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Sinn Féin gets a kicking - and its worse than they think!

20 June 2024

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald.

Following the local and European election Irish News columnist Patrick Murphy gave Sinn Féin a kicking.(1)

According to Murphy, Sinn Féin had been found out. Its poll over a two-year period fell from 36 per cent to 12 per cent. The results show that it lost two-thirds of its support in the past two years.

The party’s populism is identified as the problem. Speaking out of both sides of its mouth, it failed to convince a strong anti-European sentiment on one side and an anti-migrant sentiment on the other. It shuffled to the right on migration, but nowhere near quickly enough to win votes.

Rigid party discipline gets things done, but when the leadership does not know what it is doing, they tend to be the wrong things. Sinn Féin got its election tactics wrong, but its real problem is that it has got its politics wrong. Like the IRA’s campaign, the party cloaks its lack of a political ideology under the blanket term of republicanism.

So, what does republicanism mean in terms of a policy on health, education, welfare, the economy, or foreign policy? Is it left wing, centrist, or right wing?

The answer is that it is any or all of those things when the opportunity arises. Patrick Murphy makes many good points, but there is a need to go deeper.  Republicanism is an all-class alliance, so there is a tendency for the movement to bend left and right depending on shifts by outside classes.

That all changed with the Good Friday Agreement. As with other revolutionary nationalist movements across the globe, Sinn Féin is now part of a colonial administration sponsored by US capital and has developed as a fully-fledged capitalist party. It doesn't shift from left to right. When it claims to support progressive policies, it's lying. It will have to remain true to the right-wing constitutional nationalism that dominates Irish politics and that will make it very difficult to recover a working-class base.

In the North Sinn Féin signed up to a programme of mass austerity because their only concern was to restore the local administration and share out patronage. The idea that they will come up with a mechanism for defending the workers is ludicrous. Indeed, the party across the island is deeply enmeshed in the property market.

The main contradiction we face now in the North is the absolute conviction that the Stormont administration can resolve the growing economic ills of the workers versus the corrupt sectarian reality we live in. In the South the idea that Sinn Féin is of the left is sinking following the elections. The left, represented by PbP,  is even more deceitful and opportunist than Sinn Féin itself. Can a genuine working class movement be built?


(1)  Patrick Murphy: If Sinn Féin wants change, it must start by changing itself, Irish News, 15/06/24

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