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Irish election result is a victory for Nationalism

By Johanna Ross | February 11, 2020

Once upon a time Gerry Adams, the leader of Ireland’s nationalist party, Sinn Fein, could not be heard speaking on the BBC. He was branded a terrorist and his voice was dubbed. How times have changed. Now his party, led by Mary Lou McDonald, has stormed to victory in the Irish elections. Having won the largest percentage of the vote at 24%, Sinn Fein has ended the decades long domination of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in what was effectively a two-party political system.

McDonald now seeks to form a government with other left-wing Irish parties and although she doesn’t expect to form a coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, she would still participate in talks with representatives of the parties: “I also have consistently said that I will talk to and listen to everybody, I think that is what grown-ups do and that is what democracy demands.”

Fianna Fail’s leader, Michael Martin, said however that there were ‘significant incompatibilities’ to working with Sinn Fein. His party, along with Fine Gael have cited Sinn Fein’s previous links to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) – the paramilitary group – as a reason for not working with them. However Mary Lou McDonald has said it is “not sustainable” for either party leader to rule out talks with Sinn Fein. Given the sizeable chunk of the Irish population that voted for her party, you can see she has a fair point.

The Taioseach, Leo Varadkar, has now been forced to admit that Ireland has a three-party system. It may be a marginal win, and one which will force Sinn Fein into a coalition, but it is nevertheless a highly significant turn of events. Although the party won due to its left-wing domestic agenda and promises to combat poverty and rising homelessness, it cannot be ignored that this win is part of a broader, Europe-wide trend. Nationalism is on the rise across Europe, call it populism if you will, but people are increasingly voting for parties which put the nation state first over further European integration. Centrist parties are failing to compete with those offering a nationalist, eurosceptic agenda.

People don’t like to be dictated to. The arguably authoritarian decision by state broadcaster RTE not to include Mary Lou Mcdonald in their leaders’ debate quite possibly only generated more support for her party. It was reported that prior to the election Sinn Fein sent the broadcaster a legal letter asking it to reverse its decision. The Irish establishment will now have to catch up with the reality that Sinn Fein is now an equal player in the political landscape, and a force to be reckoned with.

The nationalist vibe in the air has now awoken the idea of Irish unity. A poll conducted earlier in 2019 demonstrated that two thirds of Irish people are now supportive of Irish reunification. Of 3000 people questioned, 65% said they were in favour of northern and southern Ireland becoming one nation again. Brexit, which has brought with it a surge in English nationalism, along with a Westminster government increasingly detached from the reality of the everyday struggles of working people, has encouraged more people north and south of the Irish border to rethink their stance on a topic few dared to broach in the past due to the violent conflict between nationalists and unionists. Under the Good Friday Agreement, it is indeed possible for Northern Ireland to secede the United Kingdom if a referendum result were to decide this.

Sinn Fein’s stance on the EU is not entirely clear-cut, but the win could be interpreted as a victory for Euroscepticism. The party is against further European integration, campaigned for a ‘No’ vote in the Irish referendum on joining the European Economic Community in 1972 and criticised the proposal of a European Constitution in 2002. Although it did support Britain remaining in the EU in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum, it has criticised the European Union in the past for its policies of neoliberalism. When it comes to post-Brexit trade talks with the UK, the new Irish government with Sinn Fein at the helm is likely to take a tougher stance.

In addition, it’s likely that under Mary Lou McDonald’s leadership, we will see a referendum on Irish unity. If the outcome is for unification, it will put more pressure on a UK government currently facing a real threat from growing Scottish nationalism. As Irish and Scottish nationalist movements gain popularity, the United Kingdom cannot be taken for granted any longer. As elections continue to demonstrate, the status quo is under threat and it’s becoming increasingly possible that we will see the dissolution of the United Kingdom within our lifetimes.

Johanna Ross is a journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

February 11, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

Leading Ireland parties support boycotting settlement produce, as elections nears

MEMO | February 4, 2020

Leading Irish political parties, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, have published election manifestos which support the adoption of the Occupied Territories Bill in Ireland.

The bill, first tabled in 2018, bans trade with territories which are considered to be under occupation. Adopting the bill into law would effectively stop trade between Ireland and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Fianna Fáil’s manifesto, published on 24 January, said the party would “progress the Occupied Territories Bill” in government. Former foreign affairs spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, Niall Collins, told the Electronic Intifada: “We didn’t have to put it into our manifesto… but we insisted on doing so.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin promised to “ban goods from Israel’s illegal colonial settlements in Palestine from entering the Irish market by implementing the Occupied Territories Bill” in a manifesto published on days later. Denise Mitchell, a Sinn Fein politician, said that “this Bill aims to uphold international law… clearly this applies to the ongoing disgraceful actions of Israel in the Palestinian West Bank”.

The Occupied Territories Bill was drafted by Sadaka, an Irish organisation which defends the rights of Palestinians. If passed, the law would make Ireland the first EU country to criminalise commercial interactions with illegal settlements.

A report published by Trading Away Peace found that the EU imported about €50 million ($55 million) worth of goods from Israel between January and October 2018, approximately one per cent – $552,300 – of which comes from the settlements. The analysis also reported that the EU imports 15 times more from the illegal settlements than from Palestine.

However, the European Commission dealt a blow to the landmark legislation in December 2019, announcing that only the EU has the power to ban imports from a non-EU country, the Times reported.

The outgoing minority government, led by the Fine Gael party, was the only Irish party to vote against the bill in January 2019, claiming that it clashes with Ireland’s obligations as a member of the European Union.

While, ten members of US Congress wrote a strongly worded letter to current Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, detailing their opposition to the bill and calling for the legislation to be abandoned, in March 2019.

Nevertheless, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are tied for first place in the most recent polls, in advance of the election on Saturday, local media, Raidió Teilifís Êireann reported.

While, the Green, Labour, and Solidarity parties have also moved to support the bill, and the Social Democrats spoke in favour of the move during a parliamentary debate but have yet to confirm their commitment.

February 5, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

Ireland’s book of condolence for Palestinians killed in Gaza blocked by pro-Israel groups

MEMO | May 21, 2018

A request by the Irish Republican Party, Sinn Fein, to open a book of condolence in Belfast city council for Palestinians killed in Gaza last week was blocked by Unionists allied with the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel group.

Denouncing the book of condolence as “deeply shameful”, the Israeli lobby group accused Sinn Fein of supporting terrorists for wanting to mark the killing of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza.

The two main Unionist parties, who have strong ties with the pro-Israel lobby group, blocked the request, which forced Sinn Fein to open an internal book of condolence. According to the rules, a book of condolence can only be opened with the agreement of all parties at City Hall.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) council group leader Tim Attwood said he was “disappointed” that Unionists blocked the book of condolence “to mark the killings and injuries inflicted on the people of Gaza”.

“People of Belfast are horrified and wish to express their sympathy at the tragic loss of life,” he added.

Meanwhile,  Sinn Fein group leader on the Belfast City Council, Deirdre Hargey, was reported as saying that her party would be opening its own book of condolence in the party’s room at City Hall, open to all members of the public.

The request for the book of condolence came after a number of Palestinian solidarity protests were held across Northern Ireland last week. Sinn Fein reacted to the killing and the pro-Palestinian demonstration by also demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.

This is the second time in two months that the plight of Palestinians became a cause of tension in Belfast. In March the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel group invited the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, to speak at an event in the local public library. Activists denounced the decision saying that Regev “has a long history of excusing, apologising and justifying [Israel’s] murder, torture and genocide as well as land theft from the indigenous population of Palestine.”

Members of the community in Belfast who supported the decision to open a book of condolence were disappointed by the Unionist parties. They told MEMO that many Unionist politicians and councillors were members of the Friends of Israel and revealed that Unionist parties have all hosted friends of Israel events.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 2016 Irish Elections: Sinn Féin v the Empire

By Aidan O’Brien | CounterPunch | February 25, 2016

Dublin – Exactly 100 years ago a bunch of no nonsense Irish nationalists took over Dublin’s General Post Office and changed the world. This Friday something similar might happen. On February 26 the Irish vote in a general election and one of the favourites in this race for power is the same bunch of no nonsense nationalists who took over the GPO in 1916: Sinn Féin.

In 1916 the world was the British Empire and the Irish outsiders who took it on inspired the rebellion of colonised people everywhere (for example, in India). Indeed anyone with an Irish passport will acknowledge the goodwill they receive around the world (particularly in the Third World) because of the Irish refusal to submit to Britain in 1916.

In 2016 the world, on this side of the Atlantic, is the European Empire (the EU). And it is obvious that only outsiders will ever take it on. And if half or even a quarter successful they could inspire freedom movements not only in Europe, but everywhere else that feels the jackboot of Europe. This week history is glancing in the direction of Irish nationalism again.

This is not hyperbole but simply how the dice have rolled. Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal have all had their chance to take on the Euro imperialists and each have backed down. Why should Ireland be any different?

Sinn Féin, to begin with, is not a bunch of clowns (Italy’s Five Star Movement); nor is it led by middle class engineers and economists (the Greek Syriza party); neither is it a group of politely indignant professors (Spain’s Podemos party) nor über constitutional leftists (Portugal’s lefty coalition).

Among Europe’s anti-austerity parties Sinn Féin is the odd man out because it is a national liberation movement. It’s a throwback to modern times when national liberation meant something. And so it has more in common with America’s old Black Panther movement than with Podemos or Syriza. And that is exactly Sinn Féin’s strength.

Despite its name – in English it means “ourselves” – Sinn Féin is not a narrow minded nationalist organisation. On the contrary, it’s internationalist credentials are impressive. It fought alongside the ANC when no one else (apart from the Communists) dared to do so. It assisted the FARC when Clinton & co. were implementing Plan Colombia. It also is a comrade of ETA in Euskadi – the Basque region (Spain). And it has close links to Free Cuba – as it did with Libya when it was Free.

Added to this honourable past and present Sinn Féin of course has fought Britain in a war during the 1970s and 1980s. And in “peace” time it has the audacity to ignore the British made border that divides Ireland in two. It alone among those racing for power this week operates on an All-Ireland basis.

In a word: Sinn Féin has the backbone every other anti-austerity group in Europe lacks. And if it gets into a position of real power it can use it. Berlin has yet to encounter such an anti-imperialist movement. And if Berlin is to break – Sinn Féin might be the one to instigate it.

All of this is conditional however. Does Sinn Féin want to fight Berlin? The signs are not good. Sinn Féin like most anti-austerity parties in Europe remains loyal to the European Union. And in the Irish election the Sinn Féin slogan is “A Fairer Recovery”. This implies a commitment to Ireland’s comprador capitalist structure. It implies a naivety that threatens to mimic all the other political parties (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens) which have betrayed the Irish people.

That said, a fight against Berlin is still a real possibility. If so it doesn’t have to be a suicidal head on confrontation – as 1916 was. In its recent war against Britain, Sinn Féin mastered the art of guerrilla warfare. If it chooses to do so, it can use this deep experience to reinvent the resistance to the European Empire. As an outsider Sinn Féin has thrived at the expense of the Dublin and London establishments. Now it can be the turn of the European Elite to suffer a Sinn Féin “attack”.

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, once famously said that “the IRA haven’t gone away”. If Sinn Féin finds itself in power next week the fighting spirit of the IRA must be quickly found again and used creatively. If it is – Europe’s anti-austerity movement may find the backbone it so badly needs. To have a chance it needs a strong dose of no nonsense anti-imperialism.

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gerry Adams’ arrest politics of the dead

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | May 1, 2014

There seems little doubt that the arrest of Irish republican leader Gerry Adams this week over alleged involvement in a tragic murder 44 years ago is politically motivated.

The political interests pushing this agenda have no respect for victims of Ireland’s recent 30-year conflict. These interests are being selective in their focus on victims, cynically vying for political gain, and in particular to damage the rise of Sinn Fein, the Irish republican party.

Later this month, Ireland is heading into European Parliamentary elections, which up to now was promising to see major electoral gains for Sinn Fein, the party of which Adams has been president of since 1983.

In recent years, Sinn Fein has emerged has the fastest growing political party in both the British-occupied north and the independent southern state. It has become the second biggest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, while in the southern legislative chamber, Dail Eireann, Sinn Fein has seen its number of parliamentarians expand three-fold over the past three elections to become an increasingly pivotal force there.

Sinn Fein can rightly claim to be the only all-Ireland party with representatives and organizational structure that transcend the British-imposed border, which partitions the island into northern and southern jurisdictions. Sinn Fein is distinguished from all other political parties by its manifesto calling for a united, independent country.

That manifesto not only threatens the British interest of maintaining its political presence in the North of Ireland; the so-called Irish political parties in the South of Ireland also see their establishment interests challenged by the growing popular support for Sinn Fein and its calls to shake-up the stagnant status quo on both sides of the border.

This is the important context in which the Sinn Fein leader was taken into custody this week by police in Northern Ireland. Adams has not been charged but his arrest over the murder took many observers by surprise, coming seemingly out of the blue. The allegations will revive memories of a dark episode in Ireland’s 30-year conflict.

The murder in question is that of a Belfast woman, Jean McConville, who was abducted and killed by the Provisional IRA in 1972. McConville was a widow and mother of 10 children, aged 38 when she died. The IRA claimed that the woman was an informer to the British army during the conflict that saw Belfast plunged into chaos and violence for nearly three decades. The McConville family always vehemently denied their mother was an informer, and a police investigation conducted years later cleared the deceased woman of any such activity.

Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA, and Gerry Adams has long been alleged to be a senior member of the guerrilla organization, which laid down its arms as part of the Irish peace settlement signed in 1998. As an alleged commander of the IRA during the 1970s in Belfast, Adams is accused of overseeing the assassination of Jean McConville.

The Sinn Fein president denies any involvement in the abduction and murder. This week, before his arrest, Adams described the allegations as “malicious” and aimed at damaging his party politically, especially on the eve of European-wide elections.

Certainly, the accusations against Adams are not new. In recent years, two former senior IRA members, Brendan Hughes and Dolores Price, made separate claims that Adams ordered the execution of Jean McConville. Female IRA member Dolores Price said before her own death last year that she abducted McConville on direct orders from Adams and drove the mother to the place of her execution.

McConville’s body was found in August 2003, nearly 31 years after her murder. Her remains had been buried on a beach in Shelling Hill, County Louth, across the border in the South of Ireland. The IRA had already admitted to the murder in 1999, while still maintaining that McConville was an informer. It offered an apology to the family and provided information to locate her burial site.

The grief of the McConville family is surely poignant. Ten young children were left without a mother and the family was subsequently split up and taken into social care.

But there are thousands of other such family tragedies during the conflict that engulfed Northern Ireland between 1968-1998. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters were shot dead by British army soldiers and pro-British paramilitaries who were directed by London’s military intelligence to instil terror in the civilian population and to deter its right to Irish freedom. Thousands of lives were ruined and traumatized by a conflict that the British government bears a heavy responsibility for but for which it has always evaded.

The southern Irish political establishment has a lot to answer for too. It largely turned its back on the plight of many citizens in the north when they were being subjected to ruthless British militarism.

Indeed, the southern Irish ruling class collaborated with Britain to suppress the freedom movement that re-emerged in the British-occupied northern state during the 1960s.

Today, the South of Ireland jurisdiction – which pompously and fraudulently refers to itself as “the Republic of Ireland” – is the apotheosis of the Irish republic that generations of Irish people have fought and died for.

It is a bankrupt state of huge social inequality and poverty, overseen by crony political parties who made their peace with British imperialism when the island was partitioned in 1920 – thus betraying the cause of Irish republicanism that sought to set up a unified, independent state free from British domination.

Sinn Fein, the original party that led Irish independence more than a century ago, is again in the ascendancy, both north and south. It is this political threat that most probably explains the sudden rekindling of interest in the tragic murder of Jean McConville more four decades ago. The place where her remains were found 10 years ago, County Louth, is the electoral constituency that Gerry Adams represents today in the southern parliament, having been elected to the seat in 2011.

Jean McConville’s family deserve the truth and justice. So do thousands of other Irish families. But for these other families, the British and Dublin governments and their lickspittle media show little interest towards. Both the London and Dublin governments continue to refuse the setting up an independent truth commission into all conflict-related deaths. The selective focus on one victim strongly suggests manipulation of a single family’s grief for cynical political purposes. That’s not justice. It’s grubby politicking.

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment