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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: March, 2015|
The political situation in the South has progressed—or regressed—towards something like the 1923 situation of Treatyites versus Republicans.
The Fine Gael message is that a vote for Fianna Fail will be a wasted vote. The issue now lies between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein. The great object is to prevent Sinn Fein from winning. And, as we write, Sinn Fein is one point ahead of Fine Gael in an Opinion Poll.
The received truth of the Southern Ekstablishment—of what until recently might have been called its "political class"—is that the North is bad news. Jack Lynch was praised on all sides for having kept it at bay. The way he kept it at bay was to renege in 1970 on the Northern policy he had set in motion in 1969. His aim then was to seal off the South from the development it had helped to set in motion in the North, regardless of the consequences this could have for the North. His solution was to let the North stew in its own juices.
Well, the North did stew in its own juices. The Northern minority was betrayed by the Party and Government that said it would not stand idly by. Events in the North then took a turn which they would not have taken if the Southern political class had not disengaged and stood idly by, as far as that was possible in the light of public sentiment.
The Northern minority, forsaken by the two states which asserted sovereignty over the Northern Limbo-land, took its affairs into its own hands. Its made war on the State which was exerting a purely military sovereignty, and learned to live without the blessing of the State which continued to assert a de jure sovereignty even while doing its best to play the part of Judas.
Because Dublin media opinion-spouters never took the trouble to understand what Northern Ireland was—what it made impossible, and what it made inevitable—it has no sense of what contemporary Sinn Fein is. And, when a know-nothing understanding is confronted with a coherent, rational development out of a situation about which it preferred to know nothing, hysteria is the result.
The most hysterical outburst we have seen comes from Olivia O'Leary—who should know better, as she once worked for the BBC in Belfast.
Here are the headlines on her article in the Sunday Independent on February 1st:
"Remembering the Holocaust and recalling why we should never vote SF
While we mark the liberation of Auschwitz, there are other ghosts who we will remember at the going down of the sun and in the morning, writes Olivia O'Leary"
Her device for linking Sinn Fein with the Holocaust is not a link at all. She recalls that a German President, Karl Karstens, made Ireland the place of his first State Visit in 1980 and that she had a Foreign Affairs briefing saying he had chosen Ireland because it did not have an active Jewish lobby that would organise protests. She asked him if he had chosen Ireland because he wouldn't be met with protests. He replied that he hadn't. What she should have done, she now considers, was tackle him "about being a member of the Nazi stormtroopers", as he had been a Brownshirt in the early 1930s: "But I didn't do my job as a journalist properly".
However, even though she hadn't asked the hard question, "my colleagues looked away embarrassed". And German reporters accompanying the President—
"came running over to me. What Jewish newspaper did I work for… Surely I was Jewish, they asked? I was astonished. 'Surely we are all Jewish on this question', I wanted to answer".
But she didn't.
However, she had at least asked an embarrassing question, and was glad:
"Because we must never forget… what the Nazis did, …what our own government did in refusing entry to many Jews…, nor indeed the pogrom against Jews in Limerick in 1904."
"Already in this country, for everybody under 24, the over 3,700 killed in the North (over 1,700 of them killed by Republicans) are something their parents tell them about, something of which they have no personal memory… That's why David Kelly did us a favour when he thrust a photograph of his dead soldier father at Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and questioned him during the Presidential election. Private Patrick Kelly was shot by the IRA at Ballinamore during the rescue of kidnapped supermarket boss Don Tidey… He must not be forgotten."
And that is why, remembering the Holocaust, it should be "almost impossible ever to vote Sinn Fein".
When Olivia worked for the BBC in the North, she never asked the hard, obvious question: Why did Westminster, when deciding to hold the Six Counties as part of the UK state, exclude them from the institutional framework of democratic politics by which the state functioned? That was a question which BBC television did not allow to be asked, so Olivia did not ask it.
By the double exclusion—from British and Irish politics—the Nationalist community was confined to a sort of reservation, policed by the Unionist community, with no possibility of a common political life developing between the two, and with no constitutional means of redress.
Perhaps Mary McAleese went over the top in the German comparison which she made. It wasn't Auschwitz—not an Extermination Camp, only a Concentration Camp. But what rules are there for determining the legitimate limits of hostile response by a people against systematically undemocratic government in a region of an otherwise democratic state? That is the hard question Olivia preferred not to ask.
There was a very minor spill-over of the Northern War into the South. What else could be expected in view of the duplicity of the Southern state?
In the North, "Republican" came to mean in practice most Catholics. Garret FitzGerald repeatedly told Northern Catholics not to vote Sinn Fein because a vote for Sinn Fein was a vote for the IRA. After every such warning the vote for Sinn Fein increased.
The IRA maintained a war effort against the British Army for a quarter of a century and then negotiated a peace arrangement while keeping itself basically intact. The Dissidents who wanted to continue the War (Anthony McIntyre etc.) never amounted to much, though they were encouraged by the Dublin parties and Whitehall. Then Sinn Fein was the party which made the 1998 arrangement work by means of an agreement with the representative Unionist Party. And then, on the strength of its Northern achievement, it began to build itself up in the South and is now running neck and neck with Fine Gael, Fianna Fail apparently having wrecked itself.
The old parties, rattled by the rise of Sinn Fein, which they find inexplicable in what they see as normal politics, appear convinced that there must be something sinister behind it. They see it as politically suspect because the party is not filled with individualistic careerists: Ambitious elements do not give confidential briefings to the media against the leading elements. The general membership seems to be united with a sense of purpose to which individual ambition is subordinate. And that is not normal!
The fact that Fianna Fail was such a party for a long generation is forgotten. Political normality now is what Desmond O'Malley introduced into Fianna Fail after he failed to get the leadership, though he had been Lynch's white-haired boy.
Subverting Fianna Fail was the great object of the Irish Times for a generation, and it succeeded in the end. Fianna Fail was the party of corruption, of crony capitalism. Haughey had to be demonised because he made "crony capitalism" produce the Celtic Tiger by convincing Europe that Ireland was no longer a British echo, and introducing the European style social compact.
The great 'corruption scandal' was the means by which Larry Goodman's beef export business was built up.
O'Malley was the ideologist of laissez faire capitalism, who left Fianna Fail and set up the Progressive Democrats to expose crony capitalism, and did his best to destroy actual capitalism by means of investigative Tribunals applying standards that have never existed in the real world.
But actual capitalism—Haugheyite capitalism—survived. With Irish beef getting the 'all-clear' in the USA, who won a huge contract for beef exports to that country, but Larry Goodman! And a Fine Gael Agriculture Minister is praising his enterprise.
Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail now want to sell off the national stake in Aer Lingus—a company which is in profit, carrying more passengers than ever before, and with a healthy financial reserve. Not only does it make money for the State, it provides a connectivity between Ireland and the rest of the world which does not depend on commercial criteria. This is of huge benefit to enterprise all around Ireland, not to speak of convenience to the general public. But such connectivity does not make sense in terms of 'shareholder interest', which is the primary criteria for companies functioning under British company law.
Rather than selling Aer Lingus, the Government should be buying back shares which were sold off under a Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat administration.
The motive of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition is that it will bring easy money into the State's coffers in the short run—money that can be spent on buying votes in the 2016 election. It is deterred only by the rise of Sinn Fein in the opinion polls.
The rise of a new party within an established democracy rarely has to do merely with the policies of the moment. Democracy as we know it is made functional largely by the stability of the political parties which compose it. The party system of the last eighty years seems to have run itself ragged. It stirred up troubles in the North 45 years ago and then went into denial about it. A party developed within the North which fought a war, made a peace, constructed a Government, and showed itself able to learn quickly what to do in every new situation. No wonder the time servers in the State are running scared!
Hysteria. Editorial on attitudes to Sinn Fein's rise
Greece And The Euro: David Without A Sling. Jack Lane
A Little Bit Of Insolvency Goes A Long Way. Sean Owens on the Banking Inquiry
Readers' Letters: Greece: Debt Mutualisation. Eamon Dyas
Greek GDP. John Martin. Greek Development. Philip O'Connor
ICTU's Forceful New Leader. Philip O'Connor on Patricia King appointment
Pseuds Corner-Boys. Donal Kennedy (No. 3: Michael Gove)
Why DD Sheehan Left Cork. Jack Lane (report)
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Internet To Disappear?; Same Sex Marriage; Greek Tragedy; State & Private Debt) 8
Regretting The War Of Independence. Jack Lane reports on Galway Debate
Casting Cold Yeatsian Eyes At Revisionism, DeV And 'The Cruiser'. Manus O'Riordan
Killing Them Softly. John Morgan, Lt. Col. (retd.) (Review of Sean Murphy's work on Kilmichael)
Keynes' Critique Of Orthodox Theory. John Martin (Part 1 of series on Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest & Money)
Who Dares Call You Paddy Now? Wilson John Haire
Dollar As Reserve Currency. (Report of Valentin Katasonov view)
Biteback: The Irish Bulletin. Donal Kennedy (Unpublished letter)