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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Clothes Make the Man


Mick Hall • 6 February 2007

It is the sheer militaristic arrogance of the Adamsite leadership of SF, which was amply demonstrated in the 95% plus vote at the recent Special Ard Fheis, that may in time lead to a fall in the party's fortunes. Coupled with the absolute pliability of that party's membership when it comes to deciding on SF's core political platform, it leaves few people within the party who are willing to even contemplate holding the Adams clique to account when they make a mistake, as we all do now and again. Instead, what occurs when party members differ from the leadership in any numbers on a matter of principle, is that they either resign and walk away. Or they put a peg on the end of their noses and keep it there until the stench of the betrayal of core republican values, or the exposure of UK State infiltration of the leadership, passes.

This is highlighted by the fact that since the 1990s, no faction within SF that has differed with the leadership strategy and tactics has brought their differences to an Ard Fheis as an organized grouping, so that these differences can be argued out publicly before the party membership as a whole.

The aforementioned becomes clearer if we look at one of the less contentious, but still vitally important political issues that has erupted and continues to swirl around leading members of SF, and consider how the matter was dealt with by SF's leadership. When the words 'the suits' was first used by Republicans to describe SFs leadership clique, one could almost hear the collective wince within that party and beyond. For it caught perfectly the growing gap between that leadership and those they represent. At first the way the term was used was somewhat unfair, as what the Shinner leadership were attempting to do with the suits was present a respectable face to the media, not unlike working class people wearing their Sunday best to church, a funeral or wedding.

But given time, some of those regarded as 'the suits' became far too comfortable in their new attire. What started out as a reasonable SF propaganda tool turned into a detrimental fact of party life. Years ago when I was first elected a full time trade union convener on a large construction project, the first thing I did was bin my boiler-suit. After all, I thought to myself, I would no longer be on the tools as hence-forth I would be dealing on a full time basis with trade union business on the site; I'd have little need of wearing a 'cover all' to stop the grease and mud spoiling my clothes.

Immediately on doing so I was approached by an old Trade Unionist who had been at the game for decades. In a non-confrontational way he asked if I thought I might reconsider my decision on not wearing the boiler suit, as by not doing so I would be separating myself outwardly from those I represented, and petty jealousies will undoubted erupt amongst the men I represent. He suggested that during negotiations with management, due to the way I was dressed, they may well see me as not dissimilar to themselves and there is a real danger that I may start viewing them in the same way. I was in my early twenties at the time, but it was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given and stood me in good stead down the years. For I had learnt that no elected official/leader, whether in the trade unions, political party, business, whereever, can allow themselves to become separated from those they offer leadership to, not without detrimental consequences. Outward signs of difference can either be misinterpreted or can tell us a great deal about the true or potential situation.

At first the change in the leading Shinners' sartorial appearance went down pretty well within the core republican communities, there was a bit of lite banter and mickey taking, but most were proud that their political leaders were seen on the TV in the company of some of the world's leading politicians and in the manner of their dress, looked their equals.

When criticism of 'the suits' from within the republican community first emerged into the media spotlight, it is pretty clear that SF decided to confront their critics on this matter head on and they decided to add holiday homes into the equation in an attempt to swat two birds with one stone. They accused those who made accusations about The Suits and Holiday Homes as begrudgers, living in the past etc, and to their shame still do.. It has become obvious to all that this tactic has failed to work, indeed it has only aggravated the matter, for what resulted from this tactic was that many of the suits took this as a green light from Mr Adams to enrich themselves. To this extent we now have senior members of SF owning more than one home and a number of holiday lets both at home and abroad — which just cannot be right, for to claim to be a progressive politician and then by your own selfish behavior contribute to another soul's misery is hypocrisy in the extreme.

How SF must now regret taking this tact, for the whole issue of second homes has become a real issue within both working and middle class communities, not least because of the rise in property prices throughout Ireland, part of which has been brought about by those who have brought a second home as an investment. The inability of many young people to to be able to afford to get onto the property ladder is becoming a real problem. The failure of both the UK and RoI governments to deal with the problem of the lack of affordable housing by building decent and affordable public housing for rent or part purchase has forced many people into private lets, which offers none of the security of tenancy that previous generations enjoyed, who were tenants of Local Councils or the Housing Corporation.

For SF, which has more contact with its grass roots electorate than almost any other party in Ireland, to have fallen at this particular hurdle is indicative of the arrogance and silent compliance I mentioned at the top of this piece. Housing, whether public or private, will increasingly become an important element of the political agenda within Ireland, the UK and the countries of the Mediterranean basin where many of these holiday homes are situated, and rightly so.

Sadly, Ireland has a long history of politicians who live their lives on the maxim of 'do what we say, ignore what we do'. The personal history of most of the current leadership of SF has been one of struggle and sacrifice. That some of them have fallen into the aforementioned category proves that no one is beyond the enticements of public office. Thus I end where I began; if the rank and file membership of SF do not call their leaders to account on the issue of second homes, then the electorate will do it for them, either by voting for others or by staying at home come election day. Perhaps they should remind their leaders that loyalty is a two way street and not a 24 hour bar at which the likes of Mr Adams and co can continuously sup.


















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

13 February 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
Helen McClafferty

Martin Galvin

The Heart of Collusion
John Kennedy

Bad Tactics
Anthony McIntyre

The Clothes Make the Man
Mick Hall

Follow the Leader
John Kennedy

Dry Your Eyes
John Kennedy

The Foreman
Anthony McIntyre

Mc Cain and Northern Ireland
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Rumours of Retirement
Dr John Coulter

Liam O Ruairc

If MI5 rules, What was the 30-year war all about?
John Kelly

PRUC Service
Brian Mór

Nationalists Divided Over Sinn Fein Support for British Policing
Paul Mallon

Remember the B Specials?
Dr John Coulter

The Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

Coming Full Circle
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Need for an Anti-Imperialist United Front
Philip Ferguson

28 January 2007

Done & Dusted
Anthony McIntyre

Once Again, The Big Transition
Dolours Price

Plastic Bullet
John Kennedy

Provos Embrace Total Collaboration with British Rule
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

British Policing is Not an Alternative
Francis Mackey

$F Hats
Brian Mór

Policing Problems
Tommy McKearney

SF Seeks to Curtail NI Policing
David Adams

Digging Up the Truth
John Kennedy

State Terrorism Par Excellence
Anthony McIntyre

Collusion: Dirty War Crime
Mick Hall

Repeating the Pattern of the Top Brass
Eamonn McCann

Collusion revelations: disturbing but not shocking
Brendan O'Neill

England's Legacy to Ireland: State Sponsored Terrorism
Richard Wallace

Application for Service in HMPRUC
Brian Mór

The Revolution is the People
Michéal MháDonnáin

Rates and PFI Payments
Ray McAreavey

Reviews of 'Century'
Roy Johnston

A Peacemaker at the Start and the Finish
David Adams



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