“Be careful what you wish for” Arlene Foster warned Sinn Féin when they were pressing for a referendum on partition. She might have been better directing her words to the anti-republican elements in the Dail and media south of the border. For years that partnership urged on northern republicans the need to abandon violence and walk the democratic path. When Sinn Féin did just that, the anti-republican alliance were aghast. They were happy to have Sinn Féin in politics but this had always been on the assumption that they would be political illiterates. Now it’s becoming increasingly clear that Sinn Féin are rather good at politics – in fact very good, judging by their progress north and south. So that leaves the anti-republican constituency in the south doing a backward flip: now they’re grasping desperately at Shinner coat-tails and trying to pull them back to violence recollected in tranquillity. If you want a good example, try Stephen Collins in today’s Irish Times (how many times must I tell you, Virginia? He’s no relation).
Stephen’s piece is headed “Sinn Féin bullied other parties with Gaza publicity stunt”. See what he did there? Killed two republican birds with one stone. Or tried. Sinn Féin were bullies (shades of violence) in the manner in which they acted, and their action was simply a publicity stunt. And what was that ‘stunt’? Gerry Adams called on TDs in the Dail to stand as a demonstration of their solidarity with the people of Gaza and the Middle East. Apparently the Ceann Comhairle was very upset about not being told in advance (“I do not want to be put in that position ever again!” ) Meanwhile “some TDs silently fumed, Stephen says, at the irony of a party which supported a campaign of terror and murder against the civilian population of its own country”, etc , etc.
Poor Stephen. He keeps trying to grab those Shinner coat-tails and drag them back to 1974 or even 1984, but each time he tries it has less success. If there’s irony, it’s that republicans were exhorted to abandon violence and when they do, they’re blamed for having once resorted to violence. No word on context or violence inflicted on them and others – just their “terror and murder”. Sin é.
Now it’s true that no political party acts or speaks without some thought as to how this will play with the electorate. Sinn Féin are no exception. But maybe, just maybe, their solidarity with Palestinians is genuine? It certainly has a long history – there hasn’t been a Shinner Árd Fheis * in decades which hasn’t included Palestinian representatives.
So maybe Mary Lou was being truthful when she got stuck into Joan Burton for showing more concern over Irish citizens in the Middle East than in the carnage being meted out to Palestinian children and boys playing football on a beach. Just maybe Gerry felt a dramatic in-the-Chamber gesture might do something to let the world know where Irish politicians stand in relation to Israeli butchery. And just maybe the people caught in the living hell of the Gaza strip would want never to be put in that position again, even more than our fuming and protocol-sensitve Ceann Comhairle
As for Stephen: a word in your shell-like, dear name-sake. Adams and McDonald and their colleagues will be cheered to the echo by people who don’t give a damn about politics but feel that what’s going on in Gaza is contemptuous cruelty. Anything that draws attention to the Irish people’s outrage at this cruelty is welcome. So if you must talk about bullying, Stephen, maybe do a piece on how the state of Israel has been treating the Palestinians for decades now. Wakey-wakey, old chum.
* An earlier version, as a kind reader has pointed out, had Árd Chomhairle instead of Árd Fheis. I was, of course, very very drunk at the time…