Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sinn Féin - what went wrong?

Plenty. They only had five seats in the 30th Dáil. Now, after the Éire elections, that's down to four. Four out of 166. So much for the self-proclaimed "only all-Ireland party". SF will now be navel-gazing like never before, and its critics are having a field day. For my money, there are three huge reasons Sinn Féin barely got half the number of seats it was shooting for.

1. Its brand of Marxist socialism was consigned to the dustbin of European politics fifteen years ago. Connolly's socialist ideals had popular relevance when Ireland was under the English economic boot in 1916, but modern Éire is enjoying a burgeoning neo-capitalist existence as an equal on the world economic stage, making Sinn Féin's economic dogma appear backward and, at best, irrelevant.

2. It's a reactionary movement which thrives on confrontation whereas Éire politics have grown to be consensual. It may see merit in upholding dated political ideologies, but the Éire people see it as a one-issue party: Brits out. Again, Éire has moved on, and I think Sinn Féin failed to judge that properly. Éire has a new-found confidence - well deserved and too long in the coming - and it's too busy with its role on the European and the world stage to worry about its nearest neighbours who are respected friends now anyway.

3. It is, at present, a constitutional party in name only. After almost a century supporting terrorism across Ireland and claiming the IRA to be the true government of Ireland, it'll take quite some time to build up trust enabling the electorate to accept Sinn Féin's full commitment to democracy and to the constitutional legitimacy of both Irish jurisdictions. The continued existence of a private army which needs to acquire but a handful of weapons to unleash terrorist hell again does nothing to endear Sinn Féin's brand of reactionary republicanism to the hearts of a mature, discerning Irish electorate.


It's been said on at least one blog recently that anyone in a tricolour could win elections in West Belfast or South Armagh. That's true, and with respect maybe it's been happening. And maybe the corollary is also true of unionism. Maybe the key players in Ulster's parties aren't yet perceived as up to the job of running a nation state as opposed to a regional assembly.

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin is seen by most ardent nationalists as, currently, the only local party that stands a chance of delivering Irish unification before 2016, and that is the mainstay of its popularity. A single-issue party in our single-issue adolescent political universe. In a world where unification had happened, or where Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael competed in NI elections, that popularity might come under major pressure in Ulster too.

So what would I be advising Sinn Féin to do? Easy. Disband the IRA immediately, shift economic policy into the 21st century, live out commitment to constitutional politics and to both Irish jurisdictions and develop detailed policies which the electorate really desires. Not rocket science, but acceptance may be a long, slow process.

3 Comments:

At 3:39 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

It looks like Gerry is going to have to wait a little longer to become president of a united Ireland. Oh well, he's young yet!

 
At 3:42 p.m., Anonymous beano said...

"...anyone in a tricolour could win elections in West Belfast or South Armagh. ... And maybe the corollary is also true of unionism..."

Maybe? You're much too kind.

I'm not sure it would even be good for Sinn Fein to get into power in the south. I can't think of anything that could potentially be more damaging to north-south relations.

 
At 5:13 p.m., Blogger United Irelander said...

"It's been said on at least one blog recently that anyone in a tricolour could win elections in West Belfast or South Armagh. That's true, and with respect maybe it's been happening. And maybe the corollary is also true of unionism. Maybe the key players in Ulster's parties aren't yet perceived as up to the job of running a nation state as opposed to a regional assembly."

Nail on the head right there.

Sinn Féin had no clue what was required going into the election down here. The economy was so important and if you didn't know your sums you were going to get slaughtered. Sadly for Adams the only sum he was content to talk about was 26+6=32. That's not good enough.

 

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