This is just weird. The new leader of Sinn Fein in the Assembly Michelle O’Neill had this to say:
Brexit is not just an issue for the north. It will be a disaster for our economy north and south. Jobs are at risk, investment is under threat and our agricultural community faces new tariffs and an end to crucial subsidies.
As it happens, I agree with her. What’s odd is that when the chips were down in the Referendum, Ms O’Neill and her party chose to take no part in preventing it from happening.
Where you expect Sinn Fein’s name to appear alongside UK Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP and other Remainers officially registered with the Electoral Commission, there’s nothing. Why does it matter?
It allows a party (or individual) to become a ‘registered campaigner’ letting them spend more than £10,000 on referendum campaigning during the referendum period, between 15 April and polling day, 23 June.
It means, no activists on the ground, and no party workers in the count centres watching the tallies getting together with others on the Remain side to demand a recount. In other words, for all their concern now, they sat back and let it happen.
Sinn Fein’s non-participation might explain why Northern Ireland’s turnout was lower overall than many other parts of the UK. Drop in turnout in West Belfast was from 57.6% in May to just 49%. In Foyle where there’s an even split between SDLP and SF turnout dropped by just one point.
The comparison with Unionist areas is startling. East Antrim which had a turnout of just 51% in May rocketed to 65% in June. Overall (serviced in large part by Sinn Fein choosing to rest its impressive electoral machine) turnout bounced from 54.9% to 62.69%.
A large unionist vote bonus? That’s something analysts might want to consider when they think about turnout and the 60,000 voters who’ve left the register.
No one knows for certain if Brexit will be a disaster for the Irish economy, north and south. It will need grafters and builders to prevent the worst from happening. Not just easy talk about some rare and undefined stádas speisialta no one is likely to give us.
How? Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again.
– William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty