Monday 30 November 2009

Fianna Fáil in Fermanagh

At the weekend Fianna Fáil set up another Forum in the north, this time in Enniskillen. It joins existing Fora in Downpatrick and in Crossmaglen, and there are plans to complete the encirclement of the border with Fora in Tyrone and Derry city, as well as the establishment of a Forum in Belfast.

As in the earlier Fora Fianna Fáil appears to be attracting support both from discontented members of the SDLP and Sinn Féin, thus living up to its reputation as a broad populist party. In Fermanagh it has reportedly received the support of Rosemary Flanagan (the SDLP candidate in the 2008 Enniskillen by-election) and Patricia Rogers (elected to Fermanagh District Council in 2005) of the SDLP, and of ex-SF Gerry McHugh MLA (also a Fermanagh Councillor since 1993).

These are not inconsequential supporters, and they demonstrate the potential of Fianna Fáil to provide the kind of broad and effective nationalist political representation that appears to be increasingly lacking.

Whether the party will field candidates in elections in the near future is, as yet, unclear. Amongst its norther members, though, a pressure group has been formed – 2011: Our Time is Now – to push for candidates in the two major elections due that year: for the Assembly and the (new?) district councils. If the pressure group is successful, the effect could be revolutionary – or it could be disastrous. If both other nationalist parties retain their independence, the nationalist vote could be split three ways, and some seats could be lost as a result. Of course, both 2011 elections will be fought under STV rules and so the outcome may not be so bad, as long as voters are willing to transfer between the parties. But if they don't, the outcome could be less than optimal. The ideal situation would be for Fianna Fáil to enter into a formal pact with the SDLP, but until the result of the SDLP leadership race is known, it is impossible to judge whether such a possibility is likely. One thing is certain, though – the next 18 months or so are going to be interesting from an electoral point of view.


Coll Ciotach said...

Horseman - I see your attitude has changed since Downpatrick. Were you at the launch? I would not have thought Flanagan would be described as enthusiastic.

I think the message is gettig through that FF is serious about the move north. They are doing it the right way. It comes from the ground up and therefor depends on local people to make the call. These launches are solely the iitiative of local people, HQ just facilitate them. This is the strength of FF. They are indeed attracting support from the entire spectrum, not only of Catholocs but also Protestants and Dissenters. The three major traditions are being represented.

You may say that the three way split may costs seats, even in a STV arrangement however I will give you an answer that I once heard Gerry Adams say many many years ago when SF were first standing in elections, "we will not split the vote but maximise it". Have a look at the nationalist voting patterns. People are not voting. The SDLP vote has gone down but were have they went? SF has a vote but how many of them are SF voters through and through compared to how many are purely tribal?

FF are here and they are here to stay. Whether or not they run in 2011, (I hope they do), they will be a political force in the future and will be a true 32 county Ireland

pippakin said...

Its Excellent if F/F are taking democracy seriously in NI. This will give people a true choice. Ireland is not just about the SDLP or S/F. Its about where its best to live where you can be conservative without being UUP or DUP. Its about being Labour without being S/F.

In short: Its about time!

Watcher said...

Pointless exercise.

hoboroad said...

I hope they do run candidates in 2011. They could win a few seats in the Assembly. I don't think there are going to be any district council elections in 2011 thanks to Edwin Poots and his sad little attempt at gerrymander. At last Nationalists will be able to support a true 32 county party that puts the Nation as a whole first.

Mack said...

It might help introduce some sort of centre-right / leftwing balance amongst nationalists in NI. Arguably mirroring the Tories & UUP / DUP amongst Unionists.

Will the left-wing of the SDLP merge with SF to produce a centre-left organisation that could, in turn, merge with Irish Labour (and provide a centre-left alternative government) in the south? (Which in turn could force another sensible realignment where FF and FG at least coalesce together as natural centre-right partners).

SF needs to move towards the centre (but stay left), as from where they are now in the south - it's difficult to see how they can sell Irish unity. I.e. They have a slightly extreme position that opposes the nature of the southern state on the one hand, but on the other they are committed to integrating the north with it. Surely there is a conflict there?

Mack said...

By the way, PR STV systems favour parties that are broadly centrist (although right or left flavoured).

That's why FF, FG and Labour are so big in terms of TD's in the south and the PDs and SF remain tiny & small respectively. Although it is possible for small parties to have disproportionate influence.

It's all about the transfers..

Nordie Northsider said...

Hoboroad wrote: 'At last Nationalists will be able to support a true 32 county party that puts the Nation as a whole first.'

Is this a joke? They have sabotaged the economy of the South in the interests of their cronies. They failed to organise in the Northern part of the Nation for the best part of a century. As for them standing in elections anytime soon, don't get your hopes up.

Mack said...

Nordie Northsider -

I imagine there is a reason you live on the northside of Dublin, and not Belfast..

They have sabotaged the economy of the South in the interests of their cronies

True, they have done a lot of damage. On balance though they have acheived far more than they will have destroyed.

They will have

1. Doubled the numbers employed int he state over 18 years

2. Built out some incredibly useful infrastructure (motorways, broadband, LUAS, port tunnel etc)

3. Increase GNP per capita from below the EU average to well above it (even after this recession ends). GNP per capita will be significantly above that of the UK

4. Built out the IFSC, Temple Bar etc.

5. Attracted world class companies (Google, Intel, Microsoft, Pfizer, Facebook etc)

6. Help lay the ground work for an economy that created Ryanair, CRH, Riverdeep, IMN, Kerry Group, Quinn Group etc

7. Over saw an economy that provides net wages that are amongst the highest in Europe.

andrewg said...

Good luck to them, but I don't see FF significantly changing the political landscape. The fundamental political divide will remain Unionist/Nationalist, rather than left/right. Surely we can think a bit more outside the box?

Nordie Nothsider said...

Hi Mack - I could very easily reply to your list of FF accomplishments (although ascribing all of them to FF is debatable in itself) with a litany of their scandals (Haughey, Ahern, Rambo et al), fuck-ups (electronic voting, the Bertie-bowl etc) and so on. I don't think that there would be much point. I suspect that you're probably a Fianna Fáil member, as of course is your right. But can you tell me why the Republican party neglected to organize on an all-Ireland basis until almost 90 years after partition? And don't give us the old 'We didn't want to undermine the SDLP' argument. The SDLP didn't exist for most of the period in question.

Watcher said...

Because they weren't interested in a United Ireland only in using it as a way to divert public attention, much like The Jews were used in Europe down the centuries.

Donnacha Maguire said...

Im delighted that this is happening. Though I not you refer to Rosemary Nelson being in support of it. As far as I know and according to the Times, she spoke against it? Can any one clarify that?

Coll Ciotach said...

Donnacha - much as I admired Rosemary Nelson I do not believe anyone has any insight into it. However Rosemary Flanagan was against. This shows the division within the SDLP. Her fellow Ritchie supporter Rogers immediately rebuffed her diatribe. It is handbags at dawn in the marshy fields of Fermanagh and it looks as though only one of Ritchies soldiers will be coming back.

dub said...


hoboroad said...

Yes it is Gerry McHugh the MLA from Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Phil Flanagan said...

Sinn Féin Councillor for Erne West, Phil Flangan has commented on the launch of Fianna Fáil in Fermanagh:

"I welcome anyone who feels that they can help to bring about the reunification of this island to the political arena in Fermanagh, but I would urge caution on those who believe that Fianna Fáil are now a 32 county republican party.

This county has long been forgotten about by governments in Belfast & London, but Dublin has been just as bad, and Fianna Fáil are as guilty as any for this negligence.

"Where were Fianna Fáil when the people of Fermanagh needed them?

"I find it astounding that now, in the middle of an economic crisis that is crippling the 26 counties, Fianna Fáil feel that they have something productive to offer politics in the North of Ireland, and especially the people of Fermanagh. Let us not forget that Fianna Fáil have been the majority party of a coalition government since 1997 and that their greed and dodgy dealings are to blame for the crisis in the south.

"The current Fianna Fáil Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, has branded southern shoppers that come to places like Enniskillen to carry out their shopping as 'unpatriotic'. Fianna Fáil are clearly a partitionist party and their policy of encouraging shoppers to remain loyal to the 26 counties reinforces this.

"Southern trade is really the only thing moving the economy in Fermanagh. All construction and manufacturing work has effectively come to a stand still thanks to the greed of the banks and the building developers that Fianna Fáil so desperately seek to protect.

"What have the working class people got out of all the boom years? Nothing. When a home owner cannot afford to meet their mortgage repayments, are they afforded any help or support? No, they are just turfed out on the street.

"Is this the type of representation we need in the North? Where only the already rich are looked after, and the poor are tramped further into the ground?"

Mack said...

Nordie Northsider -

Not a member of FF, but I am sympathetic - at least some of the time. I've no idea why they didn't organise prior to this, they may have felt the conditions weren't right before (i.e. they wouldn't have been able to achieve anything).

hoboroad said...

Peter Quinn was at the Fermanagh meeting of Fianna Fail. Mr Quinn's brother is Sean Quinn Ireland's richest man according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Anonymous said...

Mack said:

"Not a member of FF, but I am sympathetic - at least some of the time. I've no idea why they didn't organise prior to this, they may have felt the conditions weren't right before (i.e. they wouldn't have been able to achieve anything)."

Yes, I'd agree, the conditions certainly weren't right in the late eighties and early nineties, when SF/IRA types were being gunned down left, right and centre. FF types didn't fancy ending up on the same lists.

Faha said...

FF may need to make a decision about competing in elections much sooner than 2011. Edwin Poots has already stated that if the Executive does not agree to his revised 11 Super Council Plan then elections to the current 26 councils will occur next year- probably at the same time as the Westminster elections ( this also occurred in 2005 ). The current crisis over the devolution of police and justice could result in early Assembly elections in 2010. SF politicians have already hinted that if a date for policing and justice is not agreed upon by Christmas then they may walk away from the Assembly, thus precipitating an election. Will FF compete in 2010 and do they have the time to organize for Assembly and District Council election if they were held in May 2010 ? If they do not then it is a long time until the next elections in 2014.