Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland: Sinn Fein outrage at hunting foxes (er, without the fox) exposes their double standards over IRA violence

Republicans attempt to hijack the 'progressive' agenda, but are haunted by terrorist past, writes Nelson McCausland

The advert on North Down Sinn Fein's Facebook page
The advert on North Down Sinn Fein's Facebook page

Is there no limit to the double standards and inconsistency of Sinn Fein? And yet, time after time, they don't seem to see it. Most political parties use Facebook and other social media to communicate their message and announce events and Sinn Fein are no exception.

So, a few days before Christmas, North Down Sinn Fein, also known as the Winifred Carney Cumann, posted on its Facebook page an invitation to join them "at Crawfordsburn for a peaceful protest against the annual New Year's Day fox hunt".

In fact, the annual New Year's Day hunt at Crawfordsburn is a "drag hunt", rather than a "fox hunt", with the hounds following an artificially laid scent, rather than hunting foxes. Nevertheless, protests have been going on for some years and usually draw between 80 and 100 people, from a variety of backgrounds, with the hunt attracting a larger number of supporters.

Public opinion on hunting is divided, with both supporters and opponents, and there are many others who are ambivalent about the issue. Indeed, newspaper reports specifically stated that the hunt was greeted with both cheers and jeers.

Members of the North Down Sinn Fein cumann, which is probably one of their smaller branches, have attended the Crawfordsburn protest for several years and the view of the person who manages their Facebook page is clear: "I believe that bloodsports are barbaric and have no place in civilised society."

I suspect that this new-found interest for Sinn Fein is part of their overall strategy of repackaging themselves as a "progressive" party, in the hope that they can broaden their support-base, especially in areas such as North Down, which are outside their traditional heartlands.

They look for opportunities, such as this, to align themselves with and embed themselves in what are often portrayed as "progressive" causes. However, this often opens them up to legitimate accusations of double standards and inconsistency.

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While the Sinn Fein Facebook page in North Down was inviting people to a "progressive" event in Crawfordsburn on New Year's Day, the Sinn Fein Facebook page in Fermanagh and South Tyrone was advertising an event that was more in keeping with the "regressive" heart of Sinn Fein.

This was the annual New Year's Day commemoration for the IRA raid on Brookeborough RUC station on January 1, 1957.

The event marks the start of Sinn Fein's annual calendar of IRA commemorations and the speaker on Tuesday afternoon was senior Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain.

The attack was part of the IRA border campaign, which had started in December 1956, and it was murderous in its intent.

The objective was to blow up the police station and murder the police officers inside the building.

However, it was a shambolic operation and two young IRA men, Sean South and Fergal O'Hanlon, were killed, their bodies being left behind in a cow shed.

Sean South became a republican icon, who is still honoured by Sinn Fein in spite of his controversial views. His ideology was both deeply sectarian and thoroughly anti-Semitic and yet the commemorations continue.

So, how do Sinn Fein reconcile the two events on New Year's Day? In the morning, they were condemning hunting and in the afternoon they were eulogising a terrorist organisation that has murdered hundreds of innocent people.

Surely, if bloodsports are barbaric, then the murders of innocent men, women and children by the Provisional IRA were also barbaric.

Bloody Friday, the La Mon massacre, the Shankill bomb and many more IRA atrocities were all acts of barbarism and yet they received glowing coverage in the pages of the Sinn Fein newspaper.

Sinn Fein are trying to build a broad menu of "progressive" issues, through which they can garner a broader support.

But this lacks any credibility while they continue to honour those who deprived so many of the most basic of human rights: the right to life.

The month of January takes its name from the ancient Roman god Janus, who is usually depicted as having two faces, looking in opposite directions.

On January 1, Sinn Fein showed, once again, that they are a two-faced party, a party of double standards and inconsistency and a hindrance to political progress.

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