Sadly, Sinn Fein is perhaps the closest to power of all the populist movements in Europe that have displayed unhealthy sympathies for Russia
Published: 15 March 2022
Last week, caught on the hop by the behaviour of Vladimir Putin, for whom it has a soft spot, Sinn Fein – historically the political wing of the IRA – deleted 20 years of potentially embarrassing material from its official website: 2,729 pages of statements by its party representatives were reduced to 373.
So presumably out went the justification for Sinn Fein MEPs abstaining in 2015 on a European Parliament resolution condemning Russia’s “direct and indirect involvement in the armed conflict in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea”; any record of party leader Mary Lou McDonald attacking the then taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his “flagrant disregard for Irish neutrality” when the Irish government expelled a Russian diplomat after the Salisbury poisonings; Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan in 2019 voting in the European Parliament against plans to block a Russian gas line; and MEP Chris McManus being one of 69 politicians out of 548 to vote against the resolution in the European Parliament supporting Ukraine’s independence last December.
Sinn Fein is a cult whose members obediently parrot whatever party line they are given. But their politicians are world-class examples of the brass neck school of politics. They have been Putin apologists for years, and are now perhaps the closest to power of all the populist movements in Europe that have displayed unhealthy sympathies for Russia. But the party’s reaction to the West uniting against Putin’s brutal invasion of a sovereign state and the emergence of President Zelensky as a heroic and eloquent warrior for liberty was to change sides immediately.
Without a blush, McDonald called for increased measures against Russia from the EU and “sanctions of such scale where there can be no doubt that Putin and his oligarch supporters will pay a huge price for choosing the course of military conflict over dialogue and diplomacy.”
McDonald is a practised hand. In 2003, having become Gerry Adams’s protégé, she was tested for stardom by participating unapologetically in the annual ceremony at the statue of the IRA’s chief of staff, Sean Russell, who in 1940 died in a U-boat on his way back home after explosives training in Berlin.
Her nickname for a time was “I believe Gerry”, the phrase she would trot out brazenly whenever anyone questioned his veracity. Her reward was to be appointed party president in 2018. And she is now hotly tipped to become taoiseach, Ireland’s prime minister.
She has led Sinn Fein in its recent volte faces on the EU (which it opposed bitterly until about a decade ago) abortion, same sex marriage and a plethora of progressive causes, and mostly has managed to keep closed the cupboard with all the skeletons.
Since she is in the US on a very public St Patrick’s Day charm offensive this week, it was a good day for bad news. Challenged in New York on the website deletions, she explained that this was just a routine overhaul – a housekeeping matter.
She told a crowd at Fordham University that the “outbreak of conflict in Europe reminds us that peace, self-determination and sovereignty are precious and can never be taken for granted. Ireland understands the damaging and divisive legacy wrought by colonisation, occupation and the denial of self-determination.” Putin would be proud of her.