Fáilte Bangor Sinn Féin

One of the most interesting and welcome developments over the past few weeks has been the formation of a Sinn Féin cumann (branch) in Bangor, County Down.

Frankly SDLP have under-performed in North Down and while the selection of a credible Assembly candidate in Conall Brown (a leading member of SDLP Youth) is welcome, it is far too late for the Party to make an impact. SDLP has been content with token effort.

The reasons are complex. Catholics are very much a minority in North Down and Nationalists even more of a minority. Unlike most other parts of Norn Iron, the connexion between Catholicism and Nationalism is not so deep. (Irish) Nationalism, whether SDLP or Sinn Féin is a left of centre political philosophy but many (but not of course all) Catholics in North Down are politically “conservative”.

At times, North Down seems semi-detached from Norn Iron, almost embarrassed to be part of the squalid sectarian make-up and very much at ease with itself as not very different from seaside towns in west of Scotland and north west England.

It is very much the home of a succession of independently minded Westminster MPs such as Jim Kilfedder, Bob McCartney and Sylvia Hermon (the  current MP).

There is a strong Alliance presence but Green Party are now sharing the so called “middle ground”. It is a constituency where for four decades, Catholics have kept their heads down and voted Alliance as a matter of conviction or as the least dogmatic of the unionist choices. It is not just Bangor….it is a familiar pattern in Lisburn, Newtownards and Carrickfergus.

To some extent, the formation of of a Sinn Féin cumann challenges this mind-set of local Catholics. While it  is tempting to think that 14% of the population are “Catholic” and can be the springboard for an Assembly quota…the number who identify as “Irish” lags some way behind.

I am on record as saying that ALL political parties have a duty to present themselves to the electorate in ALL constituencies.

So….it is to the credit of Sinn Féin that they are prepared to join SDLP in organising in Bangor to accomodate nationalist voters ..around 700 voters (400 plus SDLP and 300 plus SF).

My long-held belief is that TUV, UUP, DUP should stand in constituencies that are overwhelmingly nationalist as a courtesy to all voters. To their credit SDLP and Alliance do this.

And Sinn Féin? Well no….just like TUV, UUP and DUP….Sinn Féin want squalid sectarian voting pacts to maximise the nationalist vote. Indeed, as Bangor SF members learn how to canvas with their comrades in South Belfast, nobody seems to have noticed that Sinn Féin stood down in South Belfast to “help” SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell  in 2010 in a failed attempt to get SDLP to reciprocate to help Michelle Gildernew MP in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

So Sinn Féin are either inconsistent or hypocritical. And as South Belfast members mentor their  Bangor comrades as they canvas Seahill, Clandeboye and Ballyholme, it might come up on the doorsteps.

Is this the normalisation of Politics, that the DUP-SF one party State love to promote? Well the old unionist regime liked to promote Politics 1922-1972 as normal British Politics. After all everyone was entitled to stand as a Party and get votes…..including Joe Campbell of Sinn Féin in North Down in 1955 and 1959. So this breakthru ….Sinn Féin in Bangor is not quite the breakthru that it is selling.

Of course, it is to be expected that Sinn Féin, Bangor claim Winnie Carney as “one of their own”. The Bangor woman is one of the leading figures in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was part of the garrison in the GPO. WInnie’s story cannot be told without regard to her own later history….and of course Sinn Féin have already embarrassed themselves by claiming the unbroken link from the heroism in the GPO to the version of their Party in 2016.

It is of course a very selective history.

They cant promote Winnie Carney on their 2016 literature and draw a veil over 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. One of the consequences of a very limited republican tradition in North Down is that Bangor (with few exceptions) was relative Troubles-free from 1970 to 1998.

Towns like Belfast, Omagh, Enniskillen, Armagh, Dungannon, Derry and several others were bombed and inevitably the Brigades, Batallions and Companies responsible were local men and local women.

But when Bangor was devastated, it was by Active Service Units acting on plans made outside Bangor. Actually the bombers were from….er South Belfast.

I dont think Sinn Féin plan to mention that on the flyers, proudly using the name of Winnie Carney or on the doorsteps in Seahill, Clandeboye and Ballyholme.


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8 Responses to Fáilte Bangor Sinn Féin

  1. Given the post-Brexit landscape, and the DUP’s return to hardcore unionist politics (to the extent that Foster and company might actually welcome a border lined with checkpoints, whatever they say in public), is it not time for the SDLP to reconsider its opposition to electoral pacts of some sort?

    The whole “sectarian headcount” objection is a red herring since “Northern Ireland”, by definition, is a sectarian headcount. The DUP-TUV axis, from what I can see, is not too perturbed by the idea of reinforcing partition. Some very much view it as the potential cherry on the cake of their forthcoming 1920-2020 “celebrations”.

    If northern nationalists cannot unite around a common cause, coordinated opposition to a rollback on two decades of “soft reunification”, then what hope is there in electoral politics in the Six Counties?

    • I am going out in a few minutes and I will compose a response re re-allignment and my own position.
      I am not sure that there is a post-Brexit landscape. And I thought that BEFORE the High Court Decision in London.
      Certainly DUP want a visible border complete with customs and passport cheques and that will change the landscape and might even destroy the Good Friday Agreement. DUP would like that.
      While SDLP seems to be making the running to formulate a Remain strategy, they are still too weak and SF seem uncertain.
      Formulating an all-Ireland response as the Kilmainham conference is all very well but the weakest of all links is the 26 county Parties (FG FF Labour and the fringe) ….basically I dont trust them to act on an all-Ireland basis and it will even test SF committment as an all-Ireland party.
      I voted to Leave. I actually felt my vote was more important in a “British” context. To explain…it was certain Norn Iron would vote Remain but the British vote was equal and I wanted to cause some chaos. I got exactly what I wanted…a constitutional crisis. I felt it was my duty based on the premise that Englands difficulty is Irelands opportunity.
      Today in High Court it just got more chaotic.
      How the “Irish” play it will be interesting but I am not optimistic they have the vision

  2. bangordub says:

    You just knew I’d have to reply to this Mr Fitz?
    Regarding the times you refer to from 1970 onwards, North Down escaped remarkably lightly, I think you may know that other constituencies, particularly nationalist ones were devastated during those times. Regarding Republican heritage, there is a long history of Republicanism in the area dating back to at least the 1798 period, indeed a presbyterian Minister was executed in front of his parishoners at that time for being a “rebel”.
    Regarding the present developments in Bangor, it is actually very simple, as you say, it facilitates local party supporters in selecting a local candidate and having the option of voting for them, but it also may provide a local voice on local issues. The Local SDLP are basically silent from election to election which is reflected in their vote. This is not about what happened in 1798 or the 1970’s. It is about what his happening now, 40 years on.
    I seem to remember a lot of unionists and others saying republicans should engage in normal politics. This development is surely a proof of that and should be welcomed by those same people.

    • Id say that “normal politics” pleases unionists more than nationalists. Certainly 1960s unionists liked to pretend that Norn Iron was “normal”.
      The current one party state (DUP and SF need each other) has an interest in pretending all is “normal”.
      What we have at Stormont is NOT merely a Government, it is a constitutional settlement.
      I dont think that Sinn Féin can airbrush Win Carney into their narrative and airbrush out the 1970s.
      Its no good pretending that Sinn Féin can trace a direct heritage from Win Carney or 1798 Presbyterians and not claiming a direct heritage from the 1970s guys from South Belfast.
      SF cant have flyers
      1798…..that was us.
      1916…..that was us.
      1972….not us
      2016 …its about whats happening now.

  3. bangordub says:

    I will ask the question although I have my suspicions about the answer

  4. Political Tourist says:

    Brave folks in Bangor

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