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Gerry refreshes the town hall meetings other TDs cannot reach

Mark Devenport | 12:10 UK time, Friday, 1 April 2011

I spent last night at Sinn Fein's first town hall meeting which took place, not in a town hall, but in the Roddy McCorley social club in West Belfast. Around 200 republican supporters gathered there and waited...and waited...and waited for Gerry Adams and two of the party's new team in the Dail to turn up.

The meeting turned out to be a "stress test" for the logistics of Sinn Fein's all Ireland project as the TDs were delayed discussing the banking crisis in the Dail. In the end both the Party President and the new Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald made it, but the Donegal TD Pearse Doherty had to pull out to "mind the shop" back in Dublin.

But during the wait I learned a few things.

First, the West Belfast Westminster by-election is likely to take place in June - the government had already made it clear they thought it would be too confusing to run the contest at the same time as the council, Assembly and AV votes.

Second, former IRA prisoner Bobby Storey won't be a candidate - whilst making a speech to fill in the time he referred to speculation he could be the next MP with a brief dismissive "no chance!"

Third, if you have to hire a compere for an event you could do worse than Sue Ramsey. She valiantly filled the gap in proceedings with a few quips. When Gerry Adams turned up and asked her to say a few words, she retorted that she'd already been talking forever to cover for him, so he better get to his feet and start straight away. He asked her how she'd entertained the folks and she replied "I read them your notes".

When the Party President got going he defended Sinn Fein's record in West Belfast, praised Caitriona Ruane (insisting she was being targeted by opponents because of the fundamental change she had ushered into education), and set the current campaign in the context of the party's all-Ireland ambitions.

That theme was echoed by Mary Lou McDonald who insisted "the bounce of the ball" is now with Sinn Fein. As an aside, Mr Adams revealed that, because of the largest ever turnover in TDs, things are still a bit chaotic at the Dail, where the Sinn Fein team have been working without offices or computers. This, he promised, would be rectified soon.

The local Assembly and council candidates sat in seats behind the speakers who predictably bigged them up. At one point Gerry Adams resorted to a beer advert analogy, whichs seemed appropriate enough given we were in a big bar. But he got in a bit of a mix when he told the audience that if Heineken made candidates then they would make candidates just like the ones on the stage. He paused before correcting himself - "that was Carlsberg, wasn't it?".

So which party in this campaign will refresh the parts other politicians cannot reach?


  • Comment number 1.

    " "the bounce of the ball" is now with Sinn Fein"

    SF is really struggling with the bouncing ball in Moyle. Having deselected 'veteran' councillor Cathal Newcombe I'm told that SF HQ is now onto its third replacement candidate. To make matters worse, I understand that Newcombe might be tempted to run as an independent in light of choice #3.

    I wonder how this twist on the Newcastle Brown slogan would have gone down amongst the august company: "Northstead Brown Ale. The other side of Darkie".

    Whatever happened to Máirtín Ó Muilleoir premier gin: "Be a tastemaker"? Is SF HQ harbouring doubts?

  • Comment number 2.


    I've been watching Pearse Doherty on television, both in the Dáil chamber, and on various political programmes. It is claimed that Michael Collins' father, on his death bed, pointed to the six year old Michael an said "Mind that child. He'll be a great man yet and will do things for Ireland". I think the same can be said for Pearse Doherty!!!

    Watch this space!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    All very interesting Mark Devenport but what about the issue of continuing dissident Republican violence and the disgustingly cowardly murder of Rowan Kerr, a Catholic member of the PSNI?

    It is clear that as part of the peace process that we reduced the security measures that had been necessary. This was part of the Peace Dividend and that was a very, very good thing for NI.

    However, it also seems clear that dissident Republican murder gangs are intent on trying to drag NI back to the bad old days. Surely the best way that can be avoided would be if mainstream Republicans, led by SF, recognise the dissident Republican gangs for what they are - cold blooded murderers - and give the PSNI all the intelligence they have to destroy the dissident Republican movement once and for all so that the peace process can move forward.

    There must be no hiding place within the Republican community for dissident Republican murder gangs or their supporters.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    I understand from having had my previous post moderated that I must not refer to the past misdemeanours of any political party, its personnel or fellow-travellers in Northern Ireland, or the rest of the world in case they are offended, or a complaint is made alleging that the BBC is less than fair to the enemies of democracy and the first B in BBC . I therefore dedicate this post to the sunny sun and the white fluffy clouds and the cheery little pixies at the bottom of my garden, promisse not to refer to blood of any kind.

    ...But it really is refreshing to hear Provisional Sinn Fein and its senior members being described in such innocent and cuddly terms. I must remember to 'vote' for them, since that nice Mr Devonport likes them so much.

    Incidentally, the 'house rules' on posts here are that posts will be censored if they contravene a number of clear guidelines, which I have read and have followed.

    As my post refers to Mr Devenport's column, is relevant and does not contravene any other rule, it would be instructive to be told quite how I have offended; I can only imagine that the moderator was him/herself offended, in which case there is a clear case for a charge of political bias. I am sure the BBC would vigorously defend itself from such a charge. Please, then, do so, before I complain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Who ever carried out the murder of Constable Rowan Kerr have absolutely nothing to offer any section of society in the north. If the reason for his murder is that he was a catholic then the those involved stand accused of sectarianism.
    In the past loyalist murder gangs killed catholics because of the same reason are they any bettter?
    The Patten reform came about because of the good friday agreement. An agreement voted for both north and south of the border. It was the peoples will, so what do these traitors think they will achieve? Nationalism stands behind Martin McGuinness when he said "They have betrayed the community and set themselves against the will of the people of Ireland. No cause is served by this act and let no excuse be acknowledged". He went on to say "In joining the PSNI this young man sought to protect and serve the community; to be part of defining a better future for us all".

    The thoughts of all right thinking people are with Mr Kerrs family at this time.

    "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (Bobby Sands)

    Eyes wide open

  • Comment number 7.

    It has to be good that all of the posters here, bar none, think that planting a bomb in Omagh is a bad idea.

    It is a measure of how isolated these people are.

  • Comment number 8.

    I have to say I agree with eyeswideopen: These people are charged with sectarianism and offer nothing to the people of Ireland, or indeed Ireland herself. They are cowards who are stuck in the past!!!

    What do they want? A return to our streets by British soldiers???

    I guess then these cowards would feel at ease, having a similar terrorist organisation such as their own to cushion the blow from public opinion. They have no war; their only war is against Catholic police officers like Ronan Kerr and Stephen Carroll. They are sectarian bigots who are no better than the Shankil Butchers or Billy Wright.

    I hope we will see a change of policy from the DUP when it comes to Ronan Kerr's funeral???

  • Comment number 9.

    Disgusted in Derry

    Peter Robinson has just said he is going to the funeral.

  • Comment number 10.

    @#6 Eyeswideopen

    Do you realise that the quote you make is actually a bible verse (John 15:13) and not something that Bobby Sands composed? Do you see any irony in offering condolences to the family of a murdered police officer and then quoting someone who was actively involved in trying to murder police officers with an identical agenda to the killers of Constable Kerr?

    Sands and the other hunger strikers were not 'Christs', they made no sacrifice. Their deaths were calculated passive aggressive, political attacks. Comparing Sand's death to Constable Kerr's is at best ignorant and at worst highly insulting.


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