From top: Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff; Dan Boyle

One of the extra curricular activities I most enjoyed, while in Leinster House, was being a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. This brought together elected representatives not only from the Houses of the Oireachtas and Parliament, but also from the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies, as well as representatives from The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

For many who took part it was seen as something of a jolly. Getting away to some nice location where the vicissitudes of normal politics could be hidden. Those appointed seemed an often curious mix of those on their last political lap, blended with many who would never likely achieve ministerial position. My sore thumb status was amplified by being the only Green from any of the parliamentary bodies.

I thought, and still think, that it has greater potential than it has shown. I took it seriously enough to involve myself in one of its sub-committees, which sought to compare and contrast the approach taken to social disadvantage in the various jurisdictions.

The sub-committee was chaired by an extraordinary man, Alf Dubs. Now Lord Dubs, he had been a junior minister at the Northern Ireland office, working with Mo Mowlam. He had a far better understanding of the situation there than most of those who were members of the assembly.

His personal story was even more incredible. An orphaned refugee at the end of the Second World War, he has in recent years, used his experience to embarrass the Tory government to address the fate of similar children now found in the Calais refugee camp. It was a privilege to have worked to have worked with a person of such calibre and dignity.

Barry McElduff, as an MLA, was also a member of the Assembly. I write that not to contrast Barry with Alf, only to illustrate the range of people who were involved. I found Barry to be friendly, jovial, if not particularly deep.

As with many Sinn Féin representatives he seemed wedded to an ideological version of history. To these there was to be no veering from the belief that a just war was waged in Northern Ireland over that horrible 30 year period.

To the many, so many, innocent victims of that violence, there hasn’t been a tinge of regret. Various mantras get repeated ‘Terrible things happen in wars’ or ‘We need to look forward not back’. When these trite cliches fail to convince, argument falls back into a seemingly endless well of whataboutery.

Black humour sustained many individuals and communities through those awful times. No amount humour can repackage those events into a guilt-free future.

This will be Mary Lou McDonald’s biggest obstacle. Sinn Féin’s glass ceiling will be double, if not triple, glazed. Until the party can present a worst critique of itself than its opponents do, it will always find itself carrying that wee bit more additional political baggage.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

21 thoughts on “Using Your Loaf

  1. ollie

    30 year period? that shows Dan’s total lack of understanding of the plight of Catholics in NI.
    but hey the locations were great and we talked a lot, but achieved nothing.
    i suppose now that you are supplementing your irish pension with Sterling you have to adopt a certain stance.

    1. Cian

      Well he was talking specifically about ” a just war was waged in Northern Ireland over that horrible 30 year period.”
      If you consider that the ‘war’ started in the late 1960s and ‘finished’ with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 then you have a 30-year period.

  2. ahjayzis

    Those appointed seemed an often curious mix of those on their last political lap, blended with many who would never likely achieve ministerial position. My sore thumb status was amplified by being the only Green from any of the parliamentary bodies.

    In what way were you a sore thumb in the first place, though? :p

    Good piece – I feel broadly the same. There’s a lot to recommend SF to someone with politics like mine on the surface, but the lightest scratch of the surface completely rules them out for me. They talk the talk on socialist values but oppose any meaningful tax reform beyond vague ways to make people richer than the average voter pay, they need to just come out and pledge to half house prices, they’re increasingly to the right of FG on reproductive rights, and good politicians like Mary Lou shred their credibility monthly by defending the utterly indefensible and barbaric. She seems to spend every bloody weekend at some war memorial or military parade.

  3. some old queen

    Assuming it was deliberate, nobody can justify what Barry McElduff did but SF has its conservative and liberal wings just like any other party. Was what happened the only way? No one really knows but that doesn’t matter so much now because there is a whole generation who have grown up in peacetime.

    But, I think that in some ways SF are facing problems the rest of us will meet in the future. There are inherent differences between northern and southern Irish people, not least the legacy of the troubles. And to varying degrees, the outspoken (rude?) black and white mindset which influences all sections of NI society, including northern SF members.

  4. RuilleBuille

    Dan is a one term TD receiving a Euro20k pension from us taxpayers.

    He negotiated the deal which saw FF/GP send the economy down the toilet and crucify the working population.

    His attack on a political opponent is masked as analysis but fools no one.

      1. Bull Duggan

        You were the cretins who decided that those who could least afford it should pay the most for road tax.The last time some Green soap-dodger canvassed at my front door I gave them 5 seconds to get off my land before I set the alsatian onto them.You’ll never come anywhere near power again in this country.

      2. RuilleBuille

        Try as you like to deflect you did draw up the government programme.

        Opposing the Corrib pipeline while in opposition a GP member oversaw the project through to completion. FF purchased you on the cheap.

        1. Dan Boyle

          More nonsense. Never changed my opinion about Corrib. We didn’t make decision on Corrib. That was Conor Lenihan and Pat Rabbitte. Any other myths you’d like burst?

          1. ollie

            we didnt make decision on Corrib.

            Dan is correct, the Green Party sheeple never made any decisions.

          2. Cu Cullan

            The motorway through the Skyrne valley.. that was the beginning of the end, broke the scared bond. An incinerator pumping away in Dublin. Lucky babies on the breast in Holles St. And, it was in Mr. Ryan’s Power to at the very least impose the hugest safety standards at Corrib. He chose not to. And diesel, everywhere, doing more damage than w can imagine. But these are just inconvenient details. Denial, is no a river in Africa. Yet, if you put your hands up and apologised.. who knows, there might be hope for the GP. But you won’t.

  5. Steve

    Article highlights shinnerbots attempt to deflect criticism through whataboutery.

    Comments above show shinnerbots deflecting criticism through whataboutery. Lol

    SF IRA still haven’t apologized for anything. Spade is a spade. They are a party of murderers, rapist / child abuse apologists and kangaroo courts. Anybody who votes for them north or south implicitly condone these actions. Simple as.

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