Before the Shinners became politically correct, they had a “souvenir” stall in their Árd Fheis. Alongside the ‘Sniper at Work’ badges with the silhouette of a makeshift IRA gunner, there were Margaret Thatcher’s t-shirts with the slogan ‘Tá gráin agam ar Thatcher fós!’ – ‘I still hate Thatcher’. The Iron Lady’s status as pariah of Sinn Féin-IRA was shaped by her dogged view of The Troubles and cemented by her unyielding stance against the Hunger Strikers.
In one area the party had much more in common with Thatcher – the approach to Europe. Thatcher’s 11 years in power were marked by her rejection of European integration, particularly a single currency. Her British rebate in 1984 and the Bruges speech in 1988 could be seen as the beginning of the end for Britain’s EU membership. Brexiteers have used Thatcher as inspiration for their isolationist campaign to leave the EU and disengage from their continental neighbours. Sinn Féin’s emergence on the Remain side of the Brexit referendum was quite the eyebrow-raising given the party’s consistent anti-EU rhetoric.
After Ireland was a member of the EEC, now the EU, for 50 years, Sinn Féin has the proud honor of having defied every single European referendum. From accession to the European Communities in 1972 to the Single European Act in 1987, the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1998, the Treaty of Nice in 2001 and 2002, the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008 and 2009 and the Fiscal Treaty in 2012, Sinn Féin cannot only once that it has supported the European project in the south, in the republic, in the free state, in the 26 countries or whatever you have yourself. Most sane people would say that our EU membership has been overall positive for the country – and has also made a valuable and unheralded contribution to the peace process – but Sinn Féin has banged the populist and alarmist drum at every opportunity.
Mary Lou McDonald describes her party as “Eurosceptic” rather than Eurosceptic, but its track record suggests otherwise. Even Thatcher can show his support for a referendum, famously wearing a sweater with flags for the 1975 referendum on Britain staying in the EU. Sinn Féin’s position in European affairs is more important than ever, as it is the country’s best-supported political party and potential leader of the next government. The contradictions remain. Take McDonald’s talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, the US think tank, on that day in New York last week.
“So we never have – We have never questioned the value of collective action or solidarity. I mean Ireland is an old European nation. I mean, that’s us,” she said curiously.
McDonald credits EU institutions with solutions to Brexit and Northern Ireland Protocol. What she is saying about Ireland’s future relationship with the EU is that if there is a united Ireland, this “reunification process needs funding” and we will shake hands in Brussels – again.
“And I would be very hopeful that European solidarity, just as Germany enjoyed it, I hope and expect Ireland would enjoy it as well,” she says.
But solidarity seems to be a one-way street for the Sinn Féin boss. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in earthquake-related changes in prospects across Europe, with Eastern European countries feeling vulnerable. Sinn Féin has been accused by Taoiseach Micheál Martin of being “soft” on Putin – a claim denied by McDonald. The party’s consistent anti-European stance was often based on perceived threats to Irish neutrality, even when there were clear constitutional obligations enshrining the country’s position. McDonald says the war “gives everyone a pause to stop and think about pretty much everything,” and accepts that there is a debate about how to advance the values that are at the heart of the European project. But now the defensive role of the EU and our neutrality are being discussed, Sinn Féin remains consistent. There is no room for maneuver on neutrality as it referred to others at home arguing to “deepen our engagement in the European defense apparatus and in NATO”. She was co-harassed by her New York host, Amy Davidson Sorkin, a writer The New Yorkerwhether Ireland would ever provide military assistance to Ukraine or any other democracy under attack. The answer was a resounding no.
“For Ireland, the idea of being part of a military alliance or deviating from our traditional policy of military neutrality and non-alignment is not an outlier in my view. I don’t think it would have popular support in Ireland,” she said.
To borrow an immortal phrase from Mrs Thatcher: “It’s out.”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/mary-lous-euroscepticism-comes-from-maggie-thatcher-playbook-of-self-interest-41468762.html Mary Lou’s euroscepticism stems from Maggie Thatcher’s playbook of self-interest