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Eoghan Harris

Why a campaign to 'Shinnerise' the Irish Republic, no matter how well intentioned, can only corrupt the state

Eoghan Harris


Luckily, there are still wise heads from the SDLP tradition who see that Sinn Fein in government in the south would only ruin the decent Irish Republic they hope to join some day

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Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald meets local residents looks at flood prevention measures in the Mill Bank area of Athlon

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald meets local residents looks at flood prevention measures in the Mill Bank area of Athlon

PA

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald meets local residents looks at flood prevention measures in the Mill Bank area of Athlon

The Irish Republic has been hollowed out and no longer rests on the firm foundations of alternating Fianna Fail and Fine Gael governments. These two parties have given nearly 100 years of stability, while most of Europe was engulfed by communism or fascism.

Yes, there are housing and health problems. But we can cure them, because Ireland has a strong economy and virtually full employment. So, why the madness of a mantra for a "change" that nearly ended in a coup?

By now, had Sinn Fein run sufficient candidates, a party directed by the IRA army council would be waiting for access to Garda and Defence Forces' files. Given the IRA's record, that would only be the start.

They would reach into the Revenue Commissioners, "monitor" RTE and tax private media. People with the wrong politics would feel the heat. At the least. Next, they would step up "security" in support of their main agenda - putting pressure on unionists for a united Ireland that could only end in ethnic strife.

Thanks to Micheal Martin's firm stand, that future scoundrel time has been postponed. But only postponed. The wolf I long warned about is within the fold and has to wait only five years.

How did this happen? Sinn Fein apologists pretend that election attacks on the party helped it grow. If so, why did Leo Varadkar get a bourgeois bounce from his attack on Sinn Fein during the last leaders' debate? Why is Sinn Fein so anxious to make moral issues, like Paul Quinn's murder, totally taboo?

Like all countries with a ''national question", Ireland can be roused to rage by a populist party led by a skilled demagogue.

Apart from the majority, moved by health and housing, there are five reasons why many young people (and some middle-class voters) backed Sinn Fein's green frenzy.

First, young people are taught no history. They are at the mercy of Sinn Fein's massive investment in false history on social media.

Second, RTE has pumped out green centenary programmes, but does not balance by showing films like Spotlight on the Troubles or Lost Lives.

Third, Sinn Fein academic chiefs cleared out pluralists (aka "revisionists") as completely as the Nazis purged the Jews from German universities. Proof? Scratch an academic on an RTE panel and, many times, you'll find a Sinn Fein apologist.

Fourth, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney's Brexit-bashing morphed in the public mind into Brit-bashing. Incredibly, they were at it again last week.

Finally, the most dangerous development of all: the campaign to persuade us the peace process demands we must accept Northern Ireland as some kind of role model for the Irish Republic.

But Northern Ireland is the imposed product of an IRA campaign. Naturally, northerners are tempted to demand we accept the same distorted settlement.

Let me give you a practical example of how a campaign to "Shinnerise" the Irish Republic, no matter how well motivated, can only corrupt the state.

Last week, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris repeated his support for the 2015 PSNI-MI5 report, stating the IRA army council oversees Sinn Fein. He could do this because he was completely free to speak his mind. Meantime, his opposite number in Northern Ireland was evasive on the same issue.

That is why I was not impressed by Tommie Gorman's long meditation on Drew Harris's stance last Friday week. Depending on your politics, Gorman either depicted the complexity of the situation, or, in my view, muddied the clear water of the commissioner's statement.

The bit that bothered me most was when Gorman seemed to normalise the "shadowy figures" by telling us they had previously rubbed shoulders with government representatives.

Gorman: "The reality is that Irish governments ... when they're doing business here in Northern Ireland, they have met people who were on the army council of the IRA in order to promote democracy here."

Gerry Adams must have been listening, because he made exactly the same point on Twitter - followed by the now-predictable whine against Micheal Martin.

Neither Gorman nor Adams mentioned that some northern nationalists, with moral boundaries, made peace without making nice or inhaling the IRA's sulphurous incense.

True, Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell had no qualms about slumming with IRA godfathers.

Given the wide range of Gorman's soliloquy, however, he might have mentioned that Seamus Mallon famously said he "could not bear to be in the same room" with Gerry Adams.

Luckily, there are still wise heads from the SDLP tradition who see that Sinn Fein in government in the south, far from helping northern nationalists, would ruin the decent Irish Republic they hope to join some day.

Last week, Alban Maginness, writing in this newspaper, took a longer look at the big picture and the heading summed up his cold conclusion on Sinn Fein: "Letting the party into power in the Republic would cannibalise Irish democracy."

Maginness had no doubt who had held the line for Irish democracy: "It is to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's great credit that he has rejected the idea of joining with Sinn Fein as a partner in a new coalition government. Micheal Martin has, instead, advocated a grand coalition, between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, together with the Greens."

Maginness welcomed this, because it would "protect the Irish body politic from the corrupting influence of Sinn Fein".

If a northern observer like Maginness can see that Sinn Fein poses a moral as well as a political challenge, isn't it time for public intellectuals in the Republic to take time out from their obsession with Boris and Trump and take part in the far tougher fight against tribal populism at home?

That was why I was glad to see Fintan O'Toole, finally, do our state some small service by somewhat belatedly challenging Sinn Fein last Tuesday in a piece headed: "If murderous dissidents are wrong, so was the Provisional IRA."

Given that O'Toole robustly supported Sinn Fein in government before and after the general election, it would have been fitting - if out of character - for him to admit this was a major volte face.

Although I'm an atheist, I wish he'd confront the real threat of Sinn Fein right now instead of playing old records about the Catholic Church of the past.

A few weeks ago on BBC Northern Ireland's The View, replying to questions about IRA direction of Sinn Fein, he took refuge in a tired Left-liberal trope.

"This is not just a question of whether there are 'shadowy figures' (here he did punctuation marks in the air) from the IRA. It's about big business, it's about the Catholic Church in a lot of the history of the Republic."

But it's not about big business (barring the IRA's criminal empire), or the Catholic Church of old. It's about backing Micheal Martin against Sinn Fein's atavistic agenda and telling Leo Varadkar to stop posing and get on with giving us a government.

Eoghan Harris is a Dublin-based political commentator

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