[Note: This is a guest post by an author who is not a Gwlad member and wishes to remain anonymous; but the article was offered to us to publish on our blog and we believe that the points it makes are important ones. Therefore we are happy to post it here.]
With Irish unification in the news more often since the Brexit referendum, so is mention of Sinn Féin. It does not take much digging to find people in Wales who think Sinn Fein’s ultra-postmodern ideas are a way forward for our own country. This is a bad mistake, and it needs to be said.
This article is not about the history of Sinn Féin, nor violence in Northern Ireland – that past is not worth mentioning. What matters is not the Sinn Féin of yesterday but the Wales we shape in the future.
So what is Sinn Fein today, and why should Wales – if we look to Ireland at all – look to other Irish parties instead?
In 2014, leading Sinn Féin strategist Eian Ó Broin described the party as ‘Populist Socialist’. Popular socialism is an ideology which places itself between Communism and Social Democracy, which does not refute Marxism.
Not refuting Marxism in a democracy should be enough to turn our back on Sinn Féin. But the key word here is not ‘socialist’, it is ‘populist’. From Brexit, whichever side you are on, via “Abolish the Welsh Assembly” populists to Labour’s Momentum personality cult, we have seen that populism – Left or Right – is about the same thing: resentment and conformity.
Whereas in the past the Welsh Language was seen as a divisive thing, over which Welsh identity was fought for by purists, we are a bilingual nation today and that debate is over. My apologies, but Ireland is not bilingual – the revolution created an Anglophone State. Let’s not follow that road.
Much of what Sinn Féin pushes today is a narrative of a Celtic people against a capitalist class (in the South) or an Anglo oppressor (in the North). These are attempts to deny what Ireland actually is today by building a narrative which is just not true. Senator Michael McDowell, an independent Liberal-Conservative Irish Republican, calls this out as Leninist Democratic Centralism rather than being any sort of democratic party. It is attack upon Irish values, he says.
The recent implosion of YesCymru shows what happens when you flirt too much with what can be called cultural Marxism. You get groups who believe all views but theirs are a form of oppression, and they aim to silence other views. Wales, like Ireland or any other nation, has no one set of values that any single group can own.
There are those who feel that to be Welsh or even ‘Celtic’ means to be more collectivist or to have a social belief system which is of a certain view. Echoes of such highly conformist thought have been seen in the Republic with Sinn Féin – such as when it refuses to call the Irish Republic “the Republic of Ireland” and dismisses other Irish who find this strange. Shall we not call it Wales until England gives us Gobowen, Hengoed, Betws y Crwyn and the rest of Shropshire back?
Celtic ‘solidarity’ is tossed about often, but Wales and Ireland could not be more different. From the 13th century on, Welsh poetry speaks more often of France than Ireland. Aside from our languages and romantic forms of nationalism, what does ‘Celtic’ even mean?
Wales has built great relationships with Argentina, France and Japan to name a few. These are nations which, despite Argentina’s economic woes, firmly believe in liberal democracy. I am very proud of Wales’ links with America in business and culture. So what are Sinn Féin’s international relationships?
To start, Sinn Féin is not warm towards the country that will always be our closest trading partner: England.
In recent weeks Cubanos have taken to the streets across Cuba calling for democratic rights, with artist Lavastida arrested for counter-revolutionary art. It may come as a surpise that despite the close links between Ireland and America, Sinn Féin has repeatedly expressed ‘solidarity’ with a Cuban regime which denies its citizens the right of protest or even elections. Wales, with a long history of protest, deserves better role models.
Sinn Féin, like Momentum did, has built what David Hirsch – in his book Contemporary Left Antisemitism – has called ‘the community of the good’. In this belief system, states – and people – are ranked in a hierarchy of oppressed and oppressor. Everything international is linked to fighting a colonial oppressor, regardless of how long ago it happened or who our friends are now.
Sinn Féin has gone out of its way to back Venezuela’s regime, which starves its own people, and militant group Hamas which executes homosexuals and makes balloons with bombs attached to kill Jewish children. They find ways to connect Ulster Unionism to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is madness.
Wales, whatever form our future may take, does not need such toxic beliefs influencing our politics. If we are going to look to our third closest neighbour, after England and the Isle of Mann, there are other parties open to us to emulate who are not Sinn Féin.
Other Irish Parties
When looking at how other Irish Parties view Sinn Féin, a song comes to my mind by The Cranberries, whose singer Dolores O’Riordan sadly died far too young. In their song ‘Zombie’ she sings:
It’s the same old theme, since nineteen-sixteen
In your head, in your head they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs, and their bombs, and their guns
In your head,…
Though the violence has thankfully gone, there is a mentality of revolutionary thought in some of Sinn Féin’s discourses caused by multi-generational suffering. Wales wants to be happier than that.
In recent decades it has been others, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party which have steered Ireland’s journey. So why are so many Welsh nationalists attracted to Sinn Féin when it has so little input to what Ireland is today?
Is it romanticism for what we are not? I used to think this, but not anymore since reading Jordan Peterson on conformity as a social need – both good and bad. There is an idea that certain political views are more Welsh. Like Republicanism and socialism. This is silly. Part of being a grown up country is that values change.
Growing up is why Welsh Nationalists need to stop cozying up to Sinn Féin,. It is childish to focus so much on one party in a foreign country, which has other political parties. If we want the support of Ireland, inviting Sinn Féin to Wales to talk of a ‘pan-Celtic political culture‘ ignores what Ireland is today. Invite a party of government like Fine Gael.
Plaid Cymru may dream about giving Wales its first openly gay Prif Weinidog in Adam Price. But just as in it was the Conservatives, not Labour, who gave the UK its first woman Prime Minister, so it was the centre-right Fine Gael, not Sinn Féin, that in Leo Varadkar has already given Ireland its first openly gay Taoiseach. And they’re just as Irish, also raising Ireland’s minimum wage.
Wales’s most urgent problems require economic solutions, much more likely to be found by emulating Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s business-friendly approach than Sinn Féin’s cultural Marxism. After a century of Labour rule in Wales, attacking them from the Left is ridiculous.
Ireland’s problems are from Dublin. Our troubles are from London, not Cardiff. So our needs are nothing like one another. And our elections, despite contrasting voting systems, show this.
In the last Irish election in 2020 Sinn Féin gained just 24.5% of the vote even with a scandal shaking the ruling coalition. To put this into a Welsh perspective, the Welsh Conservatives won 25% the Welsh vote – despite Mark Drakeford handling Coronavirus relatively well.
Whilst both countries have housing issues, the reasons for these issues are different. Plaid Cymru seems set on a Sinn Féin approach with the landlord being a foe. But if you look under the skin in Ireland, these are very different issues.
Wales has a weak economy caused by over-focus on the English economy, and over-extraction, but Ireland has over-centralised investment caused by the nature of the Irish economy itself in Dublin. Wales is a member of the United Kingdom. The Irish Republic is a State. Who owns holiday homes could not be more different. Holiday-home owners in Ireland are often Irish taxpayers.
Ireland’s housing problems are also rooted in the high cost of construction in a way not quite so in Wales. Our problems are that holiday homes are killing our language and our communities, often with buyers who do not even live in our country. See the death of Cwm yr Eglwys by holiday home to see what our inaction does.
The Irish Government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is able to invest in an effort to reverse the housing crisis. Our solutions do not lay in the Sinn Féin tactic of using a housing crisis to ferment divisions in a bid for power. Sinn Féin is literally beyond the Pale in Ireland. Our solutions lie in gaining the economic powers to build the economy, and raise the minimum wage, as Fine Gael has done in Ireland.
Brexit and the Future
It comes as good tidings to me to know Leanne Wood had always thought a second referendum a bad idea. Our nation voted to leave Europe in a margin not too far off the narrow 1997 vote. And whilst my own view is we will return to the EU one day, we need to sort other matters now.
What we think of the EU Referendum does not matter. We cannot afford any stance which can threaten devolution. Our Law works by precedent. Respecting Brexit means respecting Devolution. Following Sinn Féin to Brussels is not in our interests.
The Irish Republic shows there are no second chances. If we are radical or revolutionary in the wrong ways, we do not know what damage it will cause long term. If we get it wrong we could lose Monmouth or Maelor and our language, in much the same way that they lost Ulster and their language.
But if we get it right, we will have something Ireland can only dream of: a country that speaks our own language. Jordan Peterson said in his book 12 Rules for Life, ‘Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.’ Regarding Sinn Féin, I would change that to, ‘Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to those who cannot move on from their scars.’