Ideological Turnaround

Anthony McIntyre, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, postulates the view that:

Michelle O'Neill appointment consistent with Sinn Fein's ideological turnaround as it aims to shed military past

A day after a PSNI member is injured in a North Belfast shooting, Sinn Fein appoints Michelle O’Neill as their replacement for Martin McGuinness. Although a matter of hours separate both events the gulf between the current Sinn Fein and Sunday’s armed attack can only be measured in light years. 

The appointment of O’Neill, much more pronounced and important than calls from Gerry Kelly for informers to come forward with information about Sunday’s armed incident, is entirely consistent with Sinn Fein’s ongoing and sustained abandonment of its revolutionary past and the comprehensive embracing of constitutionalism.

The symbolism should not be understated. The incumbents of the political careers bequeathed by the IRA’s armed struggle are stamping the party imprimatur on the IRA’s catastrophic failure to secure an end to British rule by churning out leaders essentially not all that different from those that led the SDLP in opposition to the IRA’s armed campaign. 

Sinn Fein has no shortage of former high profile IRA prisoners serving as MLAs from which to choose a new leader for its Stormont Assembly team. That it opted not to is indicative of its persistent and irreversible journey away from its former self.

Military actions (subject to the odd exception if the PSNI is to be believed about the killing of Kevin McGuigan) are very much a thing of the past as the poacher vies with rivals to become the best gamekeeper on the manor. 

The handover of the reins to Michelle O’Neill, seeing former IRA figures like Gerry Kelly, Sean Lynch and Pat Sheehan inter alia overlooked, suggests that something more than a mere generational change is taking place.

Leadership is not just being passed from the old to the young but also from the military to the civilian.

Party boss Gerry Adams, in the wake of McGuinness’s departure, is easily the most prominent martial politician amongst those greying figures left standing on the bridge between military past and constitutional present.

With Martin McGuinness gone and Adams’ deficiencies persistently laid bare in the South, the Louth TD will look increasingly out of place as he strives valiantly but vainly to assert his “alternative facts” in a party fronted increasingly by women like Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald for whom alternative facts are the source of never ending discomfort.

This is even when for the sake of optics and a display of party unity they pretend to believe them.

The DUP, sensing the competing strains at play, is depicting O’Neill as one more dummy for the ventriloquist. In the wake of the announcement the Arleen Foster-led party took to tweeting a large image of Gerry Adams with a diminutive Michelle O’Neill safely ensconced in his breast pocket. Their summation: a different deputy, same problem.

There is nothing complicated about the DUP pitch: despite the democratic veneer, the appointment of a non-martial politician to lead Sinn Fein in the North, the caudillo and his camarilla are still pulling the strings.

A clear declaration of intent by the DUP to fight a bruising election battle, it leaves Sinn Fein to ponder the strategic matter of whether Michelle O’Neill can galvanise the party vote and energise the voters.

If Gerry Adams being replaced by Paul Maskey as MP for West Belfast is indicative of future projections the trend will not be upward. 

How popular the appointment will be within Sinn Fein remains a matter for conjecture. O’Neill was part of the Assembly team that has been accused of “roll over republicanism”. Martin McGuinness’s palpable physical frailty came to personify an assembly team malaise which saw it swallow ignominy after insult and which up until it collapsed the Power Splitting Executive, responded to DUP slap downs as if they were pats on the back.

The deference rather than defiance shown to the DUP, so inflamed the “sectarian” ire of the party grassroots, that it felt sufficiently emboldened to trump the careerist cartel which the DUP had strategically banked on refusing to upend the institutions. 

The corollary: if Sinn Fein fails to increase its vote and share of Assembly seats under Michelle O’Neill’s leadership, coupled with the possibility of the DUP ceding no ground to the UUP or TUV, it will lead to her position being vulnerable.

Unlike Martin McGuinness she is far from unassailable. 


  1. Good assessment. The reality is that rather than wanting to over take the SDLP for republican aims they actually wanted to become the SDLP. The irony is that as they perform the Judas kiss in turn on each volunteer who stuck with them, the only one left at the end of the 'transformation' will be the beard himself. Thy are talking tough for the purpose of saving their own jobs after the endless humiliation from the DUP. Arlene will be returned with a bigger vote and the word 'NO' will be the only currency of value post election. Anything SF thought they previously negotiated will be without value, AGAIN. The entire UK and Ireland are being dictated to by an Orange Gazza Strip of North Down and Mid Antrim.

  2. AM

    Not that sure what you are getting at here, the problem with the high profile IRA prisoners serving as MLAs is not one of them wants to be their own man, their politics evolved during a period when they were part of a military cadre, for most an officer caste at that. Thus the have always seen the republican movement top down.

    While I don't know Michelle O’Neill personally as a 'minister' she has by all accounts been able and diligent and her politics are what they are, on the left with a dollop of Irish nationalist compromise, which is no surprise as historically that is what nationalists have always done. Whether she has the steel to take the DUP on time will tell, the lesson from the McGuiness years is continuing to bend the knee to a bunch of DUP rightwing bigots is not the way forward.

    Whether I agreed with it or not, the Chuckle Brothers; the early years, did help bed the Assembly down, and after years of war that was what the majority of the people in the north wanted, and who can blame them. Times change and the Mockney democracy of the north is passed its sell by date, whether the unionists are willing to move to a normal democratic system similar to the Scottish Parliamentary system is doubtful, this would mean renegotiating the Good Friday agreement, etc. If not O'Neill should start playing hard ball.

    As to McGuinness, without the protection of political office, it will be interesting to see, if he lives that long, whether the vultures will come knocking with handcuffs or writs in hand.

  3. At your usual best with that article a chara,mind youI,m of the opinion this anointment of a clean leader is the Kitsionian effect,ie, total disemboweling of the animal PIRA and therefore one has to ask who exactly pulls the strings?that Adams alone made this final decision makes me all the more convinced that o,Neills appointment is more than just a social climbing party "moving on"methinks its just another well choregraphed movement of pawns by whitehalls men in grey suits ,Westminster next ?

  4. AM

    Come on now!

    Everyone surely fully realises the ideological turn was taken over thirty years ago.
    Implementation has been slow alright, yet it was all predicted. And predicted on several cases of precedent to boot.

    That said though, this older and wiser man, now accepts the inevitability of it all ... if not yet totally dispassionately. The inherent dishonesty of all that Sinn Féin persists with is still hard to fathom and stomach. As expressed here often before, I've come to understand and believe that the All-Ireland Republican doctrine is nothing more than a myth, a face-saving myth hung onto by the southern state for far to long and one that placed northern nationalists in a bind of continued servitude or revolt. Now we're living out yet another face saving lie. Another lie and this time visited upon us primarily by Sinn Féin.

    Seems to me as if the SDLP were indeed the real show all the time!
    Reasonable and thoughtful people throughout the North couldn't do much worse than continued representation by Sinn Féin and the DUP. If asked, and wishful as it may be I'd encourage them to vote and vote accordingly. Vote and vote anyone but DUP and SF.

  5. As usual an excellent article from the author. The appointment of O Neill was heavily critised by the DUP’s attack dog, Gregory Campbell, as reported by Suzanne Breen in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph. Campbell kept harping on about the Republican’s Movement past military campaign and how it must repent if it wants to be treated like a democratic political party.

    What I found most striking about the article was how conciliatory Nesbitt of the UUP was and how it was about business not personalities. If SF wants to keep their jobs and get the institutions up and running then they would have a better chance of doing a deal with the UUP rather than the DUP.

    Unfortunately that’s not going to happen and the person largely to blame is Adams. During the early stages of the peace process he kept dragging out the whole process, in order to gain more concessions from Trimble, until the UUP were finally eclipsed by the DUP.

    By all accounts it would appear that the electoral arithmetic of next month’s elections will remain the same.

    What goes around comes around.

  6. If we take his leaving comments at face value,I wont ever understand the Unionist lack of reciprocity to MMG. He more than any other (former) Republican made saddennning gestures to the British ruling institutions, particularly the Queen, and in criminalising current Republicans. I doubt his replacement will have the politcal capitcal for such gestures, so it will be interesting what dynamics are at play in the future. Also wonder if the institutions would of collapsed if Adams had been topppled after the Castro funeral revelations on touting.

  7. Repackaging or even reforming the SF leadership will do nothing to change the fact that the party is inherently corrupt and power hungry. Just like the DUP, whom they were joined at the hip with before Stormont collapsing, they both depend on the tribal aspect of politics here and need to go, badly. Did Robinson's successor to the DUP (who is only in her 40's and was a child herself during the conflict) suddenly make it a more forward thinking party that was any less corrupt? No, but the DUP leadership change did benefit them in the last election in May 2016 where they increased their share of the vote and at the expense of SF. Could SF have learned from this? It would seem the decision for McGuinness to step down and call for an election was part of a carefully calculated plan to capitalize on the DUP's failings while at the same time, rejuvenating the party with a new leader to ensure the party is returned with a larger majority (or even more worryingly, having a SFer returned as First Minister). Especially when he said himself that he intended on standing down as DFM on the elections last May as it represented 10 years since him and Paisley began working together. I do hope AM is right in saying that SF could continue going downward if it really is only people like McGuinness and Adams being the glue that is keeping everything together, then again they do have a vibrant youth wing too..Interesting times ahead either way, I really hope PBP continue to make significant gains in this election although I do worry that the Nationalist and Catholic communities have been convincingly hoodwinked by SF and their latest political stunt.

  8. I think unfortunately for unionism they cannot 'see the wood for the trees' politically speaking. Corruption wise they see everything very well indeed. Northern Ireland is safe. SF are a partitionist party with a designated leader in both jurisdictions. RCs are voting for SF not as support for militant nationalism but as a means of ensuring its permanent demise. Unionism on the other hand, if they again return the DUP and Foster's little toxic gang will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the longer term.

  9. Oh fuck the DUP, they are a bunch of self-serving holier than thou hypocrites with a heavy dose of idiocy sprinkled liberally about their prayer/party room. Fuck them out!

  10. We need to get beyond, every thing SF does is a conspiracy hatched up within Gerry's mind. For Irish republicanism and society across the island as a whole, for Michelle O'Neill to take up the leadership of SF in the north is a massive historic event, it's also an indicator of how far the party has changed. Yet few have felt worth mentioning what stares them in the face. Ireland has been and still is to a certain degree a misogynist society, one only has to look at the lack of a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body to understand this. So credit where credit is due when Sinn Féin appoints a woman to lead the party in the north, surely?

  11. Organised Rage

    In a very popular Northern Ireland word.... 'NO'

  12. Mick if quisling $inn £eind were genuine re Irish language act ,why didn't they include it in their programme for govt paper ,if they left Stormont because they felt the need to protect the institutions re RHI scandal ,then why have they sat on this knowledge for over a year,Decciebroy Kearney the quisling apologist said that the RHI was the tipping point of 10 years of the DUP,s wrongdoing yet a few weeks earlier they set out their programme for govt ,and everything was ticketybo, Mick you are a quisling $inn £eind groupie and that's your prerogative , but please don't piss down my back and tell me its raining ,your darling micro minister Michellebroy O Neill will carry on where that waster cronie Martybroy left of i.e administering British rule for a conservative govt hell bent on bringing us back to the good ole Victorian times and all you see is a new shovel for the same shit , Mick gender doesn't matter when it comes to quisling $inn £eind none of them have balls, now if you want a real woman capable of leading then give Nicola Sturgeon a nod.

  13. Mick most thinking republicans would tell you that those conspiracies you accredit to the quisling $inn £eind president for life and beyond like his speeches come from further afield than his mind , in true fashion he spends his own thinking time with a thumb up his bum and his mind in neutral,,

  14. Larry Hughes
    How are RCs voting for SF to "ensure it's permanent demise"? It seems to me that many just swallow the SF rhetoric and swear blind loyalty to a party that has continued to betray them, time and time again. Then when confronted with any kind of criticism of the party, the same lines comes from their supporters "what's your alternative" or "dissident!" Fact is, they maintain a strong mandate north and south of the border, which is both impressive and deeply concerning for an MI5 led party. I want to believe what you're saying is right though, perhaps the cessation of military ties within the party could lead to many within republican circles to abandon the party altogether (since the past still runs deep) but I guess only time will tell.

  15. Voting quisling $inn £eind does,nt make you a victim ,it makes you an accomplice

  16. AM, I wonder if you remember this exchange we had last year:

    I thought we were experiencing some subterfuge that would reveal itself over time, I think this has been supported with the current sequence of events,albeit the Brexit context was wrong. With MMG diagnosis meaning he would be taking leave of his duties,and if Adams had been forced from the stage too,PSF could not of fought an election in such a climate, the institutions in Stormont would still be standing.

  17. Organised Rage,

    'We need to get beyond, every thing SF does is a conspiracy hatched up within Gerry's mind. For Irish republicanism and society across the island as a whole, for Michelle O'Neill to take up the leadership of SF in the north is a massive historic event.'

    Like much else pertaining to the last twenty years, a massive Orwellian event may be a more accurate description. In thinking Sinn Fein radical rather than critically you have missed something. The promotion of a female to a position of leadership within a political party is old hat. O'Neill's elevation is a hand me down in a UK, where most of the regions are dominated by female led parties. It is mimicry rather than mould-breaking. Outside of the eye candy it's impact on future political events appear inconsequential to a party craven to the eternal leaders legacy.

    "The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."

  18. P SI

    I am referring to the RC electorate not the SF membership. The RCs are generally in my opinion voting SF rather than SDLP in order to maintain the peace and continue the march of Provo 'republicanism' away from violence forever. That has been effectively secured. Just as it seemed people may feel secure enough to begin voting for the SDLP again after a decade of SF grovelling and Croppy Boy humiliation we get a successful dissident shooting. Now THAT was as well timed as the Omagh bomb. So, maybe it isn't safe to discard SF just yet for fear of a vacuum being filled by a resurgent militant republicanism? Someone seems to be looking out for SF interests.

    Anyone still in SF at this stage to my mind are bought and paid for effectively by Westminster. A form of dependency. In the same way those on Capitol Hill Washington are owned by the big corporations. Westminster pays the wages and expenses and upholds careers of MLAs who do effectively bog-all. A combination of that and perhaps a feeling it's too late to change course now. They are holding the fort. They are the new planters in a sense. I remember talking at a SF meeting to Brendan Curran after the decision to enter Leinster house and the councils in the 1980s asking if SF would become the stickies. He said it was up to us not to do that. In 94-96 I was well able to sense the stink in the air and the lies were simply wall-to-wall. So, anyone who has hung around this long is qualified in self deception to PHD standard. Their resignation at this point makes a difference to nothing other than their own bank accounts, it wont happen. They know exactly what they do.

    The biggest danger to unionism at this point ironically, again in my opinion, is not SF. They are IMPOTENT and cowed. Rather it lies with Arlene Foster and the toxic, nasty little bunch around her who can suffer not an inch even today in 2016. At a time too when unionists are a minority in 4 if not 5 of the 6 counties and both Belfast and Derry have RC majorities. Their greatest strength however, possibly lies in the fact nobody wants them, either London or Dublin. A serious dose of Herpes would be preferable to taking that mob into the house.

  19. "The promotion of a female to a position of leadership within a political party is old hat."

    If only that were true, i'm not saying having a female leader is the be all policy wise because it is not, but to call it old hat is to deny what stares us in the face. In every major political party in Ireland and the UK women are underrepresented in leadership positions, more so in business and commerce. Corbyn Labour have tried to rectify this as too have the SNP, yes the latter and Plaid Cymru have women leaders, both good at their jobs, but that does not alter my point. Inequality between classes, and men and women is on the increase thus the selection of Mrs O'Neill is for me a positive sign. As I wrote elsewhere credit where credit is due.

    Just to be clear when I wrote 'how far the party has changed' I meant by appointing a woman as leader, Irish republicanism historically has always been a men's world give or take some notable exceptions I don't know the answer to this question, but how many women have sat on the Army council since it was formed in 1916?

  20. First order of business Mick ,what army council are you talking about ,there has been several, but taking you are enamoured with PIRA then you may recall P O Neill aka Seanna Walsh stood that army down hence no need for an army council is there ? you attempt to distract from the fact that the appointment of O Neill is anything other than smoke and mirrors to hide the failure of quisling $inn £einds participation in a Brit /mi5 run institution, by their own admission they have been disrespected and treated as second class citizens for the last ten years , and all we got was their micro minister Martybroy grinning like the fucking eejit that he is ,Stormont is a failed entity and should be confined to the dustbins of history as Paisley has and hopefully his chuckle buddie will be soon

  21. Larry
    For someone as well educated as you your interpretation of the demographics of Northern Ireland is laughable. Unionists are not in a minority in 4 of the 6 counties; Protestants maybe, I have no numbers, but unionists are not. Not every RC is a republican/nationalist. There are 10s of thousands of middle class RCs living in unionist areas and a significant amount of them are small u unionists (i.e Alliance/Green Party voters). For someone who mentions demographics in almost every post you clearly need to study more.

  22. "First order of business Mick ,what army council are you talking"

    Marty, the clue is in the date 1916 ;-)

    Peter makes a very good point.

  23. And the relevance to modern day army council of PIRA is exactly what?.Peters point is not disputed by this writer , my argument is simply as per Anthonys post ie the anointment of Michellebroy O Neill to the position of leader of northern quisling $inn £eind,an appointment the quisling president for life and beyond has claimed he took alone giving a whole new meaning to sinn fein, democracy how are ya ?a grass roots party my fucking arse,but anyway the musical shifting of chairs in the circus without sand called Stormont is a blind to the fact that quisling $inn £einds performance in govt here has been pathetic to say the least ,they have failed dismally to represent or defend their constituents in all areas the language welfare job creation respect from the police justice need I go on,and now we witness Commandant Gerrybroy Kelly stating that he has no problem seeing comrades being lifted for historical crimes ,of course he and his cronies are safe with OTR letters, people here were disappeared or left lying at the side of the road for less , people here are slowly catching themselves on that this crowd of carpetbaggers represent noone but their own self interests sinn fein indeed ,,,

  24. Peter

    Claiming RCs to your cause/fleg now is so funny. The DUP attitude makes things so easy when the vote for unity comes, and it will come. The fact you cannot even attempt to rely on yourselves any longer is wonderful. RCs will not forget the history of the wee Orange state nor indeed present displays of the same attitude alive and well in the DUP. The coming election I suspect will confirm the DUP knows its electorate very well. The future is bright, it's green and white. First move in the united Ireland, get that Orange to fuck off our flag.

  25. And when the Orangies are gone Larry who will we drive out next? Right fcukin up them all!

  26. Larry and the white ..a sign of surrender not peace

  27. Peter

    Did my little green version of the DUP not go down well with you then? We wont get rid of anyone. Asians, Polish and other EU, African and GB ex pats living in Ireland will be more than welcome. For any delusional fleg wavers we will build a state of the art jail for those who break the law. Top drawer facilities, education, sports, weights, snooker tables...all the good stuff. Down side is it will be an American sentencing style system, for murderers life means life. So they will be well educated and super fit when they get.... dead. I wouldn't impose a death penalty as I wouldn't expect our justice system to be any less flawed than your own. As you know yourself, keeping 'law and order' is a right little turbo charge for the economy.


    fukit Erin go bragh flag probably the better option coz even the prods don't like 'surrender' lol

  28. Larry
    Anger and bitterness only damage the vessel that holds it. There's no point striving for a republican utopia if you're not here to see it. Lay off the drink and chill yourself out ffs.

  29. Peter

    No one bitter here. There wont be a republican utopia after the vote, that entity is at Stormont just now. You seem quite obsessed with the drink. It must be that PTS disorder you suffer from after all your military heroics in the gallant UDR. When does the movie come out? You know the one I'm on about, the one with Chuck Norris staring as yourself driving around Belfast in 14 hour shifts in a UDR land rover bored out of yer fukn cranium? If you are not on the drink Peter I think you probably should give it a lash. You're going to need it.