Sinn Féin is not Ireland’s progressive party

(via RTÉ News)

As Sinn Féin has soared in the polls since GE 2020, one defining truth remains clear, which is that the party which was forged in the bloody terror of The Troubles, Sinn Féin, is not progressive. Rather, it is an illiberal, sectarian and regressive party which seeks to undermine our unity and national confidence. The idea that Sinn Féin is progressive is disturbing and at odds with reality. For the last 5 decades, Sinn Fein has very consistently been on the wrong side of history. The party opposed the EU for decades, as the political wing of the IRA their appetite for peace was absent for decades, and the glorification of violence has remained a core pillar of the Sinn Féin platform.

Intimidation, terrorism and sectarianism still have a comfortable home in Sinn Fein; free of any apparent scrutiny or meaningful punishment. The conflation of The Troubles to our War of Independence is grossly misleading. During the War of Independence, the IRA targeted non-civilian targets in response to the overbearing hand of an oppressive occupying force. 

Of course, we are all painfully aware of the tragedies and brutal acts which defined that period. One hundred years ago this month, my own beloved city was burned to the ground in an act of unmatched cruelty, the Black and Tans of the RIC unleashed a night so savage and devoid of meaning upon an innocent civilian populace. Over 4 square kilometres of Cork City centre was reduced to rubble. Equally, from 1920-1923 over 40,000 protestants fled Ireland due to sectarian intimidation and violence.

During the troubles, British Forces piled cruelty upon cruelty, the images of Bloody Sunday 1972 burned into our collective cultural memory. This cruelty was compounded by paramilitaries like the Provisional IRA and UVF who often saw civilians as acceptable collateral damage; just another piece of collateral damage in a greater moral fight against the grand oppressors or insurrectionists. The 1998 Omagh bombing, the worst terrorist attack ever carried out on Irish soil, killing 29 innocent people, including 9 children.

186 children were murdered during The Troubles, by soldiers and paramilitaries alike. Innocent and born into a world who hated them for what stone building their parents walked them into on a Sunday morning or for which flag their parents felt allegiance to. The point being is that none of this is to be celebrated. Our island possesses a history as bloody as any, a history which, in certain moments, we relinquished our humanity to base savagery and sectarianism.

Instead, we should seek to reflect upon that history, we should seek reconciliation between all parties still aggrieved. There is nothing more regressive than the glorification of violence, the carving of a wedge between different sections of society. A glorification perpetuated by Sinn Féin for electoral purposes, a violence whose damage Sinn Féin resolutely refuses to acknowledge or apologise for; when even the British State has formally apologised for some of their acts during this period.

The idea, often touted by Sinn Féin supporters, that the past and your actions as an organisation don’t matter is asinine. Especially not when Sinn Féin proudly beats the drum for a period of merciless violence which they helped to orchestrate. A party which proudly venerates the Provisional IRA, its former members within its own ranks and its horrific acts.

The progressive and classical left has always taken pride in bringing people together in the name of progress, not unleashing an army of trolls to bully on Twitter, or troublingly knocking on party members doors for discussing and breaking the accepted orthodoxy, or denying the patriotism of those with differing political beliefs, or bashing fellow TDs for their sexual orientation or celebrating violence.

Sinn Féin has never in its history held a leadership contest for the party presidency in which party members could vote, a norm in the political coalitions of every western democracy. They are remarkably incapable of taking responsibility for any scandals or past misgivings, the excuse is always that ‘the establishment’ is out to get them; conspiring, sharpening the knives to destroy a truly righteous and unquestionable movement. A message which may feel familiar from the last 5 years of American embarrassment.

In politics, character matters. When a government is formed, it is expected that they represent the Irish people. Not just their base. It is beyond clear that Sinn Fein pays no respect to those who do not share their false, narrow and self serving interpretation of our history.

There are three other significant and principled Irish progressive parties who adhere to universal democratic values. The Labour Party, the Green Party and The Social Democrats all abhor violence, they all hold leadership contests, they all understand our history as a nation and they all respect the institutions and laws of this State. They all welcome open discussion and disagreement. A vote for the left does not have to equate with a vote for Sinn Féin, unification does not have to lie in these messages of violence and division, a peaceful, progressive and prosperous future can be achieved by all of these parties and others, but not by Sinn Féin.

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