Caoimhin O’Muraile ✒ Love them or loath them it is unarguable that the political march of Sinn Fein under the all-female leadership of Mary Lou McDonald and Michele O’Neil appears to be unstoppable.

In the twenty-six counties the party leads the opposition in Dail Eireann, while in the six counties they have just won twenty-seven seats in the “Legislative Assembly” at Stormont. For the first time since partition over 100 years ago Sinn Fein are the largest party in the six counties, forty one years to the day, May 5th since the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. 

Sinn Fein are the largest party in an establishment they once swore to bring down. Back in 1972 the IRA campaign was a leading factor in achieving just this as the British enforced Direct Rule from London, putting the Unionist controlled Stormont into retirement. 

This is a complete metamorphosis in Sinn Fein’s political direction, as from the start of the war in the six counties the party refused to recognise either the Dail, Stormont or, indeed, Westminster. This changed to a certain extent in 1986 when at their Ard Fheis of that year they voted to enter, if elected, the Dail. A split occurred with a number of delegates dedicated to the orthodox republican tradition formed Republican Sinn Fein, an organisation still active today. History repeated itself here as in 1969/70 the Provisional Republican movement split from the “Officials” over the same argument, entering the Dail. 

If we take history as the only factor RSF have a valid point, entering or recognising the Dail is an antithesis to orthodox republican ideology. However, history is not the only factor and times change but nevertheless this was/is considered a betrayal of the republican ethos by RSF, perhaps in much the same way as Sinn Fein in 1926 considered the formation of Fianna Fail and de Valera’s decision to enter the Dail at that time as a betrayal, and again with the “Official Republican Movement” in 1969/70.

Since 1986 Sinn Fein (Provisional) have continued down the reformist road, which has its origins in the 1981 republican hunger strikes (seven IRA and three INLA POWs died on hunger strike in Long Kesh). As this progression, or digression - depending on your point of view - continued, Sinn Fein have become unrecognisable as the organisation which gave political support for the IRAs military campaign. This transformation culminated in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. This agreement perhaps from an Alliance Party or SDLP viewpoint was not bad, but it was/is not what republicans had been fighting for - it fell well short of the republican goal. Gone has any mention of the thirty-two-county socialist republic, gone has any support for armed struggle, gone has the Armalite and Ballot Box policy which was born out of the hunger strikes and gone has any reference to socialism. 

As a socialist and republican myself I never took the socialism of Sinn Fein as a serious manifestation of the ideology. There was no mention of nationalisation of the banks, workers' democratic control of the means of production distribution and exchange or a planned economy, all tenets of socialism. In fact, the British Labour Party had a greater commitment to socialism under the now abolished Clause IV than did Sinn Fein. Not only has any mention of socialism gone, so too has much of the rhetoric about Irish unification. Or perhaps this is a little unfair - let us say that commitment appears somewhat diluted compared with thirty years ago. Similar to the British Labour Party under Tony Blair, who betrayed the concept of socialism, abolishing the sacred Clause IV of the party’s constitution. Sinn Fein have similarly shifted ground hugely in order to gain electoral support, irrespective of republican principles.

Of course, Sinn Fein would deny any betrayal of republicanism and would, with possible justification, or possibly not, claim these are new strategies towards the same goal, a United Ireland. This is, of course, very much what Fianna Fail would have us believe is one of their aims, and the band played believe it if you like! However, that said, it is undeniable that the party for the first time since partition in 1921 are at its most popular. If they win the next twenty-six- county elections and become the Government in Dublin Sinn Fein can claim to be in power across the 32 counties, albeit in two different institutions with the six counties still under control from Westminster. Sinn Fein will, in effect, be an arm of the British administration!!

It must be said - and again, love or loath Sinn Fein - that the days of a “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” as James Craig once boasted have long gone. The question is at what price to the republican ethos? How long before the same Sinn Fein take their seats in the British Parliament? Never I can hear, but that would have been said prior to 1986 when entering the Dail in Dublin was an antithesis to republican doctrine dating back to the Second Dail of August 1921 to June 1922. At that time any future Dail would not be recognised until such time as an all-Ireland election could be held without any British interference. This, of course has not yet happened so once again RSF would claim this republican mantle.

Sinn Fein are now talking about a border poll on unification between five and ten years from now. Is this another dilution of policy? What happened to unification now? That is up to the individual to decide but I would suggest watch closely, and what kind of united Ireland will we have? A decent health service down here in the twenty-six-counties would be a start which would encourage those from a unionist tradition in the North who would argue, justly to a point, that they benefit from the NHS. Sinn Fein have pledged themselves to a single tiered nationalised health service if they are elected to government in the Dail. Time will tell on this one I just hope they do deliver, if elected, and not ditch this policy like so many others they have kicked into touch or, at best, parked.

All the above briefly discussed aside it is undeniable that the leadership of Mary Lou McDonald, President of the party, and Michele O’Neil have brought the party along as far as elections go. Perhaps this should be seen as encouraging for women in politics in Ireland and is indeed a credit for women’s advancement generally. I’m sure the suffragettes would be proud of the pair of them. In this context there has been a revolution in Sinn Fein for women’s political leadership (please nobody mention or compare Thatcher to this female revolution) and perhaps the other parties should take a leaf out of this book.

Sinn Fein are now a microcosm of their former selves as far as ideology and republicanism goes. On the other hand, they have evolved electorally into a political giant who look like in the near future controlling Dail Eireann in Dublin and the Legislative assembly at Stormont, despite that administration being answerable to Westminster on all important issues and have no real power outside local issues. Whether they will deliver on their promises remains to be seen though their recent track record has been anything but encouraging in this area. 

It is my hope, though without illusions, that should Sinn Fein become the government in the twenty-six-counties we at least get a health service fit for purpose in the twenty first century. This subject, that of health, is perhaps the last remaining credible unionist argument against a united Ireland. The delivery of services in the HSE is still well behind the NHS, despite that organisation slowly being undermined and privatised by various British Governments. It is still miles ahead of the HSE in the twenty-six-counties.

Caoimhin O’Muraile is Independent 
Socialist Republican and Marxist

The Political Ascendancy Of Sinn Fein

Caoimhin O’Muraile ✒ Love them or loath them it is unarguable that the political march of Sinn Fein under the all-female leadership of Mary Lou McDonald and Michele O’Neil appears to be unstoppable.

In the twenty-six counties the party leads the opposition in Dail Eireann, while in the six counties they have just won twenty-seven seats in the “Legislative Assembly” at Stormont. For the first time since partition over 100 years ago Sinn Fein are the largest party in the six counties, forty one years to the day, May 5th since the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. 

Sinn Fein are the largest party in an establishment they once swore to bring down. Back in 1972 the IRA campaign was a leading factor in achieving just this as the British enforced Direct Rule from London, putting the Unionist controlled Stormont into retirement. 

This is a complete metamorphosis in Sinn Fein’s political direction, as from the start of the war in the six counties the party refused to recognise either the Dail, Stormont or, indeed, Westminster. This changed to a certain extent in 1986 when at their Ard Fheis of that year they voted to enter, if elected, the Dail. A split occurred with a number of delegates dedicated to the orthodox republican tradition formed Republican Sinn Fein, an organisation still active today. History repeated itself here as in 1969/70 the Provisional Republican movement split from the “Officials” over the same argument, entering the Dail. 

If we take history as the only factor RSF have a valid point, entering or recognising the Dail is an antithesis to orthodox republican ideology. However, history is not the only factor and times change but nevertheless this was/is considered a betrayal of the republican ethos by RSF, perhaps in much the same way as Sinn Fein in 1926 considered the formation of Fianna Fail and de Valera’s decision to enter the Dail at that time as a betrayal, and again with the “Official Republican Movement” in 1969/70.

Since 1986 Sinn Fein (Provisional) have continued down the reformist road, which has its origins in the 1981 republican hunger strikes (seven IRA and three INLA POWs died on hunger strike in Long Kesh). As this progression, or digression - depending on your point of view - continued, Sinn Fein have become unrecognisable as the organisation which gave political support for the IRAs military campaign. This transformation culminated in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. This agreement perhaps from an Alliance Party or SDLP viewpoint was not bad, but it was/is not what republicans had been fighting for - it fell well short of the republican goal. Gone has any mention of the thirty-two-county socialist republic, gone has any support for armed struggle, gone has the Armalite and Ballot Box policy which was born out of the hunger strikes and gone has any reference to socialism. 

As a socialist and republican myself I never took the socialism of Sinn Fein as a serious manifestation of the ideology. There was no mention of nationalisation of the banks, workers' democratic control of the means of production distribution and exchange or a planned economy, all tenets of socialism. In fact, the British Labour Party had a greater commitment to socialism under the now abolished Clause IV than did Sinn Fein. Not only has any mention of socialism gone, so too has much of the rhetoric about Irish unification. Or perhaps this is a little unfair - let us say that commitment appears somewhat diluted compared with thirty years ago. Similar to the British Labour Party under Tony Blair, who betrayed the concept of socialism, abolishing the sacred Clause IV of the party’s constitution. Sinn Fein have similarly shifted ground hugely in order to gain electoral support, irrespective of republican principles.

Of course, Sinn Fein would deny any betrayal of republicanism and would, with possible justification, or possibly not, claim these are new strategies towards the same goal, a United Ireland. This is, of course, very much what Fianna Fail would have us believe is one of their aims, and the band played believe it if you like! However, that said, it is undeniable that the party for the first time since partition in 1921 are at its most popular. If they win the next twenty-six- county elections and become the Government in Dublin Sinn Fein can claim to be in power across the 32 counties, albeit in two different institutions with the six counties still under control from Westminster. Sinn Fein will, in effect, be an arm of the British administration!!

It must be said - and again, love or loath Sinn Fein - that the days of a “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” as James Craig once boasted have long gone. The question is at what price to the republican ethos? How long before the same Sinn Fein take their seats in the British Parliament? Never I can hear, but that would have been said prior to 1986 when entering the Dail in Dublin was an antithesis to republican doctrine dating back to the Second Dail of August 1921 to June 1922. At that time any future Dail would not be recognised until such time as an all-Ireland election could be held without any British interference. This, of course has not yet happened so once again RSF would claim this republican mantle.

Sinn Fein are now talking about a border poll on unification between five and ten years from now. Is this another dilution of policy? What happened to unification now? That is up to the individual to decide but I would suggest watch closely, and what kind of united Ireland will we have? A decent health service down here in the twenty-six-counties would be a start which would encourage those from a unionist tradition in the North who would argue, justly to a point, that they benefit from the NHS. Sinn Fein have pledged themselves to a single tiered nationalised health service if they are elected to government in the Dail. Time will tell on this one I just hope they do deliver, if elected, and not ditch this policy like so many others they have kicked into touch or, at best, parked.

All the above briefly discussed aside it is undeniable that the leadership of Mary Lou McDonald, President of the party, and Michele O’Neil have brought the party along as far as elections go. Perhaps this should be seen as encouraging for women in politics in Ireland and is indeed a credit for women’s advancement generally. I’m sure the suffragettes would be proud of the pair of them. In this context there has been a revolution in Sinn Fein for women’s political leadership (please nobody mention or compare Thatcher to this female revolution) and perhaps the other parties should take a leaf out of this book.

Sinn Fein are now a microcosm of their former selves as far as ideology and republicanism goes. On the other hand, they have evolved electorally into a political giant who look like in the near future controlling Dail Eireann in Dublin and the Legislative assembly at Stormont, despite that administration being answerable to Westminster on all important issues and have no real power outside local issues. Whether they will deliver on their promises remains to be seen though their recent track record has been anything but encouraging in this area. 

It is my hope, though without illusions, that should Sinn Fein become the government in the twenty-six-counties we at least get a health service fit for purpose in the twenty first century. This subject, that of health, is perhaps the last remaining credible unionist argument against a united Ireland. The delivery of services in the HSE is still well behind the NHS, despite that organisation slowly being undermined and privatised by various British Governments. It is still miles ahead of the HSE in the twenty-six-counties.

Caoimhin O’Muraile is Independent 
Socialist Republican and Marxist

8 comments:

  1. The Shinners have the slogan of Republicanism and little else. Like every other bunch of self serving careerist bastards they are a political weathervane, adopting and jettisoning policies according to political expediency. Flash the cash they'll show you their gash, fuck the Sash, was that too brash? No matter, the Dail will scream for Stormont to rise again under the Pheonix and scream even louder to keep the Shinner away from their Dublin doors.

    Not that they are really fooling anyone, they beat their drums loud over this 'victory' when their actual vote increase is only a touch over 1%. Says more about Unionist voter apathy and the young moving to Alliance in their views.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A great result for SF. Good to see the DUP get a kicking. But still no move towards a UI, the "status quo" looks pretty safe as the young, and soft nationalists and unionists move to APNI.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to see that more and more voters do not tick the boxes "Orange" and "Green".

      Delete
    2. If I'd been within the jurisdiction Peter I would have entered the booth with full confidence of giving APNI number 1 but, pen or pencil in hand, I wound have probably relented and wished to have stabbed Jeffery in the eye.

      Delete
    3. HJ - first laugh of the day.

      Delete
  3. Couldn't agree more, like the Brit Labour Party dumped Clause IV, SF (P) have dumped republicanism in favour of electoralism.

    Caoimhin O'Muraile

    ReplyDelete