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Following the True Tradition



Eamonn McCann • 5 April 2004

I was giving out the other night about one of the lying liars who lie for George Bush accusing Sinn Fein of not telling the truth when a Shinner friend warned: "You're not just trying to get at us, are you?"

What had prompted his suspicion was my wondering why they hadn't told the lying liar to go boil his head in a bucket of shite.

Bush's "special envoy" on the North, fanatical pro-warrior Mitchell Reiss, had rubbished Sinn Fein's full-page Paddy's Day ad. on policing in the New York Times as, "at best enormously misleading and at worst untruthful." Reports had it that the ad cost $25,000---more than half the sum which Sinn Fein officially spent on their entire Assembly election campaign back in November. It must have been terrifically important to them to get their policing message across to the influential Times readership. In the same measure, I reasoned, they must have been terrifically angered at Reiss for rubbishing their effort.

So, why hadn't they blasted him back with both barrels? Responded with the sort of full-blooded denunciation which would automatically have been unleased if it had been, say, the SDLP, the UUP or Fine Gael which had accused them of telling untruths about policing?

What came from Sinn Fein instead was a pained point-by-point reply to Reiss in Irish American newspapers, and a statement explaining how "disappointed" the party was at his harsh words. Singing, as always these days, from the official Sinn Fein hymn-sheet, Fr. Sean McManus lamented that Reiss had "hurt both President Bush and the Irish peace process."

We have reached the stage of obesience where an advocate for Sinn Fein responds to an attack on the party by a Bush staffer not by rounding on Bush but by chastising the staffer for being "hurtful" to Bush...

Another of the party's committed US supporters, lawyer Ed Lynch, was "dismayed and disappointed" by Reiss's statement, particularly in view of the "good work" done by Reiss and the Bush administration to date.

Removing any lingering danger that dismay at Reiss's statement might be misunderstood as hostility to Bush, McManus added: "I have consistently praised President Bush on the peace process...Since 1972, when I first came to the US, the only president I have not criticised on Ireland is George W. Bush."

Now, the notion of a Bush crony like Reiss calling anybody to account for untruthfulness is staggering in its effrontery. Bush himself, it will be recalled, has long been lying like a trooper. (How he learnt how troopers lie is, like so much else in his parasite past, a mystery. Drafted at a time when tens of thousands of other young Americans were dutifully dying or losing their limbs or minds while massacring villagers in Vietnam, Bush duly reported, took
advantage of the tax-funded dental examination on offer to inductees, then scarpered before sundown to spend the next two years drunk-driving around Texas, harrassing women and generally using his newly-capped teeth to bite every hand which had unknowingly fed him.)

Bush has stayed true, so to speak, to form since. His former top counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke is just the latest to confirm that he frauded, faked and falsified evidence to procure death and misery for millions and plunge the world into danger by going to war on Iraq. It isn't so much that the Bush gang can't handle the truth as that when they are contemplating violence they can't be arsed about the truth.

So, you'd have thought, would you not?, that some spokesperson for Sinn Fein would have responded to Reiss by reminding him of pots and kettles and telling him to fuck off. But, as we've seen, not a bit of it.

Why? The cynical view is that SF leaders so adore being included on the Washington-gig guest-list, and would find it so devastating to be dropped, that they accept a slapping around from a well-placed wretch like Reiss as part of the price to be paid.

But there's something more fundamental going on here, too, which in its own cack-handed way entitles the party to some slack. It's doing what comes naturally. Natural to Nationalists, that is. By which I don't mean Northern Catholics, a disparate lot, but adherents of Nationalist ideology.

Nationalism is, essentially, neither left-wing nor right-wing, radical nor reactionary, pro- nor anti-imperialist. A Nationalist party like Sinn Fein tends to occupy whichever point on the political spectrum best suits its needs as notional embodiment of the nation at any particular point. As place and time and assessments of the "national interest" changes, Nationalism shifts position. It will express itself rhetorically in anti-imperialist terms when this is the best pitch for pulling in votes or keeping a particular element on-side. On a different day, facing a different audience, it will hymn praise for the role and influence of imperialist power. One day, an Ogra speaker is licensed to tell UCD students that Sinn Fein believes that Bush's "War on Terror" is a hypocrite's cover for imperialist aggression. The next day, a Sinn Fein leader on tour in the US will assure a Senator that the party is wholly in support of the "War on Terror". It's always been thus.

Re-reading Dorothy Macardle's "The Irish Republic" a couple of weeks ago, I came across an account of a clandestine June 1920 meeting of the First Dail, then in its pure phase, prior to the Cosgrave sell-out, the de Valera sell-out and all subsequent sell-outs. These were the incorruptibles, or at least the uncorrupted, in the full flush of political youth, unbesmirched by office, careless of personal advancement, focused only on national freedom. Michael Collins and Harry Boland were prominently in attendance.

The delegates voted to empower de Valera, then on a north American tour, to spend a million dollars held in the US to buy friends and influence people in Washington. The US was in its post-World War One anti-Red frenzy, the political class filled with hysteria about Bolshevik Russia, which it wanted the rest of the world to shun.

Making his bid to win US establishment support, Dev gave a series of interviews heaping praise on the 1903 Platt Amendment, the arrangement which handed the US permanent sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay, guaranteed that Cuba would never enter into an international agreement without US approval, and allowed the US untrammeled right to intervene in Cuba if ever it felt threatened by developments on the island. The Platt Amendement has provided the framework for US policy on Cuba ever since.

The New York Globe headlined de Valera's endorsement of the Platt Amendment as marking the moment when Irish Republicanism, for all its occasionally unnerving rhetoric, spelt it out that it represented no threat to US interests: "De Valera opens the door!" Republican traditionalists like John Devoy who attacked Dev for compromise were dismissed as "zealots...unrealistic" and pushed out to the margins of the Movement.

The same meeting of the Dail which despatched Dev to reassure the 1920 equivalents of Reiss that Sinn Fein approved of the adminisatration's "good work," unanimously passed a motion calling for agents to be despatched to the governments of "several countries," including---the only country specifically mentioned---"the Government of the Russian Socialist Soviet Federal Republic, with a view to establishing diplomatic relations with that Government."

Part of the anti-imperialist struggle on this side of the pond. God Bless America on the other.

Sinn Fein leaders today are not betraying party tradition when they authorise a spokesperson out of earshot of Washington to call the liar Bush a liar---then, the next day, bite their tongues rather than repudiate one of the liar's lying representatives who has accused them of untruth. To attack the current Sinn Fein leadership for reneging on principles is to miss the main point: they are not deviating from but are following closely along the path trodden by every previous Sinn Fein leadership.

It's the Sinn Fein tradition, and the Nationalist ideology underlying it, which needs to be questioned, not the current leadership's interpretation of it.




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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

5 April 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Following the True Tradition
Eamonn McCann


Sinn Fein - Sold a Pup: Martin Cunningham Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre


Going to the Flix
Brian Mór


Reports and Inquiries
George Young


State Department Flip-flop to Offset Cory?

Sean Mc Manus


Updating Capitalist Rule
Liam O'Ruairc


The Rush to Judgement: Binary Thinking in a Digital Age
Michael Youlton


"Poor people can't be engineers" - Free Market Corruption, Neo-Liberal Pretexts
Toni Solo


28 March 2004


Trials Under the Shadow of Irish Emergency Laws
Marianne Quoirin


Sinn Fein A Dictatorship: Martin Cunningham Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre


How to Get to 2016
Brian Mór


Desert Pong

Eamonn McCann


Reading the Future from the Past
Mick Hall


Bush in Haiti: Operation Enduring Misery
Brian Kelly


No Promise, No Hope?
Danielle Ni Dhighe




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