Sinn Fein: An Alternative Strategy
By Dr John Coulter
author and journalist
Sinn Fein has always been an electorally pragmatic party, but with elections north and south of the border in 2016 as well as the centenary of the Easter Rising, could the surprise tactic for the party is to swing it to the Hard Right and rebrand it as the unassailable heroes of Patriotic Nationalism?
In the Northern Ireland Assembly, Sinn Fein is already in bed politically in the power-sharing Stormont Executive with what was once perceived to be one of the most hardline of the Right-wing loyalist movements, the Democratic Unionist Party.
Next May’s Assembly poll will more likely see the SF/DUP dominated Executive returned as Sinn Fein finally puts the new socialist-leaning SDLP under new boss Colum Eastwood to the electoral sword, and the DUP pulls yet another poll rabbit of its magic hat to fend off the challenge from a supposedly resurgent Ulster Unionist Party, which has still under leader Mike Nesbitt to make up its mind if it is a liberal Unionist movement, or a traditional centre Right Unionist Party.
In the Republic, Sinn Fein is well on course to becoming a minority coalition partner in the next Dail, probably with Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael, still known in some circles as ‘The Blueshirts’ because of the party’s past history in the 1930s with the fascist Blueshirt movement which stomped about Southern Ireland.
Some might say – why should Sinn Fein give up its hardline socialist principles simply to climb into bed politically with Fine Gael, when it did not need to perform an ideological U-turn to enter Stormont with the DUP?
The core problem is not for Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, but in the Republic, where memories of the bitter Irish Civil War of the 1920s still run deep in many republican families.
Again, spin doctors might be playing the red card in that 2016 will see the centenary of the Easter Rising, inspired by the openly Leftist Irish Citizens Army, and fanatical socialists, such as James Connolly, the Scottish communist who formed his own Irish Socialist Republican Party – not to be confused with the terror group the INLA’s political wing, the Irish Republican Socialist Party.
But the failed Dublin Easter Rising came a year before the 1917 Leninist-inspired revolution in Russia. The Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizens Army were active at a time when the core foe was Right-wing imperialism, and particularly the British Empire.
The Rising was a shotgun marriage between the fundamentalist Catholicism of Patrick Pearse and Connolly’s militant socialism.
But the Ireland of 2016 which will commemorate the Rising’s centenary is a different political animal from the Ireland which witnessed the failed coup; a coup which saw some Dublin residents spit on the rebels as they were marched into captivity by the British. It was only the uncompromising decision of General ‘Bloody’ Maxwell who insisted on having the Rising leaders executed which turned them from political upstarts and nuisances into republican icons.
If Sinn Fein is now to capitalise on the Rising commemorations, it must use them to create a new brand of Right-wing Patriotic Nationalism. Many in Ireland still view the modern day Sinn Fein as a communist party under a new banner.
Likewise, while Sinn Fein’s propaganda spin machine has worked effectively in wiping the political landscape on one hand with the SDLP, and on the other, ensuring dissident republicanism does not become a significant electoral force in the same way as in the Unionist community, the No Camp parties – especially the DUP – eventually overtook David Trimble’s Yes Camp UUP.
Sinn Fein must convince the Southern electorate it has the political maturity – in spite of all Sinn Fein’s rantings against austerity – that it is a party fit for government in Leinster House. The only way Sinn Fein can achieve this is for Louth TD and Party President Gerry Adams to swing his party to the Hard Right to avoid an Ian Paisley senior-style coup within his own ranks.
What Irish republicanism now as an ideology needs is a new radical Right-wing party – not the Sinn Fein spinning out more left of centre rhetoric about saving the working class.
For years after the Irish Civil War, the Southern electorate rejected Sinn Féin because it is now regarded as the Communist Party under another name.
Sinn Féin needs to relaunch itself as an ultra Right-wing nationalist party under the banner – Ireland for the Irish and nobody else!
Sinn Fein activists aligning themselves with Left-wing policies might have been cool in 1916 in the days of Connolly and Larkin, but it has become a major millstone in the third millennium.
Irish Labour has become a joke; the Stickies (Workers Party) have faded into the dustbin of history, and the new kids on the dissident Left block, eirigi, should seriously seek professional help from Nutcases Anonymous!
Other leftist republican parties – such as the IRSP, Republican Sinn Fein and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement – will be nothing more than fringe organisations.
Adams has talked in the past about his admiration for radical Irish Presbyterianism. There’s the solution to your political migraines, Gerry. Turn Sinn Féin into an Irish National Party with the slogan – Be Proud to be a Patriot.
One of Ireland’s greatest Protestant nationalist patriots was the Lisburn journalist Ernest Blythe, who became a leading light in General Eoin O’Duffy’s Blueshirt movement.
To stop young republicans becoming eirigi fanatics, Adams should launch the Greenshirts – a radical Right-wing youth movement which instils disciplined Irish patriotic values, folklore and culture into its ranks.
The Greenshirts could help eliminate the nationalist scourges of joyriding and recreational rioting.
Gerry should announce that the ‘Shinners’ are amending their title to Sinn Féin, the Nationalist Patriots Party.
If you want a radical Right-wing Presbyterian to explain this much-needed new Irish Patriotism to the unfaithful, give me a shout at my Twitter account @JohnAHCoulter
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter