SF is by no means a forgone conclusion. It is possible that SF may continue as they have in the recent past to take votes from the SDLP, but this is far from being certain, depending as it does on whether PIRA destroys the overwhelming part of their weaponry. That they continue to hold these weapons almost ten years since the first PIRA ceasefire frightens the life out of the northern 'nationalist' middle classes as much if not more than their Unionist middle class neighbours. Unless the aforementioned happens accompanied by a major electoral break through by SF in the South, it is hard to see the northern Catholic middle classes going over en masse from the SDLP to SF. As we can dismiss out of hand northern Protestants becoming a source of votes for SF, the Party therefore has little room to manoeuvre politically as far as increasing it vote in the north is concerned.

In the South of Ireland Sinn Fein has basically reached the point the Workers Party once attained as far as members of the Dail is concerned, Today SF has five TD's; the WP and its off shoots once had six. The core support base of both SF and the WP at its height lay in working class areas. There is room for SF to expand and develop its support base in these areas and to date it has done so with some success. Its candidates, political activists and elected representatives work hard canvassing and serving their constituencies. The Workers Party is a shadow of its former self having been split asunder by defections and political differences. Whilst the Irish Labour Party hold on the allegiance of the Southern working classes looks increasingly frail, under their current leader, who at one time belonged to the WP stable, it seems to have recognised this and has of late been aiming its propaganda at the liberal middle classes, a la the UK’s New Labour Party.

SF electoral advancement in Eire depends on the path Gerry Adams and his small coterie of advisors maps out for it. Even if SF were to gain the allegiance of all of the south's working class voters, it would still be in the position of the LP and WP before it. That is to play any role in an 'Irish' government, the best it could hope for is to be a minority partner in a Fianna Fail led coalition. On reading statements and articles from leading SF members it increasingly looks that Adams aims to move the Party towards the centre ground, indeed this process has already started. Whilst hoping to retain the working classes votes as New Labour has in Britain and the Clinton Democrats did in the US by the simple process of letting the working class know that they have no where else to go electorally, and must get used to the fact of living in the hope of SF, if it gains power, throwing them the odd scrap from the masters table. To me this seems a very risky strategy born of a certain arrogance if not ignorance. Although, it has to be said, it worked for Clinton and to date unbelievably continues to do so for Blair. Although for how long is any one's guess. If one takes into account that Sinn Fein only has approximately 5,000 members throughout the island of Ireland, the vast majority of whom are working class or the less well off in the rural areas, which incidentally is one of the reasons that makes them so attractive to the Irish working classes in the first place and possibly so unattractive beyond a few SF leaders to the Irish middle classes on both sides of the border, the risks involved in aiming at the centre ground become pretty stark.… Although it is true and it's importance should not be overlooked that SF does have a wheel barrow full of money in its coffers. Although even this may become a burden as SF’s political opponents will increasingly demand to know how much and where this cash originated.

Also one cannot help wondering if Sinn Fein is to continue the move to the centre ground politically, if Adams and co have not failed to take into account the tenacious nature of the Party they will have to defeat to do so. In the South Fianna Fail will be a formidable opponent; it can in no way be compared with the SDLP who have been SF's main 'nationalist' rivals in the north for decades. In many ways FF is a mirror image of Adams' post cease fire SF, having grown from the same Irish Republican tree. Like Adams' SF, it claims to be all things to all men, it understands the bar room brawl, close quarter, Tammanny Hall aspect of Irish politics, having practised it for decades; legality is not a matter of principle, whereas winning is. Having been the governing Party more often than not once De Valera recognised the legitimacy of the Free State, it knows where all the 'bodies are buried' as far as southern Irish society is concerned, having had a hand in turning the sod in which many of them are beneath.

There is another pressing reason why Adams is likely to increasingly turn towards the centre. The strategy of steadily increasing Sinn Fein’s working class constituency and becoming the major party of the left in Ireland has a major flaw as far as Adams leadership is concerned. It will increasingly force him and his party to come into conflict with his financial backers within Green Corporate America. The more so if SF enters into government in the South as a minority partner, as the interests of these green Corporations and the Irish working classes are in direct contradiction. Just as important to Adams is the fact that if he goes down this road the best he can hope for is for SF to be a minority player in any southern government. Thus it will not be in a position to force through an agenda of reuniting the country, something he has promised his hard line Republican supporters by 2016.

One cannot but feel that Sinn Fein's move to the political centre in the South is driven by the motor of Gerry Adams' personal ambition and the place, as of right, he sees for himself in Irish history. In this I fear he is doomed to fail. If the sacrifices made by the members of the Provisional Republican Movement and the working class communities from whence they came and who nurtured them in their darkest days are to have any lasting memorial and if Adams continues to choose to take the aforementioned road to the political centre, the membership of Sinn Fein should reject Adams, politely thank him and send him on his way. Perhaps by proposing him for President of Ireland or some such token job for politicians who have outlived their usefulness and suffer from the sin of vanity. If there is no vacancy for the 'job', I'm sure his new found pals in Green Corporate America can find him a visiting professorship in conflict resolution, at some US university, with a few part time directorships thrown in to ease his retirement.

Sinn Fein could then get on with the only viable and dignified option open to it. That is becoming the leading party of the Irish left, north and south and representing and supporting the interest of the very people who have given so much to place the likes of Gerry Adams on his pedestal.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

20 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Demise of the Dinosaur?
Eamon Sweeney


The Price the Working Classes Pay for a Pedestal These Days
Mick Hall


The One Eyed Observer

Anthony McIntyre


The Spark in Jeffery
John Fitzharris


Anti-Racism Rally

Davy Carlin


32CSM Condemns PIRA Shooting of Republican Activist
Andy Martin


Semantics of Empire
M. Shahid Alam


16 January 2004


Response by the Maghaberry POWs to the 'Compact Propsals for Separated Prisoners
PRO Maghaberry POWs


Horses or Zebras?
Paul Fitzsimmons


The Future of Iran

Pedram Moallemian


Anthony McIntyre


A State of the Union Address

Eamon Sweeney




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