News Eoghan Harris

Friday 19 September 2014

The Sinn Fein project is shrouded in night and fog

Published 18/05/2014 | 02:30

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Illustration by Jim Cogan

THE forthcoming elections fill me with foreboding. This paper's poll shows that a rising generation, abandoned by the Coalition, is about to follow the Pied Piper of Sinn Fein into a future shrouded in fog.

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Some commentators believe Sinn Fein will gain a hundred seats. I believe it will do better than that. And most of the dark credit for its success is due to three short-sighted policies pursued by the Coalition.

First, Phil Hogan's redrawing of electoral boundaries will have effects not anticipated by the Labour Party strategists, who privately pressed for larger areas to protect their first preferences. But the changes have boomeranged to benefit Sinn Fein.

Second, the Coalition's short-sighted strategy of finishing off Fianna Fail, rather than stopping Sinn Fein, will also boomerang. Fine Gael foolishly envisages a Dail divided between a Fine Gael government party permanently in power and a permanently weak opposition dominated by Sinn Fein.

This thick thinking reminds me of the stupid slogan of the German communists in the 1930s: the worse the better. But as John Bruton pointed out, the choice between two centrist parties preserved Irish democracy, not least in the fraught 1930s.

Fianna Fail provides a populist bulwark against the Provos. That was why I backed Bertie Ahern in 2007, believing correctly that he alone could stop Sinn Fein's relentless rise. The failure of Fianna Fail to follow Ahern's populist path opened a political abyss.

Finally, Sinn Fein's success comes from riding a tiger of public rage. That anger arises from the perception that the Coalition has divided the country into two groups: the smug minority who live in Insider Ireland and the suffering majority who are not Friends of Fine Gael.

Insider Ireland is linked in myriad ways to a well- paid and well-pensioned public sector comprising the political class, the civil service, the semi-states, the HSE, Rehab and, most recently, the Phil Hogan political pork barrel called Irish Water.

Irish Water is a Coalition project which cannot be blamed on Fianna Fail. But it continues the Fianna Fail culture of cosseting a closed public sector shop. And it supports a sick system that rewards public servants who do not perform the duties for which they are paid.

A proverb from Cromwellian times says: "It's not so much the poverty we mind as the insult that follows it." Adding to the public anger about the lifestyle of Insider Ireland is a culture of self-entitlement that grates on the general public. As in the case of Kieran Mulvey.

Mulvey exemplifies the cosy relationship between the Coalition and Insider Ireland. Leo Varadkar seemingly saw nothing wrong with Mulvey lobbying to hang onto his stipend of €9,000 from the Irish Sports Council on top of his salary of €164,000 from the Labour Relations Commission.

But let me repeat what I said last week. Fat-cattery is not murder. The bad behaviour of the Coalition parties does not excuse the moral evasions by members of the educated college class who have joined Sinn Finn. Or that of their parents.

For years I have warned about what I call a "leaky national consensus" against political murder. Our polls show that most people think Gerry Adams had some involvement in the death of Jean McConville. Yet many of the same people will vote Sinn Fein.

In any normal democracy a political party would be destroyed if its leader was linked to a murder investigation. Last week, however, Gerry Adams claimed his arrest in relation to the murder of Jean McConville would boost Sinn Fein at the polls. Our polls confirm his prediction.

Again, in any decent democracy, a documentary like The Disappeared would have shut down Sinn Fein. Let me refresh your memory about what happened to 17-year-old Columba McVeigh, whom the IRA accused of being an informer.

Columba was abducted, murdered, secretly buried and still lies somewhere in a Monaghan bog.

Republican rumour says the reason his body has not been found was because he was tortured so badly. Remember the body of Jean McConville, also tortured, was found by accident.

Dympna Kerr, Columba's sister, says she has never gone to the bog where her brother is believed to be buried. The reason is that she relives every day what he must have suffered in his final moments. Sinn Fein candidates have never categorically condemned the IRA for Columba's murder, nor for the murders of Jean McConville or Jerry McCabe.

Most worrying of all is that throughout this campaign a deferential media did not demand that Sinn Fein candidates categorically condemn the IRA for these three murders, nor indeed any other murders.

None of the reporters running after Adams reminded us that behind the photo-shopped smiling Sinn Fein faces on the posters is a forgotten 17-year-old boy crying for his mother while kneeling at the edge of his grave in a Monaghan bog.

How do Sinn Fein supporters know the party's 'Project' will not provoke political violence of the sort that ends in boys crying in bogs? Maybe this morally murky project is acceptable to the contemptible college graduates who get their rocks off by hanging around famous IRA hard men at ard fheiseanna.

Unlike many repentant IRA men in Northern Ireland, most of Sinn Fein's southern stars have never seen blood spilled. But they seem to like the smell of sulphur, which in Christian folklore forms part of hell's fire. Perhaps it also affects their ability to evaluate Sinn Fein economic policies.

Apart from amnesia and amorality, anyone who votes for Sinn Fein is also voting for catch-all contradictory policies. If Sinn Fein implemented any of its policies Ireland would soon be a basket case. Just look.

Sinn Fein are against wind farms, fossil fuels, nuclear power and fracking. They point to our rich natural resources of oil and gas but they don't want it brought ashore on any terms acceptable to commercial companies.

Sinn Fein continually call for fiscal accountability but ignore the fact that many of their former comrades in arms are making fortunes from fuel laundering and drug 'taxes'. .

Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland practices power without responsibility. They say they recognise the right of Unionists not to be forced into a united Ireland but prevent Unionists from settling down by continually calling for border polls.

Last week I found much food for thought in an article in the Journal of Economic History, where Professor Wagner recounted the recent research of a Swiss team into why the German people voted for the National Socialists from 1924 onwards, eventually giving the party 38.7 per cent in 1933.

Professor Wagner found that the Nazis' strongest supporters were not the unemployed but "the working poor", those who felt excluded from the Weimar Republic's economic system. Think hard about that for a while.

Think hard too about this from Wagner: "What is so interesting is how a fairly small party (3 per cent of the vote in 1924) became such a big party and how it was able to use what relatively little power it had gained to essentially ruin the whole system."

Ireland in 2014 is not Germany in 1933. But all across Europe extreme nationalist populist parties are on the rise. Real republicanism means rejecting the Irish versions, root and branch.

Sunday Independent

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