Election 2016: The west Belfast view

Young people are more worried about jobs than the past, say Sinn Féin’s Northern supporters

 

Strolling through Andersonstown in west Belfast on a sunny afternoon canvassing for Northern views on the general election the first man I buttonhole looks like he will have something to say. He does.

In his 50s, he’s wearing an Easter lily badge which might portray him as a Sinn Féin supporter.

“I want nothing to do with Sinn Féin. I don’t care what happens with them. As far as I am concerned they sold us out and left us in the shit.”

West Belfast where Gerry Adams served as MP before switching to Louth is solid Sinn Féin territory - the party holds five of the six Assembly seats in the constituency - but as is evident from this Easter lily dissident there isn’t a monolithic Sinn Féin view.

And in truth after speaking to more than 20 people in Andersonstown it is clear that the general election hasn’t hugely impinged on the consciousness of people in West Belfast. They have enough of their own troubles and concerns to be getting on with.

But some are more tuned in than others and there is an awareness that the spotlight is firmly on Sinn Féin and on Mr Adams.

Jeanette Crossan is a supporter. She was down in Dublin on Saturday leafleting for west Belfast native Sarah Holland who is standing for Sinn Féin in Dublin South West. “The feedback we are getting is that she will do well.”

As for the negative publicity about Sinn Féin and Mr Adams: “Sure that always happens coming up to elections. They have to dig dirt out somehow, don’t they? That’s the way I look at it.”

Of Mr Adams, she adds: “I would not hear a bad word said against him.”

Walking near Casement Park, Elizabeth Hall is of the same opinion. She puzzles over the negative focus on Sinn Féin south of the Border.

“Gerry’s coming from the North and going down there to try and take over - is that what they think? Do they think Gerry should be back up here rather than shoving Sinn Féin down there?” she laughs.

“You can go to Gerry Adams about anything and he will do his best to try to help you. Gerry can stand up for himself and Gerry will do all right.”

Michael, a teacher, doesn’t know how it works in the South but says “if you want something done in West Belfast go to your Sinn Fein councillor”.

One of Mr Adams’s perhaps mischievous tweets about trampolining naked with his dog didn’t rest well with him, however. “He can look a bit of an idiot sometimes; that stuff about the trampolining… I think Martin (McGuinness) has a more acute mind than Gerry.”

Noreen thinks Sinn Féin will do well in working class areas. She says she supports the party but not Mr Adams. “For him to deny that he was in the IRA is just the biggest load of nonsense. Everyone knows that he was, so why bother telling a lie and keeping that lie up? It just angers me,” she adds.

“You just don’t trust him then when he comes off with something because he has told such a big lie about that.”

Joseph McArdle, a taxi driver, has been keeping an eye on the debates and coverage.

“There is too much bickering going on, especially from Fine Gael, ” he says. “They don’t realise themselves that their party was formed from violence. People should bring that up a wee bit more. That is the main sticking point for me. All the parties have blood on their hands from the past.”

Mr McArdle, a former IRA prisoner, says: “I think Sinn Féin will do rightly because their policies suit the young people and the working class.

“I don’t think negative tactics will work against Sinn Féin. The people, especially the younger ones, are more worried about their wages and jobs. They are not worried about what happened maybe 20 or 30 years ago. As long as it does not happen again.”