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Steve Aiken (Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

There'll be no hiding place when Sinn Fein's economic policies in the Republic turn to dust

Steve Aiken

Party won't be able to blame the 'big, bad Brits' anymore, republicans' fall-back position for decades, writes Steve Aiken


Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at her party’s headquarters in Dublin

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at her party’s headquarters in Dublin


Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at her party’s headquarters in Dublin

Sinn Fein, understandably, had a good election in the Republic of Ireland, but now they'll have to stand by commitments made in the Irish general election campaign, bearing in mind that they never expected to get close to getting into government when they wrote their manifesto.

The person now facing the biggest challenge is Mary Lou McDonald. Sinn Fein promised big and now they have to deliver big as they have built up huge public expectation based on their pre-election promises.

They rode a tide of discontentment with the established parties, which delivered a result way beyond their own expectations.

It shouldn't be forgotten that the last party to win big in the Republic, amid claims that the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael duopoly had been broken was the Irish Labour Party, when they won 37 seats in the 2011 general election and were then punished for their record in government in subsequent elections.

The question is: where do Sinn Fein go now and what are the implications for relationships across these islands?

Sinn Fein have made a lot of promises to deliver more housing and a new health service, but how will they square delivering on those promises with economic policies which are more aligned with Venezuela's Chavez/Maduro regime, which destroyed that country's economy and the majority of whose people now live in poverty?

Sinn Fein's track record in government in Northern Ireland has been abysmal when it comes to competent decision-making, whether it was U-turn after U-turn on welfare reform or resisting calls for an inquiry into the RHI scandal (until the tide turned against them).

Then, when the temperature got too hot in the kitchen, Sinn Fein ran away from government.

Sinn Fein have promised the people of the Republic to spend more, while, at the same time, cutting taxes. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

However, the casualties of the imposition of a hard-Left economic policy won't be Mary Lou McDonald and her Sinn Fein acolytes; it will be the ordinary Irish taxpayer.

Sinn Fein will not be able to hide from the electorate when they are forced to make hard decisions if they do end up in government.

Sinn Fein won't be able to blame the "big, bad Brits" at every turn, which has been an easy fall-back position for them for decades.

It has been very easy for Sinn Fein to point out what the problems are. But it takes a lot more to solve them. For once, it truly will be "themselves alone".

Mary Lou McDonald also said that Sinn Fein's manifesto commitments were costed by the Republic's Department for Finance.

That being the case, why do Sinn Fein ministers in Northern Ireland continue to stand in the way of the establishment of a fiscal council to oversee the work of the Executive? It's not even in the legislative programme.

There are huge decisions ahead for Sinn Fein if they do decide to enter government. But, as sure as night follows day, it hasn't taken long for Mary Lou McDonald to attempt to cause distraction by making a lot of statements about a so-called "imminent" border poll in an attempt to create instability in Northern Ireland.

The last thing Northern Ireland needs at the minute is a border poll. We have a crisis in our health service, which will require a collegiate political approach to resolve, an education service in desperate need of investment and issues across the board, which need addressed after Sinn Fein collapsed the Executive in 2017.

The message on the doorsteps at the last election in Northern Ireland was loud and clear: just get on with it.

Mary Lou McDonald can continue to make grandiose statements, claiming that the 25% share of the vote for Sinn Fein in the Republic means that there must be a border poll. But, no matter how many times she says it, it still won't change the facts.

Responsibility for the calling of a border poll rests solely within the remit of the UK Government and the future of Northern Ireland lies in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland, as clearly stated in the Belfast Agreement. To do otherwise would mean ripping up the Agreement.

Sinn Fein can't have it both ways. Neither Mary Lou McDonald nor Sinn Fein (nor, indeed, the EU) can force a border poll.

And, to be fair to the EU, they won't want to get involved in Sinn Fein's shenanigans.

Mary Lou McDonald's calls for the EU to support Irish reunification as policy, ludicrously comparing it with EU support for the reunification of Germany, shows that election success has skewed reality.

People in the EU are very well aware of Sinn Fein's role in fomenting conflict and discontent over the years and they won't be hitching their wagon to it.

Within hours of election results being announced, it was demonstrated that, if you just scratch the surface, not much has changed under the Sinn Fein bonnet.

Some of their elected representatives have shown a callous disregard to the innocent victims of the IRA, standing up on podiums after being elected as TDs, shouting "Up the Ra", glorifying the same IRA that murdered and maimed thousands of people across these islands, including gardai, members of the Irish army and Irish prison officers.

When are they going to show some compassion, do what's right for once and admit that IRA murder was wrong?

Ironically, all they succeed in doing is reminding people of the real face of Sinn Fein and push a united Ireland even further away than it already is.

Having Sinn Fein at the heart of government in the Republic also raises many other questions for security and intelligence co-operation with other countries throughout the world.

We need positive working relationships across these islands, but Sinn Fein don't do genuine engagement.

I wish the people of the Republic of Ireland well, as they potentially face a Sinn Fein-led government.

My party and I will concentrate on building a better society for all our people in Northern Ireland, as part of a vibrant, modern United Kingdom.

Steve Aiken MLA is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

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