Friday 22 September 2017

Border poll by another name: how election results in North may prompt SF to take historic step on seats

'Every Northern election from here onwards can be characterised as a Border poll by another name.'
'Every Northern election from here onwards can be characterised as a Border poll by another name.'
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

For decades, it has been a republican shibboleth. Sinn Féin campaigns for election to Westminster on an abstentionist manifesto, refusing to take its seats because its members will never swear an oath of allegiance to the British monarch.

That dogma, anachronistic though it appears to many, holds up a mirror to the strength of nationalist support. If Sinn Féin fielded no candidates, other parties would have a free run. In recent years, the party has tweaked the policy for a semi-detached approach, conducting a certain amount of business in the corridors of power, although the significant tools of voting rights and speaking time are not available to its MPs.

However, with Brexit looming and Theresa May's majority unlikely to be sizeable if the polls are correct, wouldn't Sinn Féin's electorate be better served by a reversal of abstentionism? Such an about-turn would prove challenging for some of the party's supporters, but the job of leaders is to guide their followers along new pathways. And after all, it's been managed before: Sinn Féin's Stormont ministers are servants of the British crown.

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