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Radical Unionist political commentator Dr John Coulter maintains Sinn Fein in the Republic should take control of the entire republican movement, and the SDLP should merge with Fianna Fail to avoid a future electoral meltdown in Northern Ireland.

Dr John Coulter • 16 November 2004

Sinn Fein can only become the dominant force on the island of Ireland provided it structurally moves back a generation to the mid-Sixties when Southern republicanism controlled the movement.

Likewise, the now rocky constitutional nationalist SDLP in Northern Ireland must merge with the South’s major coalition government partner, Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fail.

This is the SDLP’s only option if it is to avoid electoral annihilation in the North’s council elections in May 2005 as well as in the expected General Election – also rumoured to be either staged in February or May 2005.

There can be no doubting Sinn Fein’s electoral success in the Republic in June’s European and local government polls has set the party well on its road to achieving further gains in the Dublin parliament, Leinster House.

Indeed, if the proposed ‘rainbow alliance’ of Fine Gael, the Greens, Labour and the Progressive Democrats fails to emerge, the republican movement is odds on to be the ideal coalition government partner for Fianna Fail.

If Sinn Fein does – as is expected – become the major power broker in the next Dublin parliament, it will have achieved that accolade without forcing the Southern electorate to endure a generation of mindless violence by the Provisional IRA wing of the republican movement.

Southern Sinn Fein will have followed the purely democratic route which has seen similar electoral achievements for the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru in Wales. There is no way the growth of the SNP and PC can be attributed to any violent activities by groups such as the Scottish National Liberation Army or the Free Wales Army.

Northern Sinn Fein, on the other hand, has eclipsed constitutional nationalism by riding on the back of the PIRA Army Council’s terror campaign.

The time has now come for Southern Sinn Fein to flex its own muscles within Irish republicanism and take over the party’s ruling ard comhairle. Indeed, it should go a step further and assert itself as the controlling body in the entire republican movement.

The time is now right for a Southern-controlled Sinn Fein ard comhairle to send the Northern-dominated IRA Army Council permanently to the dustbin of Irish history.
Former Irish President, the late Eamonn de Valera, led Fianna Fail away from its blood-stained roots in the anti-Treaty IRA, and Fine Gael has buried any political skeletons it might have had in the past with General Eoin O’Duffy’s notorious fascist Blueshirts.

If there is to be a lasting peace in Ireland, and there will not be another explosion of 1969-style sectarian hatred in 2016, then Southern Sinn Fein has a moral imperative to provide a republican movement which unionism, loyalism, Orangeism and Protestantism can openly do business with.

The present impasse in the peace process has often been blamed on the inability of republicans and unionists to engage in constructive dialogue. It can be concluded that since the suspension of the present Northern Assembly in October 2002, unionism has been talking to the wrong republicans.

Maybe the time has come for unionists to engage in direct talks with Southern Sinn Fein representatives rather than their Northern counterparts.

Maybe, too, that is one reason for the recent announcement from the IRA that it is prepared to allow two clerics – one of whom will be Protestant – to witness any further substantial act of decommissioning. Perhaps the Northern-dominated republican movement needs to make a magnanimous gesture, not simply to move the peace process forward, but also to reassert its authority within the overall republican family.

Certainly, Sinn Fein’s capture the SDLP’s Northern Euro seat confirmed the victory over its nationalist rivals in last November’s Assembly elections was not a ‘one off’ fluke.

Sinn Fein’s well-orchestrated European campaign, winning seats in both Northern and Southern Ireland, further strengthens its platform to be the only true all-Ireland political party.

Sinn Fein’s success will have even more far-reaching consequences for the SDLP in the next Westminster General Election. Sinn Fein currently has four Westminster MPs. The European victory by its candidate Bairbre de Brun – a former health minister in the Northern Assembly - will almost certainly signal the electoral meltdown of the SDLP with another three Westminster seats – South Down, Foyle and Newry and Armagh falling to the republican movement, as the three sitting MPs retire.

Such an electoral disaster, particularly if it follows significant losses in council seats in 2005, will condemn the SDLP to the political dustbin of Irish history.

That dustbin also contains the relics of two former constitutional nationalist movements – the Irish Nationalist Party from the original Stormont Parliament and the short-lived Irish Independence Party founded by Protestant nationalist John Turnley.

As in Britain, the political jungle drums are hammering out the rumours of a General Election in the South, too. Again, if the Sinn Fein electoral trends continue, the republican movement will replace the Progressive Democrats or the Greens as potential partners in Ahern’s Fianna Fail coalition government.

Such a nightmare would heap further pressure on the increasingly side-lined SDLP – it must merge with Fianna Fail or face political oblivion.

Since the beginning of the present Troubles in the late 1960s, there has always been a highly vocal minority within Fianna Fail which wanted the Dublin-based republican party to organise in the North and contest elections. Now Fianna Fail has a fledgling foothold in Derry.

Such a Northern strategy would be a major tactical advantage to Fianna Fail. It would be able to combat Sinn Fein’s claim to be the only all-Ireland movement – provided it won seats in Northern Ireland at council, Assembly and Westminster levels.

A merged SDLP/Fianna Fail movement could still rely on Northern SDLP activists to get the new fledgling party off the ground with an emphasis on targeting first-time Catholic voters, Catholic young people, but more importantly, the Catholic middle class and business community.

Fianna Fail also faces an equally nightmarish constitutional crisis if it wants to make Sinn Fein a coalition government partner. The Southern constitution recognises only one army – the legitimate Irish Defence Forces. How could Fianna Fail enter a power-sharing coalition with Sinn Fein with the Irish Republican Army still in existence?

The problem for Sinn Fein is how to ensure democratically elected politicians gain full control of the movement without causing another internecine split with its republican hardliners in South Armagh, South Derry and East Tyrone on a scale not witnessed since the establishment of the Provisional Republican Movement in the early 1970s.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

19 November 2004

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Another Fine Mess
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Dr. John Coulter

Address to QUB Vigil for Fallujah
Brian Kelly

Hearts and Minds
Fred A Wilcox

Smell the Coffee, not the Latte
Kristi Kline

Arresting Vanunu While Burying Arafat
Mary La Rosa

Weary of those stubborn indigenous resistance stains? Pretend they're not there...
Toni Solo

The Village
Anthony McIntyre

15 November 2004

Scapegoats & Swastikas
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Death of a Leader
Anthony McIntyre

Ruairi O Bradaigh, RSF Ard-Fheis Address 2004
Ruairi O Bradaigh

Anyone But Kerry
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Rubber Boa Studies
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'8 years in The Belfast SWP - A fraternal parting', and Part 2 of 'The ARN, - A Movement'
Davy Carlin



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