Friday, April 22, 2005

Stay Free

I came across this on Richard Delevan's sicNotes, which I've only just started reading (how do these other bloggers manage to fit so much stuff in? What the hell do they do all day? I surf/post on my tea-break, lunch and after work if I have the chance and I might visit five sites and post one thing if I'm lucky!). My local TD at home, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was described as "the Free State Minister, Dermot Ahern" by Damian Kiberd, a quite... green journalist with very... sympathetic republican views who, hilariously, manages to work for that bastion of the British Murdoch press, the Sunday Times.

Now you can read Delevan's take on it and the subsequent reactions (and I know Dermo is well able to look after himself) but I did feel quite bothered by the quote. The provisional republican movement has hijacked our history and the birth of our nation and bastardised our flag and symbols. Now they insult our very nationhood by referring to a Government minister in pre-Republic, Commonwealth terms. The tag "Free State Minister" throws up all sorts of connotations - not least denying the legitimacy of the State that I claim to be a citizen of. I live in Ireland and any northerner who doesn't like it can lump it.

These things matter, though, because the provisional republican movement is quite possibly the most sinister organisation of its size in Western Europe - it has no parallels in terms of organised crime, agents with high status in society or an ability to assault the electoral process. Islamo-fascism anywhere; the BNP in Britain; the fascists in France; the neo-Nazis in Germany; the Basque movements in Spain; even the Mafia in Italy are all small fry with relatively small agendas. It has to be understood that the provisional republican movement has only one goal - a united Ireland with them in charge (and for a very long time).

Well... duh, you might think, except what people don't realise is that this peace "process" is a con, a monumental fudge. How can any peace process take this long and still be as far away from a resolution as ever? I'll tell you what their plan is, it's really quite simple. A military victory was impossible especially as the British and Irish security forces had significantly infiltrated the movement (though not as completely as they like to think). An agreement of the 1922 type was also impossible as repartition moved a united Ireland even further away and unionism had already become even more entrenched after 25 years of troubles. Ongoing violence meant that electoral successes would forever be fleeting, so the plan that was formed was another twin-track approach.

Instead of the ballot box and the gun it became the ballot box and the peace process with the peace process being the new weapon of choice. An eternally dragged out peace process, with concession after concession made over time by governments petrified of getting the blame for a return to violence. Simultaneously, the provisional republican movement reaps the peace dividend on both sides of the border as the violence fades in people's memory. The money "earned" to buy guns is, instead, channeled into political marketing - posters, ads, election workers on every doorstep. Politicians coached in the use of language, everything done "with the greatest respect..." Elections effectively being bought.

The secret is to mobilise the voters. In these times of apathy, Sinn Fein voters can be relied upon to make it to the polls. Recently, in an Irish by-election in Meath, Sinn Fein's percentage share of the vote grew, but they had a similar number of total votes i.e. in a low turnout all their voters turned up. In the last British General Election the national turnout was just under 60%. The highest turnout in the whole of the UK was 81.3% in Mid-Ulster, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness winning the seat. The second and third highest turnouts in the North that year were West Tyrone and Fermanagh / South Tyrone. Both constituencies returned Sinn Fein MPs.

While the Peace Process has been ongoing the two governments have been afraid to attack Sinn Fein (although the junior Irish coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, have done a lot of sounding-off over the years). You rarely, if ever, hear an attack on Sinn Fein's economic policies for instance. I bet most people don't even know what any of their policies are, to be honest. Yet the electoral successes mount. Sinn Fein, because of their large membership, are very active in Working Class constituencies that traditionally have a poor voter turnout. They are perceived to be "doing something" for those localities hence they tap in to an under-exploited source of votes. Money laundering and murders are irrelevant. Since the end of Civil War politics in Ireland in the '70s and '80s, voting has become increasingly parochialised.

So what is the plan? Well it is to continue to use the peace process to neutralise the constitutional parties in both Britain and Ireland and to keep unionism split and marginalised. Then, eventually, the electoral successes in the North will result in Sinn Fein being the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, with a Sinn Fein leader as First Minister. Simultaneously, ongoing electoral successes in Ireland would ultimately leave Sinn Fein holding the balance of power and, possibly, ending up in a coalition government. Sinn Fein in power North and South simultaneously. I'll leave the rest to the imagination...
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