The mainstream media have focused on Gerry Adam’s announcement that he is to step down as President of Sinn Féin and will not contest the next Dáil election. But a far more important development was a vote by delegates to join a future Dublin government led by right wing parties Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
It marks a fundamental change of direction and indicates that the party has reached a strategic dead end
Gerry Adams has been the master strategist of the republican movement for more than thirty years. He helped to re-organise the IRA after a wrong prediction that it would achieve military victory and a British withdrawal in the mid-seventies.
He removed an old guard leadership that had turned the tactic of absententionism from the Dáil into a semi-religious dogma.
After the H Block crisis, he saw the opportunity for an electoral strategy and eventually argued for the dropping of the armed struggle.
Adams main strength has been to use a language based on left wing rhetoric – while moving the party nearer to the mainstream.
However his current strategy has reached a dead end.
Adams once claimed that Irish unity would be achieved by 2016, on the anniversary of the 1916 Rising. He thought that the presence of Sinn Féin in government in the North combined with a surge of support in the South that led to them having a leading position in government would pave the way to unity.
However, the reality is that the structures of the Belfast Agreement has copper-fastened sectarian politics in the North.
The DUP has used the recent electoral growth of Sinn Féin to increase their own support and have now joined the Tories in government.
In a post Brexit scenario, the Tory fantasists who think they can restore British influence in the world, will not ‘give an inch’ on Irish unity or Scottish independence.
In the South, Sinn Féin has stagnated in the polls and is facing a challenge from the radical left. The prospect of overtaking Fianna Fáil has receded and, therefore, it has been decided to join them, as minority partners, in a future potential coalition.
The reaction of the FF leader, Michael Martin, has been totally negative. Fianna Fáil are currently using a hypocritical left-sounding rhetoric – even as they back up Fine Gael.
But they do not want the Blueshirts to gain hegemony among the upper professional classes who despise Sinn Féin.
Despite this, there are enough Fianna Fáilers who see the advantage of aligning with Sinn Féin – mainly as a way to restore their working class credentials.
If such a coalition happens, the reality is that SF will be propping up a right wing party –just as Labour and the Greens did. The party leadership may say that they will be tougher in negotiations – but there is a structure of power within the Southern state that surrounds individual Ministers and forces them to manage tax haven capitalism.
Sinn Féin in government will have to carry through attacks on working people – in order to preserve the current privileges that the corporate tax dodgers have.
Many Sinn Féin members are already worried about this. But some are desperate to see movement to end partition and imagine that Brexit will somehow create the conditions for this to emerge.
But you will not get a united Ireland by aligning with a corrupt Southern establishment – and supporting the neo-liberals who run the EU.
Others in Sinn Féin think that if they show a willingness to enter government, they will gain more electoral support. However, the establishment does not let in outsiders, unless they pay an entry price.
Becoming an establishment party means ‘moderating’ your political positions and aligning yourself with the unelected elements of the Southern state.
Unfortunately, Sinn Féin has already started on this road. They now work closely with local authority officials in agreeing to sell off council land – if there is only 30% social housing.
They have not called for the immediate removal of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest FEMPI) legislation which gives draconian powers to the government to change the terms and conditions of public sector employees – even though there is supposed to be an economic recovery.
They have joined the elite consensus that women must first show that they are in ill health or have been raped before they can have an abortion.
When you talk a rhetoric of equality but do not accept that grown women have a full right to make decisions over how to control their own bodies, then there are serious limits to your left rhetoric.
Over the next year, there will be further signs that Sinn Féin will seek to moderate its image in order to make itself acceptable to the mainstream media and to show that it could govern in ‘partnership’ with Fianna Fáil.
People Before Profit will be taking a different road.
We want ‘regime change’ on both sides of the Irish border and believe that Irish unity will be achieved by a movement from below which challenges all corruption, bigotry and austerity.
We will be challenging Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael at every turn and developing a movement of ‘people power’ to break their grip.