​Here’s some good news for Christmas. ​All of a sudden, the Sinn Fein party is having a miserable time.

Published: 19 December 2023

I’ve been talking gloomily for ages about what it would be like to have a Sinn Fein minister for justice in Dublin who would use their extensive powers to demand the intelligence files and ensure the appointment of republican sympathisers to senior jobs in the police and the defence forces.

It’s less than three weeks since Dr Cillian McGrattan, a politics lecturer and terrorism expert in the University of Ulster, wrote sombrely in this newspaper: “The distinct possibility of Sinn Fein being in control of defence and justice in the Republic should be causing sleepless nights for many former gardaí who will soon know what it was like for members of the Resistance in France being asked to hand over their weapons after the war to rehabilitated former fascists and collaborators.”

Dr McGrattan is one of that tiny band of scholars who have stood firmly against the cowardly academic consensus that literally lets IRA killers get away with murder by succumbing to what is known as the ‘Vichy Syndrome’ – the willingness of the French to ignore and suppress the truth about the country’s violent, criminal past.

As he put it bleakly: “Sinn Fein does not need to disavow the IRA in the north because nationalism has already succumbed to the Vichy Syndrome.”

The south was no better. “There are many voices of decency in the Republic,“ he wrote, “but there are also many useful idiots in the media and bourgeois do-gooders who want to draw a line under the past and move on.”

The media, politics and the establishment in the Republic has for a long time been increasingly dominated by the left and the secular (aka progressives) who are particularly prone to this weakness when bullied by ideologues.

The conservative Roman Catholic commentator David Quinn is a rare media voice on the right. This week he drew attention to a recent poll of Irish journalists revealing that 61.5% described themselves as left-leaning, just 8.5% as right-leaning, and 30% centrist. Yet polls of the public on issues like immigration and social issues do not reflect that.

And although 69% of the general public say they are Catholic, only 31% of journalists do: the figures for no religion are respectively 14% and 55%.

But groupthink is powerful: it takes a strong character to stand up against the chorus of mockery and hostility that is directed in the media at the minority – who are, in fact, the majority. Identify yourself as on the right, and in no time – as we saw recently after the Dublin riots – you’re automatically relabelled far right, or even fascist.

Of course, this has affected the coverage of contentious issues like immigration, about which the Republic is in a right old state. Its politicians have refused for years to pay attention to the lessons being taught by the United Kingdom about how threatening it can be to social cohesion to admit more newcomers than your country can assimilate.

The loudest voices – including Sinn Fein – were on the far left shouting that border controls were racist.

Worried people all over the country who protested against over-crowding in small towns and villages or poor parts of cities were silenced.

But now the Dublin riots have terrified the establishment; blaming the largely mythical ‘far right’ has forced immigration centre stage and anti-immigrant candidates are emerging.

Sinn Fein, which is changing all its policies except that on Irish unity with dizzying speed, is now frantically changing course, but it’s already damaged by the massive humiliation following on its recent opportunist failed no-confidence motion designed to get rid of the minister for justice and the Garda commissioner.

The Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, always a doughty opponent of violent republicanism, spoke for most Dáil politicians when he alluded to the 22 children “who grew up fatherless because of the dead gardaí who were put into early graves by Sinn Fein’s sister organisation”. For that party “to lecture anyone in this House about its new-found interest in An Garda Síochána is nauseating, to put it very mildly”.

Mary Lou McDonald and her colleagues are twisting in the wind and slipping in the polls.

Happy Christmas to all my readers of goodwill.

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