Saturday, July 18, 2009

Louise Minihan Leaves Sinn Féin

Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan has left Sinn Féin to join Eirígi just five weeks after the local elections. She intends to take her seat with her.

I know Louise very well. I was at the first Sinn Féin meeting she ever attended and probably hundreds after that when we were in Ógra Shinn Féin in Dublin together about ten or twelve years ago. She is God-Mother to my daughter, Mairéad.

I can’t remember ever arguing much with Louise over politics. As I recall we agreed on almost everything. In fact the only time I remember disagreeing with her was in the run-up to the special Ard Fheis on policing. I was opposed to the Ard Comhairle motions. Louise was in favour. Indeed she spoke eloquently in support of our party joining the 6 county policing board to 2,000 plus delegates at the Ard Fheis in the RDS. (Incidentally I was queuing behind her to get up to speak against, when some fella from Cork proposed that the debate cease and a vote be taken; he got the largest applause I have ever heard from an Ard Fheis delegate. Anyway, I never got to give my tuppence worth and of course it wouldn’t have mattered – I’m not that persuasive).

I was gutted by that Ard Fheis decision; it was the only time that I’ve really considered leaving Sinn Féin.

Obviously I didn’t. But if I did I’d like to think that I would never even contemplate holding onto my council seats. They’re not mine. Of course, I’d like to think that some people vote for me because of my own track record and my own community activism but if I wanted to be judged on these alone I’d stand as an Independent. On the three occasions I’ve gone for election I’ve stood on the Sinn Féin ticket and been honoured to do so and have been more honoured to have been elected on every occasion. I have been glad of the huge support I have received from my fellow Sinn Féin members and candidates and I have never asked for assistance from the local organisation which wasn’t provided. It’s their seat as much as mine. And it belongs to the Sinn Féin members in Cork, Armagh, Dublin, wherever as much as it does to the Cumainn in my local area. Because we’re in this together!

About nine weeks ago, I, along with the other Sinn Féin candidates in Monaghan came together to sign our pre-election pledge to the party. Candidates in Dublin did likewise (as in Wexford for that matter, just like the candidates in Strabane did prior to their elections). The pledge basically states that, if elected, we will act honourably and uphold the principles and policies of Sinn Féin. It also states that if we leave Sinn Féin for whatever reason we will give our seats back to the party. Some people don’t give it much credence. Obviously councillors who have left Sinn Féin since the election and held onto their seat didn’t. But to me if I put my name to a document, it means a lot, whether it is legally binding or not. It is my word.

And, as Republicans, if we haven’t our word we have nothing. I will not fall out with anyone who leaves Sinn Féin for political, strategic or personal reasons. But I cannot have the same respect for someone who dishonours a solemn pledge they made to their fellow party members.

Louise was obviously disappointed with the some of the strategic and policy decisions that the Sinn Féin leadership made in recent years. Join the club! I firmly believe that those of us who have issues can and must try everything in our power to resolve them within the party. But I respect those who feel that they’d made the arguments, perhaps lost them all, and then want to move on.

I was at a wedding with Louise a few weeks ago. I had heard certain rumours and asked her straight out “you’re not thinking of going anywhere, are you?” - “Jaysus, no” was the response.

It is clear now that she lied to me. Who cares, no big deal. But the fact is that she more than likely had her mind made up well before the June 5th elections and that means that she also lied to party members and her constituents and I think that that is a very big deal. It also means that she signed a solemn pledge in the full knowledge that she had no intention of upholding it. Perhaps she saw it as an ‘empty formula’ – De Valera would be proud.
(Louise with SF members including Aengus O'Snodaigh just 5 weeks ago)
The people I feel angry for are the local Sinn Féin members in Ballyfermot and the wider Dublin South Central constituency. Their task of holding onto the Dáil seat has just made considerably more difficult. Don’t anyone try to tell me that contributing to the loss of a Sinn Féin Leinster House seat will do anything positive for the cause of a United Socialist Republic.

Louise text me this morning; she said: ‘Sorry I didn’t get 2 speak 2u b4 hand, always valued u as a comrade’.

Comrades don’t do this!

Louise should do the honourable thing – she should give the seat back to the party that the people of Ballyfermot, Drimnagh, Bluebell, Chapelizod & Inchicore gave it to.


  1. well said matt.

    louise could argue with best of them, never heard her socialist critique.

  2. Wise up Matt. You would be better off doing like Louise. Better late than never

  3. Matt. Your concerns about this lady keeping her seat ring a bit hollow. I dont remember you getting up on your high horse when Gerry Murray joined SF. Or Billy Leonard. Shall I go on? She is doing what a lot ore of SFers should be doing if they thought about it. I never thought I would see the day when you would support the RUC Matt. I thought you were worth more than that

  4. I agree with Matt. I was also a Sinn Fein candidate in the last local election and my running mate headed the poll here in North Kerry. I know that some of the 1,005 votes that I got were personal votes. However, this does not mean that a seat won is a personal seat. We sign a pledge and it has always been my intention, if elected, to honour that pledge. I have to pose the question. Why wait until after the election to leave Sinn Fein. If I thought I did not need Sinn Fein to get elected I would leave beforehand and paddle my own canoe. I don't understand standing on the Sinn Fein ticket, getting elected and then laving the party. Like Matt and others, there are matters that need to be addressed. Ask any member of any other party and they would say the same thing. There are things in their respective parties that they would like to see changed. I know people in Fianna Fail who are not happy with the way things are going but they are doing their best to bring about change. Will they be successful? Who knows but they are in it for the long haul. Folks, as we say in Kerry, it is time to pee or leave the pot. As a party we have known tough times. Yes we have made tough decisions to advance our goals of an Irish Republic. Some people say we should 'adapt' more to 'modern' Irish political and social life. Does that mean being more sensible and forgetting about the North to become more popular? If I were to leave Sinn Fein in the morning, where would I go? What other party has worked and sacrificed as much to advance the cause of the Republic? As a final comment on policing. Policing in the North has always stuck in my craw. Believe it or not, I was never treated badly by the Brits (one of the lucky ones). However, I was by the RUC. Why did we support the Ard Fheis motion? Because accountability was needed. We could never rely on other parties to ensure that a police force in the six counties was held accountable for its actions. That is why I decided to support a process where the police were held responsible and that Republicans would hold them accountable for their actions. The alternative was to allow them to do as they wished with the knowledge that they would not be held accountable by the yes men and women of other parties. If people have an alternative to Sinn Fein and how the alternative will achieve a Republic more quickly, let's be hearing you. Tiocfaidh ár lá.

  5. I'm going with Risteard (above). The place to debate, discuss and even criticise the direction of the party is with the party. Leaving the party on personal or political grounds is understandable, but the representation that the seat symbolises, the people that worked to win that seat and the rightful authority to use the position of ‘elected representative’ in this instance all rest clearly under the banner ‘Sinn Fein’.

    We've had many 'monumental' debates in the last few years and the results did not always favour the opinions of all involved. That is why it is called a debate. The overall point is summed up by Rist: "What other party has worked and sacrificed as much to advance the cause of the Republic?" There simply isn't any political group on this island that is within a snipers mile that has the work done and the work in progress like Sinn Fein. (Prob should have said an 'Asses roar'!)

    There are many policy and strategy decisions that I would not agree 100% with...I'm not a robot or a yes-man. I have my own opinion and have expressed them during many debates and discussions. I have also put forward the views and opinions of people in the community that we are supposed to represent, even when those views may be contrary to what the party is doing. That is what SF is supposed to be all about. Republican representation. 90 years of it certainly has its merit.

    I see many of our current problems as being created by ourselves and of an operational nature more than policy. But, I also believe that in the area of policy, the leadership and the party members have expressed and debated to a reasonable degree on most issues. I haven't always agreed...but the point of view on the other side of the argument has on most occasions been made clear to me during any debate. And the over all objective of Sinn Fein is, as always, based on principles going back to 1916, which is crucial.

    If she wants to pursue Republican objectives independently or with the association of other groups I can understand, but when this very same situation occurred in the past, the end result is neither a retained seat for SF or the individual. Therefore the opportunity to provide Republican representation in the area is lost.