Thanks to Guido Fawkes, I learn that the left-wing author Owen Jones has just appeared at the Sinn Fein summer school in Ireland. According to Sinn Fein’s own newspaper, Owen used the opportunity to praise Sinn Fein’s ‘progressive’ politics, suggest that people take inspiration from the 1916 Easter Rising and announce what a ‘passionate believer’ he apparently is in a united Ireland.
— An Phoblacht (@An_Phoblacht) June 26, 2015
There are a number of interesting things about this. The first is that it exposes what a sham the far-left’s attitude towards political violence really is. Owen isn’t the first person of his ilk to have supported Sinn Fein. For decades there has been a dirty line-up of far-left figures who have done the same. For instance the man Owen wants to be the next Labour leader – Jeremy Corbyn – was chumming up to Sinn Fein even while their military wing was blowing up ordinary pub-goers, shooting farmers in the head and planting bombs in Britain's shopping centres.
But just imagine if a British commentator from the political right had recently travelled to address any political party with Sinn Fein’s violent associations. Using Golden Dawn as a comparison doesn’t really work because Sinn Fein have so much more blood on their hands than Golden Dawn. Sinn Fein is a party which until recently had a military wing responsible for the torture, wounding and murder of thousands of innocent people. True, members of the vile Golden Dawn have been involved in plenty of violence and brutality, but to nothing like the extent of members of Sinn Fein. Yet imagine if they had and that a British conservative commentator had just addressed a Golden Dawn event, even if they had they not used the opportunity (as Owen did) to praise their hosts. There would now be a tsunami of criticism from across the political spectrum, especially on the far-left. This would doubtless include much talk of the need to ‘smash’, rather than talk to, fascists. As I say, it isn’t a very complete thought experiment, because there is no political party of the far-right or anywhere else in Europe as bad as Sinn Fein.
Perhaps Owen is unaware of the party’s history. Well very many of us are not (and before any of Owen’s stooges try to cast me as an apologist for all British actions in Ireland, they are welcome to read my book on Bloody Sunday). What we all know is that for decades the leadership of Sinn Fein and the leadership of the IRA were one and the same. They developed, it must be credited, an exceptionally successful bad-cop / worse-cop technique. So, for instance, the IRA would plant a bomb in the centre of a busy town, killing a couple of passing children, and Sinn Fein would issue some blandishments about the need for British troops to leave the six counties and Ireland to be united. Or the IRA would plant a bomb in a British pub and Sinn Fein would talk about something done by other people several decades earlier. Best of all was the ability of senior figures in the IRA to ‘disappear’ people (that is abduct, torture and generally shoot in the back of the head) like the widowed mother of ten children Jean McConville. While leaving bodies like hers to rot in unmarked graves (and leaving their families to a state of unimaginable fear and grief), some of those implicated in the murder could then get on with their political careers.
Or perhaps Owen doesn’t care that he’s hanging out with the most murderous political party in Europe. Which then points to another fascinating aspect of the far-left: the transparent way in which they develop and deploy their alleged ‘priorities’. For as the Irish News points out, Owen very recently attacked the Democratic Unionist Party. What for? Why for being ‘riddled with homophobic bigotry’ of course. One could make the cheap point that the highest reaches of Sinn Fein have in recent decades been riddled with such bigotry and far worse (for instance the party was also riddled with paedophiles and those who covered up for them). Or one could point out (as a prominent local gay rights campaigner has here) that Sinn Fein was never supportive of any gay equality reform until it suddenly became popular to be so. Then they adopted this stance because the wind had changed and they presumably made the calculation that by pretending to be 'progressive' on social issues they could fool some young people who had no idea of the party's history.
As I say, the priorities are fascinating. Personally I am happy to forgive people who are not 100 per cent on-board with gay marriage. But I find it very difficult indeed to forgive – let alone support – people who ripped apart thousands of British and Irish lives in a campaign of violence whose ends could have been achieved without a drop of blood being shed.