Belfast Telegraph

Dublin on rudder so Sinn Fein is unlikely to change tack

By Noel McAdam

For some time now it has been evident that Sinn Fein brings all major decisions to its ard-chomhairle in Dublin. The party's national executive gives its verdict and, it would seem, Sinn Fein MLAs in the Assembly can only ratify them.

The DUP refers to the ard- chomhairle as the "politburo" and chides Martin McGuinness for having to wait for his "orders" from Gerry Adams.

But then Mr Adams is president of the all-island party and Mr McGuinness, in republican terms, joint chief of the elected body in the six counties.

Mr Adams' reported comments will therefore fuel unionist and Alliance fears that Sinn Fein's primary focus is getting into government in Dublin – even if government in Belfast falls apart.

A series of recent internal departures including some key personnel has also enhanced the impression that the 32-county party is less interested in the bit still belonging to John Bull.

Alliance leader David Ford said the remarks showed Sinn Fein's main interest is election to the Dail.

DUP Finance Minister Simon Hamilton underlined that he believes it is Mr Adams, rather than Martin McGuinness, who is calling the shots.

But why would Sinn Fein change tack? Its rhetoric as champions of the poor and vulnerable, determined to oppose the cuts imposed by "Tory toffs and their tax-evading" supporters, works well in both jurisdictions.

And if the Treasury in London intervenes to prevent Stormont departments busting their budgets, it will only reaffirm how perfidious Albion can be.

Sinn Fein is now in opposition in Dublin and the election in 2016, the anniversary of the Easter Rising, offers the glittering prize of getting into government on both sides of the border at once – the 'united Ireland' in embryo.

Neither are the concerns over the impact of welfare reform not genuine, the party points out the percentage of people in receipt of disability benefits is higher here than anywhere in Ireland or Britain.

But the approach appears to try to ignore the harsh reality that NI plc is subsidised by the British Exchequer, which can claw money back if departments here overspend by reducing the block grant.

And, increasingly, we have the spectacle of Sinn Fein ministers standing four-square in defence of the vulnerable while de facto implementing spending cuts on the ground.

But its welfare reform spokesman Alex Maskey has strongly denied the party reneged on any deal with Peter Robinson earlier this year.

"At no time has Sinn Fein agreed to any finalised package around the Welfare Bill," he said. "Sinn Fein has always made it very clear that the party's ard- chomhairle will make the final decision on what the party is prepared to support when it comes to changes in the Welfare Bill."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph