I didn’t get to share this piece from Sarah Carey in The Times, Ireland edition yesterday. It’s a stern warning to Leo Varadkar over his political flirtation with Mary Lou McDonald from a columnist from a committed FG family…
The omens indicated something so preposterous and outlandish that I ignored them for too long, but no longer. Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin leader, says that she wants to form a coalition government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Not on my watch.
Dáil reporters persistently observe Leo Varadkar making nice to Sinn Féin in the house. Just think about it, taoiseach, and I am gone, baby; gone. To a parliamentary party meeting he whispers plausibly deniable sweet nothings about a united Ireland. Is he completely off his rocker?
They tell me that anyone under 30 doesn’t care about the small matter of Sinn Féin being the political wing of the IRA for decades. It’s all history. Perhaps that generation should learn some history then.
My father’s people come from south Armagh, which bore a considerable brunt of IRA terrorism. One of the worst murders was that of Tom Oliver, an entirely innocent father of seven.
The Louth farmer was kidnapped, hideously tortured and murdered. The priest who attended his post-mortem examination said that it looked like they had dropped concrete blocks on every part of his body.
This wasn’t at the time of the first Bloody Sunday, in Croke Park in 1920, or even the second one, in Derry in 1972. This was in 1991.
In 2015, Miriam O’Callaghan was brave enough to put it to Gerry Adams on RTÉ’s Prime Time that he was the “court of appeal” who sanctioned the Oliver murder. He angrily denied it. Last year Adams said that jailing his murderers would be “counterproductive”.
Counterproductive for whom? Oliver’s family say nothing about it in public because they are understood to be fearful of the consequences if they do. Fear of the IRA today is not “history”. [Emphasis added]
This last objection is likely to resonate with some of the party’s key vote in the northern frontier counties of the Republic. But she continues to press home a sharp political difference between north and south:
There is peace now, but it came at a price. One of my father’s cousins predicted that peace would come when “Sinn Féin has destroyed the SDLP and the DUP has destroyed the UUP; then they’ll sit down and carve up power between them”.
His prophecy was fulfilled, proving that it was always only about one thing: power. The centre fell. On each side the worst types won. They got their power. The people got their peace.
It was a price they had to pay. Since we in the Republic had the good fortune to escape the worst of the terrorism, we were under no imperative to pay that price. The centre held here, as it must in all functioning societies. [Emphasis added]
Of Mary Lou and the new, clean generation of Sinn Fein, she draws an unflattering comparison with Hillary Clinton’s warnings about all Trump voters would be culpable for:
If you vote for a racist, sexist pig you are morally culpable for that racist sexist pig taking office and anything he does in that office. Oh, and plenty of middle class and wealthy people voted for Trump. The poor white working-class excuse was just that: an excuse for a shameful vote.
Back to Ireland, she goes on..
McDonald has never have picked up a gun; never given an execution order and never directed terrorism, but she has spent her political career working with and advancing the cause of those who did.
This delegitimises any other political work, including her interest in women’s rights.
There are plenty of politicians campaigning for women’s rights who manage to do so without aligning themselves with the “alleged” former head of the IRA army council.
Her determination to stick with Sinn Féin knowing where they came from and what they did merely shows what she is capable of to further her own ends.
That’s what they’ve all done. Each and every one of the new Sinn Féin generation, no matter how bright, pure and shining, has made a deal with the Devil.
They railed against austerity and turned a blind eye to past murders. Of course, economic and social policies can be immoral in their impacts, but let’s call a spade a spade and a murder a murder.
There are lines. You either draw them or you don’t. Governments must have moral authority, and anyone who stood by Adams’s side has none.
She ends with a warning that even committed activists will not stand by the party if he presses on with closer and closer relations with Sinn Fein. Those missing “lines” could prove electorally costly in the next general election.
As for the loose talk from the Taoiseach (and others, who should know much better) about border polls and a united Ireland, she takes a big old-fashioned jug of ice-cold well water to the feverish storytellers:
As for this romantic nonsense about a “united Ireland”. Get real. We can sing all the songs we want but the statelet of Northern Ireland is on life support from the British.
Its annual deficit is €10 billion. Last year our deficit was €1.2 billion. This year Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, is aiming for a balanced budget — a deficit of zero.
Who in their right mind, no matter how many dreamy notions they have about four green fields, is going to take on a €10 billion deficit? Until Northern Ireland’s economy and society normalises, indulging the prospect of unity is folly and, above all, provocative.
In other words, that the actual price of unity is to first make Northern Ireland work…
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