Rejunvenation of Sinn Fein’s forturnes is not the same as Irish unity…

Anthony McIntyre Mike Burke is in pensive mood after returning from Canada as a guest speaker at Sinn Fein organised conference on Irish unity (which is a considerable step forward in the party’s treatment of its contemporary critics). Still, Burke suspects that Irish unity is not foremost of the party’s motivations for this, one of a series, event in Toronto:

The first is to respond to the emerging critical opinion in Ireland that the peace process and the GFA represent serious losses for Provisional republicanism and the objective of reunification. Sinn Féin hopes to answer its critics by pointing to its mobilization campaign as evidence that it does remain a republican party working toward unity. But given the party’s lack of any coherent strategy actually to achieve Irish unity, the (never-ending) process of moving toward unity has become more important than the outcome of a united Ireland. The function of the conference appears to be to buttress Sinn Féin’s republican credentials at the very moment those credentials are being questioned because of the absence of any real movement toward the primary republican goal.

The second purpose of the conference concerns the relationship between republicanism and electoralism. Sinn Féin recognizes that republicanism can be an efficient tool for collecting votes in Ireland and funds in North America and elsewhere. Here, republicanism is reduced to a rhetorical element in a party political campaign. Sinn Féin has, in effect, internalized the project of Irish unity, transforming it from a social and political objective to a partisan institutional goal: having Sinn Féin share governmental power in the north and the south is the essence of the endgame now. And even this limited outcome seems increasingly out of reach given the party’s unexpectedly poor electoral showing in the south and recent signs of a stagnating vote in the north. While these conferences might rejuvenate Sinn Féin as an electoral machine, they do little to advance the realization of a united Ireland.

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  • Fitzy

    I don’t think it takes too much away from the core of what you’re trying to get at, but I think the article was written by Mike Burke who attended the Canadian meetings… not MacIntyre.

  • aquifer

    Ireland is uniting, without the sectarian cultural baggage and the body parts in black binliners. Capitalism and consumerism are the big engines driving the process forward, cars and communications shrinking the island to a small fraction of a european megopolis. The energy and curiousity of young people are scrubbing borders away.

    Ireland might unite quicker against armed sectarian blackmail than for a state you can drive a boat around.

  • Paisley Lives

    I flicked through McIntyre’s site. I looked at the headings, which are alphabetically listed. I gave up at C, as there are too many of them.

    The Blanket was mich better as he had other contributors, such as the monosyllabic Darkie and the eternal windbag from Derry, who wrote some good stuff before they split over the Muhammad cartoons.

    I think the Provos have a safe dissident in him. if thye are not attacking him and his Yankee wife, that is progress.

  • Henry94

    It’s good that Sinn Fein are getting comfortable with constructive dissent. I think the part needs to throw open it’s windows and doors and let in some new thinking. There is a sense of democratic centralism about Sinn Fein which does it no good. It should be more like a mass movement than a political party.

    Sinn Fein after 1916 was a banner around which all the strands of the movement for independence gathered. That should be the template.

    I would suggest that to be in Sinn Fein you don’t have to believe the war was a success or even a good idea. Most nationalists and republicans on the island don’t.

    I understand that there was a need to hold on to the iconography of the struggle not least to stop the dissidents claiming it but the new struggle needs a completely new approach. More inclusive than purist, more forward looking than commemorative. Dare I say more Toireasa than Mary Lou.

    One more thing. Stop the leftist posturing on the southern economy. Be serious and you’ll be taken seriously.

  • Kathy C

    posted by Kathy C

    I attended the forum at Drew University that featured adams as the speaker. What I found was more in line of sinn fein trying to keep the American base and keep getting money through friends of sinn fein than offering any real incentive to unification. Gerry Adams did speak about keeping America (money) engaged and was looking for ideas on how to bring about unification and it was clear adams and sinn fein have no timetable or plans to have it happen. Unification is a cash cow with the disporia and sinn fein is doing all the milking it can with out having to deliver.

  • Beast

    I wonder if Sinn Fein has ever told their American friends,politicians(remember McGuiness with Bush?)… their position about Irak? or they’ve shown them pictures of the mural in the Falls Road in which Bush is sacking petrol-dollars from Irak? Probably not, as long as they get a piece of the peace/petrol money..!

  • Springfield

    Aquifer-spot on. Impatience, aggression and negativity only result in an equal and opposite reaction.

    A slow, organically evolving atmosphere of common interest and the resulting deconstruction of old shibboleths can provide the only credible solution.

    What’s the rush?

  • Brit

    “I would suggest that to be in Sinn Fein you don’t have to believe the war was a success or even a good idea”

    Whilst SF have made some expressions of regret over the “war” I think there standard line is that it was a success (as it brought the Brits to the negotiating table and acheived concessions and a stepping stone to UI which would never have been acheived w/out violence) and that it was a good idea – in the sense of being a legitimate fight on behalf of the Irish nation which was a grim necessity.

    For the avoidance of doubt I strongly disagree with the SF/Republican analysis above.

    Now it may be that some in SF now realise that the war was both wrong and ineffective, at least on some levels. But it is incredibly hard for them to admit that, on a psychological level and in view of the potential harm in terms of rank and file morale etc. To say that all the sufferings and sacrifices made by Republicans were in vain and that all the deaths, suffering, increased sectarianism and division caused by them were invain is to deny the whole basis for the struggle.

    Maybe for SF to say that the armed struggle was wrong and for them to ‘come out’ as full on constitutional nationalists, would lead to positive results and perhaps even be part of a process where the Unionists could be persuaded to sign up for a UI.

  • Springfield

    “Maybe for SF to say that the armed struggle was wrong and for them to ‘come out’ as full on constitutional nationalists, would lead to positive results and perhaps even be part of a process where the Unionists could be persuaded to sign up for a UI.”

    I don’t think that mea culpas are the answer. I feel that at this point in time the old vehicles are a bit clapped out and have probably served their purpose. Certainly Sinn Fein in it’s current incarnation will never be able to effectively reach out to Unionists-the current incumbents may have the desire to reach out, but have absolutely no credibility with the those they wish to reach out to. Same, same I imagine on the other side of the house.

    If the respective “home” governments are really serious about their commitment to the people of NI they should be encouraging all political parties to organise in NI. Unless we leave behind the tribal element of our politics my children are condemned to more of the same.

    This doesn’t mean that identities or loyalties have to be watered down or abandoned-it means really accepting the duality of the identity of this place-parity of esteem in a real sense. Zero sum endgamery breeds distrust and antipathy at best, naked sectarian hatred at worst and just encourages both tribes to build their laager walls that bit higher.

    I’m not a natural Tory by any stretch of the imagination but lets see what they can bring to the table and take them and the UUP at their word. I’m not naive re the realpolitik but in the absence of any alternatives from the detractors and the same old stuck feckin record I see no real effort to think outside the box.

  • JR

    Agree with aquifer too. Border is less evident now than at any time since it’s creation. Movment of people North South is far higher than any time in the past and certinly higher than movment of people between here and Britain.

  • Granni Trixie

    SF will never admit that the physical force traditon was more of a barrier to unification than working to bring about change by persuasion.

    Look at what happened: people from the South got into the habit of not coming up North and the Irish Flag was brought into disrepute in the North by the IRA. Now we are left with the walking wounded and talk about how to deal with the past. Waste,waste,waste.