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Sinn Fein's repackaging project buffeted badly on all sides

By Nelson McCausland

It has been another bad week for Sinn Fein and such bad weeks are becoming more common. Opinion polls are not always reliable, as we saw at the last Westminster election, but for two months in a row support for Sinn Fein has dropped in the Irish Republic.

Indeed, Sinn Fein is the only party to have fallen back over two successive polls, from 26% to 21%, with Fine Gael on 29% and Fianna Fail on 23%.

Equally interesting is the "toxicity" of Sinn Fein. Transfer votes are important in PR elections and when people were asked which party they would not vote for, Sinn Fein stood at 37%. That was an increase of 5% and made it the most toxic party in the Republic.

We can speculate as to why its support is down, but one reason could be the behaviour of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland in regard to welfare reform.

There is a concern in the Republic about austerity, but there may also be a concern about backing a party that behaves so irrationally in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, developments in Greece may also focus the minds of some voters in the Republic as they see what financial intransigence can lead to.

Of course, the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein in relation to austerity was highlighted to a wider audience when its politicians attached themselves to recent anti-austerity protests in London.

There was a particular focus on welfare payments to people with disabilities, but it was soon pointed out that Sinn Fein had shown little interest in those with disabilities when it backed an IRA terrorist campaign that disabled thousands of people with bombs and bullets.

Then, too, there was bad news from Cork, where Sinn Fein county councillor Kieran McCarthy was expelled and councillor Melissa Mulane was suspended. This followed a dispute involving the local Sinn Fein TD, Sandra McLellan.

It was reported that the dispute was connected to her performance as a TD and how many candidates should run in the next election. The expulsion and suspension were followed by the resignation of the members of the branch in Fermoy.

The recovery of the bodies of two people who had been murdered by the Provisional IRA received extensive coverage in the media. They were among the Disappeared who were murdered and their bodies buried secretly in the Irish Republic.

The recovery of the bodies recalled the admission by Dolours Price, who died in 2013, that she had been involved in the kidnapping of some of the Disappeared and that Gerry Adams was her commanding officer when she was in the IRA - something he denies.

At a time when Sinn Fein is trying to repackage itself and to rewrite history, anything that links it to such evil deeds impedes that process.

Then, finally, there is the West Belfast Festival, also known as Feile an Phobail, and its decision to book comedian Frankie Boyle, who made headlines in 2010 with jokes about people with Down's syndrome and about their parents. So, who runs the Feile? The 2004 annual report named the four directors at that time as Gerry Adams, Siobhan O'Hanlon, Ciaran Quinn and Geraldine McAteer.

O'Hanlon, who died in 2006, had been a member of the Provisional IRA and had served four years in prison after being found in an IRA bomb factory. Quinn was a senior member of Sinn Fein, and McAteer is now a Sinn Fein councillor in Belfast. Yes, it looks very much like a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sinn Fein.

I may have missed it, but has anyone asked Gerry Adams or councillor McAteer, who seem to be current directors, if they think it appropriate to make fun of people with Down's syndrome? If it was any other political party, the media would be hammering on the door of its headquarters.

Do journalists not know the way to Connolly House?

Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee.

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