Monday 16 September 2019

Editorial: 'Sinn Féin's failure on Brexit will be recorded in history'

'Sinn Féin, correctly, argues its voters are well aware of its policy of not taking up any Westminster seats it wins.' Stock picture
'Sinn Féin, correctly, argues its voters are well aware of its policy of not taking up any Westminster seats it wins.' Stock picture
Editorial

Editorial

During modern-day Sinn Féin's early steps into constitutional politics, a 'draft-dodger' was the jocose moniker attached to party representatives who didn't have a Provisional IRA record.

Of course, Gerry Adams was the exception to the nickname as allegedly everyone knew that he was a leading figure in the Provos, most notably those in his cult following in the party.

These days, the term 'draft-dodger' could as easily be applied to the party's MPs who refuse do their duty in Westminster.

The party's policy of abstention is coming under greater scrutiny than ever given the narrow margins in the House of Commons, where the Tories require the support of the DUP to remain in power.

The impact of Brexit will be felt most strongly in Northern Ireland, particularly if the unrelenting pressure to avoid the return of a hard Border fails to hold.

The decline of the SDLP means all the nationalist seats are held by Sinn Féin. The DUP's dominance of seats on the unionist side means moderate views from Northern Ireland have no voice in Westminster at all.

Sinn Féin, correctly, argues its voters are well aware of its policy of not taking up any Westminster seats it wins.

The party has added a second argument to its arsenal. Its representatives claim, without any evidence to back it up, that if its MPs suddenly turned up for votes on Brexit it would drive Tory MPs to vote in the opposite direction. The recurrence and consistency of this account from a number of party figures over recent weeks implies the Sinn Féin handlers have circulated that memo widely.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton has a different take. He says Sinn Féin could have made a key contribution on Brexit, as taking up its seats would have "neutralised" the DUP's veto on the outcome of negotiations.

Looking back to a century ago and referring to the establishment of the Stormont parliament in 1920, the former Fine Gael leader says history shows abstention by Irish politicians has "substantial downsides". A century ago, abstention resulted in little scrutiny of the dangers of creating Stormont.

Mr Bruton delivered a speech to mark the centenary of the pivotal 1918 general election, which led to the first Dáil.

Where the official Sinn Féin line and Mr Bruton do align is in agreeing there's no point in taking up the seats at this late stage.

"It is five to midnight - they should have come in in the morning, not at five to midnight," he says.

When the history is written on Brexit, it will reflect that Sinn Féin MPs failed to make their voices and votes count in Westminster during a crucial period for this country.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss