“The IRA hasn’t gone away, you know,” has to be one of the most trite, not to say ominous, statements from another generation – the one belonging to Gerry Adams, not Mary Lou McDonald’s or Eoin Ó Broin’s generation.
Dams first said this at a rally in Belfast city center at the height of the IRA arms decommissioning controversy in 1995.
The Provos killed several more people, and the Good Friday Agreement remained unsigned for three more years.
At the time, Ó Broin had just started out as the national organizer of Ógra Shinn Féin. He was 23 years old and rose up at this stage, before the agreement was signed but while the IRA was in peace process mode. It would take a full 21 years for him to be elected to the Dáil.
Today, Ó Broin is the hero of generations unborn or barely born when Sinn Féin was brought out of the cold by Official Ireland. Living is his thing and living is her thing.
“Is her mama Fine Gael and is her daddy Fianna Fáil?” ask Dublin post-punk band Fontaines DC. “Hold up a mirror to youth and they will only see their faces.”
But when almost three-quarters of voters look into the Sinn Féin mirror, they still see the shadow of the IRA campaign, and to varying degrees they shy away from it. That much emerges from an inquiry in April Sunday independent/Ireland Thinks Opinion Poll.
Twenty-one years between war and peace is a long time, but also a blink of an eye.
Mary Lou McDonald turns 53 on May 1st. If she doesn’t become Taoiseach after the next election, she will be almost 60 when her chance comes again. She was 29 years old when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, half a lifetime ago.
So let no one tell you that Ireland’s history with the Provisional IRA is not distressed and still not sore.
Sinn Féin is at 33 percent in our most recent survey. So consistent is this support that the widely accepted view is that the party is a springboard for government in the next elections in two or more years.
No matter where you look now, it’s Mary Lou here, Pearse Doherty there, and Eoin Ó Broin everywhere, often without critical judgement.
These are impressive politicians, whether you agree with their policies or not – and they belong to a different generation than Gerry Adams.
As McDonald had to tell the Dáil in November 2015, with Adams at her side, “I’ve never killed anyone.” Small mercies for that, though it must be difficult for her to have to give such clarifications.
“The IRA hasn’t gone away, you know,” was last endorsed by Adams, much to some concern, in a Christmas carol online sketch that was later withdrawn.
When he first said it in 1995, there was bravado involved; this was chuckled at the time, and I remember it, by otherwise constitutional politicians from other parties, who let loose their inner Shinner in clumsy attempts to be seen in order to understand the peace process.
Now it’s like a dark mother-in-law joke, so much so that Ó Broin felt Adams should apologize for willfully backing him in December, before the housing guru was quickly shut down by the movement.
Sinn Fein does not apologize. But they may have to reconsider that at some point if the tea leaves of this survey are to be properly read.
Almost a quarter of respondents (23 percent) say they would never vote for Sinn Féin anyway; a third (33 percent) do not support Sinn Féin and its association with the IRA during the riots is a key reason; and 14pc, while liking Sinn Féin’s politics, say unification could negatively impact their vote.
In other words, almost three quarters (70 percent) of voters still have a problem with the IRA association.
On the other hand, more than a quarter (28 percent) say the connection between Sinn Féin and the IRA does not negatively affect their voice.
That’s not surprising – most were in the cradle as Ó Broin made his way in a political movement headed for a truce.
In fact, 44 percent – not the majority – of 18-35 year olds think the IRA connection doesn’t matter.
This support drops dramatically the older the voter is: only a third aged 35 to 44 and just 13 percent aged over 65 say it would not negatively impact their vote.
So, all things being equal, it could be said that Sinn Féin’s rock-solid carrier might not be 33-piece, but it’s still comfortably 28-piece.
And that would be impressive, even if it falls far short of the grandeur that most people would have us believe is what Sinn Féin is today.
Then we can look at the numbers differently.
An interesting finding is that three-quarters (77 percent) of declared Sinn Féin supporters say the party’s association with the IRA does not negatively affect their votes.
With 2 percent of these respondents “unsure” of their answer, 21 percent of the party’s own supporters remain unsure of one way or another about the strength of their support.
As a result, the real Sinn Féin vote is trending below 28 percent – not far from where it was in the last general election, in fact.
From this perspective, the party’s road to power is as distant as it was after the last election and more complicated than ever.
Fontaines DC says Ireland could really benefit from a socialist government. If you agree, vote socialist.
“I don’t remember the Troubles,” singer Grian Chatten said recently, apparently believing that Sinn Féin is socialist.
This poll tells us that a remarkably large majority of people remember the riots, and that knowledge continues to have a strong impact on their voting intentions.
Sooner or later, Sinn Féin will have to face this problem: that the IRA has not disappeared, you know.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/most-voters-still-recoil-from-shadow-of-ira-campaign-poll-shows-41538135.html Polls show most voters still shy away from the shadow of the IRA campaign