PBP Slam Hypocrisy of Sinn Féin U-turn on EU
Sinn Féin have embarked upon a dramatic shift in position on the EU. Despite having been uncritical cheerleaders of the institution in the last two elections, the party is now warning that the EU is “ploughing full-steam ahead in a direction that totally contradicts any notion of Irish national sovereignty and independence of action.”
Remarkably, in an article published in An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin now states that “however pressing immediate concerns” around Brexit may be, “we should not lose sight of the bigger picture,” and that “storm forces are gathering with the intention of driving the so-called European project forward to a more and more integrated EU – effectively a super state in Europe.”
For a party that has been very keen to tout the so-called benefits of the EU, Sinn Féin now admits that “just like with the bank bailout, Ireland’s loss will be Europe’s gain”, “Ireland is of no account” (to Brussels in the Brexit negotiations), and “despite the honeyed words from the EU, Ireland and Irish interests will be sold out in the talks”. Strangley, this line sounds very similar to the position of “Neither London nor Brussels” advanced by People Before Profit which Sinn Féin previously scolded.
Describing opposition to the undemocratic nature of the EU as “the bigger picture” is a significant about turn for Sinn Féin. The party spent most of the last year lauding the institution and viciously slandering anyone who criticised it. Another about turn is their new claim the EU “contradicts any notion of Irish national sovereignty and independence of action.” Sinn Fein has recently been claiming that the EU after Brexit was the route to an independent united Ireland. Now they are warning of the “danger to our national sovereignty of the plans currently being concocted in Brussels.” Of course, it would be hard for them not to after witnessing the role of the EU in Catalonia.
Incredibly, the article goes on to describe the current government in the South as “Europhile”, presumably meaning Sinn Féin now consider themselves Euroskeptic. The people of Foyle and West Belfast—where Sinn Féin recently engaged in an enormous campaign to attack those critical of the EU—will no doubt be surprised by this admission.
So what is motivating this U-Turn by Sinn Féin? In one sense, this is simply a reversion to type to their previous position. In 2003, for example, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said, "Too much of our sovereignty has already been ceded to EU institutions." In 2014 his colleague Lynn Boylan MEP said, "The people of Ireland are suffering immensely due to the policies of austerity being pushed by the institutions of the EU." And more recently, Sinn Féin MEP’s have attacked the EU over their support for the suppression of sovereignty in Catalonia.
However, in the EU referendum, SF sided with Theresa May and David Cameron in calling for a remain vote. Admittedly, they were hardly enthusiastic supporters of the position, with Electoral Commission recording that they did not submit a single penny of party campaigning in support of their position. This, however, changed when Sinn Féin saw the opportunity to use their desire to remain in the EU to opportunistically attack People Before Profit. PBP took a position independent from both the Tory Remainers, and the Tory Leavers such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. We argued that the EU was an undemocratic institution that has copper fastened austerity, eroded democracy, spread racism through its treatment of refugees and inflicted untold damage on the ordinary people of Europe, including here in Ireland. We advocated, therefore, opposition to the EU and support for a real democratic social Europe.
This left wing opposition to the EU is not unusual and is in fact widely held amongst most socialist formations in Europe - many of whom were baffled by Sinn Fein’s europhilic language after the referendum. We made clear that we would not support Theresa May’s Tory Brexit, nor any imposition of a hard border, and instead advocated people power as the way to shape the post Brexit terrain in favour of ordinary people.
But in the post Brexit confusion—when people were genuinely fearful of what exiting the EU might mean—Sinn Féin opportunistically became cheerleaders for the institution, in the hope that they could electorally wipe out People Before Profit by slandering our position and equating it with the Tories.
The party poured enormous resourses into both Foyle and West Belfast where PBP had elected MLAs. Maintaining the EU was vital for ordinary people, they claimed. Thousands of leaflets were delivered claiming that Brexit would lead to, among other things, the loss of maternity pay and holidays. Hundreds of posters were put up in West Belfast equating PBP with the DUP and the TUV, while fake border points were erected in a lame effort to claim PBP was in support of ‘hard border’.
Those with a keen eye could of course see how ridiculous and plainly opportunistic this campaign was. Now, with the elections in the North over, a Corbyn government in London becoming more likely, and the reality of the EU’s rotten agenda coming to light in Catalonia, SF have decided to change their tune once again. It’s not the first time their spin doctors have concocted a U-turn. And it won’t be the last.
What is important now is that the genuine left in this country begin to mobilise for a real opposition to both the Tory Brexit and the undemocratic EU. Our slogan remains “Neither London nor Brussels but a Socialist Ireland.” The future is all to play for.