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By Jason Michael
Veteran BBC journalist John Simpson took to Twitter this morning to explain the Irish general election in characteristic British style – ‘Tansplaining,’ as we call it in Ireland. ‘So Ireland,’ he said, ‘which has been politically stable for decades, has also succumbed to populism…’ He was, of course, referring to the unprecedented Sinn Féin surge – once the political voice of an armed Republican movement which handed the British Army its arse during Britain’s repressive occupation of the six counties. True to form, Britain – which everywhere causes mayhem and war then pretends to be the peacemaker – now wants Irish politics seen and interpreted through a British lens. Its most trusted talking heads in the BBC, the same British state broadcaster that colluded with the British government and security services to hide the criminal nature of Britain’s occupation of Ireland, are being wheeled out to write Sinn Féin off.
This is state propaganda at its finest, and something with which the people of Ireland are well acquainted. Throughout Britain’s humiliating and pathetic Brexit tantrum, the BBC and Britain’s deeply compromised state-aligned media have been working to present Ireland to the British people as a nation of ingrates for refusing to follow Britain out of the European Union. During Scotland’s 2014 campaign for independence, the same British media was writing Ireland off as a ‘basket case economy’ in a successful effort to frighten the Scots into remaining part of a Greater England state that has done little else but rob Scotland blind. Our neighbours on the other island have form for this nonsense; during the Famine, while they were exporting our crops under armed guard, they were depicting us Irish as animals and savages in their newspapers.
So Ireland, which has been politically stable for decades, has also succumbed to populism now.#GE2020.—
John Simpson (@JohnSimpsonNews) February 10, 2020
In 1997 the Good Friday Agreement brought Sinn Féin to government in the north of Ireland in a power-sharing executive with the leading unionist party, the DUP. As the junior party in government, Sinn Féin – led by Martin McGuinness, the former deputy commander of the IRA in the city of Derry – secured peace in the province and brought about an economic recovery London was always either incapable of or not interested in delivering. Ireland’s only all-Ireland political party, Sinn Féin has been consistent in its commitment to all the people of Ireland; no matter their faith or national-cultural background – something that could never be said of the loyalist and unionist factions linked to the British state-backed murder gangs and paramilitaries deployed against the nationalist communities to terrorise them and keep them out of politics and power.
Describing Sinn Féin now, the only sensible and mature political party in northern Irish politics with a track record in government, as ‘populist’ is nothing but another British insult to Ireland. No matter how hard the Dublin establishment parties tried to play the game, tried to get on with the United Kingdom, as an equal on a global stage of equals, Brexit was a wake-up call. Brexit Britain revealed old Britain, dragging An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar kicking and screaming into reality – Britain never respected him or the country he led. How could it? He was nothing but a jumped-up ape-like half Indian Paddy who wasn’t smart enough to know his place. Varadkar, a privately educated posh boy, was never smart enough to grasp this, but it wasn’t lost on most of the rest of the country. Irish people took it on the chin. Having had enough of little England, they went to the polls not giving a fig for Brexit and the tune England wanted them to dance to. There was only one party in Ireland with the experience of doing Irish politics for Irish people and that knew how to do it as though Britain didn’t exist. Sinn Féin had won before the election was even called.
This election is probably the first election in the history of the state in which Ireland has voted without thinking of England (no doubt writing this will get me some rage in the comments). But it’s true. From the First Dáil in 1919, Irish politics has been shaped by our relationship with Great Britain. It has oscillated back and forth from keeping the Brits happy to convincing them we are not monkeys. Now that the bitter old codger of Europe has slung his bindle over his shoulder, people in Ireland have finally realised he was never any good for us – that we’re all far better off without him. At long last, it’s good riddance to bad rubbish.
Only 1 percent of Irish voters polled cared a hoot about Brexit. England's shadow over Ireland is receding.—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) February 09, 2020
For the first time in modern Irish history, the Irish electorate has been free to devote all its attention to Ireland and the many problems we have here – and many of those are hangovers from British rule or products of the post-colonial mess England left in its passing. Our efforts to pacify Britain and convince it we’re more than animals – our inferiority complex – have created a quasi-collaborationist middle, professional, and political class which has failed Ireland, which has failed the 1916 Republic and its promise of ‘the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.’ In 2016, when we marked the centenary of the Easter Rising, once the official parade was over, volunteers arrived at the GPO – the epicentre of the Rising – to feed the homeless before rough sleepers bedded down for the night in sleeping bags under its impressive neo-classical pediment.
Ireland’s ‘Little Britain’ or ‘Free State’ governments – the unavoidable consequence of an incomplete revolution – have never looked into Ireland, have never understood how to realise the Republic – a state which cherishes ‘all the children of the nation equally’ and which is ‘oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government.’ How could they? Their Free State and their 26 county Republic was never entirely Ireland’s achievement. For the most part Ireland has remained to a greater or lesser extent a British satellite while a sizeable chunk of it remained firmly in England’s grip. This ‘Ireland’ was also very much Britain’s achievement, and as a result Ireland has been allowed to fester, trudging along beset by the same problems, thanks to the negligence of the comfortable and the indifference of the greedy, as things have continued to get worse.
Sinn Féin promises to build houses and begin the hard work of addressing the homeless crisis, and while the Free State establishment parties see these as cynical promises designed to obfuscate Sinn Féin’s real agenda of a united Ireland, the reality is Sinn Féin’s unhidden agenda of a united 32 county Republic and restoring ownership of Ireland to all the children of Ireland equally are part and parcel of the same Republican agenda. This is no empty promise; this is Irish Republicanism. Free of the mental shackles of our heretofore state-political orientation towards Britain, Irish people have gone to the polls thinking of Ireland – truly thinking of Ireland – for the first time, and the solution to them is obvious. It is time to finish what was left unfinished.
Sadly however, now that the final results of this election are in, there is frustration. The forces of reaction, despite losing the popular vote, have managed to secure more seats than Sinn Féin; meaning either yet another compromise in the coming days or a return to the polls. At the hight of the Brexit panic, Sinn Féin performed badly in the last local and European elections, losing a number of excellent politicians. Thinking the same would happen again, Sinn Féin played this election cautiously – maybe too cautiously, fielding too few candidates to win anything approaching an overall majority. As it happened, the ground changed mid-campaign.
RTÉ (@rte) February 10, 2020
So, what can we expect? Well, one of three things can happen now: Sinn Féin can enter government as a coalition partner, it can be denied government by a ‘lockout’ right-wing rainbow coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and a useful combination of a smaller party and some independents, or everything can break down and we go back to the polls. Personally, I don’t think the lockout will happen. Fianna Fáil – a truly populist and apolitical party – is hungry, but it’s not stupid. The smart people in Fianna Fáil know this election gives Sinn Féin a mandate and that this was an election for change. Denying this to the voters will be a similar pyrrhic victory as Labour won in Scotland after the 2014 independence referendum. It will ‘win,’ but the cost of victory will be the utter destruction of the party at the next general election. The people of Ireland have said they do not want more of the same. My money is on Fianna Fáil being clued in enough to take the hit.
Mary Lou McDonald’s preference for a left-coalition doesn’t look like it has much going for it. Given the arithmetic, she would have to bring in almost every other party and independent TD outside Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, giving her the most eclectic and dysfunctional swap-shop coalition imaginable. This would be a nightmare, and it wouldn’t last a wet Tuesday. She can, however, make the call to Micháel Martin and do a deal with Fianna Fáil. Having out-ruled a deal with ‘the Shinners’ on moral grounds – the hypocrite, he would have to go, but this deal is workable, though not ideal. Still, it is the only quick way to a new government without going back to the people.
If none of this works, there will be another general election – and this is no bad thing for Sinn Féin. Going back to the polls means that McDonald can put more candidates forward and secure her place as Taoiseach. The more I think about it, the more I am in favour of another election. Not doing so would mean a compromise the voters didn’t want. Their decision was clear; they want a Sinn Féin government, and the only way of delivering this is a rerun of the election with a full compliment of Sinn Féin candidates. Still, this is Ireland – where news coverage stops at six o’clock for the ringing of the Angelus and where the population of a whole town was late out to vote on account of a dinner-dance the previous night. Things will move at an Irish pace, so it might be the end of the week before we know where we are and what to expect – if anything at all.
Irish Unity debate next big issue