Killian goes off piste

Let’s take a brief break from the DUP and turn our attention to events in Provieland. Many readers will already have heard that Dublin city councillor and ski enthusiast (how he must be loving this weather) Killian Forde has resigned from the party and is said to be about to join Labour. Whatever the bluster from his former comrades, Killian is a sharp bloke with an obvious political future ahead of him, who is a serious loss. Now, back in June Killian wrote a document for a review of party organisation in Dublin, a review that never happened. This has now appeared on the excellent SF Keep Left blog, whence I am shamelessly nicking it. As for Killian’s arguments, they are sensible and well made – I will only say that, if he thinks these problems are specific to PSF or that Labour is going to be a huge improvement, he’s in for a rude awakening. (h/t Remi)

Submission in relation to the 2009 local and European election in Dublin.

From Cllr Killian Forde.

In my opinion Sinn Féin is in serious and potentially critical decline in Dublin.

The organisation has too few members, a shortage of electable GE candidates and a membership that is frustrated and tired.

Looking at the next GE election the most likely scenario, as it now stands, is that we will lose our seat in Dublin South Central. We will also fall far short of securing seats in Dublin South West, Dublin North West, Dublin Central and Dublin North East.

A modestly optimistic scenario would see us retain DSC and win DSW, thereby returning Sinn Féin to the same position as 2002 with the same personnel.

We need to commit to a number of clear decisions within the next couple of months if we are to have any ambition of being serious political players in the city.

We are one election away from being totally irrelevant in Dublin and the south in general.

Concentration of resources.
SF should target and contest in no more than 5 constituencies in Dublin. In order of likelihood of success they should be.

1. Dublin South Central.
2. Dublin South West.
3. Dublin North West.
4. Dublin North East.
5. Dublin Mid West.

I do not believe we should contest in Dublin Central. The departure of Christy Burke, and the probability he will run as an independent, coupled with the poor vote in the Cabra ward, means this seat is not winnable in the next General Election

I would recommend that a decision be taken by September on which constituencies to run in. The decision to run should be based solely on the potential to secure a General Election seat. Arguments about “building for the future” by constituencies should not be entertained.

Other Dublin constituencies should be put into hibernation and all members seconded to neighbouring constituencies. An audit should be done on the skills set available in each of the cumann and tasks set that match the individual.

Dublin Mayoral Election.

Next summer an election is due to take place for the position of the Mayor of Dublin. This affords us the opportunity, perhaps the last one before the GE, to get our politics, messaging and election logistics right. The decision on the candidate needs to rest solely with the Dublin Cuige and be done by means of an open contest with a secret ballot. Members should be encouraged to put their name forward. We need a healthy open debate and competition. The candidate selected should reflect where SF in Dublin wants to position itself. I would recommend that a convention be done on this candidature in October 2009 with a DOE appointed the same month. Its extremely unlikely we can win the seat but we should aim to pleasantly surprise people with a refreshed, succinct and clear political message.

Candidate training.

All SF candidates running in the GE election must receive training to work on their areas of weakness. An honest strengths and weakness’s assessment should be carried out on each of the candidates selected to run. For instance DELETED….

Specific weakness to do with policy know how, image, interview techniques, canvassing behaviour can be improved by sourcing expert assistance in these areas. SF in Dublin should aim that all of its candidates in the next GE are the whole package.

Organisation.

Sinn Féin is an appalling run organisation. Its structures are opaque, its personnel management non-existent, there is little accountability on the senior leadership and people are appointed to important roles without any experience.

Structures.

Sinn Féin, it appears to me, does not even have a basic organisational chart for employees, elected officials, candidates and cumman members to be able to refer to. The power and associated decision-making in the party lies with individuals not embedded structures. This means that those seeking to question or contribute to decisions, policies or strategy have to try and negotiate through a maze of offices, titles, committees, working groups and individuals to try to get their voice heard. The structures that do exist have not the confidence to make decisions, meaning that even minor matters get funnelled up to a small amount of the same people in the party. These people then end up with an effective veto on everything. This practice makes the party bloated, slow and predictable.

Personnel.

People are routinely appointed to positions in the party with no experience in the role. This must end. In the period preceding the 2009 election we have had the appointment and employment of a Head of Publicity that has no experience in PR and as far as I know no specific experience on brand management or marketing. It also appears that the post was never advertised and the person selected was chosen for reasons unknown. The Director of Elections appointed to oversee Mary Lou’s crucial European campaign had never even participated in any form in any election before, anywhere. Managerial appointments in Leinster House include people who have never managed people before. It appears that we have a reoccurring approach of training people “from the top”.

From now on all employment for posts must be publicly advertised and people interviewed for the post by members of the party with experience of HR interview skills.

Policy development.

Policies are our tools and, still, our development of same is far too slow. Our response to the economic crisis was glacial. The bank guarantee happened in September, our economic policy was launched, way too late, in March or April. My own experience trying to engage was irritating. I submitted a contribution to the Chairperson of the Economic Strategy Group who forwarded to the Secretary General. I never received any feedback from either and I know my paper was never distributed to other members of he Economic Strategy Group. In short, the time I spent in researching and writing it was a complete and utter waste of my time. Time that I could have spent canvassing or organising my election.

I recommend that we need to look at policy development from two parts. One is by ensuring that the TDs and their PA’s are given the autonomy and trusted to issue statements and brief positions papers for public consumption in response to ever changing events and so compete in the publicity battle.

The policy development department needs to be allowed to develop their work and that work signed off rapidly.

The Party culture.

Sinn Féin and republicans value loyalty and obedience, probably above any other virtue. This was an understandable position when the republican movement was at war. It has now become the greatest hindrance to us developing as a dynamic, interesting, vibrant, creative party. There is little tolerance for dissenting opinions and nowhere for people to take those opinions. Criticism and accountability of the leadership has been discouraged for so long that simply put there is a culture of fear and misguided loyalty that militates against empowerment and people taking responsibility with their work and the development of the party.

Politics is about the battle of ideas. We need to facilitate and positively encourage the frank and open exchange of ideas. People need to be ambitious, hungry for positions and impatient for chance. Competition for candidatures need to be encouraged, policy should be developed to allow for a frank exchange of ideas.

The leadership of the party, both elected and those on the National officer board must decide what they want. Their style of operations and management are not appropriate and unhelpful if they really want the emergence, nurturing and development of new leadership and electoral talent.

Dublin Sinn Féin should endorse candidates to run for all A/C positions at the 2010 Ard Fheis. This gesture will send an important message to the ordinary party membership, namely that it is ok and normal for leadership positions to be contested. Dublin Sinn Féin can play a positive role in influencing change in the party culture. The Dublin officer board can provide the leadership needed in our party so that it’s ‘corporate culture’ becomes one in which the vital checks and balances needed to keep the organisation fresh, vibrant and evolving are mainstreamed.

Summary of recommendations.

1. Contest a maximum of five constituencies in the next GE.
2. Do not contest Dublin Central.
3. Cumann who are not in areas selected for contesting the next GE are put into hibernation and the personnel redeployed to the target constituencies.
4. Organise a convention and select candidate to stand in next years Dublin Mayoral Election by October 2009.
5. Dublin Sinn Féin should encourage prospective candidates to put their name forward to ensure there is a healthy debate and competition internally for the Mayoral position.
6. Ensure an experienced DOE is appointed by October 2009 for the Mayoral election.
7. Provide appropriate targeted and tailored training for the candidates selected to run in the next GE.
8. Monitor the employment of personnel to ensure that all posts are publicly advertised and the hiring process transparent and fair.
9. Encourage the TDs offices to develop a quicker and more autonomous response to political developments.
10. Allow policy sub committees to do their work and drafts to be presented to the membership, not the A/C or General Secretary’s office, first.
11. Dublin SF should put forward candidates for all A/C positions for the 2010 Ard Fheis.
12. Start challenging decision making by the national officer board, because it now seems obvious that no one else will.

8 Comments

  1. Liam said,

    January 11, 2010 at 9:02 am

    “Sinn Féin and republicans value loyalty and obedience, probably above any other virtue. … There is little tolerance for dissenting opinions and nowhere for people to take those opinions. Criticism and accountability of the leadership has been discouraged for so long that simply put there is a culture of fear and misguided loyalty that militates against empowerment and people taking responsibility with their work and the development of the party.”

    That has a familiar ring.

    • Neil said,

      January 11, 2010 at 10:12 am

      I’ve always found most criticisms levelled against the far left are found in nearly all organizations with more than 50 people in them to one degree or another.

      • D_D said,

        January 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

        Here’s a piece on the very subject of the inevitability or otherwise of bureaucracy on the left.

        http://johnmolyneux.blogspot.com/ (Scroll down.)

        Diffusing the angst?

  2. John O'Neill said,

    January 11, 2010 at 10:06 am

    The document reads like what messers Gilmore, Rabbitte etc were proposing in the WP late eighties. Looks like an attempt for power to be removed from traditional centres of authority within SF to the primacy of the elected representatives.

  3. LeftAtTheCross said,

    January 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Forde’s submission reads like it has a lot of sense in it, at a real world / pragmatic level. But is there an aspect of “careerism” to it, individualism, lack of collective spirit, whatever you might like to call it, which maybe rubs some of the membership up the wrong way, for good or for bad?

  4. LeftAtTheCross said,

    January 11, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    SS, I left a comment here earlier but it seems to have disappeared?

    Anyway, I was saying that Forde’s submission seems very common-sensible, at a real-world / pragmatic level, it’s the sort of thing that any organisation (political, commercial, whatever) should be welcoming from any committed member, especially those who are high profile such as elected representatives in this case. However, I was wondering if raising a head above the parapet, as Forde seems to have done with that submission, could be seen as an excessively “careerist” move which runs the risk of alienating members of the organisation who might have a less individualistic view of the political process (not to mention making political enemies amongst those at the head of the organisation whiom he tars with the brush of near incompetence)? It’s a genuine issue for any party which wants to succeed at electoralism, to balance the collective spirit at the foundations of the organisation against the political ambition of the successful electoral representatives.

  5. John Meehan said,

    January 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    On June 4 2003 Joe Kelly chaired an Anna Livia FM Radio debate between me and Killian Forde on the Good Friday Agreement – For (Killian Forde) and Against (John Meehan)

    A full transcript is here :

    http://www.fourthwrite.ie/meehan1.html

    I disagree with Killian’s political line, but would like to congratulate him for engaging in honest political debate and avoiding the red herrings so sadly prevalent in many online political discussions.

    The contradictions between left and right pressures are gradually wearing Sinn Féin down, especially in Dublin.

    Three councillors have left the party since the June 2008 local elections – two have defected in a generally right-wing direction (Killian Forde and Christy Burke – each of them recently voted for the Dublin City Council Manager’s budget) – and one has broken away in a left-wing direction (Louise Minihan, an ÉirigI member who voted against the City Manager’s financial curt-backs plan – Labour Party / Fine Gael dirty work.)

    More on this here :

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1222/1224261108767.html

    The real left needs to unite, and provide an alternative. In particular, People Before Profit and the Socialist Party should agree an electoral slate with an agreed anti-coalition anti-austerity programme for the next 26 County General Election. i hope Éirigí and other real left forces would also pafrticipate.

    • Ciarán said,

      January 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm

      There were informal discussions among left-wing parties in Dublin last year, but the thing fell apart because of the SWP and SP’s perennial pissing contest. There were statements put up on Indymedia blaming each other for the failure.


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