For Fine Gael to get in bed with Sinn Fein would be indefensible

Eamonn Farrell - Photocall Ireland

[As published in The Sunday Independent on 9 November 2014]

SF’s tainted past shows it exhausted all the alternatives to democracy before adopting it.

Two recent radio interviews troubled me. Vincent Browne predicted during the week that Fine Gael and Sinn Fein would, presumably after much ostentatious nose-holding, do business when we elect our next hung Dail, negotiating and forming a coalition government.

For Fine Gael to do so, in the absence of an explicit Sinn Fein repudiation of, and apology for, the terrorist campaign which their doppelgangers in the so-called IRA waged against our own Republic and its police force, would be indefensible when a perfectly valid democratic alternative exists.

In a second profoundly depressing interview, one of our brightest young TDs defended the actions of the violent nationalist movement in the Mairia Cahill tragedy, by saying that people in the South didn’t realise what was going on “just 80 miles up the road” during the Troubles. We southerners didn’t realise, Sinn Fein Deputy Peadar Toibin solemnly told us on Newstalk radio, that our fellow citizens in the North weren’t able to vote or to march, and as a result, the kangaroo-judiciary which Ms Cahill was subjected to, necessarily and justifiably evolved to fill the gap.

It seemed to me that during the Troubles, our northern brethren never stopped (or indeed stop) marching or voting except perhaps to commemorate, campaign and argue over flags and languages.

Deputy Toibin didn’t seem to realise that the reform to allow one man/one vote in local elections in Northern Ireland, was passed by Stormont in 1969, four years before the Sunningdale Executive, which was brought down by the Paisleyites and the Provos, and more than a decade before Mairia Cahill was born.

The Provos were fighting for nationalism, not civil rights, which had largely been achieved already by the brave heroes of the civil rights movement. The Provos were, in fact, prepared to subjugate the civil and democratic rights of every one on the island to their misty-eyed vision of national purity, rejecting any inconvenient election results North and South, and refusing to recognise the legitimacy of Dails 3-29, which were freely elected in 27 fully enfranchised general elections. They believed the real government was actually the seven men of the so-called army council of the so-called IRA, whose legitimacy derived, according to their catechism, from the benediction of the last surviving member of the second Dail, Tom Maguire.

Even now, it is not entirely certain that this seven-man rotten borough isn’t still running the party, and hence might have a guiding role in any future coalition which included Sinn Fein.

I don’t believe that Deputy Toibin was lying, or insincere, but wherever he learned his modern history, he seems to have neglected the chapter on the judicial gap that developed as a result of the policy of the so-called IRA to kill judges, police women and men, potential witnesses, jurors, prison officers, etc.

Our Republic no longer has the luxury of allowing the parties which represent the democratic views, values of the broad mass of the population, to bicker among themselves over inconsequentialities and interchangeable policies. The ability of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to flip positions depending on what side of the Oireachtas aisle they are sitting is legendary. Fianna Fail introduced and opposed water tax, advocated abolition and retention of the Seanad, supported and opposed hospital closures and austerity. Fine Gael does the same. Labour has been more consistent, but their routine minority status forces them to compromise.

It is harder to criticise the dishonesty of the hopefully pacified violent nationalists when the Government routinely lies through its teeth. FG stroke-pulling over the McNulty Seanad appointment and lies justifying the Roscommon Hospital Emergency closure were nothing short of reprehensible.

A Sinn Fein coalition might include ministers who imported guns which were used to kill our police, made bombs and possibly planted them and cavorted with Gaddafi. Would such ministers even call our Republic a Republic, or continue to prefer the pejoratives “the South”, or “the 26 counties”? For all of their failings, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour have, within the bounds of the failures of human nature, generally adhered to the rules of democracy. They have undoubtedly tried to game the system, exhibiting degrees of corruption that were in general proportional to their grip of, and tenure in, power. Sinn Fein by way of contrast, resemble Churchill’s phrase about the Americans always coming to the right conclusion after they have exhausted all of the alternatives.

Sinn Fein certainly exhausted all of the alternatives to democracy before adopting it. Remember, the Nazis didn’t seize power, they were elected, although without a majority. They required the support of a right-leaning mostly Catholic party to achieve power. They were elected by an electorate that was in the grip of an international recession, a recession which had hit their proud country disproportionately hard. Banks had failed, people’s assets and savings had been wiped out, unemployment sky-rocketed. They revelled in the myths and history of warrior ancestors, and preached that traitors and collaborators had brought their country low.

If Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have a scrap of statesmanship left between them, they will now do the right thing for the Republic which they have both defended. We don’t need an additional centrist or right-wing party, we need the two existing ones to merge.

Hopefully this would allow the space for a proper explicitly social democratic party — probably a revitalised Labour — to emerge.

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