Brutal Agenda Of Anybody But Sinn Fein

John Coulter writes for Tribune Magazine on the recent Irish elections. Dr John Coulter is a journalist for the Daily Star.

The recent Dail general election in the year Irish republicans commemorate the centenary of the failed Easter Rising has marked a fundamental political realignment in the Irish Republic.

What is clear is that it will take a ­political miracle for the outgoing coalition of the centre-right Fine Gael party and Irish Labour to re-take control of the reins of government in Dublin’s Leinster House.

Labour – one of the island’s oldest parties (founded in the same year as Sinn Fein, 1905) – was given an electoral drubbing on a scale British voters dished out to the Tories’ junior partners, the Liberal Democrats, in last year’s Westminster poll.

Southern Irish voters also seem to have forgiven the main opposition party, the centre-Left Fianna Fail, which was in charge of the state when the once globally renowned Celtic Tiger economy went bust.

The dose of austerity given to Irish citizens was among the most bitter economic medicine ever endured in the history of the Republic, sparking successes for Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, a raft of smaller left-wing parties and a host of independent TDs (MPs), which will make forming the 32nd Dail on 10 March 10 one of the most challenging tasks since the bloody Irish Civil War of the 1920s which pitched republican against republican.

Irish politics has long been branded as the art of the impossible, and in Leinster House the impossible may be the only stable way forward to avert another general election in a matter of months.

This is a coalition between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – the equivalent in Westminster terms of a coalition between the Conservatives and Labour.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have a bitter history as dogmatic opponents during the Civil War. A FF/FG coalition would be a political “peace treaty” making the unofficial end of hostilities.

At the core of the coalition composition debacle is that none of the main parties want to do business with Sinn Fein.

Under the careful guidance of former MP for West Belfast Gerry Adams, the party has gone from being he apologist of the IRA terror campaign to the main champion of the anti-austerity movement in the Republic.

With a significant increase in its representation in the Dail, it would have been logical to assume that both FF and FG should have courted Sinn Fein as a natural minority coalition partner.

But the crimes of the Provos are not easily forgiven or forgotten and a brutal agenda of “Anybody But Sinn Fein” is being adopted.

There is a health splattering of fringe parties now in the Dail, including what’s left of Irish Labour, the Social Democrats, Green Party, and the hard left Anti-Austerity Alliance People Before Profit movement. Vocal these TDs will certainly be, but they lack the numbers – or the common agenda – to team up with either of the “big two’, FF or FG.

This leaves the high wire act of FF or FG teaming up with the wide range of independent TDs. It seems logical on paper, as this year has seen the election one of the largest collection of independents in the history of the Dail.

But in reality, each of the independents will have their personal agendas for their specific constituencies, leaving Fianna Fail and Fine Gael having to juggle national and international concerns with traditional “parish pump” issues which form the bedrock of many independent TDs’ campaigns.

And then there’s the dark horse option involving Sinn Fein. The party has turned in its best Dail performance since it dropped its abstentionist policy on Leinster House in the 1980s.

If the FF and FG are determined to snub Adams and prevent him from becoming Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), could Sinn Fein form an effective “rainbow coalition” opposition?

The Sinn Fein rainbow could – theoretically– have mustered enough TDs to force FF or FG to form a minority government. However, that move would have placed the Dail in a highly volatile situation politically, and almost certainly guaranteeing a second general election before the end of this year.

Sinn Fein will be hoping its buoyant Dail showing will be a perfect platform for its Stormont onslaught when the Assembly poll is called for May 5.

Party activists will pour across the Irish border in a bid to make Sinn Fein the largest party in Stormont, thereby allowing it to lay claim to the coveted First Minister’s post.

Sinn Fein could find itself in an unusual position of being in government in the Northern Ireland Assembly and in opposition in the Dail.

But the real problem for the Dail – no matter what the coalition combination – will be the June 23 European Union referendum in Britain. What happens to the recovering Southern economy if Brexit becomes a reality?

Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland is ­campaigning for a “Remain” vote, as Brexit would condemn the Irish Republic to a geographically irrelevant fringe in the EU.


  1. What fucking planet is this moron on? Has he no idea of the financial harm that local farmers in Northern Ireland will face if a 'Brexit' occurs, with respect to the cross border trade? It will be NI that will become irrelevant!

    And Adams being 'Anti-Austerity'? Please, is that why Goldman-Sachs was 'reassured' after their little chat? The Shinners are populist until in power, and will drop their trousers and bend over the table to remain there.

    I feel the need to point out that this guy does not speak for all in the 'PUL' community.

    Some of us have half a wit!

  2. Not too sure what last first sentence of last comment was about. It is an interesting article in so far as discussion. I would take exception to
    "Under the careful guidance of former MP for West Belfast Gerry Adams, the party has gone from being he apologist of the IRA terror campaign to the main champion of the anti-austerity movement in the Republic". 'Guidance seems to be too nice a word' And as for 'champion of the anti-austerity movement', well that is just not right. Maybe he is being sarcastic. Far from being the main champion, the anti-austerity movement or any movement, Sinn Fein's will treat them as their Trojan Horse to further the Party.

    As for Brexit I don't think it will happen. The Tories know where their bread is buttered for a start and people are pretty conservative anyway. The right wing tolerate the national front or loyalist for tactical reasons and they can see that the interest of the EC and capitalism are very much compatible.

    As for the make up of the next Dail, surely a minority government is very much on the cards? This is the preferred option of FF and probably for the right in the Republic. They like to give the impression of choice, FF or FG. As well there is quite a few FF supporters who would not take kindly to a coalition and might defect to SF. I also think that there are quite a few of FF who would do a deal with. SF are pretty adamant (maybe too much so) about not doing any deal with FF unless it was the dominant party. Now that says a lot. They in fact would do a deal and they are thinking and always are thinking and worried about 'Party'.

    Surely it is for the interest of us all that a majority right wing government gets into power, especially in these days of austerity and the march of international capitalism in the guise of IMF, ECB. Surely a win in the water campaign would be a major and important factor. This is possible if SF either put the country and people and austerity before the 'Party' This could even be possible if SF abstain allowing FF to form a coalition with independents. In this scenario the opposition can keep FF in check.

  3. Get a grip!
    Sinn Fein stated before, during and after the election that it would not go into government with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.
    The "Brutal Anybody But Sinn Fein" agenda was set by Sinn Fein itself.
    Sinn Fein has no interest in government - as we can see at Stormont, where Sinn Fein has frequently shut the place down, rather than make a grown-up political decision.