Friday 20 September 2019

John Downing: 'Sinn Féin has failed on Brexit and wronged Máiría Cahill'


A view of the Palace of Westminster. Stock picture
A view of the Palace of Westminster. Stock picture
John Downing

John Downing

So, abstention is almost 100 years old, Mary Lou McDonald has reminded us.

The Sinn Féin leader's comments cue even more dreary prospects of her party trying to hog the limelight in centenary celebrations of An Céad Dáil on January 21 next year.

Ms McDonald's comments came in a remarkable piece of radio yesterday as Seán O'Rourke on RTÉ deftly unpicked the party's sophistry justifying their having things every which way around Brexit.

Worse again she reiterated the party's effective view that it hopes Máiría Cahill, and her story of shameful abuse, will simply go away with her unjust treatment by Sinn Féin still unresolved.

The Sinn Féin leader invoked the memory of this State's founders who took the bold decision not to take their seats in Westminster in 1919. But she cannot be allowed to get away with that piece of simplistic history re-writing.

Reality is Sinn Féin will not take their seven seats in Westminster as every vote will count on December 12 and the moment of truth dawns for Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Ms McDonald agrees it is the "least worst outcome"; like most of the rest of us she would prefer no Brexit at all.

The bigger point is Sinn Féin, for the bulk of its existence, boycotted all three parliaments in Dublin, Belfast and London. Gradually, it got over itself about the Dáil and Stormont. But Westminster, and the necessary Oath of Loyalty to the British monarch, remains a parliament too far.

Is she inferring people like John Hume and Séamus Mallon were any less Irish for taking that oath?

What of the Scottish National Party members, dedicated to independence for their country, or the proud members of Wales's Plaid Cymru? They've all managed their way round that one.

Surely the bigger failing is the lack of a parliament and power-sharing government in Belfast at this crucial time for a people still at risk of becoming the meat in the sandwich.

Ms McDonald can say the Democratic Unionist Party has its share of culpability here - but that argument is not enough.

She acknowledges that it falls to the Dublin Government to battle for nationalists in the North on Brexit. And with people like outgoing Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson, it can just continue to make demands.

Ms Anderson blithely glosses over the seven idle Westminster seats, and the Belfast government and parliament abandoned and shut for more than 22 months, to demand Dublin cede the two European Parliament seats gained from the 73 UK seats to compensate for the North's loss of three MEPs.

It appears the party would continue to go to Brussels and Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, the DUP will continue to use its leverage with the British Tories in a way that risks harming all Ireland.

Irish Independent

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