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Crossing the Rubicon

With vote on non-jury courts, Sinn Féin finally morphs into Fianna Fail mark II

3 November 2021

Leader Mary Lou McDonald at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis at the Helix in Dublin.

Resolution number 21 at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis was a masterpiece in doublespeak. It claims to stand with human rights bodies in opposing the Special Criminal Court and the Offences Against the State Act, centrepieces of repression in the southern state.

But wait! There was the problem of drug gangs and organised crime! The answer is a modernised judicial system. The resolution ends by telling us that the modernisation includes non-jury courts that would involve oversight to protect the human rights of the victims of this procedure.

The apologists for Sinn Fein scatter to the four winds to assure us that the party has struck a blow for judicial modernisation and human rights, while leader Mary Lou McDonald drives the dagger in by saying that gangs calling themselves the IRA should absolutely be included in the new legislation.

In the background, Irish capitalism nods with satisfaction. The party has passed another test that proves their suitability for a place in government.

This should all be no surprise. Alongside doublespeak Sinn Fein routinely deploy the slow shuffle. They telegraph moves long in advance, so that by the time they shift, most people think the new policy is already in place. They moved from opposition to the Special Criminal Court in their last election policy to advocating reform of it. When legislation was renewed for the current Dail the Sinn Féin TDs went for a tea break and left the socialist groups to record opposition.

The strategy comes directly from Tony Blair. He decided that he could ignore the mass of British Labour voters - they had nowhere to go - and concentrate on moving right towards the middle class.

Will it work? That depends on a certain passivity on the part of the working class. Despair is forcing many to focus on action in the Dail and a new Sinn Féin led government.  If a higher level of class struggle occurs, then saying two contradictory things at one becomes more difficult.  It will be a long time until the next election.

However, the issue is more fundamental than this. In the North the party fully endorsed the local police and judiciary and called on their supporters to turn in militant republicans. That went largely unnoticed in the South. Now, by endorsing emergency powers, they are endorsing the democratic failure at the heart of the state. Emergency powers are not for emergencies in Ireland. They are an ever-present element of the routine running of a state that has always acted as a bulwark for capitalism and imperialism.

Resolution 21 morphs Sinn Féin into a newly born continuation of Fianna Fáil. Illusions of leftism and democracy evaporate and leave a populist, capitalist and right-wing party.

This metamorphosis puts a weight on the left groups that they seem unlikely to bear. They have been running on a strategy of a left government led by Sinn Fein.  Now they cry that Sinn Féin have betrayed them, as if this was a new phenomenon, but are unable to change tack because of their reformism and reliance on parliamentary positions.

The truth is that the Sinn Féin experiment is long gone and the need for a working-class party self-evident.

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