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Sunday 17 December 2017


These Sinn Fein proxies do not deserve respect

The Taoiseach gave short shrift to a whinge from the North. Here's what I'd have liked him to say, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

As a one-time civil servant, I still often identify with the poor wretches who have to draft ministerial letters with which they fundamentally disagree. So having read that weird 'Open Letter to the Taoiseach' from 200 or so "Irish citizens living in the North of Ireland" who are in a right old state about Brexit, and having read his brief response tersely saying restoring devolution should be the priority, I felt the urge to draft the letter I'd really have liked him to write.

A chairde,

Listen, guys, I might have taken you more seriously in your complaints about Brexit if you had included any SDLP, unionist or non-partisan Remainers among your number, but you appear intentionally to have limited yourselves to Northern nationalists who endorse Sinn Fein's bogus mantra about human rights and equality. 

Indeed, the language of your letter appears deliberately couched to offend unionists. It is, for instance, a discourteous and petty betrayal of the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement to refuse ever to use the term "Northern Ireland" as even your ministers have always done in Government. 

It's what the damn place you live in with a healthy subsidy from the British taxpayer has been called since 1921, when Ireland was partitioned to avoid an island-wide civil war, which despite the IRA's best efforts we have so far mercifully escaped.

But then you appear to be singing from the Sinn Fein hymn book, particularly its substantial grievance-mongering section: "The impending reality of Brexit now threatens to reinforce partition on this island and revisit a sense of abandonment as experienced by our parents and grandparents." Listen, as I implied in the Dail last Friday, I'm not denying that Irish governments were hardly helpful to disgruntled Northern Catholics for many decades, but then both parts of the island were engaged for the most part in trying to survive. 

And, as I said, it was our governments who erected border posts and began a stupid and impoverishing economic war. But even then Northern Ireland seemed a place apart and we didn't know or like its inhabitants.

It was mutual. Unionists clearly saw us as sympathisers with the republican violence that threatened them periodically and nationalists seemed to hate us for not forcing unionists into a united Ireland. 

There are many down here who wonder why if Northern Ireland was as terrible as Sinn Fein claim, Catholic numbers kept going up while those of Protestants in the south went steadily down. For all that republicans make preposterous comparisons with regimes like South Africa, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that nationalists stayed because unrestricted access to a generous welfare state, the National Health Service and free secondary and university education meant they were far more prosperous than their southern brethren. 

And it's offensive and downright ridiculous to deny that for the past 40 years successive Irish governments have made an enormous effort to try to stop the killing and bring about a peace deal. We didn't learn to love northerners. Down here we loathe people who loathe us. Call it an inferiority complex, but we like to be loved: we recoil from the sanctimonious hostility and contempt of Sinn Fein. 

But for all that we tried to convince ourselves that there would be a happy ending, almost 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement, we still look North and despair. Whatever we hoped for, it wasn't the destruction of the centre and the exacerbation of tribal tensions. 

We may still be wary of unionists, but we do grasp that they want locals to run the place, but that Sinn Fein has decided for its own reasons to make Stormont unworkable and keep shouting for the interventions of nannies from Dublin, London and further afield, while continuing to boil the ethnic pot by eulogising murderers and denouncing social conservatives as bigots. This codology about how the IRA wasn't killing for a united Ireland but for gay rights does not wash with me. 

Oh, and by the way, I don't know what you guys thought you were signing up for when you parroted Sinn Fein's latest mantra of needing a "human rights based society," but while the lawyers among you must be thrilled by its happy-hunting-ground implications, I'm at a loss to understand why the businessmen among you would want to see the consequent horrendous haemorrhaging of money that is badly needed by the health service.

Anyway, back to our attitudes to you guys up there. Frankly, I'm inclined to agree with the one-time Fine Gael TD Ivan Yates, who said recently on the radio that his tolerance "of Nordies both sides of the sectarian divide is limited… They are still caught in this time warp between the tricolour and Union Jack".

We are facing what is a potential disaster for the whole island and it really doesn't help to have republican theatricals on the Border whipping up fear and rage and people like you, who should know better, colluding with their destructive agenda. 

Sinn Fein is representing this letter as a dramatic plea from nationalist civic society, demonstrating, as they put it, that there is "huge anger and frustration within wider nationalism at the continued disrespect from political unionism and the British for the Irish cultural traditions and national/republican political identity in this part of Ireland". 

It bloody does not. It shows that Sinn Fein is employing proxies. 

I'd suggest you'd be better employed using your influence to tell the party hierarchy that pouring poison into nationalist ears and thus wrecking Stormont will not play well in the Republic. 

Is mise, 

An extremely irritated Taoiseach

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards' 'The Seven: the life and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish Republic' was published by Oneworld on March 22

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards