“Is Chris Andrews a Shinner or Just a Mé-Féiner”

My column from today’s Herald  on Chris Andrew’s joining Sinn Féin 

My column in today's Herald
My column in today’s Herald

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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.

ENDS

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Esther Uzell leaflet – image from http://irishelectionliterature.wordpress.com/

#RTEpt quizzing of Gerry Adams shows it can do public service broadcasting

Gerry Adams quizzed by Miriam O'Callaghan
Gerry Adams quizzed by Miriam O’Callaghan

Monday night’s Primetime interview with Gerry Adams was a reminder that RTE is well capable of doing thorough, professional and researched public service broadcasting.

It did much to dispel the doubts cast about the station’s reputation by both the Frontline presidential debate and “Mission to Prey” debacles.

It also showed that Sinn Féin is not as clever, strategic and skilled in the political dark art of spin as many in other political parties and the media presume.

Watching the programme last night, and again today on Youtube, raises the obvious question: why did Gerry Adams agree to do this 24 minute interview in which he essentially spent his time talking about murder?

In part the interview was the consequence of the remarks he made in the Dáil on January 29th last during the expressions of sympathy on the killing of Garda Adrian Donohue.

He used that occasion to offer his condolences and solidarity with the family of Garda Donohue, but also to broaden that expression of sympathy to include others murdered in the line of duty; saying: “I apologise to Mrs. McCabe and the McCabe family, Garda Ben O’Sullivan and the families of other members of the State forces who were killed by republicans in the course of the conflict.”

But, having offered that apology in the Dáil, why did he seem so incapable last night to expand on that and adequately apologise, sympathise and console those who had lost relatives to so called republican paramilitaries over the years?

Why go on to the programme and give such an interview, when you know you are either unable or unprepared to answer the questions and offer the information that is going to be asked of you?

Could it be that the reason for his appearance was less to do with expanding upon his comments of January 29th and more to do with trying to pre-empt what he fears may be revealed when the Boston Tapes are released?

Could it also be an attempt to deflect attention away from the recent Belfast court case involving Adam’s brother Liam?

Deflecting attention away from one difficult story by opening up about another one is not a tactic unfamiliar to Mr Adams and Sinn Féin. Recall how Gerry Adams revealed how his own was father was both a paedophile and a thug while he was being criticised for his handling of the allegations of abuse made to him by his niece Aine Tyrell about her father, Liam Adams.

The revelation about his father came around the time that he acknowledged that he not dealt well with the allegations and that his actions when he discovered that Liam Adams was working with children were wrong – he had approached his brother rather than his employers.

While Adams’ performance last night will do little to diminish his standing with the bulk of Sinn Féin activists, it may cause some of the newer and younger intake people who considered Sinn Féin as an idealistic alternative to mainstream politics to think again.

Adams’ supporters will justify their continuing support with claims that this is all a smear against their leader – echoes of what we have heard in recent days from UKIP, but the defence used by some that this is all a very long time ago does not hold water.

Another defence offered online by defenders of Adams is that this is all RTÉ bias against their party. Why, they asked, wasn’t RTE asking Labour party leaders if they were in Official IRA?

Frankly, I have no problem with RTÉ asking them that, at least it suggests that some in Sinn Féin may unconsciously realise that Miriam O’Callaghan’s questioning of their leader last night was both fair and legitimate