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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: March, 2020
By: Editorial

Is The Party Over?

The party system of the Republic is in ruins. It has destroyed itself. Fianna Fail under Micheál Martin decided to be Fianna Fail no longer. And it joined with Fine Gael in an act of extreme hubris (until it saw which way the wind was blowing!). It required the society to celebrate the contribution of the Royal Irish Constabulary to Irish freedom. Martin and Varadkar thought they had wiped the state clean of the history that brought it into being and could now write what they fancied on it. And now, having dominated political life for about 90 years as antagonists, they have not between them enough seats to form a Government. Bertie Ahern, who played an important part in making Fianna Fail a nondescript party, said on the day when the results came through, that it is up to Sinn Fein, as the party with the most votes, to form a Government. Varadkar took up that cry the following day. But it isn’t Sinn Fein’s responsibility. In a party-political democracy—which is the only real kind by Western standards—parties with seats in Parliament are what count. Ahern accorded Sinn Fein a virtual 48 seats, but what they have got is 37. If votes rather than seats are to be what counts, a new system is needed. In the 1930s the Fine Gael policy was to abolish the Parliamentary system of party politics. The best academic minds of the time—including Professor Tierney of UCD and Professor Hogan of UCC—supported that policy. But Fianna Fail, supported by Sinn Fein and the omnipresent Illegal Organisation, preserved the party-system. Ruth Dudley Edwards, a befuddled remnant of a decayed intellectual elite, says that she is ashamed of her country because its voters have “intentionally or unwittingly just endorsed a fascist party”. And she says that Hitler, when he became the largest party in parliament, “wasted no time in establishing his brutal dictatorship. Sinn Fein members and apologists, of course are exulting in the Irish election results, some enjoying themselves insulting supporters of Breege and Stephen…” (Belfast Telegraph, 10.2.20) If democracy fails in a state, the state still has to be governed. Germany in the 1920s was a weak state surrounded by enemies. It was deliberately constructed to be weak by the conquerors of 1918 assembled at Versailles (who also refused to recognise the elected Irish Government). The Parties installed by the victors in their German system, and required to make a false confession of war-guilt on behalf of the German people, floundered. A State is organised power. The Weimar State had no power in itself and its Social Democrat and Centre Parties did not bring power to it. In the power vacuum the Communist Party built up its own power, as did the Nazi Party against it. Hitler did not steal the power of the State by gaining a majority in Parliament. He brought power to the State and suppressed the Communist threat, which in fact melted away to a considerable extent—as fascist power would probably have done if it had been Communist power that had brought a sense of purpose to the conduct of the state. It would have been better from our point of view if things had gone the other way about. But that is how it was. And we cannot disagree with Winston Churchill’s view that Fascism saved capitalist civilisation from Communism in the 1920s and 1930s. Professor Keogh of Cork had a paranoid vision of Fascism at the burning of the British Embassy in February 1972 (after the wanton British Army killings of Bloody Sunday in Derry). Dudley Edwards has it today. In 1932 Fine Gael was founded as a Fascist Party because of the delusion that De Valera was a catspaw of the Illegal Organisation, which was an agent of Moscow, and that a Communist system would be imposed under cover of freeing the state from the Treaty restrictions. But the Fine Gael story now is that it must defend democracy against a revival of the Fascism that Fine Gael brought to Ireland but failed to establish. Newton Emerson, who moved out of the self-imposed Ulster Loyalist ghetto some years ago, and has aspired, with a degree of success, to become a sophisticated commentator on all-Ireland affairs, has regressed woefully under the shock of the Sinn Fein vote. His Irish Times column on February 10th was headed, “Supporters In South May Not Be Aware Of What Is Now Over The Threshold”. He never quite says what he thinks is over the threshold but, out of the Northern experience, conveys the sense that it is ominous. He argues that the vote for Sinn Fein has nothing to do with the IRA. The southern electors “want change on housing and healthcare, or just somewhere else for the democratic pendulum to swing”. That is an interesting phrase. In Northern Ireland there was no “democratic pendulum”, and that is why there was a war. Northern Ireland was sealed off from the workings of the democratic pendulum of the state. We made a great deal of noise about that fact for twenty years and were opposed by every strand of Unionism all along the way. The Nationalist community could find no remedy through the democratic pendulum of the state because the state disengaged itself from them. Emerson says that, in the North, “republicans are steered endlessly towards politics”. Who steered them? The War was fought to a point where the State was willing to consider a drastic alteration in its Northern Ireland ‘state’. A Peace Process began and disruptive backsliding was prevented by the occasional military action. The War was ended by a transitional arrangement. Martin McGuinness, former CiC IRA, met the Queen. While he was meeting her, Gerry Kelly said that, put in the same circumstances again, they would do the same thing all over again. What has happened in the North is what the IRA intended to happen after the change from the Southern to the Northern leadership in 1977. It adopted what used to be called “the stages theory”, and the Good Friday Agreement is in accordance with the two-nations view that we advocated back in 1969. Michael McDowell says “we still face the undeniable reality that Sinn Fein is far from being a conventional democratic party” (Irish Times, 5.2.20). He does not explain how it would have been possible for any tendency to be conventionally democratic in a region of a state which excludes it from the vital democratic institutions by which it functions. The effective meaning of ‘democratic’ in the North was ‘pacifist’. Pacifism was tried for fifty years. It was futile. Anne Harris, former Editor of the Sunday Independent, who wrote an eloquent defence of the Official IRA atrocity at Aldershot, sees Gerry Adams as arranging for Mary Lou to be “caught in a pincer-like movement” of Republicanism as she tries to escape into something else (Irish Times Feb 11). And she wonders— “how she, a middle-class woman from Dublin’s leafy suburbs would handle her republican movement’s legacy issues. Those same issues dogged the election campaign—she didn’t handle them well and they are not going to go away as the perpetrators inevitably become more visible. If she wants a 32 county republic, there is much she must confront. ‘Keep people from their history and they are easily controlled’ warned Marx…” (We do not recall the Sunday Independent under the Harris Editorship doing much to keep the history of the people to the forefront!) Who is trying to keep the people from their history just now? This who tried to put the RIC on the Glasnevin Wall. History is at a discount in the Republic, especially Republican history. Sinn Fein in the South is brittle because of it. There was a war in the North. Wars against powerful states are not waged without sufficient reason. The Provo War brought about an enduring change in the political structure of the North. The Official Republican War, praised by Anne Harris, was an absurdity. There is only one regular Republican publication in the Republic: Saoirse. It dissents from the compromise settlement made in the North by the Adams/McGuinness compromise, and still takes issue with the Treaty settlement, realistically in historical terms. A rupture occurred between the leadership (represented by Rory O Brady) that declared war in 1970 and the leadership that made a tactically advantageous interim settlement in the North in 1998. In the North much is understood and does not need to be said. But then Sinn Fein expanded into the South where there was no understanding of the North and the State was trying to slither away from its origins. It did very well on marginal issues and a name which had historical overtones but little connection with political history. It has now become too popular, and its popularity too uncomfortable for the down-at-heel Establishment, for its superficiality in these matters to continue. A British Secret Service policeman, Drew Harris, with expertise in the Northern Ireland chicanery, was appointed head of the Gardai by Leo Varadkar and Charles Flanagan, who then went on to cause the embers of Republican sentiment in society to flare up by proposing to honour the contribution of the RIC to Irish freedom. (Flanagan is the son of an eccentric Fine Gael Anti-Semite of the 1930s, is himself politically eccentric, and it is said that Varadkar is his protégé.) Harris has now chosen to be politically active. He has made a statement that Sinn Fein is led by the Army Council. We should hope so! It stands out against the flotsam of the Establishment by having a sense of social reality and a coherence of purpose. It is a real party. Where do real parties come from? Fine Gael and Fianna Fail both come from fighting a war against Britain, which they would now like to forget, and then from fighting a war against each other. As they lost connection with their origins they became Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The IRA fought a war against Britain in the North. The whole time it was engaged in that war, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail held the subversive view that the British State in the North was illegitimate, and was a usurpation of Irish sovereignty, while also denouncing Republican resistance to the illegitimate regime. Sinn Fein brought a negotiated end to the war on advantageous terms for its community. The people who fought the war to an orderly conclusion are still there. It matters little whether they have the form of an Army Council or not. They are of a kind with what Fianna Fail was for a generation after dumping arms—and which it has now well and truly ceased to be. We cannot really recommend that Southern Sinn Fein should inform itself by reading Saoirse, but they would benefit immensely from Pat Walsh’s two volumes outlining The Catholic Predicament In ‘Northern Ireland’.
• Catastrophe: 1914-1968 by Pat Walsh . Volume One of The Catholic Predicament In 'Northern Ireland', Catastrophe And Resurgence, 334pp. €24, £20 * Resurgence: 1969-2016 by Pat Walsh . Volume Two of Catastrophe And Resurgence, 586pp.. €30, £25


Page Is The Party Over? Editorial 1 'Civil War' Politics Is Dead? Jack Lane 1 The Israeli Embassy Finds Its Iris Murdoch Mouthpiece. Manus O'Riordan 1 Readers' Letters: Casement: A Reply To Jeff Dudgeon's Criticism. Paul Hyde 3 LEST WE FORGET (4). Extracts from Irish Bulletin. This issue lists British Acts Of Aggression, 2 - 14 February 1920 (ed. Jack Lane) 7 The O'Connor Column (The North Came South; Irish Labour: A Perennial Wonder) 13 On Representation And Misrepresentation. Donal Kennedy 14 Es Ahora. Julianne Herlihy (Elizabeth Bowen) 16 A 'Vulture Fund' Problem. Donal Kennedy 18 Home And Away . . . Editorial 19 History As A Riddle. Jack Lane 21 A Correspondence With Patricia Laurence. Jack Lane 21 The World Outside The Socialist Oasis Wilson John Haire 23 Some Forgotten History. Brendan Clifford (A Meeting At Skibbereen, Part 3) 26 Seamus Mallon. Editorial (Obituary) 29 Trump's Vision For Palestine. David Morrison (Part One) 30 Biteback: Press Council Vs. 'Irish Times', Press Council and Niall Meehan 34 Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (The Rise And Rise Of China; Quo Vadis? ) 35

Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney: Irish General Election Under The Microscope
CLARIFICATION In “Excising Joe Clarke and Dennis Dennehy from the RTÉ website's footage”, which appeared in the February’s Irish Political Review, it should have been made clear that Joe Clarke was an usher and not an elected representative in the First Dail.h