All eyes on Sinn Féin
Sir, – Now that the mating ritual for government formation is beginning, I wonder could we assess the morality of excluding Sinn Féin.
I am old enough to remember the 1980s and 1990s, and then the established parties asked a few questions of Sinn Féin. They asked it to help stop the Northern violence, to engage with business, to adopt a pro-European stance and to put itself forward for election.
To one who did not vote for Sinn Féin, I must state that it delivered on all those demands and so now it cannot be sidelined .
Western European countries that are well run and prosperous, with good social, housing, transport and childcare services, usually have well-balanced governments of differing political backgrounds.
Excluding Sinn Féin is to my mind unacceptable. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I have enormous sympathy for those Irish citizens who struggle to accept the idea of Sinn Féin members in their government or even as taoiseach. We unionists in Northern Ireland faced the same emotionally difficult problem in 1998 but most of us concluded that after years of telling republicans to adopt democratic means as an alternative to violence, it was appropriate that we work with them when they were elected.
It seems to me, as a northerner, that the real choice for Fianna Fáil is does it enter a coalition government with Sinn Féin now, knowing that Sinn Féin will collapse the government over some manufactured dispute, while blaming Fianna Fáil, within 18 months?
Or should it offer to give Sinn Féin a confidence-and-supply deal with Ms McDonald as taoiseach, hoping that the experience of taking responsibility for government helps Sinn Féin to grow up politically and move away from just being a party of protest, while allowing the electorate to judge it if it fails to take up this opportunity? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Given the scramble by media commentators to distract from Sinn Féin’s deserved success, this week feels like an episode of Fawlty Towers. Don’t mention the war! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – David Cullinane performed admirably as a TD during the previous Dáil. He would want to grow up and put aside his ridiculous carry-on if he wishes to be taken as a serious parliamentarian. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – After observing the performance of Sinn Féin in the election, I couldn’t help but think that it adopted defensive tactics similar to those some managers employ in Gaelic football. It was playing not to lose, and it didn’t, but if it had pressed more players forward, its performance would have been much more impressive, and more importantly the result much better. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Many media commentators, including some in your own newspaper, referred to some newly elected TDs as the first Sinn Féin representatives for their constituencies in a hundred years or so.
Such comments lend an air of spurious legitimacy of apostolic succession to the current bearers of the party name. It should not be forgotten that practically all of those elected for Sinn Féin in 1918, 1921 and 1922 subsequently rebranded themselves as either Cumann na nGaedheal or Fianna Fáil, and the handful who did not had no electoral success thereafter.
The High Court ruled in 1948 that Sinn Féin of that era had no legal continuity with the pre-Treaty party, and more recent splits make claims of direct succession untenable.
Modern Sinn Féin is a highly efficient political machine which seeks historical legitimacy to distract from its totalitarian tendencies.
It is not the party of 1920. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There seems to be a widespread assumption that Fianna Fáil will form a coalition government with Sinn Féin. This may yet be the case, but it is based on a mistaken assumption about Sinn Féin’s interests.
The vote surge for Sinn Féin and smaller left-wing parties is part of a widespread demand for a left-wing political bloc to counter Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s centre-right dominance.
If Sinn Féin enables either of these two parties to come back to power, then many of its voters will be disgusted that their vote for change has simply reinforced the status quo.
The collapse of Labour’s vote since 2011 shows exactly what will happen in this case. Labour had the opportunity to lead a left political bloc in opposition and fundamentally reshape Irish politics; instead, it went into government with Fine Gael, thereby committing political self-harm.
Now Sinn Féin is in the same position.
If it cannot form a government with the aid of smaller parties and independents, then the strategically astute move is to lead a large left-wing bloc in opposition while some combination of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael struggle through the problems Brexit will cause the Irish economy.
At the next election, it may all be there for the taking.
Labour’s failure to take advantage of its position in 2011 was one of the tragedies of Irish politics; the real question about Sinn Féin in coalition is if it will repeat that mistake as farce? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It’s a leap year. Mary Lou can propose to anyone. – Yours,etc,