Every so often, I come on a newspaper article that cuts to the heart of a major matter. One such appears in The Irish Times this morning, and if you have the opportunity to read it, I’d urge you to do so. It’s by Kathy Sheridan and it’s entitled ‘Will the real Sinn Féin please stand up?’
In my presumptuous way, I had figured from the title that this was yet another article about the ‘shadowy figures’ who lurk in the darkness behind Sinn Féin and pull the politicians’ strings. Not so.
This is focused on a tweet by Ógra Shinn Féin marking the Anglo-Irish Treaty centenary: “Despite what the Free State establishment want you to believe, the Treaty did not give Ireland independence. Ireland is not independent. But together we can change that.”
Kathy Sheridan adds her comment : “This is the youth wing of a party confidently gearing up to govern this state”. She goes on to declare that the Ógra Shinn Féin statement “denies our legitimacy: it also denies the referendum that overwhelmingly accepted the principle of consent and therefore the existence of Northern Ireland.”
She doesn’t explain how the Ógra Shinn Féin statement denies the principle of consent or the existence of Northern Ireland. She just declares that “as citizens of a State under pressure to slot into unification mode”, people are entitled to examine the Ógra Shinn Féin statement.
Well indeed, Kathy. I’m not sure how much pressure is being put on the south to “slot into unification mode”, but statements such as the Ógra Shinn Féin statement do deserve attention. In this case, for the very sound reason that they make sense.
Perhaps it’s because the twenty-six counties is generally referred to as ‘Ireland’ and the north-east corner of Ireland is referred to as “Northern Ireland”, that Kathy is in full warning mode. I would agree with her that the twenty-six counties/Free State/Republic of Ireland has achieved its independence from Britain. But if she agrees with that, she has a choice: either the north-east corner of this island is Irish, and so we can say that Ireland has not achieved independence, or that she believes the twenty-six counties are Ireland and the north-east corner is not a part of Ireland, in which case Ireland has achieved independence.
Kathy may be speaking to the heart of those who strenuously wish that the north-east corner of our island would submerge and float off into the North Sea. But for those – and I’m convinced they’re in the majority, even in the south – who believe that Ireland consists of thirty-two counties, weasel-words that try to squirm past that core fact are an affront not only to those who believe in Irish unity but an affront to common sense.
On the other hand, maybe Kathy wants to knock back the rise of Sinn Féin in the south, in which case her entire article is flap-doodle disguised as argument.