Updated: 10/01/17 : 04:22:03
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Shinners opt for the high wire showdown

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

FOUR POINTERS will decide whether the Shinners have made the right call in trying to force an early election at Stormont.

1. Will the party increase its percentage share of the popular vote;

2. Will it win more seats than it already has this Tuesday morning;

3. Will Sinn Fein accept -- and respect -- the mandates of all parties after the poll;

If the answer is 'No' to any one of those questions then the party will have wasted people's time and energies. 

4. Supplementary question: Before that 2017 poll, is Sinn Fein making, or not, a PRECONDITION on whether it will negotiate afterwards with a party led by Arlene Foster? 

If that answer is 'Yes' we are (probably) doomed to a stunted stalemate at Stormont for the foreseeable future.

That has significant implications in the South as the UK prepares to exit the European Union.

Peace Money

More immediate, we are likely to be back very soon in tribal trenches we thought we had all crawled from and left behind forever.

People in the south have invested a lot of time, emotional energy and peace funds over the past two decades. 

Overall, there has been some positive spin-off for Sinn Fein in the south arising from power sharing.

They know that full well and they need to be more generous and open in saying that, too, in the south.

Maybe in the south we have not given as much time, emotional energy, nor peace monies nor positive spin-off to The Other Side.

Arlene Foster saw the military arm of Sinn Fein ambush and try to murder her father in their family farmyard. They bombed her school bus.

It is an act of great generosity that she would EVER be in the same room to do daily business, yeah?

The notion she would go on some sort of 'admin leave' while her own role as a minister would be investigated has no real precedent in Irish parliamentary politics -- Peter Robinson included.

In the south 'heads on a plate' politics never took us too far either, did it?

Not too many days ago Sinn Fein was publicly confused as to what type of investigation it wanted into Foster's scheme.

But at all times it was clear it wanted her to stand aside as party leader.  Draw your own conclusions.

Collective Achievements

Meanwhile, the resignation letter of deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness comes across as angry and maybe too wordy. 

It also lacks wider perspective; it lacks a timescaled context of where we have all come from, all of us.

The letter offers scant sense and scant measure of the collective achievements -- by the parties, by the people, both north and south.

Apart from its (fair) 'beef' with Arlene Foster, does Sinn Fein have an implied 'beef' that Dublin and/or London has failed to ensure delivery on 'equality,' on the Irish language and other issues?

By the by, where in the resignation letter is the practice to have Irish as an active language anywhere expressed within its words.

For years now the main nationalist newspaper in the north, The Irish News, was critical of the performance of Sinn Fein in government on a host of issues.

It is myth-making by media in the south to present the past decade of 'power sharing' as all plus, as all positives. It has been no such thing.

Public Perception

The party's own sense of its own achievements is NOT always shared by its own community..... but they (still) vote the tribal ticket.

However, the growth of alternatives such as People Before Profit (PBP) challenges Sinn Fein within its own catchment.....moreso than Arlene Foster.

Finally, the upcoming election and its aftermath could leave us clearer in our minds in the south whether this generation of Sinn Fein has the (sustained) generosity of spirit to go anywhere, any time soon. 

An issue which needs to come on the table, too, is the centralised manner in which decision making is filtered within Sinn Fein.

Turned Turtle

That filtering is a widespread public perception. For example, party 'turned turtle' on the issue of water charges but ONLY when its internal filters nodded 'Yes.'

Jo Public was never shown any sense of how that significant sea-change happened in such a short time, welcome though it was.

Postscript: It is odds-on that Chris MacManus will be a Sinn Fein member of Sligo County Council before Easter after his father, Sean MacManus, retires from his seat next month.