Republican keyboard warriors can’t bear to hear party criticised in any way, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
If you don’t get involved in political discussion on social media you mightn’t know what a ‘Shinnerbot’ is. The best definition I’ve seen of it was as “a term that is regularly used to describe rabid Sinn Fein supporters who visit political forums and Irish news websites”.
Adding ‘bot’ to ‘Shinner’ “insinuates that these Sinn Fein supporters are acting in an automated fashion, without thinking for themselves”.
And that definitely is what Shinnerbots do.
They’re blindly loyal, not just to their leaders and heroes but to the MOPE (Most-oppressed-people-ever) narrative of Irish history in which unionists are vicious colonial instruments of the evil British as well as being pathetic dinosaurs, whose only hope is to see the light and become Irish republicans, the only true Irish.
From my considerable experience of them on Facebook, Twitter and on political websites, or just commenting on articles, Shinnerbots’ reaction to anyone criticising the IRA, Sinn Fein or republicanism in general in any way is mainly a mixture of hysterical MOPE-ry, whataboutery, vicious personal abuse and grotesque misrepresentation.
They’re not just confined to social media, of course.
I had a couple of prime examples of Shinnerbottery last Wednesday when asked by Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show to comment on a brilliant article in this newspaper by Eilis O’Hanlon headlined ‘So, Michelle O’Neill, just when did it become unacceptable to bomb Manchester?’
My friend Eilis doesn’t do radio or TV, but I was happy to be her proxy.
As so often, it being a day when Sinn Fein was lying low, Jude Collins was theirs.
In an effort to explain why the IRA’s Manchester bombs were excusable, didn’t kill anyone (forget the hundreds of injuries), and anyway other people have done much worse, he roamed extensively around the Middle East, and when he returned to republican grievances went back as far as a Free State atrocity in Ballyseedy in 1923.
His whataboutery was so extensive and irrelevant that I said he must have a PhD in it.
Mr Collins wouldn’t descend on radio to vulgar personal abuse, at which the BBC would look askance, but he did suggest I didn’t care about Syrian victims and that I delivered my anti-republican opinions for commercial gain.
On his blog about it, he was misogynistic ( references to “Ruthie”) and libellous (claiming me as a “dear friend”).
No, Mr Collins. I frequently give my opinions on the IRA and Sinn Fein for free, and if I were rich enough to need no income I’d write and speak about them, unpaid, all the time.
But then I’m an Irish patriot, who at present focuses quite often on Sinn Fein rather than on the innumerable other subjects that interest me, because I regard it as a terrible threat to the stability, peace and prosperity of the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Its leadership has for decades fed its supporters with a steady diet of hatred, resentment and grievance-mongering propaganda.
A caller to Nolan, Sean from Ballymurphy, an articulate Shinnerbot, got very excitable when I praised the courage and independence of mind of Eilis O’Hanlon — whose uncle was IRA icon Joe Cahill and whose sister Siobhan was Gerry Adams’s personal assistant — in having freed herself from republican groupthink.
Sean, who turned out to be Eilis’s cousin, said he was ashamed of her, and said that neither she nor I were Irish.
It’s an interesting characteristic of Shinnerbots that they consider themselves entitled to expel those of whom they disapprove.
It reminds me of talaq, the sharia practice that permits a Muslim to get rid of his wife by saying “I divorce you” three times.
Sorry, Sean. It doesn’t work. Your party isn’t in charge yet, so I retain my Irish passport.
There are many people on social media who defend me and others against Shinnerbots. One on Saturday was Christopher Stalford, a DUP MLA for South Belfast.
Having seen me accused — as I often am — of having “an obsession with the IRA” and letting loyalists off the hook, he tweeted: “That’s nonsense. When Ian Paisley passed away she was brutal. It cut me 2 hear it but I didn’t turn on her or abuse the way Shinnerbots do”.
Thanks, Christopher. You’re a democrat.
Shinnerbots are totalitarian cultists.