I have recently made cryptic references to Sinn Féin TALKING about Wolfe Tone but being unable to spell his name. In todays Irish News, Diana Rusk reveals all….well most.
Last week in the small village of Derrymacash leaflets were distributed by Sinn Fein noting an advice clinic would be held in the local GAA Club…the Wolfe Tones. But local residents were left to scratch their heads…because the residents, many of them members of a fast growing club realised that the GAA cannot host such events. While it is safe to assume that all members of the Club, situated in the nationalist Loughside DEA in Craigavon Council area. Effectively it is made up of four small villages…..Derrymacash/Aghacommon, Derrytrasna, Aghagallon (all nationalist and where the local GAA clubs are the main social hub) and the Bannfoot area (unionist).
The 2011 local council election shows. Sinn Féin on 60% of the vote. SDLP get 30% of the vote. DUP 7%. Three of the five councillors for the area are SF. The other two are SDLP.
While many residents took concerns to the Wolfe Tones Club, clearly residents/club members also brought Dolores Kelly MLA into the story. And Dolores has quite properly run with it, contacted the Ulster Council of the GAA who have contacted the Club, reminding them of the rules. The event has now been cancelled. A massive own goal by Sinn Féin.
And quite properly Dolores has publicised the story thru Diana Rusk in todays Irish News. Cllr Mairead O’Dowd (a sister in law of John O’Dowd MLA???) appears a little ungracious. She is blaming the SDLP for depriving the local electorate of an opportunity to talk to their political representatives. Cllr O’Dowd appears to live in the area and quite possibly might be a member of the Wolfe Tones GAC…….but she has embarrassed both her Party and the local Club. Quite possibly the booking of the club might have been made in a personal capacity but the GAA tends to enforce these rules rather well.
In the interests of disclosure I should state that I am a member of the GAA but NOT a member of Wolfe Tones GAC. One of the great joys about being in a GAA club is that there is no overt party politics. Essentially there is no big deal about sports clubs hosting “political” events. After all on 18th May,Strabane Cricket Club hosted “A Night at the Races” fundraiser for the SDLP. I dont suppose anyone thinks of it as an endorsement of SDLP policies by Strabanes cricketing community. The GAA is extremely sensitive to any charges like this. And mostly it works…not least to the benefit of the GAA and its members. And indeed nationalists.
Actually thats not entirely true. It tends to depend on the Club. Back in the 1960s, the GAA in Belfast was the preserve of men of the Old Decency…..Confraternity men, pioneers, Conradh na Gaeilge men. Nationalists certainly but usually without Party label. As a young drummer boy aged about twelve, I remember the Great Roddy McCorley/Seán South Controversy at Casement Park. Our band leader was advised that it was ok to play “Roddy McCorley” but NOT “Seán South from Garryowen”. One is a national song (good) and the other is a rebel song (bad)……..so we played Roddy McCorley …….but er the music is actually the same. Well in fairness I wasnt much of a drummer and everything I played sounded the same.
The simple fact is that militant republicans, ex-prisoners were very often (but not always) Paddy-Come-Latelys to the GAA (and Irish language)..certainly in West Belfast. Certainly I recall a man who started to appear at West Belfast club matches and was very vociferous supporter even though he seemed to know nothing about the rules. The men from the Old Decency referred to him as “Offside” or “Handball”.
So how on earth did Upper Bann Sinn Féin make such an elementary mistake as trying to stage an advice centre in a GAA club. Clearly they did not think it thru. Carelessness? Arrogance? Both? But I tend to think of it as further evidence that Sinn Féin is disconnecting with those it professes to represent.
My view remains that ten years ago, the SDLP (in government) lost the plot a little. Clearly the Good Friday Agreement was under pressure from SF and DUP and many mainstream nationalists/republicans did not trust the SDLP to negotiate in their interests and shifted to SF. I consider this vote “softer” than SF realises. It is now SDLP who are talking about prisoners rights while SF are using the “L” word in connexion with Derry.
Put frankly….Sinn Féin are losing their touch.
Yet……Dolores Kelly (or maybe Diana Rusk) could have gone a step further. This past weekend, Sinn Féin talked a lot about Wolfe Tone …..in Killarney. Meanwhile in a small village on the shores of Lough Neagh, they insult members of a GAA club named in his honour. For as can be seen in the leaflet, they can’t even spell his name right. Its WOLFE Tone…..not WOLF Tone. Ten years ago, Sinn Féin would not have been so careless.