Some unintended consequences of Vladimir Putin’s megalomaniacal and merciless attack on the people of Ukraine that are appearing in Ireland now are embarrassing Sinn Fein.

Published: 15 March 2022

Owing to having been brought up and educated in Dublin, and then spent many years studying Irish republicanism, I’m pretty familiar with rebel songs.

So as I listen to the reactions to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s stirring rhetoric, what haunts me are the last few lines of a rousing song called ‘The West’s Awake’.

It was written in the 1840s, referred just to the province of Connacht and was aimed at England, but as it floats through my head incessantly I’ve brought it up to date with a couple of minor alterations.

So the last four lines I sing along to are:

‘But, hark! A voice like thunder spake
‘The West’s awake! The West’s awake!
‘Sing, Oh! Hurrah! Let Putin quake!
‘We’ll fight till death for Ukraine’s sake.’

I am overjoyed that the West has actually awoken and realised that the Balkan States and Poland could be next.

Putin so despised us that he believed he could do what he liked, but his wickedness and the raw courage of the Ukrainians has produced results beyond what some of us dreamed of but didn’t expect.

Germany is the most striking example of the many EU countries that have faced reality, realised that they were selling their soul to an evil dictator in exchange for gas and oil and are banding together to fight by whatever means are necessary.

Ireland too is taking off its blindfold, recognising as the former Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan put it, that “we have enjoyed the luxury of being bystanders as regards security and defence. This approach is no longer a credible option”.

Where does this leave Irish republicans for whom violent Irish nationalism is an ideology that in due course turned its leaders into maniacs who admired autocrats who did what they liked. (Gerry Adams, 2016: ‘Today we mourn the death of one of the great revolutionary leaders — a hero and friend of Ireland — Fidel Castro.’)

But that’s the old guard.

What about the cleanskin leader Mary Lou McDonald?

Well, she was vice-president of the party when, for instance, in 2015, it abstained on a European Parliament resolution condemning Russia’s “direct and indirect involvement in the armed conflict in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea”.

It was, explained Sinn Fein to the Irish Times, a result of a “zero-sum political game between Russia and the West”.

Under McDonald’s presidency, in one of several pro-Kremlin interventions, in 2019 MEP Lynn Boylan (partner of senior TD Eoin Ó Broin) publicly declared that it was Brussels, not Moscow, that had imperial ambitions in the region.

Among the embarrassing tweets dug up by Elaine Byrne in a recent article in the Sunday Business Post (‘Sinn Fein has accepted the Kremlin view of the world’), was one from Sheamus Greene, Sinn Fein councillor for Fermanagh and Omagh district: “Nothing wrong with Putin, Russia never did anything against the Irish. Britain on the other hand.”

The relentless grievance-mongering of Irish republicans was brilliantly immortalised as MOPE (Most Oppressed People Ever) by the historian Liam Kennedy (most recently author of the brilliant Who Was Responsible for the Troubles?).

Many people have tried over the years to persuade them that rather than being self-pitying and peddling hatred they should develop some perspective, but no, they have held on tenaciously to self-pity and MOPEry.

Just for perspective, here’s a paragraph from a newsletter by that fine commentator Iain Martin: “For dictators and autocrats hooked on historical fantasies this has long been territory to be rolled over, first one way, then the other. Ukraine is conquered land that is held until the next wave of war and upheaval, death and destruction, fighting and famine, catching a few decades of relative peace in between.

“Here come the Bolsheviks, the Communists and Stalin, then Hitler, then the Soviets again. And each time there were tens of millions of people caught in the middle trying simply to go about their lives before the next maniac gripped by an ideology turns up.”

Gerry Adams, who seems definitely past his best, has weighed into the debate with an article called ‘Stark Contrast in Conflict is Shown Up’, illustrated with photographs of destruction he claims to have seen on his visit to Gaza in 2009 and an Al Jazeera clip alleged to be of a Palestinian girl being attacked by Israeli soldiers.

“Where is the international outrage at these actions?” he asks. “Are Palestinian children or adults any less deserving of our humanity than those Ukrainian citizens fighting desperately in defence of their homeland? Of course not.”

The Sunday Independent journalist Hugh O’Connell reported that Sinn Fein has deleted from its website thousands of media statements going back two decades, which includes its 2014 foreign affairs spokesman Sean Crowe supporting the abolition of Nato.

Other political parties, he says, have online archives of press statements stretching back several years.

Well, as we know, rewriting its past is something Sinn Fein is very good at.

But researchers who want to further embarrass them, can find the deleted statements (admittedly with some difficulty) on a site called ‘Wayback Machine’.

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