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By Jason Michael

ENGLAND’S POLITICAL IMAGINATION never fails to amuse those of us fortunate to have inherited the freedom gained by those brave Irish women and men who kicked Britain’s sorry arse out of most of Ireland. Never in the history of the British state have Irish, Welsh, and Scots voices been welcome at Westminster. Even a cursory look at the arithmetic of the English parliament tells a story; it is an institution in which, even when added together, the weight of three nations is but a fraction of the weight of England. The House of Commons is a place where – and by their pathetic consent – Scotland, Wales, and the house Paddies of Ulster loyalism are kept under the boot. The expectation is that these defeated people will realise their place and learn to keep their mouths shut. They are guests and observers in England’s parliament.

But there is an exception to this rule. There is a time when the Taffy, Jock, and Paddy is expected to take his seat, straighten his back, pretend to be a man, clear his throat, and speak up – when England is in trouble. No one in Westminster gives a damn that Sinn Féin MPs refuse to take up their seats. The truth be told, the overwhelming majority of those who take the oath, even among the Scots and the Welsh, are delighted Sinn Féin keeps its distance. By the better part it is hated and despised, and by the rest it is a reminder of the very worst of Britain’s crimes and a reminder of the shame and cowardice represented by the royal oath. And here we are again – England is in distress and the same question is on the lips of every oath-taker trying to save England: Why won’t Sinn Féin come to London, bend the knee, take the oath, and take its seats?

We in Sinn Féin are completely sick of this question. We have answered it a thousand times. Our founders answered it in front of British firing squads at Kilmainham gaol in 1916, our people have answered it on the gallows in British prisons all over our beautiful and holy island, we answered it in H-Block wearing nothing but blankets in dark cells smeared in shit, and I – the least worthy to answer this question – am forced to answer the it again. I will answer, but I will not answer for myself. I will answer for the heroic daughters and sons of Ireland who went before me and answered that monster England with their blood and with their lives.

Ireland is not Britain, it is not England. Ireland is an island and a nation; from Ulster in the north to Munster in the south and from Connacht in the west to Leinster in the east Ireland is one. Dublin – and Dublin alone – is the capital of this island. The green, white, and orange is the banner of this nation; our flag of war and the promise of our peace. Dáil Éireann is the only parliament in which the sovereign people of Ireland express their democratic will, and it is to the Dáil that we elect our Teachtaí Dála (TDs), our elected representatives. Britain is a foreign country. It is another island, another state, a land of foreigners, the home of the people who raped and brutalised our home for hundreds of years. An Irish politician has no place in Britain’s parliament.

In 1916 the imperial army of England descended on Ireland like a wolf on the fold. All along the Liffey its troops laid siege to the new Republic – An Poblacht na hÉireann. Britain’s field guns and gunboats razed our capital to the ground, after picking off children and their mothers. They treated the surrendered like dogs, stripping naked and mocking our president – that saintly man Thomas Clarke. They lined them up and shot them dead. And when the tanks and the soldiers were brought out in Glasgow in 1919 the animals returned to Ireland. All over this island the British government unleashed irregular soldiers – the Black and Tans, with orders to rape, torture, and terrorise the people of this nation; to make them once more Britain’s slaves.

For the hundred years since it has murdered our daughters and sons. In Belfast and Derry, the British government worked with murder gangs to keep Ireland on its knees. British soldiers went house to house in Belfast, killing in cold blood children, mothers with babies in their arms, and the priests who rushed to their help. On the streets of Derry, the British Army massacred men, women, and children out looking for nothing more radical than a vote; the protection of their rights.

But we defeated England. We rose up and we sent those beasts with their medals from Flanders packing back to their own land with a flee in their ear. Irish women and men went out as a risen nation and drove the British crown out of their land. In the north, where that job is not yet finished, the British government let a Sinn Féin MP starve to death in 1981. Bobby Sands MP never sat in Westminster. Thatcher murdered him in a British prison in his own country. Bobby Sands MP never sat in Westminster. He never disgraced himself, never betrayed his people and nation and cause by taking an oath to the queen of England. Let me tell you, there is not a subjugated MP in the Commons who can hold a candle to that young man – not a one.

Sinn Féin will never take up its seats in England’s parliament. Nothing would disgrace Ireland more than that betrayal. The Irish Republican sees this as taking a piss on the graves of all those who have laid down their lives for Ireland, on all those who have resisted and stood firm, on the graves of all Ireland’s martyrs. Sinn Féin will never sit in England’s parliament. No matter how bad things get in Britain, Sinn Féin will stay in Ireland and watch as England’s crows come home to roost and tear that nation of liars and murderers to pieces. Sinn Féin will stay in Ireland and continue the work of James Connolly, Padraig Pearse, and all those who went out in 1916. Sinn Féin will stay in Ireland and work for the future and for the peace of Ireland. England and its parliament can go to hell.

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Execution of 1916 Easter Rising Leaders


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8 thoughts on “Why Won’t Sinn Féin Take its Seats?

  1. Excuse my ignorance, but I didn’t know that Sinn Fein was actually involved in the rising in 1916. Certainly there was no question of abstentionism or not until 1917 with Count Plunkett and the North Roscommon by-election. I think the rest of your history is as dodgy.There is a difference between history and propaganda. You are writing propaganda, and you should know better.

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    1. Well thanks for that, Edward. Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin did not come out in 1916 as it was – as it is now – a political party. Griffith’s Sinn Féin was at the time a Home Rule party, but did suffer recriminations for the Easter Rising. However, in the aftermath of the Rising the party absorbed what was left of the Republican movement as it transitioned to a Republican and separatist party – including its future leader Éamon de Valera, one of the leaders of the Rising. By 1919 Sinn Féin was very much the party of the Rising. That transition saw the adoption of abstentionism by those who had fought and would go on to fight in the War of Independence and the Civil War. But, sure, what would a propagandist know?

      By dodgy, am I to take it the British never brutalised Ireland? I am to take it the Republican movement should get over these silly myths and crawl to the feet of Mrs Windsor?

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    2. “Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin did not come out in 1916 as it was – as it is now” So your men of 1916 were not thinking in the way which you describe, your description was anachronistic. Abstentionism was decided by Count Plunkett. It was not until Griffith’s Ard Fheis in October 1917 that Sinn Fein began to develop in the way that you described. I am not claiming that the British never Brutalised Ireland. Yes they did. What I am claiming is that by your support for Sinn Fein you are ignoring that the IRA – of which Sinn Fein was the political arm, brutalised the people of Northern Ireland and killed far more people than the British did between 1969 and 1998. I have no problem with Sinn Fein having a policy of abstention. However given the totally different situation with Scotland I don’t believe that at the moment it is a policy for a Scottish Party. You seem not to be able to acknowledge that rather than as with Ireland where the relationship with the British State was imposed by forces coming from outside, and with a loyalty outwith Ireland, in Scotland the British State was brought into existence by the class interests of the Scottish aristocracy, and the Scottish Bourgeoisie were enthusiastic supporters, while the Scottish Proletariat had opportunities from the Empire of which they took full advantage. We are still in a situation where over 50% of the people of Scotland would not be opposed to the British state as an institution (which is why you are not universally popular within the independence movement).
      My desire for an independent Scotland is predicated on the idea that it is only with independence that the people of Scotland will be able to develop the society for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

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    3. The question I am answering is why Sinn Féin does not today take up its seats in the British parliament. The answer to that question has everything to do with the events of Easter 1916, the survivors of which were all Sinn Féin for the First Dail in 1919. Their experience absolutely informs the position – on principle, not mere tactic – taken by the party ever since. That makes the Easter Rising central to Republican abstentionism. As you will know, George Plunkett himself was Sinn Féin in 1919.

      Of course I am ignoring the IRA. It is utterly irrelevant to the point in question. The relationship between Sinn Féin and the IRA during the conflict (1919-1998) has no bearing on why Sinn Féin refuses to sit in a foreign parliament and take an oath of allegiance to the monarch of that foreign country. Sinn Féin and the IRA are not the same organisation. They are parts of the same Republican movement, sure, but entirely independent of one another. Sinn Féin was a political arm of that movement and not that of the IRA, though there was a degree of joint membership and Sinn Féin did act as a go-between. Both were engaged in an armed struggle – as was the British government, the British Army, their allied paramilitary killing squads, and the entire apparatus of the British security, policing, and secret services. As a Sinn Féin member in 2019 I do not support armed struggle or political violence of any kind. I support the Good Friday Agreement.

      In this piece I am not talking about Scotland, so I did not acknowledge the Scottish dynamic because it has nothing to do with Sinn Féin abstentionism. I get that I am not popular in the Scottish independence movement. You are not the first to tell me. I am not interested in being liked. I am interested in making a case for independence and for a Scottish Republic. I have been Scottish long enough to understand what lies beneath the distaste for Irish Republicanism. But there is nothing I can do about that.

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    4. But the problem is that you did not simply explain why SF are abstentionism – with which in the context I happen to agree, but you then went into a polemic about the military phase. That I would take issue with.
      My problem is the you say a lot of helpful – if difficult – things about how the struggle for independence is going to develop in Scotland.
      The problem is when you say something which has the potential to be misquoted – or misinterpreted it lessons your value to the Scottish struggle.
      I admit that I am focused on Scottish Independence, my involvement in Irish affairs being restricted to pointing out to the moderate Unionist community that they would be as well to engage with the South now, as they actively have the potential to be their best friends rather than God Knows what after there is a border poll in a couple of years time post the Brexit horror.
      I have always taken this line and was involved in discussions between the Young Unionists and young Fine Gael in 1964. Of course the people who have graduated into the DUP were opposed to any move, reacted to the perfectly legitimate demands of the excluded community and made an armed struggle inevitable.

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  2. I’m looking in all seriousness at trying to settle in Ireland with my family as soon as humanly possible. English politics threw us out of Scotland (yet finances meant we’d to leave our daughter behind til we can return to get her a passport) and Scotgov didn’t bother fighting for us. And I got sick of hearing the “hands are tied” because when the Scots gov lets the English gov evict Scots from Scotland, they fail miserably imo, they are no longer worth anything. What use is a government that won’t even try to protect their ain? I hope we’d be welcomed in Ireland. We just want oor family together, and a peaceful life, neither me nor hubs are young any mair. I don’t know if Ireland would accept two Scots and one Flemishman. But I hope so. I dearly hope so.

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