Sinn fein

Is Sinn Fein really on the march?

In the visceral two horse race which is Northern Irish politics, it is the green horse which is out in front after last Thursday’s local council elections.  Sinn Fein, as at Stormont, is now the largest party across Northern Ireland’s local authorities. A lot has changed since the 1980s, when, during the IRA’s campaign of murder and mutilation across the Province, unionists would walk out of council meetings rather than sit with Sinn Fein councillors.  The stain of terrorism which will forever be part of Sinn Fein does not seem to be a deterrent to the nationalist electorate in Northern Ireland. Many will say that Sinn Fein is a political

Sinn Fein’s victory doesn’t mean the end of the Union

No amount of extra counting later today can undo the seismic shift that has taken place in Northern Ireland’s politics. The first preference votes in Northern Ireland’s devolved assembly elections are in and Sinn Fein are the clear winners on 29 per cent. Sinn Fein – once the political appendage of a terrorist organisation that wrought 30 years of havoc and misery – is set to win the most seats in Stormont. It will then be able to nominate the first ever Republican First Minister. Before Unionists panic though, it’s worth examining the facts. On total votes cast, there will likely be a Unionist majority hidden by the byzantine calculus

The Northern Ireland elections could break the Union

Belfast, Northern Ireland Phillip Brett was just nine years old the night a neighbour called to say his brother, Gavin, had been shot. Their father raced through the streets of their Belfast estate, arriving just in time to cradle his eldest son as he died. The teenager had been celebrating a friend’s birthday at the local Gaelic football club when he was gunned down by a loyalist gang looking for a Catholic to kill. But they got it wrong – Gavin had been raised Protestant, their parents having married across the sectarian lines that once divided Northern Ireland, with friends from all sides of the mixed community they lived in.

Ian Acheson

Why Sinn Fein can’t really apologise for the IRA’s atrocities

What are we to make of Sinn Fein’s latest experiment with the language of regret when it comes to the murder of Lord Mountbatten just after his nephew’s Royal funeral? It’s not hard to be cynical about the Shinners. This is after all the political party that appointed a convicted terrorist bomber as Director of ‘Unionist outreach’ not so long ago. A party that dragged its feet on pensions for victims of paramilitary terrorists in their attempt to include injured perpetrators. A party that police services on either side of the border says is run by shadowy figures in the army council of the IRA. Their uncamouflaged leader, Mary Lou

The dog catcher, the terrorist and the dark history of Sinn Fein

The dead in the ground and those who put them there in the name of ideology do not rest easily in Ireland. The Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin was recently forced to close its wall of remembrance to those who died in the Easter rising of 1916 because of relentless vandalism. In previous attacks the wall had been smashed with sledgehammers and in 2017 paint was thrown over it. What drove this constant destruction? It seems it was targeted because the attackers could not tolerate the presence of the names of British soldiers on the wall. These soldiers had died alongside republican rebels and civilians in the five days of insurrection

Don’t be fooled by Gerry Adams’ Christmas rebrand

Did Gerry Adams ever work for MI5? The allegations that he did are not new – even if they have been rigorously denied. But if that lurid speculation is true then his handler surely deserves a medal.  In recent years, Adams – who was never, of course, in the IRA – has undergone something of a rebrand. The incendiary former Sinn Fein leader now preens as an elder statesman in Irish politics. He also styles himself as a figure of fun, happily revealing how he enjoys trampolining naked with his dog. But even as you cannot unsee that image, don’t be fooled by the cuddly reinvention. In his most recent

Could the rise of Sinn Fein lead to a united Ireland?

The possibility of a political wing of a terrorist organisation becoming a party of government in an EU member state would normally be headline news. But that’s precisely what’s happening in Ireland.  Sinn Fein is currently enjoying a consistent lead at the top of the polls in the Republic; a recent example from the Irish edition of the Sunday Times shows it had surged by six points to 37 per cent, some distance ahead of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, currently coalition partners. Public approval of the Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald — the middle-class Dubliner who described the IRA campaign as ‘justified’ and mused that there was ‘every chance’

Sinn Fein’s troubling veneration of terrorists

Sinn Fein is not a normal party. It sometimes feels impolite to point it out in the era of the Belfast Agreement. But the legal amnesty from criminal charges offered to IRA terrorists as part of the peace process does not oblige individuals to abstain from moral judgement of their political wing. Especially when it continues to venerate those terrorists. The past year offered a grim reminder of this when the party’s leadership turned out in force, in the middle of lockdown, for a show of strength at the funeral of Bobby Storey, a Provisional IRA ‘volunteer’ who spent 20 years in prison for various offences. But yesterday offered an

The Troubles amnesty and the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein

Predictably – and understandably – the Northern Ireland Office’s proposed amnesty for crimes relating to the Troubles has resulted in a backlash across both sides of the Ulster divide. Yet, while the criticism was initially uniform, rifts have already emerged in the week since they were first unveiled. The noble ideal that justice delayed is justice denied has proved relatively feeble as a unifying glue, despite the Northern Ireland Assembly voting on Tuesday for a motion rejecting Westminster’s proposals. Prior to that vote, which heard many heartfelt and worthy speeches from across the chamber about the moral and legal basis for rejecting the amnesty, a gathering took place outside the

Could Sinn Fein become the largest party in Northern Ireland?

In 2022, a year after its centenary, there is the chance that Northern Ireland could end up with a nationalist, republican, Sinn Fein First Minister. The latest survey of popular opinion in the province, polled by LucidTalk, currently has Sinn Fein as the largest party on 25 per cent, nine points clear of the DUP who have slumped to 16 per cent – from around 30 per cent at the 2019 Westminster election. Meanwhile, there has been a slight upswing in the performance of the Ulster Unionists and Traditional Unionist Voice. The middle ground Alliance party are on the same level as the DUP, while the moderate SDLP appear to

It’s remarkable that Arlene Foster lasted this long

Arlene Foster’s spell as leader of the Democratic Unionist party is over. Today, Foster announced that she is stepping down as party leader on 28 May, and resigning her position as First Minister by the end of June. Her resignation came after a letter, signed by three quarters of the party’s MLAs alongside some MPs, was submitted to its chair Lord Morrow calling for her departure. In what is the most dramatic case of unionist infighting since Foster herself helped destabilise David Trimble’s leadership of the Ulster Unionists in the early 2000s, moves are also afoot to remove her erstwhile deputy Nigel Dodds. Several of her most senior advisers, including the party’s chief

The Good Friday Agreement’s uneasy anniversary

On the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Belfast Agreement, it’s safe to say celebrations here in Northern Ireland will be muted at best. Over the past ten days, hundreds of rioters wielding bricks, bottles, stones and petrol bombs in Belfast have injured more than 70 police officers, most notably in the west of the city, where working-class loyalists and republicans live cheek by jowl. In terrifying scenes, a bus driver narrowly escaped injury when his vehicle was petrol bombed and left to coast down a street. The trigger for the violence was the decision by Northern Ireland’s public prosecution service not to bring charges against 24 Sinn Féin

Northern Ireland’s sink estates are fertile ground for fundamentalists

Northern Ireland is routinely voted one of the happiest places to live in the UK. A few weeks ago, a survey revealed that Belfast was the best city to raise a family in Britain. The Province is in the top ten digital economies of the future. A world-class film production industry is transforming it into the Hollywood of Europe adding tens of millions of pounds to the local economy. It’s a stark contrast to the ugly scenes from over the Irish Sea flashing across our screens this week. Working-class loyalist communities are in a dangerously mutinous mood that is hard to square with this parallel world. Alienation and opportunity often exist in

Why is nobody talking about Northern Ireland?

It is depressingly appropriate that a weekend which started on Good Friday was one which illustrated the shaky foundations of the agreement which brought a form of peace to Northern Ireland. Twenty three years on from that landmark deal, discontent among the Province’s unionist and loyalist community is beginning to mount. Violence once again erupted on the streets of Derry last night. It was a repeat of the ugly scenes that played out over Easter weekend in Belfast’s loyalist Sandy Row area. Petrol bombs were flung and a total of 32 police officers were injured. The latest spark is mounting unhappiness among unionist pro-British groups at the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Crown makes difficult viewing for IRA apologists

Series four of The Crown begins with the murder of Lord Mountbatten at Mullaghmore in August 1979. Mountbatten was killed with three others, on the same day 18 British soldiers were ambushed at Warrenpoint. It was a devastating blow for the British establishment. But it held a more intimate horror too. If you listen carefully to the scene in The Crown, you can hear Mountbatten speak to a ‘Paul’ as they prepare his boat, Shadow V, for its fateful journey out of the harbour before being blown to pieces by the IRA. ‘Paul’ is 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, who along with Mountbatten’s grandson, 14-year-old Nicholas Knatchbull, was one of two children

How Sinn Fein got away with murder

The online world should be credited when it gets something right. And on Twitter an account titled ‘On This Day the IRA’ gets something very right. Granted, it’s not your usual internet fare. It includes no videos of cute animals sneezing. It is simply an archive-rich account which records what the IRA did on that day in history. Naturally, each day brings more than one thing to commemorate. On the day I’m writing, the account records James Keenan and Martin McGuigan, two Catholic 16-year-olds blown up by the IRA in 1979 while they were on their way to a Saturday night dance. There are also anniversaries from 1977 and 1988,

Sinn Fein’s success doesn’t make a united Ireland more likely

It is obviously true that Sinn Fein’s success in the Irish Republic will increase nationalist pressure for a united Ireland. It does not automatically follow, however, that such pressure will make a united Ireland more likely. A powerful Sinn Fein in the South is a strong recruiter for Unionism in the North. The possibility of nationalists in the North winning a border poll has just receded. This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes, which appears in this week’s Spectator

Why we should welcome a Sinn Fein government

There are those – most of my acquaintance in Ireland, frankly – who can think of nothing worse than Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald as leader of the next Irish government. She’s embracing the prospect; in a walkabout in Dublin’s fruit and veg market in Moore Street, she said, as you’d expect, ‘I may well be the next Taoiseach, yes’. And yep, it would be a disaster for Britain when it comes to the Brexit negotiations. But I think that, actually, it might be the best outcome from this election which has resulted in Sinn Fein effectively level pegging with Fianna Fail in terms of seats (one FF representative is

Ireland’s election result is bad news for Brexit

Ireland has given its own twist to the populist uprisings across Europe, with its election ushering in a grim time for Anglo-Irish relations. The results from Saturday’s poll – in which Sinn Fein took 24.5 per cent of the vote; Fianna Fáil, 22 per cent; and Fine Gael, 21 per cent – could also cause serious complications in the Brexit negotiations. In so enthusiastically switching its support to Sinn Fein (the party won 13.8 per cent of the vote in 2016), Ireland is endorsing a party that pretends to be democratic, left-wing and progressive but still effectively operates internally along militaristic lines, tolerating no dissent from its elected representatives. As

Alex Massie

Sinn Fein’s surge in the Irish election was a cry of frustration

The people have spoken. Now, what do they mean? That is the first question to be asked in the wake of this Irish election and, as is so often the case, not all the answers to it are elementary and some of them are contradictory. This was both a startling election result and an unsurprising one. Few people, least of all Sinn Fein themselves, thought Mary Lou McDonald’s party would top the poll but some aspects of the result are less surprising. Overall, however, this was both an earthquake election and an inconclusive one. So much so, in fact, that the 33rd Dail may prove a short one. Until the