Derek Mooney: How Dublin GAA Got Arlene To Clones


From top: A member of the Dublin Senior football team laying a wreath at the Ulster Tower at the Somme, France in May; DUP leader Arlene Foster (standing) and Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill (in black) at the Ulster final between Fermanagh and Donegal in Clones, County Monaghan last Sunday; Derek Mooney

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. Though I am tempted to pretend that I recall this dusty old phrase from my days doing inter-cert Latin in Synge St., the truth is that I only know it from watching The West Wing.

It is the title of episode two of season one and its significance is explained by the President Bartlett character when it translates it to his staff saying:

“‘After it, therefore because of it.’ It means one thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other. But it’s not always true, in fact it’s hardly ever true.”

Yet another “The West Wing” truism. Nonetheless, the point is well made. It’s a common mistake in politics to so imagine that there is order and logic in events that we manage to project some form of order and sequencing on to them.

In politics, the cock-up theory more often applies than the conspiracy one.

But, just as we should not presume that Event A caused Event B to happen simply because one thing follows another, neither should we assume that there can be no other relationship between the two except causation.

The relationship between actions and events in politics can be far more complex than it may at first seem.

All of this is a somewhat convoluted way of explaining why I think the Dublin Senior Football team was one of the key architects of Arlene Foster’s visit to the Ulster Final in Clones last Sunday, even if is was a bit inadvertent.

Back in May last a group from Dublin GAA, including several players from the senior football team, visited the Ulster Memorial Tower as part of a tour of WWI sites around the Somme.

The Ulster Tower marks the spot near Thiepval in France from where the 36th Ulster Division attacked the German lines on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. Though they were one of the few divisions to make significant gains on the day, they came at a very heavy price. During the fifteen or so hours of battle that day the Ulster Division endured over 5,000 casualties and saw 2,069 of their comrades killed.

Though the Dublin GAA visit was low key and done with a minimum of fuss and publicity, news of it quickly spread courtesy of a generous online acknowledgement by the Somme Association of the respect paid by the team.

Am I saying that Arlene Foster’s trip to Clones to watch Fermanagh play in the Ulster Final was the direct and inevitable consequence of Dublin GAA’s Thiepval trip? No, I am not. But I am saying that simple, but sincere, actions, such as those of the Dublin GAA senior team did help set background for Arlene Foster’s visit to Clones.

This does not take anything away from the significance of her action – and action is the right word, because it was an action not merely a gesture.

Though she is not the first DUP leader to attend a GAA match, back in early 2012 then then leader and First Minister, Peter Robinson attended a McKenna cup final alongside the late Martin McGuinness, it was a welcome move in the context of the political entrenchment from both Sinn Féin and the DUP over the past year and a half.

While the rules of political dynamics may tempt some to start listing the gestures or actions that they now want to see Mary Lou McDonald or Michelle O’Neill perform as some form reciprocation, that would be a mistake. Though Sinn Féin are the masters of making demands of others, out-Sinn-Féin-ing the Shinners won’t move us forward.

The kudos in these situations comes not with doing something in response to demands, particularly demands from the other side, but in doing something almost spontaneous. I say “almost” as any such moves are calculated politically with an eye to the reaction, nonetheless the spontaneity comes from your assessment that this is the right time and this is the right move.

Hopefully, this is also what has motivated today’s outreach to the Orange Order by Mary Lou, which should also be welcomed, though it is still at the gesture stage and has not fully matured to an action.

Either way, while there is still a long way to go, seeing the political dynamic in the North change from negative to positive is still progress, by which I mean it is good to see the two main parties potentially begin to up the ante on how far they can reach across to the other, rather that how hard they can poke the other in the eye.

That said, while seeing Arlene and Michelle spend an hour or two attending a game together is positive, it is nowhere near as positive as seeing the two of them in a meeting room together hammering out an agreement that would allow both the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to get back to work.

Not that this will be an easy task just now. While July has never been an easy political month in the North, it is potentially about to become a little more tricky.

A BBC NI Spotlight investigation to be aired later tonight claims to have new information on how the DUP and the UK Vote Leave campaign worked together in the Brexit referendum, particularly in the area of spending.

The programme raises serious questions about the DUP’s Brexit campaign finances, including a massive £435,000 Brexit spending spree, exploring a money trail which BBC Spotlight says leads to Ukraine and beyond.

If its claims prove accurate – and that is a big “if” right now – it will take a lot more than a visit to a GAA game to restore the institutions.

If I were a DUP MP right now I’d start to go into training, as it may require a few of them joining the Riverdance touring company to get this show back on the road.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here every Tuesday Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Top pic: Belfast Newsletter

17 thoughts on “Derek Mooney: How Dublin GAA Got Arlene To Clones

  1. Rob_G

    So, what you are saying, is that as well as going on to win four in a row, Dublin will also break the deadlock in the North and singlehandedly restore the political institutions up there…

    … is there anything those boys can’t do?

    1. Optimus Grime

      Jim Gavin, not content with winning All Ireland’s, now intent on winning a different kind of All Ireland….Joe Brolly will obviously complain that they could do it with more style and Pat Spillane will say Kerry could have done it if they wanted it to…

  2. johnny

    The PAC today at 3.30 in a private meeting,is reviewing the Miskelly NAMA Project Eagle dossier,sensational leaks indicate possible corruption and bribery,involving the closest associates of very senior DUP figures.

    A good day out at a GAA match does wonders for the nerves!

    As a aside,does the sorry state of affairs with Finna Fail,week in week out leave you nothing to write about, constantly going negative on SF will backfire on FF,most people simply don’t trust FF or their lackeys any more.

    1. Abaddon

      Mooney – an adviser to one of, if not the worst, governments this country has ever had AGAIN uses this site as a platform to sneer at Sinn Féin.

      Until FF run candidates in the six counties I’ll treat this kind of tripe from FF, its hacks and its lackeys with the contempt it deserves.

    2. Frilly Keane

      Ah here Johnny
      You need ta do a bitta research

      Go check out the BS Telly episode Mooney Goes Wild for yerself

      As a by the by
      Arlene going to the Ulster Final had eff all ta’ do with the Dubs

      Ask Mickie Harte and the Tyrone lads

      Gags about lads offering her a lift to the UFF have been doing the rounds
      And the rounds
      And the rounds
      Since Monaghan sent Tyrone straight inta the bowl of balls

      Life outside Dublin simply does not exist for Derek
      Does it?

        1. Frilly Keane

          Saw that

          What d’we think
          I’m going with a fine and a suspended

          Although Lowry Jnr is all set to run
          Maybe they are anticipating 18 months

          1. johnny

            if he gets more than 6 months i think he has to resign or lose his seat ?
            didn’t Liam Lawlor (FF) come from jail to vote ?
            thats what im looking into/watching

          2. Frilly Keane

            But the bould Liam was only inside for contempt
            And at that twas only a few days

            Interesting that Liam Lawlor
            rip btw
            Should get a mention in a Dublin GAA theme by a Dublin FFer

            Being a former Dublin hurler himself like

  3. Ollie Cromwell

    A BBC 1 NI Spotlight investigation ?
    It’s not exactly Woodward and Bernstein.
    The DUP have played a blinder so far in their electoral pact with the Tories and all this ” money trail leading to Ukraine and beyond ” is Guardianista wet dreams.

  4. Bernie

    Derek, in the interest of fairness, balance and truth, I eagerly await you dedicating your column one of these weeks to the Orange Order’s affiliation to the KKK, the collusion between the RUC and the British paramilitaries and the murders and violence meted out by the UFF, UDA (not conveniently omitting ‘C Company’ and all their actions, especially) , the UVF and the Red Hand Gang.

    I’m sick to death of you Castle Catholics doling out your half stories and lies, day in day out. Do some proper work and research and tell the feckin’ truth.

    1. Scundered

      Sounds like you’re not interested in the truth, going by those desperately blinkered cherry picked topics.

  5. Bernie

    @ Scuttered

    Balance, dear child, is what I’m interested in. Fulfilling my request would just be the start of Derek’s quest in providing balance to his previous pieces. Do keep up, I hear fish oil is good.

    1. Scundered

      You’ll need more than fish oil if you can’t rewrite a name already written out for you. If you want balance then try being balanced yourself, then you might appear genuine otherwise you basically destroy your own point.

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