My column from today’s Herald on Chris Andrew’s joining Sinn Féin
Cui Bono, who gains? That is the question political analysts normally ask when someone does something unusual or out of the ordinary.
It was the question that came to mind when I heard that my former party and constituency colleague Chris Andrews was joining Sinn Féin.
While Chris may hope he will be the main beneficiary of his defection, he will soon learn that nothing is for nothing in Sinn Féin.
Recent local election boundary changes had made Chris very likely to take a seat as an independent in the new eight seat Pembroke South Docks Ward, even with such tough opposition as local Councillor Mannix Flynn.
While running under the Sinn Féin banner would bring Chris extra votes, it would also drive away a big chunk of his previous support. Either way, as an independent or Sinn Féin he was likely to get elected.
Maybe Chris has his eye on a bigger prize than Dublin City Council and fancies his chances in the European elections? This would mean Sinn Féin bumping a loyal servant like Éoin Ó Broin in favour of a newcomer.
This would doubtless cause dismay among SF activists across Dublin, particularly as the party is already well placed to take the European seat formerly held by Mary Lou McDonald (another former Fianna Fáil-er) and currently occupied by the co-opted Socialist MEP Paul Murphy.
Running Chris for Europe would be an uncharacteristically generous act by them, but politics, especially Sinn Féin politics, does not work like that. It has not grown and developed by charitably adopting waifs and strays.
The Shinner’s acceptance of Chris has meant them closing their eyes to a lot.
Around this time last year we had the saga of Chris’s anonymous “sock puppet” Twitter attacks on Fianna Fáil colleagues both at leadership and local level. But his ire was not aimed solely at them.
Having blasted people who had worked on his campaigns, he then swung his sawn off twitter shotgun at Sinn Féin. Using his “brianformerff” identity he spoke of: “…the amount of people Sinn Féin reps killed over the years. #jeanmcconville” and “…still trying to make his SF gun men party coomrades [sic] trendy and likeable!!”
Perhaps Sinn Féin can find it in itself to pardon anonymous comments made from behind an internet balaclava, but it must be less easy to ignore the fact that Chris spent almost all of his time in the Dáil in the opposite lobby to them?
When Sinn Féin was voting against that Government’s actions – aside from the Bank Guarantee – Chris was resolutely voting for them. Looking back, I can’t remember anyone raising serious questions about Chris’s loyalty during my time in government.
Chris was just as assiduous when it came to attacking Sinn Féin locally. In a Dáil debate on May 27 2009 he spoke out about the local intimidation of Esther Uzell, labelling those responsible as “thugs” and “scum”. Esther’s brother Joseph Rafferty had been killed by the IRA in April 2005. Despite her repeated calls, Sinn Féin had done nothing to help identify her brother’s killer. They had been so unhelpful that she accused them of covering up for her brother’s killer.
Perhaps Chris can assist her again in his new role?
Anyone else making such attacks would not be given the time of day, so what has Chris got that they want so badly? His name. His pedigree.
As an Andrews he potentially allows them claim the linkage, no matter how tenuous, back to the foundations of the State that they so desperately lack and need. The statement welcoming Chris into the fold talks of his grandfather’s “ideals and values” with the added sideswipe that Chris felt Fianna Fáil no longer represented them.
Chris is entitled to that view, just as he’s entitled to decide his future and just as others are at liberty to remind him of his past.