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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Fianna Fail"

Garvan Walshe: Sinn Fein say they want to reassure Unionists. Good luck with that.

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party.

The Sinn Fein trolls came out in force when I branded them “exclusionary nationalists” on Twitter. We don’t exclude anyone, they said…except “colonialists.”

Colonialists, you may ask, who are they? This is, after all, 2020. Ireland has been independent since the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The last Governor-General hung up his hat in 1936, and Sinn Fein at least officially accept the terms of the 1998 Agreement that a United Ireland can only come about if a majority of the people living there want it to.

By Colonialists, they mean the British, and the Unionist population of Northern Ireland (here I’m reminded of a Dublin friend who threw a Sinn Fein member at an anti-racism demo into utter confusion by asking him if “Brits Out!” was a racist slogan).

It’s just one of several examples of the party’s dark record that it managed to persuade voters to ignore during an absurdly short three-week election campaign. At a party event celebrating his victory, newly elected David Cullinane praised the IRA hunger strikers, and for good measure ended his speech to supporters with the old chant of “Up the ’Ra!”. Another candidate arrived at her count singing ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’. Confronted on Irish TV on Monday night, Eoin O’Broin, a Sinn Fein TD,  insisted that they were just emotional speeches and a “distraction” from the real issues of housing and healthcare on which the party had chosen to campaign.

It’s undoubtedly true that these social and economic matters are what drove the Sinn Fein surge. Though it’s now a century since what everyone in Ireland except Sinn Fein recognises as independence, Ireland is not a country in the grip of a nationalist commemorative fever. But what its voters have done is to elect the largest number of nationalists with questionable (to say the least) commitment to constitutional democracy, since 1932, if not 1919.

This history provides the alternate view of this election. Irish politics is in many ways the story of different factions of the IRA giving up violence and transforming themselves into a political parties. I need only to think of my own grandfather who, in contemporary terms, would have been a young man vulnerable to radicalisation, and having fought to secure an Irish Free State then joined its police force. The pro-Treaty side of the Irish Civil war turned into the party that is the ancestor to today’s Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil was formed by men who abandoned guerrilla warfare in 1932. The Workers’ Party is descended from the “Official” IRA. Could this not be Sinn Fein making the same journey?

It’s quite clear that they haven’t yet. Law enforcement says that the IRA Army Council still exists, and calls the shots in what was always a unified movement. And even if those intelligence conclusions were exaggerated, there is a further and vital political difference. Cumman na nGaedheal (which would become Fine Gael) and Fianna Fail never organised politically north of the border. Sinn Fein’s core base and real leadership is not only stained by violence, it also operates within another state, and their interest is not building more affordable housing in Dublin but the political reunification of the island.

Such reunification, however, can only happen with the support of the majority of the population of Northern Ireland. That much is required by the Belfast Agreement. It is impossible without persuading a significant proportion of the unionist community that their values and interests would be safeguarded in such a state. That’s not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago. Recent opinion polls have suggested Brexit shifted opinion among some Unionists towards government from Dublin rather than Westminster, and the Unionist former head of the Ulster Farmers’ Union has even been elected to the Irish Senate. But these took place with Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach, whose Fine Gael would be less of a threat to the Unionist community and more of a coalition partner in an all-Ireland parliament. Sinn Fein is a rougher beast. The ’Ra which its candidates exalt murdered hundreds of Unionists.

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s leader,  has said she would try to reach out to “our Unionist brothers and sisters” and convince them they would be a welcome part of the new Ireland they want to create. As long as their activists call them “colonialists” and candidates glorify the IRA, her words will be as convincing as a Hannukah greeting from Jeremy Corbyn.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ed McGuinness: The threat from Sinn Fein to the Union is serious

Ed McGuinness is Chairman of Islington Conservative Federation and stood for Hornsey & Wood Green at the general election. He grew up in Belfast.

With Sinn Fein’s shocking success in the Republic of Ireland’s General Election, Boris Johnson’s Government needs to sit up and take notice. This is not the election of an ally and trading partner whom the United Kingdom keeps at arm’s reach and offers a congratulatory phone-call to when the final results are tallied. The relationship between the Republic of Ireland the United Kingdom arguably runs deeper than the relationship experienced by any two countries elsewhere on the planet, forged by blood and treasure.

Sinn Fein, a party that stands candidates across the whole of the Island of Ireland has tapped into a feeling across the demographic spectrum in the Republic of Ireland with message used by political parties around the world associated with success – the economy. Quite frankly, when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael look back at the wreckage of this election they will wonder how they managed to mismanage the campaign on such a simple message. Sinn Fein has managed to tap into the deep feelings felt throughout the Republic where people feel left behind since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. We should note here that Ireland was left severely crippled by the crisis which saw one of its major banks collapse and the necessitation of an €85m bailout package from the IMF, EU and some bilateral loans (including from the UK). This was on an order of magnitude greater than that experienced by us in the UK. The collapse destroyed the credibility of the presiding party, Fianna Fáil, which made a collation between the two main parties, leading up to this election, to maintain this duopoly on Irish power even more galling to the Irish electorate.

Sinn Fein offered a solution to the people of Ireland – albeit it an unrealistic one. In contrast to their election manifesto for the General Election in the United Kingdom, they actually had an economic message which promised greater spending on infrastructure and a huge public housing program – the advantage of campaigning in poetry.

The system of government in Ireland also benefitted the Sinn Fein message during the General Election, with a confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, allowing both to be tarred with the same mistakes and neither able to claim credit for the successes. This allowed Mary Lou Macdonald to walk straight through the middle and mop up the pieces.

Not to be underestimated is the effectiveness of the Sinn Fein campaigning and branding machine. In Northern Ireland, in particular, they are absolutely tapped into their communities, providing a plethora of services and even their own, widely circulated newspaper. On branding, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have, at least during campaigning, ruled out a governing coalition with Sinn Fein due to, just 23 years ago, being officially the political wing of the Provisional IRA – a group responsible for over 30 years of violence across the island. Macdonald, at least in the Republic, seems to have been able to manage a seamless transfer of power from Gerry Adams, and in doing so, shake of the perception of her party being active participants in the perpetuation of violence – something anathema to most in Ireland. The recruitment of youthful candidates, who have no direct experience of the Troubles has been key in this, not only throwing off the dark past, but looking like a youthful, vibrant, energetic organisation.

Let nobody suppose that Sinn Fein has changed its stripes or indeed its raison d’être and the threat it poses to the United Kingdom. We should first count ourselves lucky that, having only stood in 40 seats, Sinn Fein cannot possibly form a majority governing body in the Dáil Éireann, they have 37 seats and lead the polls. They do however hold the balance of power now, whether we like it or not. We can not deny that democratic event, but this will take very careful management from the UK.

This result will buoy Sinn Fein, which is currently only the second largest party in Northern Ireland, to push for further reforms in the North. No doubt they will come forward with their much historical tagline of having been given a “democratic mandate” for change. This could see Northern Ireland squeezed between an active cessation grouping pulling the strings in the South, aided by their counterparts answering those calls in the North.

More pressingly, having a rather large foot in the door, as Sinn Fein will have, gives them influence over the Irish position on the Brexit negotiations within the EU. Do not pass this off as a small country, with a small Party trying to get its way. As I mentioned the Sinn Fein communication machine is impressive, not only that, but their negotiating stance is often very aggressive and unyielding (they held fast for almost three years in Northern Ireland – doing incredible damage to the economy in the process). If they have the opportunity to use the Brexit negotiations to forge a path towards a border poll they will take it. Though Ireland as a whole is a small cog in the EU machine, its influence will be magnified during the trade negotiations given the importance of the bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom.

For the past half century, the relationship between the two Governments has been based on a mutual benefit for Northern Ireland, neutrality in the border poll question and the sovereignty of the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to choose their own destiny when they are ready to. The UK Government now faces an entirely different reality. A major party, who cannot be ignored, by a grand coalition in the Republic lest they being an outright majority in the next election, in the Irish government is now committed to ending Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom. Not only that, but they actually deny the British Governments right to have any control over Northern Ireland at all. That party will now be equipped with the machinery of Government across the island of Ireland (North and South) and will wield its influence at a critical time for the United Kingdom.

With the fate of the union also in balance in Scotland, Boris faces issues on multiple fronts. It seems the Irish question is also far from answered.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sinn Fein in government. What’s the fuss about?

Some of our co-Brexiteers will be feeling very smug about Ireland’s election result.  For the best part of five years, our own pro-Remain fringe here in Britain has delighted in lecturing us to the effect that our neighbour is a modern, progressive, European country in which reactionary nationalism is a thing of the past.  Now a party with a paramilitary wing has topped the ballot.

This site doesn’t see it that way.  Though we are struck by the gap between popular images of Ireland here and what is evidently the electoral reality there.  These are very early days in which to assess why its people voted as they have.  But the country’s housing provision and health service must be in a very bad place for Sinn Fein to be a contender for government this morning.

There will be calls here for the party to be kept out of power.  Why?  After all, it is deemed suitable to share government in Northern Ireland.  Indeed, the British state has only recently made gargantuan efforts to get it back into co-office.  Its efforts to do so receieved a standing ovation from almost everyone apart from this site’s very own Henry Hill.

Don’t get us wrong.  Obviously, ConservativeHome believes that Ireland’s voters have made the wrong choice.  But their decisions are a matter for them – and it may well be a mistake to believe that Sinn Fein can somehow be coalitioned out of government.  Perhaps a tottery coalition of the two establishment parties can be spatchcocked together to keep their challenger out.  But all that would be likely to do is to further inflate Sinn Fein’s vote.

If the people of Ireland are determined to tilt in the party’s direction, then so be it.  A Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition would be bad news for the Brexit negotiation.  But would it really be worse than a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael one that felt compelled to play to the nationalist gallery, looking nervously over its shoulder at its rising rival?

We are sorry for Leo Varadkar, who arguably did more for Brexit, in the last resort, than any other politician.  The site even decked him out in red, white, blue to help make the point.  If anyone says this was unhelpful, our reply can only be that his own nationalist feints, such as calling Britain “a small country”, don’t seem to have helped him either.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Irish complacency is Sinn Fein’s opportunity

Last May saw an electoral drubbing for Sinn Fein in the Irish Republic. In the Euro Elections, just one Sinn Fein MEP was returned, compared to three last time. In the local elections the same day, Sinn Fein lost nearly half its councillors – it made net losses of 78, ending up holding just 81. Yet recent opinion polls point to a dramatic change in fortune, as the Irish prepare for a General Election on Saturday. There was a survey published by the Irish Times this morning which put Sinn Fein in the lead:

“Sinn Féin has surged into first place in the general election race, with a quarter of all likely voters now saying they intend to vote for the party, according to the final Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll of the campaign.

“The poll puts Fine Gael back in third place at 20 per cent, behind Fianna Fáil on 23 per cent and Sinn Féin on 25 per cent.

“The findings of the poll, which was taken on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week, will shock the Government party and suggest that Ireland is on the brink of an historic general election result on Saturday.

This does not mean that Sinn Fein will be running the country. Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote electoral system, not first past the post. It is not even likely that Sinn Fein will end up in coalition. The Irish Times report adds:

“However, Fianna Fáil remains the most popular choice for government, with more voters expressing a preference for a coalition government involving that party than any other, while Sinn Féin is the party that the highest number of voters do not want to see in government.

“In addition, Sinn Féin is limited by running by running just 42 candidates in 38 constituencies and is unlikely – even on these figures – to be the largest party in the next Dáil.”

That still leaves the puzzle of why Sinn Fein has advanced so far. It is an extremist outfit, tarnished by its support for terrorism for decades – a stance it has still not repented. A clue to its wider allegiance is that it is part of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, which means it sits alongside assorted Portugese, Czech, and German Communists in the European Parliament. It is likely that Sinn Fein’s funding has indirectly come from an IRA bank raid in 2004.

On the other hand, should we be shocked? Over ten million British people voted for Labour in December. I know they lost but that is still a lot of votes. That was despite the Party being led by Jeremy Corbyn whose long-standing support for Sinn Fein / the IRA was well established. Last month we saw the restoration of power-sharing arrangements in the Northern Ireland Executive. It was generally regarded as good news. As a result, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein is the Deputy First Minister. Her Party colleague, Conor Murphy, has the finance portfolio. He served five years in prison for possession of weapons and membership of the Provisional IRA. Yet the Democratic Unionists work alongside them.

But when we look further at the latest polling, we see another mystery. Fine Gael is in third place. Its leader is Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister. (The British media usually refer to him as the “taoiseach”. Why do they not call Angela Merkel the “Kanzler”?) Those of us attempting to make sense of the Brexit machinations felt that Varadkar played a blinder. He played up his populist anti-British rhetoric. He also managed to get a lot of EU focus on Irish grievances (whether real or imagined) about border arrangements.

Then there is the economy. The success of the “Celtic Tiger” is absolutely world class. In 2018 it grew by 8.2 per cent. A low rate of Corporation Tax has attracted investment. There is a budget surplus. Perhaps there is some complacency, that it can be taken for granted. Yet Ireland was badly hit by the international financial crash of 2008. Varadkar says:

“One of the earliest recorded examples of economic strategising appears in the very first book of the Bible. Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, was able to predict the trajectory of Egypt’s economy – a period of boom, followed by a period of bust. Forewarned, he was forearmed, and he was able to guide the country through the worst of the crisis, saving his own people as a result.”

Sinn Fein’s increased support is considered to partly derive from Irish discontent over housing. Incomes have risen, but house prices have risen faster – leaving young people “locked out” of homeownership and angered at rent increases. Inward migration has increased the pressure. Sinn Fein promises to “introduce legislation to reduce rents by up to €1,500 a year, via a refundable tax credit, and freeze them for three years” and to “build 100,000 homes over 5 years. This will include council housing and affordable homes for renters and first time buyers.” Rent controls have proved harmful where-ever they have been tried. Yet the idea has a natural attraction to those annoyed by how high rent is. The real answer, of course, is to increase supply by easing planning restrictions. But some are resistant to development, fearing it will be ugly. These issues are familiar to those of us on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Another grievance concerns health care, due to overcrowding. Capacity has not kept up with the increased population. Ireland has a mixed public sector/private sector system. Some are entitled to free treatment, others have to pay. Sinn Fein proposes free GP care and 1,500 more beds. Nearly half of Irish people have private health insurance. Sinn Fein wants to put a stop to it – which would greatly increase pressure on the system that is already struggling.

What about Fianna Fáil? They have also made spending pledges and challenged Fine Gael’s record. But Sinn Fein can argue that Fianna Fáil isn’t a real opposition – as they have sustained the Fine Gael with a “confidence and supply” arrangement.

Fine Gael is even more on the defensive. They can point out that health spending has already increased, but as the resulting improvements in output have been marginal this is not much of a boast.

Durng the Second World War the IRA backed Nazi Germany. This was on the maxim: “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.” It now seems that Irish complacency is Sinn Fein’s opportunity

The Irish should be proud of their achievements. Economic progress has been dramatic. That broadens out into wider achievements. Life expectancy has increased faster there than anywhere else in Europe – which put complaints about health care into some perspective. Yet it is difficult to find any of the political parties very inspiring. There is a duty though, to vote for one of the democratic parties to secure the defeat of Sinn Fein. There have been some powerful pleas to voters by the relatives of victims of the IRA. Let us hope they are listened to.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com