Where is former Fianna Fail Member, Mary Who?? now leading Sinn Fein, better ask Groucho? Do not forget her former Close Friend, and Sinn Fein Member, Dowdall Awaits Trial, in the Special Criminal Courts??

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Marx would be proud of Sinn Féin – Groucho, that is

The party’s partial acceptance at last of the Special Criminal Court is purely tactical, and there is still one thing they will never change their minds about

Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Féin’s Ard
                  Fheis last week, where the Marxist party’s
                  ideology seemed to be becoming more Groucho than

Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis last week, where the Marxist party’s ideology seemed to be becoming more Groucho than Karl.

November 07 2021 02:30 AM

Sinn Féin has always been deeply wedded to Marxist ideology; but the Marx it follows these days isn’t Karl, author of the Communist Manifesto, but the comedian Groucho, who famously declared: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”

The latest example is the decision, following a vote at the party’s recent ard fheis, to drop its longstanding opposition to the use of non-jury courts.

It’s been coming for a while now. There was no commitment to abolish them in the manifesto on which SF ran in the most recent election, and, last time there was a vote in the Dáil, SF TDs abstained rather than opposed. At this rate, they’re surely only a few years away from being the Special Criminal Court’s biggest supporters.

There have always been principled reasons to oppose non-jury courts. The UN and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties have both at various times raised concerns about suspending the right to jury trial or the broader use of emergency powers by governments.

Of course, SF share few of these genuine concerns. Even last week, the only situations in which they could envisage using non-jury trials were ones involving what former IRA bomber Gerry Kelly called “organised crime gangs, who are bringing nothing but hurt, especially to the most vulnerable in our communities”. As if terrorists don’t do the same thing.

Hence the repeated use of the phrase “exceptional cases”. They only intend to look kindly on non-jury courts in certain situations, reserving the right to still object when their friends and financiers are in the dock.

This qualified support was also tied to a promise of judicial reform, including of the Special Criminal Court. That could mean anything, up to and including abolition. That’s how it will be sold to the hard men on the ground, without whose begrudging approval this couldn’t have happened.

Clearly, though, there has been some movement by SF on this issue, and it would be churlish of those who have long condemned republicans for not backing the institutions of the State to grumble now that they have, in name at least. That would simply provoke the sulky riposte that they’re damned if they don’t and damned if they do. But they should allow their critics a roll of the eyes at least.

Former SF Kerry councillor Toiréasa Ferris did more than that. The daughter of IRA gunrunner Martin Ferris, who was himself jailed by the Special Criminal Court, she rejected the party’s move as “cute hoorism”, adding: “I call it electoral expediency and power at any cost.”

She’s not wrong, is she? At the last election, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil cited the party’s stance on the Special Criminal Court as a deal breaker when it came to entering coalition. Now that barrier has been removed. And there may be nothing at all wrong with that. Political maturity means abandoning dogma that no longer serves the broader interests.

SF has done it many times. They didn’t even used to believe that the government in Dáil Éireann was the legitimate authority in Ireland.

Now they do. Or say they do.

They used to believe that the Provisional IRA was the real Óglaigh na hÉireann, not the defence forces. Now they say they don’t. The party’s longstanding Euroscepticism has also dissolved and left no trace; it’s been memory-holed, as if it never existed.

All this is progress of a sort. There is more rejoicing in Heaven over one repentant sinner, and all that. But when it happens again and again, with scarcely a whimper of dissent, because SF members are used to doing what they’re told is best by the leadership, some cynicism is justified.

It seems SF will promise voters anything to break down the last pockets of resistance from voters suspicious that the party’s heart remains only semi-constitutional. A house for all within the first term of a Mary Lou government. The planet saved at no extra cost in carbon taxes. Cheap rail links to every corner of the island. Free this. Cheap that. They’re the ultimate opportunists. Should they ever get into power, which is inevitable one day, and then, equally inevitably given the extent of their promises, fail to deliver, they will simply head into the following election blaming their coalition partners.

SF has it all figured out. In any coalition, the smaller party gets the blame. Labour. The PDs. The Greens. It’s happened to them repeatedly. The solution? Don’t be the smaller party. But are they really any different to other parties in that respect? During the leaders’ debate at the last election, then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said putting Micheál Martin in charge of the economy would be “like asking John Delaney to take over the FAI” again.

It was a neat quip, but of course he didn’t mean it. It was just a line.

FG and FF have both spent years declaring that Ireland’s 12.5pc corporation tax rate was central to the country’s success. Now it’s been dropped and they all agree blithely that it was no big deal anyway.

This is what causes the view that politicians don’t really believe in anything — and it’s increasingly difficult to find arguments to persuade the disillusioned that they’re wrong.

That’s another reason why SF’s criticisms of the Government’s new Climate Action Plan ring so hollow.

The Government is simply doing what has long been agreed at a higher level needs to be done — and SF would do exactly the same in power.

The idea they would oppose the global world order on climate change, in order to save people here at home from bearing the economic costs of massive environmental packages that threaten to dwarf all other spending commitments for decades, is absurd.

And they’d likely get away with that too, making Groucho Marx proud.

Toiréasa Ferris might declare voters want “people standing by principles and doing what they said they would”, but in truth there is little evidence of that.

Those who stand by their principles at whatever personal cost may win a little respect, but they generally don’t win many votes.

This won’t be SF’s last about-turn on issues they previously held to be sacred; but the one thing they almost certainly will never change their minds about is that the IRA were the good guys during the Troubles. 

Everything else can be ditched to serve the cause, but not that. That says everything about who’s really in control of Sinn Féin. The rest is noise.

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