Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sinn Fein are right to oppose Queens visit (but not for the reasons you think)

Now, before you report me to whoever is in charge of Unionism for letting the side down, let me explain. Sinn Fein are right to oppose the Queens visit because it is, ultimately, very bad for Sinn Fein.

Firstly, whilst the worlds media are now overly fond of using words like historic, significant, unprecedented and the like, it has to be said that this visit is worthy of all such words. As such, Sinn Fein have been placed in a very difficult situation. As the party that likes to talk of progress it would be very difficult to object to this visit in too strong terms when it is overwhelmingly being played in the press as a sign of real progression. However, they cannot allow themselves to be involved in the visit because, after all, they are technically at odds with Her Majesty and her government. All they're left with is sniping from the sidelines with a series of press releases which, try as they, might fail to come across as anything other than sorely bitter.

Another problem for Sinn Fein is that this visit makes their argument for Unification just that little bit more difficult to sell. All through this visit, Sinn Fein have been careful not to make too many references to their one-time favourite line of the Queen still occupying the 6 counties or of her forces still being in control because they know that it is not the case any more. The status of Northern Ireland lays in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland and it is up to the government of Northern Ireland to force a referendum on the issue, not Westminster or Dublin. Now, how can Sinn Fein play that card when they ARE the government of Northern Ireland. Unity may not be entirely up to Sinn Fein (thank the Lord) but it is certainly absolutely nothing to do with the Queen.

The biggest problem for Sinn Fein now though is the fact that because this visit is so historical and significant, the next one won't be. The people of Ireland, after this week, will object even less when the Queen next visits because that is the nature of people. Once you've tasted something you always thought was awful and realised that actually, it's not quite as bad as you think, you are less inclined to object as strongly next time.

Sinn Fein know this and no that for them, as republicans opposed to British intervention in the affairs of Ireland (as they see it) public support is vital and that support needs to be fervent because, as those who just thought an AV campaign can testify, people have to really, really want change for it to actually happen. As each year passes, and more and more barriers to progress such as this are broken down, that support will become less and less passionate and will dwindle to nothing more than a pipe dream.

That is why Sinn Fein are right to object to this visit - not because it is wrong but because it represents a threat to their argument.


  1. Not everyone in Sinn Fein opposed the Queen's visit. The Mayor of Cashel, Michael Browne, openly defied Mary Lou McDonald and shook hands with the Queen. A brave move and one to be applauded.

  2. I don't know Michael Browne but it seems he believed the majority of his constituents expressed a wish for him to shake the Queens hand and sure enough, he followed suit.

    Bravery? I'm not so sure. For a politician, going with the wishes of your constituents over your party is usually a very safe bet!