I am also slightly bemused by the euro. Not the currency per se, but if I recall correctly the Provos opposed the Free State’s adoption of the euro, on the quite sensible grounds that the Maastricht convergence criteria would rule out radical economic policies. Yet now we hear the call for an all-Ireland currency, as if the punt still existed. Is this a radical policy of the same ilk as the call for an all-Ireland 12% corporation tax, or an all-Ireland police force – made radical by placing the formula “all-Ireland” before it?
Now, the Stormont election. The counts on tomorrow and Friday will give us some idea of how things will pan out, so I won’t even hazard a prediction. But I do want to have a brief look at the two groups posing as an alternative, the republicans and the left.
The letter from 500 ex-prisoners that appeared in yesterday’s Irish News calling for a vote for independent republican candidates had a couple of interesting features. I noticed that the largest lot of signatories came from Derry, with significant numbers from Armagh and Tyrone but not many from Belfast. Besides, most of the Belfast people I recognised on the list were not Provos but Irps, who you wouldn’t expect to be onside anyway. Another weakness was that the unity of the letter was achieved purely on the basis of opposing the RUC/PSNI, with no signs of a positive alternative. Nonetheless, and although the instigators seem to have been the usual suspects, I draw some comfort from the scale, showing that there are a relatively significant number of republicans who believe we need a republican movement and that the Provos aren’t it. Given the almost total lack of support for a return to armed struggle, there is obviously some kind of an audience for political alternatives.
But, as it happens, I didn’t vote republican and didn’t argue with anybody else to do so. The republican candidates, of course, fall into three categories. There is Gerry McGeough, whose brand of Maria Duce politics is a bit rich for my taste. There are folks like Davy Hyland and Paul McGlinchey, who have only been out of the Provos five minutes and, whatever lines in the sand they may have drawn over policing, haven’t yet shown much sign of being a real opposition. Then you have RSF, who actually are an opposition and have a positive programme of their own. The trouble with RSF is that, despite being good principled republicans, they are also rigid doctrinaires (though Ruairí is much more flexible than he’s given credit for) and a tactical sensibility that I would describe as erratic and a less charitable soul as bonkers.
Nonetheless, although I don’t expect the republican opposition to get many votes, it might not be a bad thing if they did. If they started to look like a credible opposition, then there would be some pressure on them to behave like one.
This does not apply to the far left. I have little confidence in the ability of the left to recognise the real world, never mind reflect and draw serious conclusions. Any votes for these bozos will only encourage them. It is likely, for instance, that the Socialist Party’s campaigning around water charges will bring them some extra votes (their tiny vote base couldn’t possibly shrink further). So, if Tommy Black can raise his vote from 130 to something like 300, which is entirely possible, although that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans the SP will claim it as a vindication of their politics and a sign that things are moving in their direction. And the least said about the SWP’s Ali G politics, the better.