Sunday 25 February 2018

Fianna Fail must resist getting into bed with Sinn Fein 'tiger'

Nationalists in the North know all about the perils of flirting with the Shinners.

Mary Lou McDonald with party leader Gerry Adams
Mary Lou McDonald with party leader Gerry Adams
Mary Lou McDonald has been SF’s star TD. Photo Tom Burke

Tom Kelly

THE Chinese have a proverb, which goes 'to attend an emperor is like sleeping with a tiger'. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams may not quite be an emperor yet but he certainly has aspirations beyond the limitation of his party office. In the aftermath of Sinn Fein's spectacular achievements in the recent EU elections in the Republic, I was surprised to see senior members of Fianna Fail starting to openly discuss the possibility of Sinn Fein as a potential coalition partner.

Obviously who Fianna Fail decides to get into bed with, politically speaking, is a matter for the Fianna Fail leadership – but it would do well to look at the experience of the SDLP in the North to see just how quickly sleeping with the enemy diminishes the partner who welcomes them to bed. If Fianna Fail listens to its own instincts, it will know that to let Sinn Fein into the bedchamber will be like sleeping with a tiger. If it does pursue that agenda then it's not the Fianna Fail of Sean Lemass, Jack Lynch, David Andrews or Brian Cowen that I recognise.

Having spent a large part of my adult life working for the SDLP in the electoral bear pits of South Armagh and West Belfast, I have some knowledge of what it's like to compete against, and coalesce with, Sinn Fein. I have warned and then watched how Sinn Fein can, with the effectiveness of a chameleon lizard, blend into any environment that suits but remain on the hunt. And they are strictly carnivores.

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