10 reasons not to cast a vote for Sinn Fein
1. Gerry Adams has led the party since the 1980s, and is contesting his fourth election to the Dail. He still has no command of policy detail, a woeful understanding of economics, and seems to believe bluster and aggression will deflect all reasonable questions. The idea that this approach will work in Europe is laughable. Mandarins in Brussels may be unpalatable, but they know their stuff, and they eat amateurs like Adams for breakfast. Just ask Alexis Tsipras.
2. Speaking of the Greek prime minister, SF has still not provided a credible explanation for its support for Syriza and other left-wing movements, all of whom have so far failed to achieve any of the concessions which SF continues to pretend that it can win in the face of the same resistance from EU power brokers. As a result, Greece is a basket case looking at decades of economic stagnation; Spain has unemployment levels that make the worst days of Dublin in the 1980s look like a boom by comparison; and Portugal is without a stable government and beginning to suffer the effects as it's shunned by investors. Why would Ireland fare any differently if it heeded the siren's call?
3. SF speaks with a forked tongue on opposing austerity, implementing cuts in government in Northern Ireland while claiming it would oppose them in government in the Republic. "Sinn Fein is doing Tory austerity - and in spades," as SDLP deputy leader Fearghal McKinney put it. West Belfast, the heartland of the party, suffers the worst child poverty in the whole of the UK and 2,000 people languish on the housing waiting list in that one area of the city alone.
4. Last week, the son of murdered prison officer Brian Stack revealed that he has information linking his father's murder to two senior SF representatives. The party's only official response to this shocking development was to advise Austin Stack to take any information he has to An Garda Siochana as, in the words of Gerry Adams, "it isn't up to us to investigate these matters". Despite this, Adams has admitted that SF/IRA did conduct investigations into rape and child abuse allegations made against senior republicans, before moving those it found guilty of sexual offences to secret locations around the Irish Republic and in Britain. The whereabouts of these perpetrators of abuse remain unknown, and SF continues to insist that it has no further information about them and no way of finding out. This assertion lacks all plausibility in light of SF's willingness to pursue so-called "comfort letters" from the British government granting immunity from prosecution for IRA "on the runs". It only seems to know how to find former republicans when convenient.
5. SF is shamelessly ambivalent about law and order. Abolishing the Special Criminal Court would be of particular concern in the present circumstances, but SF sees no problem in taking away powers from the State that allow law enforcement agencies to act quickly against republican-inspired terrorist organisations and ruthless criminal gangs who murder and threaten innocent people in working-class communities in Dublin and elsewhere. The case of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy clearly demonstrated SF's belief that "good republicans" should be above the law.
6. For a party which claims to be squeaky clean, and which berates mainstream politicians for presiding over corruption, SF's finances are a black hole from which light rarely emerges. A recent investigation in Northern Ireland found that the party played fast and loose with political expenses, in one case alone channelling €1m in public money to a research group later revealed to be little more than a front for SF. It is generously funded beyond the dreams of most political parties and is not keen for outsiders to know what it does with that money.
7. Gerry Adams said on RTE radio last Thursday that a strategy for Irish unity was a "red line" issue for the party and insisted it would push in government for a referendum on a united Ireland. The Belfast Agreement has already set down the conditions under which such a poll could be held, stating that it should only be called if there is a realistic chance of it being carried on both sides of the Border. These conditions are far from being met. The party's manifesto contains a large number of measures to push for Irish unity, including a proposal that MPs elected in the North should be "automatically accorded membership of Dail Eireann", with speaking rights, which has received little attention from other parties. Many of these measures could only be divisive and retrograde steps that would sour relations with unionists in the North and with Britain, to no positive end. Dublin and London enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship and there is no evidence that Irish people have any appetite for using the offices of a sovereign government for the advancement of a one-sided propaganda war in the way envisaged by SF.
8. The younger generation of SF representatives cannot be relied upon to make a break with the past. Normal democratic parties have their internal struggles. Not SF. It has only a single-minded personality cult which refuses to accept that its leader, Gerry Adams, has questions to answer about his past conduct both in the IRA's activities during the Troubles and in his handling of controversial child abuses cases, one involving his own brother, Liam. Whenever Adams is under fire, SF hides from legitimate questions. Not one SF representative has broken ranks to question their treatment of Mairia Cahill.
9. The concept of free speech remains anathema to SF. Some of the party's enemies, such as former IRA man Eamon Collins, have been murdered for exercising their right to openly dissent from Provo orthodoxy. Only this week, an academic study based on confidential documents from RTE management meetings showed how SF attempts to bully the media into giving the party more favourable coverage. In recent years it has ruthlessly orchestrated its online supporters to troll SF's critics on social media . Recent death threats against journalists have demonstrated again that threats to press freedom are no laughing matter, but a deadly reality.
10. Article 15 of the Constitution declares that "the right to raise and maintain military or armed forces is vested exclusively in the Oireachtas", adding that no other force should be raised "for any purpose whatsoever". SF begs to differ, still giving its fraternal allegiance to another claimant in the shadows, the Irish Republican Army. Adams refers to this terrorist organisation as "the Army", giving it equal legitimacy with the actual armed forces of the State, and the current status of this other "army" remains uncertain. It retains large stores of weapons, and continues to flex its muscle to threaten the peace process when roused to anger, as when Gerry Adams was arrested for questioning about the brutal kidnap, torture, murder and secret burial of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville. As recently as last autumn, it was revealed that the IRA still has overarching command over SF policy. What it intends to do with that control is a worrying mystery.