Sinn Féin, Triangulation and the Special Crim

Screenshot 2021-11-01 at 20.42.41

Sinn Féin may deploy all the dissembling semantics it likes in relation to its endorsement of the Special  Criminal Court - as currently constituted - but the simple fact is that the party has now underwritten the use of non-jury trials. Party spokespeople may dance around the head of a needle and talk of exceptional circumstances but for so long as the option remains on the statute books, it will be used. 

And make no mistake about it, its use will not be confined to punishing drug peddlers and organised crime. The Special  Criminal Court was designed for use against those the state deemed a threat to its security and that will remain its fundamental raison d’être. As Donegal Councillor Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig says, ‘The real reason for introducing non-jury trials is not to protect jurors but, as in the Six Counties, to guarantee a conviction sought by the state, in reality the deep state.’

 The Sinn Fein decision to reverse its long-held position’s on this issue and at this point in time is revealing. Party president Mary Lou McDonald has made clear her intention to lead the next government in Dublin. To do so, party strategists are advising that it is necessary to win over a significant chunk of middle-class and hitherto hostile voters. In Blairite terms this is known as triangulation i.e. appealing beyond your base by dropping long-held principles. 

To reassure a conservative section of society that Sinn Fein will not disrupt the status quo, certain guarantees have to be given. Pearse Doherty, for example, was recently reported  as saying that big business has nothing to fear from his party if in government. The ultimate comfort for Indo readers, though, is to definitively ditch any connection with the past. Nothing can illustrate this better than adopting the very measure that was specifically introduced to smash the movement that gave birth to New Sinn Féin.

 Party handlers will spin this U-turn to the faithful as a clever manoeuvre designed merely to achieve office and influence. They will tell the yarn that the party remains committed to its core values, that nothing can be changed without governmental power and that once in the driving seat the revolution will begin.

The reality of course will be different because triangulation comes at a price. Even with a comfortable lead in opinion polls, there is no realistic possibility of Sinn Fein winning an overall majority and will therefore be dependent on the support of others to form a government. Just as a convoy travels at the speed of the slowest ship, a coalition depends for sustainability on the approval of the most recalcitrant participant. Introducing any radical measure would risk bringing down the coalition and with it a mauling from disgruntled middle-class voters believing they have been conned.

The reality is that little or nothing changes. Well, not exactly. So much energy will have been wasted for so little and of course, we will still have the Special Criminal Court, prepared to sit in judgement on the state’s opponents but now with Sinn Fein’s blessing.

Tommy McKearney …. 1 November 2021

This© Tommy McKearney 2012                                                                                      email:    tommymkearney@me.com