SpAd Alert Post

Oh dear …another post on the vexed question of Sinn Fein and their “right” to appoint their own Special Advisors to the (taxpayer-funded) civil service OR  the “responsibility” of Sinn Fein not to appoint persons (people who have served fourteen years in prison on a murder conviction) who might reasonably or unreasonably be deemed offensive to some victims OR the duty of a Legislature to impose restrictions on such appoinments.

A thought occurs.

Some twenty years ago John Hume and Gerry Adams became involved in secret talks which might be the beginning of the Peace Process. John Hume went out on a limb, got dogs abuse from unionists and quizzical looks from his own Party. Arguably bringing Sinn Fein into the Peace Process was something which strengthened SF and directly weakened the the SDLP. A rare example of a politician putting COUNTRY before PARTY. But John Hume is quite rightly regarded as the Greatest Irish Person who ever lived (RTE poll 2010).

So when John Hume and Gerry Adams met in a parlour in Clonard Monastery twenty years ago….neither could have foreseen the row about Mary McArdle and Ann Travers. Back then John Hume was thinking of the bigger picture…his detractors in unionism and letsgetalongerism were thinking in terms that were much more narrow.

Back then SDLP was concerned with the “right thing”. It has had unforeseen consequences including SpAds….good and bad consequences. Can we really unpick them now?

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10 Responses to SpAd Alert Post

  1. factual says:

    FJH: Will you be attending Jasil’s launch at the MAC on Thursday at 7pm?

  2. factual says:

    To get back on topic: of course the Adams/Hume talks were broad brush so that SpAds were probably not discussed. In fact I don’t remember SpAds being mentioned in the GFA when I studied it for a politics project.

    I know that SF are attacking SDLP on this SpAd bill but I actually think that it’s not that major of a matter and I don’t think that the law on SpAds is really that important in the big picture – otherwise it would have been mentioned in the GFA.

    Special advisor posts are not advertised and attract a public salary of £90,000 and it is a valid matter for debate as to whether SF can and have the right to appoint anyone they want.

    I think though that victims are also to be admired for coming forward and putting their views.

    Its not easy but it is a kind of process that is part of the core fundamentals of democratic discussion. It cannot be shied away from.

    We have spads in Dublin and a salary cap of 92khas been applied.

    I have heard that north of the border the FM and dFM have four spads each.

    • I think youre right with that one.
      It will not be an issue in 2016 and the squabble within nationalism is unseemly and disappointing.
      The spectacle is only enjoyed by Mick and the usual anti-nationalist suspects on Slugger.
      They usually get the chance to attack Sinn Fein or SDLP.
      So it must be great to get to attack both nationalist parties and enjoy the squabble.

      All of which is standard behaviour for LetsGetAlongerists. Praising Jim Allister…now thats new.

      • factual says:

        I think that it is a bad spectacle and I was not happy to see good SDLP people being attacked in very cheap ways on twitter. Yes it is good to debate the real issue but no its not right to sensationalise and distort th SDLP’s position as though the SDLP would want to ban Nelson Mandela etc.

        The issue has brought some victims out of the shade and to be frank I think they are quite right and brave to put forward their views, whether it is Ann Travers or the McCartney sisters. We need to be reminded of the victims, they in all these cases were people whose interests have been set to one side with all this talk.

        Each party has a certain power of patronage in appointments of this type but for the ordinary person, it is not really what matters regarding these highly paid patronage posts, in fact it makes them perhaps wonder whether there needs to be so many of them. The SpAd appointments are really not (or should not) be an issue of importance to ordinary people struggling.

        While I support SF the danger for SF with this issue – looking at it from a Dublin perspective – is it can seem as though SF is looking to promote its own interests and its own people via taxpayer financed freedom of patronage, rather than issues that matter to ordinary people; and if it attacks SDLP on this score it will be picking a fight that isn’t of central importance to the unemployed or the those people in society who are really in need of support and political activism.

      • The key voters in this are soft nationalist votes. SDLP has them and they can move to SF. SF has them and they can move to SDLP.
        Producing posters depicting the SDLP as adding “No Ex-Prisoners” to the old ” No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs” posters is really nasty and way out of line and has the potential to rebound badly for Sinn Fein.

      • factual says:

        “Producing posters depicting the SDLP as adding “No Ex-Prisoners” to the old ” No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs” posters is really nasty and way out of line and has the potential to rebound badly for Sinn Fein.”

        That is an example of what I was referring to. It’s not credible to brand the SDLP as pro-discrimination, and as well as doing a disservice to the SDLP it actually does a disservice to victims too.

        I don’t think this type of attack against the SDLP (and indeed anyone sympathetic to Ann Traver’s views) are good for SF’s image.

        It would be better to have a more sophisticated approach from SF in which the hurt caused to victims is acknowledged at the same time as the case against the SpAd bill is put. At the end of the day the question is that of who among the SF boys and girls get the jobs – this may be important to SF staff but not a priority for ordinary voters.

  3. Pingback: Second-Class Citizens, Second-Class Victims | An Sionnach Fionn

  4. Voters in the north-east of the country are more politically savvy than most in Ireland; they know how to read between the lines. Most will see this Bill as aimed directly at Sinn Féin and former Irish Republican political prisoners, and indirectly at the wider Nationalist community. For practical reasons that we all know convicted British terrorists or convicted British soldiers or paramilitary police officers will never be in a position to become Special Advisers, therefore the ban is moot as far as they are concerned.

    This is solely about pinning the label of “beyond the Pale” to former Republicans prisoners and preventing such people taking part in the regional administration in the North, however tangentially.

    It also places the “victims” of Republican military actions in a different category to those “victims” of actions by British military, paramilitary or terrorist organisations in Ireland. Alasdair McDonnell’s statement about the hierarchy of victims won’t be forgotten as easily as some think. I know through a friend of one long-time SDLP supporter, an old school “Hume man” who had no time for SF or the IRA but who saw family victimised by the British Forces, who has vowed never to vote SDLP again over the party’s “cowardice” (his word, which I have borrowed for a blog post of my own).

    I certainly agree with the criticism of the culture of Special Advisers. Fine Gael and Labour have padded out the Irish government with literally dozens of them, all family members or cronies. It’s a bad system and SF handled it with a lack of sensitivity to genuine victims like Anne Travers. But “Anne’s Bill”, the deliberate twisting of language to present Republicans as universally loathed pariahs, goes far beyond anything that the SDLP should have accepted.

    I mean, when even the Greens couldn’t support it? What on earth was the SDLP leadership thinking?

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