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An Lá Dearg: A bad day for Sinn Fein

Much of the news from the North of Ireland focuses on unionist revolt against the political settlement and the need to placate them, yet recent demands from nationalists that the process actually deliver represent a far greater threat to Sinn Fein. An example of this process was seen on April 12th when Irish language groups mobilized in Belfast in the La Dhearg 5000 strong protest for civil rights for the Irish language. 

Sinn Fein followed its usual practice of attempting to put themselves at the head of protests that had arisen as a result of their political deals, turning out with many leading figures (but without any mobilization of their rank and file. It all went terribly wrong. The organizers insisted that Sinn Fein assemble behind the march and refused them speaking rights at the rally. Even worse, a number of demonstrators carried placards accusing Sinn Fein minister Caral Ni Chuilin Of "culling" leading language organizations that were losing the majority of their funding. In the aftermath of the demonstration Sinn Fein were reduced to smearing the demonstration and claiming that it was being defamed.

It was a weak case. It is a matter of fact that Caral Ni Chuilin agreed the changes that have led to the present funding crisis. It is also a matter of fact that an Irish language act, which would have given no more than what was available to native speakers in Scotland and Wales, was part of the Good Friday agreement and was dropped by Sinn Fein in the face of unionist opposition.

There was another cause for concern. The marchers, nationalist supporters of the peace process, tend to assume that they have the right to demonstrate, yet they were subject to sectarian abuse while a complacent police force claimed that no laws were being broken. Any wider protest movement would face sectarian hatred and state conciliation of loyalism.

15 years into the peace process there are growing civil rights complaints. Around the language, around housing rights in North Belfast and around a corporate construction process in West  Belfast involving the GAA and Sinn Fein. The Shinners are bending every sinew to make themselves fit for coalition in the 26 counties. As they rush forward the right wing coalition they leave in the six counties is gradually disintegrating.


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