Sinn Féin-Feeling Voters Pain

Issue: 25 – May 2008
Sinn Féin-Feeling Voters Pain
During mid-April, Sinn Féin engaged in its own version of the loyalists Tour of the North by engaging in a series of so-called Town Hall meetings at a number of venues across the Six-Counties.
Ostensibly, the party sought to touch base with its voters and learn of their concerns while taking some earthy advice on the way forward. All very well, except for the fact that the Sinn Féin leadership rarely concerns itself with the views of its base, generally preferring to treat the Rubes with contempt knowing that, come what may, they will dutifully file-out on voting day, which is all that matters.

This new departure by the leadership reflects the unease that has been filtering up from the grass roots since the partys disastrous performance in last years elections in the Twenty-Six Counties, which failed to deliver the promised breakthrough and Dáil ministerial seats. In addition, Sinn Féins sheepish behaviour at Stormont and its perceived subservience to the DUP has disgusted many of its erstwhile staunchest supporters.

Although the turnout at the various meetings was modest, the make-up of the gatherings was significant and will surely give cause for concern back at Head Office. In a crude attempt to play the Republican card, the leadership invited relatives of activists killed in the Troubles to special private meetings before each main gathering. The take-up at these was mixed, with many families boycotting them outright while others went along without any sense of commitment to those hosting the meetings.

The staged affairs that occurred afterwards spoke volumes about the current state of the Republican Movement in its Northern stronghold. In the first instance, the party deployed large numbers of its most prominent names to man the top tables at each gathering, a tactic clearly aimed at both impressing and intimidating those present.
However, it was the absence of large swathes of the core Republican constituency that was most significant about these meetings, which were in any case little more than PR stunts. The fact that activists who had been loyal to Sinn Féin up until just a few months ago have elected to stay away in their droves reflects the true state of affairs, and the leadership must be grateful for the fact that no political alternative has yet emerged to challenge them electorally, although such remains only a matter of time.

For the most part the questions posed at these episodes were safe ones for the panel; relating to local infrastructural issues and the like. However, a number of sincere Republicans were in attendance and managed to upset proceedings with real questions on such matters as National Independence and the SF sell-out in that regard.
In Galbally, in County Tyrone, for example, the somewhat complacent leadership was seriously rattled by accusations from the floor that it had betrayed the Cause by urging people to become informers while doing nothing to alleviate the plight of several Republican families in the East Tyrone area who are currently being hounded by the same British Crown Forces that Mr Adams and his cronies are giving their full support to.

More Town Hall meetings are planned.


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