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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: March, 2016|
Irish Election—Just Desserts!
The main casualty of the Election was Labour. That is how it should be. It rejected the opportunity, presented by the collapse of Fianna Fail in the 2011 General Election, when it became the second Party in the state, to take the role of official Opposition, lead the campaign against Austerity, and put itself in the running to become the major party in a Government. It chose instead the safety of permanent third-party status, with seats in Government for a few years as junior party to Fine Gael. The result is that it has been relegated to fourth-party status, and that there has been fragmentation of the party system, relieved only by the rise of Sinn Fein.
The main beneficiary of the Election is Sinn Fein. This too is as it should be. The Election campaign might be characterised as the first Anti-Sinn Fein Election since 1923.
We have just seen the first Anti-Sinn Fein election in the Republic. There will be many more.
Sinn Fein expressed the hope a few years ago, that it would have members in government in both Dublin and Belfast on the centenary of the Easter Rising. And it seems that the primary object of all other parties in the Republic, none of which contests elections in the North, was to prevent this from happening. And that also seems to have been the object of the State itself, as well as the parties that have governed it, because the Justice system arranged that the sentencing of Thomas Murphy for minor tax arrears should be done on Election Day, when it headed RTE news bulletins all day. He is charged with not paying a total of Euro 38,519.56 over a nine year period (under Euro 5,000 a year!): the rest of the 155,445.10 is made up of penalties and fines. Nevertheless, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald reminded us in the Independent on election day that Thomas Murphy's friend is "Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' fired Thomas 'Slab' Murphy", and "today he appears before the Special Criminal Court" (26.2.16).
The trial, on a minor civil charge, was held before the Special Court which functions under Emergency Law. Emergency law is law beyond the law. Its purpose is to defend a badly-run state, which cannot protect itself by means of ordinary law, from being overthrown. We have never been against such a thing in principle, but we cannot see its legitimate application to a minor case of alleged tax fraud. Particularly as there was clearly no intimidation of jurors in a libel action Murphy brought against a newspaper some years ago—and lost.
Saving up the sentencing so that, long after the Northern War was ended by Sinn Fein, a member of Sinn Fein who had been particularly influential in ending the War and, (how should we put it?) disciplining the Peace, should appear in the Special Court on Election Day, is an Establishment tactic—what is that but a wilful debasement of the very idea of law by the preachers of law and order? Preachers of law who, with their minds preoccupied with the danger of Sinn Fein constitutionalism, have let ordinary gangland activity—and the underlying drug problem—run riot under them, just because it is not political.
It was also arranged that the following headline could appear on election day: Former IRA Leader To Fight Extradition On Abuse Charges. This alleged former IRA leader,who is allegedly contesting an Extradition Warrant in Spain, is not named in the article. So, whether it is true or false doesn't matter. The thing is presented just as an echo of the noisy effort some years ago to characterise the IRA as being essentially a paedophile movement.
There are four items of this kind in that issue of the Independent.
Bertie Ahern has spoken from the grave. He told the Independent that "SF has blown ten seats' with Adams as its leader"
A few years ago, all kinds of people were very anxious to improve Sinn Fein's electoral chances by persuading the Southern membership to oust Adams and replace him with Mary Lou.
The notion that Sinn Fein was damaged in the South by the allegation that Adams was the organiser of the Northern War, and the indisputable fact that he was the organiser of the Northern Peace—that was for the birds. It was the War and Peace in the North that gave the Provos a boost in the South, enabling them to overtake the Stickie-oriented Labour Party so quickly. The reckoning of the Partitioned parties must be that, if they could Partitionise Sinn Fein, the Southern section would wither, and that, if it could be established as a principle that the Southern section should operate autonomously, it would soon become ordinary.
But does anybody believe that, if it did Partitionise, the Northern War would not continue to be thrown at Free State Sinn Fein as a criminal enterprise with regard to which its hands were not quite clean?
The SDLP has taken part in a 26 County Election campaign for the first time. Its new Leader—Colum Eastwood, in case you've forgotten or never knew, who replaced Whatsisname last year—wrote an article for the Irish Independent (Feb 25th), the day before Polling Day, entitled: To See What A Mess Sinn Fein Would Make In Government, Have A Look At The North. It begins:
"Ireland is too small to tell two different stories… You can't govern one way in Belfast and campaign the opposite way in Dublin without it being noticed…"
Ireland might be small but it consists of two political entities which know very little about each other, because they have separate systems of party politics. The substance of a democracy is its party-political conflict over whatever power of government exists. We know because we are the only all-Ireland periodical publication. And Sinn Fein knows because it is the only all-Ireland political party. People get locked into the knowledge that is relevant to the party conflict in which they are engaged, and find it difficult to see much that is outside it.
All political parties in Ireland, except the Ulster Unionist Party and the defunct Northern Ireland Labour Party, used to be anti-Partitionist parties. But none of them was an all-Ireland party.
Sinn Fein used to be all-Ireland in principle, but for most of the past 90 years it did not engage in ordinary electoral activity at all on either side of the Border. It did not engage in ordinary electoral activity in the North until it had brought the War to a reasonably successful conclusion for the Catholic community there. And then, on the strength of its Northern success, it became a normal political party in the South, while going from strength to strength in the North, and remaining a united party.
North and South are not equivalent political bodies. The South is a state. It raises its own taxes and spends them as it chooses, and how to do that is the central issue at elections.
The North is not a state Many academic propagandists, particularly Professor Dermot Keogh in Cork University, and Professor the Lord Bew of the Queen's University Belfast and the Stickie IRA, say that it is. But it isn't. It is a region of the British state; excluded from the British political system but entirely subordinate to it, which operates a kind of local government under Whitehall direction.
Colum Eastwood knows that very well. But he writes as if the North was a democracy in which the electorate put Sinn Fein into government, giving it the opportunity to show how good it was at the business of raising taxes and spending, and it has "broken promise after promise".
He quotes a Belfast Telegraph Opinion Poll showing that in the opinion of two-thirds the performance of the Assembly was either "not very good" or "very bad" and presents that as an indication of Sinn Fein failure.
Sinn Fein is not the major party in the Assembly, and the Assembly is not a Parliament with control over Government. SF has no general power of government. Government departments are shared out between parties proportionate to their strength in the Assembly, but the sharing-out is done by the parties independently of the Assembly.
An Opinion Poll about the competence of Sinn Fein in running its Departments, conducted within the Catholic electorate, would indicate something. A general Opinion Poll about the Assembly indicates nothing.
A couple of years ago Micheál Martin condemned Sinn Fein for not uniting the North and Eastwood echoes this. Martin possibly knew—one never knows with him how much is deception and how much is genuine self-deception—and Eastwood certainly knows—that the North under the Good Friday Agreement that made peace possible is a carefully-structured system of division, based on two electorates, reflecting the existence of two distinct societies between which there has never been a flicker of the sentiment of common nationality which is a precondition of normal politics.
Eastwood was Seamus Mallon's nominee for the SDLP leadership. Mallon himself became leader when John Hume, who had helped to bring about the GFA despite Mallon, resigned once the Agreement was in place. Mallon, as leader of the major party of the Catholic community, was unable to put the Agreement into operation. David Trimble, leader of "moderate Unionism", would not let him. Nevertheless he tried to behave as if he was Deputy Prime Minister in a democracy. He made himself a political irrelevance by that and the SDLP went into decline.
Mallon, and others, acted at times as if they wanted to free themselves from the system which Hume had delivered to them and to make a deal with "moderate Unionism" that would render the GFA irrelevant. In fact they had toyed with that notion over a very long period, beginning in 1971, but never had the nerve to go out on a limb and test it.
Are the other parties of nationalist Ireland, which have all joined forces against Sinn Fein in this election campaign, still anti-Partition parties or not?
They were all anti-Partitionist until 1998. None of them proposed the repeal of the Constitutional assertion of Irish de jure sovereignty over the North. This meant that, while at some point they might have adopted a policy of unity by consent, they did not regard British government in the Six Counties as legitimate. It only meant that for practical reasons it was not their policy to assert legitimate Irish sovereignty by force against illegitimate British government.
The nationalist parties of the South were not subject to the British government which they held to be illegitimate, and which was certainly undemocratic on the ground that had nothing to do with the de jure claims of the Irish Constitution. The Catholics in the North were. For them illegitimate subjection was a practical matter. They were governed in a way that was illegitimate, even on British constitutional terms.
The old Nationalist Party complained for almost half a century. Its complaints were ignored. Its replacement, the SDLP, complained. Because of Republican activity of a different kind, it was offered compromise arrangements within the British system which would have accepted British power as being legitimate. It refused them because it could not face its electorate after clearly acknowledging British power as legitimate. It rejected the 1971 offer on its own, and later rejected a 1974 arrangement that was largely in place, with the backing of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
The Unionist Party had agreed Power-Sharing on the understanding that Dublin, by signing the Sunningdale Agreement, had recognised that the Six Counties were legitimately part of the UK. But, when that became an issue, Fine Gael and Labour denied in Court that they had recognised the North as being legitimately part of the UK. This led to a surge of Unionist hostility against Power-Sharing. A Strike was called against the Sunningdale system unless the Irish sovereignty claim was withdrawn. The Dublin Coalition did not call a referendum to amend Articles 2 & 3, and it backed the SDLP demand that the setting-up of the Council of Ireland should press ahead regardless.
Articles 2 & 3 were not amended until the IRA brought the Northern War to a conclusion in 1998 by means of the Good Friday Agreement and said it didn't mind if the Southern sovereignty claim was withdrawn.
When the SDLP failed to hold its electorate under the GFA system, and Sinn Fein overtook it in the North, and established itself in the South, the Southern Establishment began to criticise it (or throw jibes at it) which implied that it now regarded the North as having been legitimately governed by Britain, and the Republican war as nothing but an outbreak of criminal activity. But none of these parties, to our notice, ever criticised their own Northern policy over the decades as incitements to criminal activity, or said what they thought Northern Ireland was and is, or explained whether they are now Partitionist in principle as well as practice.
But there is now no doubt that general hostility to Sinn Fein by these parties, which denied British legitimacy in the North for so long, has to do with the fact that Sinn Fein is not only an anti-Partition party in principle but is an actual all-Ireland party.
With only a few seats remaining to be counted, no party is in a position to form the kind of coalition that has become customary in recent years. The participation of Sinn Fein, as the third largest block, would be required to form such a coalition—and the gulf between its policies and those of the two main parties remains too wide.
It therefore seems inevitable that there is an arrangement between the two largest parties, leaving Sinn Fein to be the main Opposition—the result most feared by Eoghan Harris and others, who believe that such a position would leave the Party in a strong position at the next Election—which cannot be too far away.
Irish Election: Just Desserts!. Editorial
Anti-Rising propaganda for the gullible. Philip O'Connor
Brexit—Cameron's agreement. Sean Owens
What Drives Brexit. Jack Lane
Brexit—Hungarian Left View. Report
Re-Founding Europe. Report
Readers' Letters: WW1 And 1916. Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor
Continued UK membership will undermine the Euro. Dave Alvey on behalf of Irish Political Review Group
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Google Tax; Reductio ad Absurdum; Britain and Global Taxation; The United States and Global Taxation; The Banking Inquiry; Burning the Bondholders (again).)
John Hume: Saint or Sinner? Pat Walsh
Redmond's Volunteers Were Not All Nationalists. Philip O'Connor
Fifth Column. (Unionism's Side-Long Glance; The Russian Aspect; Cold Comfort on St. Pat's Day; DUP Defector; Prod St. Pat? Minister Morrow). Sean McGouran
Another Anniversary—and a challenge! Jack Lane
"A Challenge To Myth, Propaganda And Fabrication". Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc 15
The Professors' MOPE. Brendan Clifford
Fr. Michael O'Flanagan and the Cloonerco Bog Fight. Joe McGowan
The Moving Statues Of Dublin. Lt. Col. John Morgan (retd.)
Ban on Israel divestment angers pension officials. Report
The Glasnevin Memorial Wall. Alice Hanratty. Dave Alvey
Heaven Or Glasnevin. Wilson John Haire (Poem)
Thank You For Self-Harming. Wilson John Haire (Poem)
Biteback: Army Of The Republic. Donal Kennedy (Unpublished Letter)
Haughey & DFA. Dave Alvey. 1916 and 'Just War' . Philip O'Connor
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (Bank Guarantee; The Future of Banks)
Labour Commen: Why We Should Celebrate 1916. Jack Lane
Education: The art of appearing to be doing something! Seán Ó Riain