It has been a tough presidential campaign for Martin McGuinness. He entered with a bang and despite giving it his best shot now seems destined to exit with a whimper. The decibels from the early days of his campaign could no longer drown out the questions that were being asked of him about an IRA past he suggested was mischievously manufactured.  The war in the North was probably less damaging to his prospects than its overspill into the South. A public prepared to waive its misgivings about the use of arms against British troops and cops in the North tended to frown when those targeted were Irish soldiers or guards. The confrontation with David Kelly in Athlone seemed to change the public mood. Since then McGuinness has found the going uphill and bogged down. 

Not for the first time has Sinn Fein found itself accused of trying to bunk into some political institution without coughing up the entrance fee. In the currency of any democratic society part of the coinage is scrutiny. In this country’s presidential election Sinn Fein through its irritable objections gives the impression of not wanting to pay.  Much of its response to critical questioning rings evasive, a diversion sign aimed at redirecting public attention toward some contrived fracas and away from the dispute at the toll booth. When the dust settled and the eyes returned the party was still seen as insisting on not wanting to pay for its ticket.

The upshot has been an image which shows that despite seven contenders vying for the trophy, one player alone thinks it, not the referee, may determine the position of the touchlines within which the contest shall take place, and that it may also adjudicate on when an attack is ruled offside. This works only if you get away with it. Fail to do so and you end up hearing the blown whistle each time you seek to make an advance.

The extent to which the peace process has corroded public intellectual life is flagged up by this. Too often free inquiry has been subverted by it, while the art of accuracy has lain prostate in front of it. In the North Peace Process was the ever ready siren that would race up behind any debate, blue lights flashing, demanding that discussion pull over to the side and give way to it. Similarly, in today’s discourse about the merits and demerits of the candidates’ suitability for the Aras, Peace Process blares its warning each time Martin McGuinness is posed a question he considers awkward, invariably about his IRA career.

Prior to setting out on this campaign Sinn Fein should have considered that one obstacle on the road to the Aras is the extent to which republicanism in general and the peace process in particular has failed to legitimise the Provisional IRA’s armed struggle in the minds of the Southern electorate. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of that campaign it is certainly not endowed with the weight of legitimacy afforded to the War of Independence. Double standards or not, it is what it is.

Against such a cultural milieu it would be a paradox were Martin McGuinness not to be asked IRA related questions. By denying his past he denudes his role in it of authenticity. By labelling as murderers many of those who were his colleagues and military subordinates, he casts a shadow of criminality over the IRA campaign he directed. For what else is murder but criminality? He has given full support to a police force that is allowed by the political terms he helped negotiate to investigate the past from an evidentiary perspective with a view to prosecuting individuals for any act carried out by the IRA during its campaign. In doing so he legitimises the British police investigation and delegitimizes what is being investigated. Through his delegitimizing and de-authenticating of the IRA past, he makes the case for more investigation of it by an agency he deems legitimate and authentic. If the PSNI has a right to ask questions of it why not the media?

Nor is the wider discussion one of the past alone. There remains the issue of the present in which McGuinness is perceived to be masking the past. The media genuinely and collectively believe that McGuinness had a senior IRA role in the past about which he is dissembling in the present. It would have absolutely no claim to a shred of credibility if it failed to pursue its beliefs. To acquiesce in a political narrative it strongly suspected as untrue would leave the media susceptible to the charge that it stood idly by while something ersatz but posing as the genuine article was smuggled past the electorate. Is this what any society wants from its media?

The Southern media has often proved inept in handling the powerful in Irish society. That major sections of it echoed Bertie Ahern’s advice to economist Morgan Kelly to commit suicide when he predicted the economic downturn is an indication of how poorly it has at times served the society on whose behalf it is supposed to scrutinize. 

In the light of such failings is society better served by a media that simply tails its politicians or by one that vigorously questions them? The past of Martin McGuinness might not be so terrible to those of us who share it and who do not see him as some Derry gangster who was involved in an aggregated crime wave. As this is a narrative held by a small minority on the island, it can hardly justify the call for a moratorium on discussion of that past particularly in the midst of an election when the public has a right to know what it is being offered.


  1. Attitude to deaths of free tate personel is always a litmus test for a nordy down here. It always raises its head.

    Campaign dead in the water now. My wife has instructed me to vote Mickeybhoy...'D' Higgins that is. That's my vote sorted then.

  2. AM-

    The Election is not over yet
    [ well it is on a few islands ]
    Another few days left and the joker of the pack pat kenny to play tonight-

  3. Michaelhenry,

    just a viewpoint. Your man might yet win it but I doubt it very much. I think Larry is right when he says the matter will always raise its head down here. Whoever goes out canvassing tonight deserves to win it!

  4. Michaelhenry,

    McGuinness damaged Gallagher on tonight's debate but I doubt if it will add to his own chances.

  5. "By labelling as murderers many of those who were his colleagues and military subordinates, he casts a shadow of criminality over the IRA campaign he directed. For what else is murder but criminality?"


    There was a PSF money making do, £30 a head; on in the Guildhall on Saturday night. Supposedly for the Derry Graves, but sure how much money does it take to tend graves anyway?

    One of those branded by McGuinness as a 'murderer' Bik attended, as did the self-proclaimed peacemaker, Saint Martin, himself.

    I ask you, are ideals and self respect sold so readily by some that they could even stand in the same room as someone who did what Thatcher failed to do and still call himself a Republican?

  6. Mackers in my day McGuinness usually got others to damage people, if you know what I mean?

    And funnily enough it was usually people who asked awkward questions.

  7. AM-

    The kid done good tonight-

    And still a few more days to put the boot in more- it aint over yet-

  8. I'm on a roll tonight Mackers...Or should that be a rant?


    Connolly saw McGuinness and Adams coming, years before they were even born...

    "The problem was not how to defeat a nation in arms battling for all that makes life worth living, but how to fool a nation without arms into becoming the accomplice of its oppressor. And the strategic move in question is already being hailed as a great landmark of national progress.

    Yes, ruling by fooling, is a great British art – with great Irish fools to practice on."

    James Connolly 1914

  9. 2nd attempt at posting this, RE; Jims Seomra Staire an Lorgain this mans work and collection is a must see and you can get a taste of it by going to slide show,

  10. Tomorrow it will be all over bar the shouting. It looks like MMcG will come in a respectable third based on the latest opinion polls. Never in the contest to win the objectives set by Sinn Fein will be relatively achieved. The party's decision to nominate and candidate for the Presidential elections was the natural out workings of the strategy to grow the party north and south. The party's efforts to make itself more relevant to the people in the south will also have been enhanced by this move.

    No doubt Sinn Fein factored in FF's recent electoral meltdown and are deliberately targeting it's voter base. Given the historical trajectory of both parties SF sees itself as a natural home for many FF voters. It is hoped that FF's losses will be SF's gains in the future.

    When the votes are counted SF will not be disappointed by its performance overall. It will be the case of a good hob done and onward and upward.

  11. Ah but Alec as I pointed out over in Gallagher is clearly backed by FF and I'm sure the people know this.

    Therefore if he wins by the margin it seems he'll win by then it's clear that the voters prefer someone representative of a party which nearly wrecked the country rather than a liar and self-proclaimed peacemaker.

    It'll also be an indicator that the southern voter would return to FF when FG/Labour have their turn at fecking things up!

    However I do think the sooner PSF get into government the sooner we'll see the end to them down there. When the people really see them for what they are....

  12. Anthony,

    A day is a long time in politics, or so it seems.

    Martin intrexicably linking Gallagher to FF seems to have damaged his campaign at the final hurdle – we will have to wait 48hrs to see if it was fatal. Interesting that being linked to FF could be as damaging as linked to the IRA in the minds of the 'moderate' electorate – shows how toxic the FF brand may be.

    Also strange it took a man associated with cross-border commerce of the fuel kind, such a staple of IRA funding over the decades, to throw a spanner into Gallagher’s machine – I’d have thought the danger from this kind of business link would have been more a risk for the shinner not the dragon.

    Will be interesting to see which history the southern electorate sees as more toxic - FF or IRA.

    Personally I think a decent result for Martin is less of a threat to the future of Ireland than people starting to reacclimatise to the gombeen bastards of FF via Gallagher - the people that really did sell a nation out while in power. I also think McGuinness is now back on course for his best possible outcome – 17+% 1st preference and being in the final 2/3 standing.

    But, I'm hoping MHD wins and both FF and SF punch each other out. Maybe then next time there’ll be a credible ULA candidate fronting up a genuine anti-establishment voice…

    (though my secular saint always backs lost causes)

  13. Who would have thought a South Armagh 'provo' smuggler would be wheeled out by his buddies in SF to sink Gallagher? Does the desire to inflict massive cross-contamination signal a resingnation to defeat by SF?

    Very dirty and blatant set-up, vintage provo politics. Well-honed on their own over three+ decades.

    MickeyD...only decent candidate...well along with sister Dana.

    Irelands cute hoors are alive and well in Gallagher, and if they get the referendum through the TDs will be even more water tight than the bankers next time around. Great to see such forward vision in the Dail.

  14. Dixie,

    I agree with all your points. My post was attempting to reflect the thought process behind MMcG's nomination. Mackers and I discussed the meltdown of FF at the last elections and its implications for the party. I said then and posted here that I believed FF was too big a force in society to go down the tubes. It is more than simply a political party with roots that are embedded in Irish political culture.

    Yes, it is amazing that after the selfish behavior of the bankers and developers the people favor one of them as their next President. This says more about a people who have showed little or no guts for a fight with those who have destroyed the country economically than it does about Gallagher.

    Your last point is something that I have been saying from a long time. The sooner the big lie i.e. that Sinn Fein will achieve reunification via the bourgeois democratic structures in the south, is exposed the better. They will fair no better than FF in this regard.

  15. So much for sending a big gun south when he intentionally left his arsenal back in Derry and marched off to conquer the quasi Republic. His major mistake being he displayed a lack of confidence long before he crossed the imaginary border. The fact that he took a hiatus from his office was a major blunder. If he had resigned to seriously with conviction to pursue and capture the vote in the south he may well have garnished some respect from on the fence voters.

    Win or lose the spin of the shins will tout this as a victory and Martin shall be none the worse for wear and won’t be joining the ranks of the unemployed.

    The ambitiousness of a compromising party in both the long and short term can only spell disaster for the Island. Napoleon and his failed haste campaign springs to mind PSF with their haste in a failed political strategy will surely meet their winter.