Thursday 13 December 2018

SF's credo: Ireland be damned as long as we're all right

'Instead of rise and follow Charlie, it's rise and follow Gerry'
'Instead of rise and follow Charlie, it's rise and follow Gerry'

Brendan Howlin

It hasn't been a good week for Sinn Féin.The party's self-praise for its negotiating capacity came unstuck with revelations that it had not understood the Stormont House Agreement it negotiated and championed earlier this year. It would appear that not being good at maths - as Gerry Adams has admitted - is a problem after all.

The party's doublespeak on the treatment of victims of sexual abuse has been abundantly clear since Mairia Cahill made her case to the public last year. That hypocrisy was confirmed this week in the aftermath of the Paudie McGahon revelations. The movement had no problem 'investigating' the position of a Jean McConville, but not allegations against itself.

Some have suggested that the crisis of the Northern institutions - and voters should be aware of Sinn Féin's addiction to crises, as it doesn't make for good government - was deployed as a strategy to distract from the party's unwillingness to deal with sexual abuse allegations within its own movement.

I would like to think that is untrue, but with Sinn Féin anything is possible. What both incidents do reveal, however, is the underlying principle of Sinn Féin politics - what's in Sinn Féin's interest is in the national interest. Not unlike what Fianna Fáil were like under Charlie Haughey. Instead of rise and follow Charlie, it's rise and follow Gerry.

That's how Sinn Féin approaches economics too. Make the question fit the answer. Sinn Féin is opposed to austerity, we are told, north and south. To say 'we are in favour of nice things and opposed to hard things' is hardly an economic theory of merit. But if you don't do maths, it's no wonder you don't do economics either. In the north Sinn Féin seems content to support an economy dependent on largesse from the British government and overly dependent on the public sector. Welfare is not a safety net, it is an end in itself. In the south, despite having voted for the bank guarantee that caused the problem, Sinn Féin have been deficit deniers since day one.

This is the difference between Labour Party politics and Sinn Féin politics. We do ambition for our country and for all our people.

For the Labour Party, poverty and unemployment are problems to be resolved through an aggressive pro-work policy.

We will shortly get unemployment down to single figures, from the 15pc we inherited from the previous administration. This is one of the best achievements of this Government. It's not that Sinn Féin doesn't even have a strategy to achieve similar goals - it doesn't even aspire to them.

Had Sinn Féin been elected in government in 2011, Ireland would not be rapidly improving as is the case under this Government - it would be getting worse. Styling oneself as being opposed to austerity is now the most meaningless phrase in European politics. In Sinn Féin's case, it involves imposing about €1 in additional taxes on the well-off to fund each €5 of giveaways. This is the kind of nonsense that got us into trouble in the first place.

Leaving aside the simple fact that the sums don't add up, the mainstream left has long since accepted that ensuring the economic pie grows is the precursor to discussions about how it is divided. Turnips all round went out with Albanian socialism.

The contradictions between the kind of policies being introduced by Sinn Féin in the North and its rhetoric in this State have confirmed the effective decision taken by its American funders that Sinn Féin's rhetoric is all hot air.

Why take its economic policies seriously when the party itself doesn't take them seriously either?

Voting for Sinn Féin at the next election in this State will be the equivalent of pulling away the ladder and starting again, just as we get out of the well. It is a risk I don't believe the Irish people will take.

Sinn Féin aren't interested in the challenge either. It doesn't want to be in government in the south. It will serve in government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North, but not Fine Gael. Go figure.

As Gerry Adams said on Sunday, it doesn't chime with their national project. This is revealing because Sinn Féin's national project is, of course, a party project, not a national project. Ireland be damned as long as Sinn Féin is all right.

The nation is a functionary of Sinn Féin, not the other way around. So the 1916 centenary doesn't belong to the nation, it belongs to Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin represent themselves as nationalists. Representing themselves as patriots would be a task too far.

Brendan Howlin is the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Irish Independent

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