Members of First Dáil 1919
With British Prime Minister Teresa May facing into a crucial period that will decide her own future and the future relationship of Britain with the EU, some attention has focused on whether Sinn Féin might take up their seven seats in Westminster in order to lend support to the deal offered to May by the Overmasters in Brussels.
Of course there are many permutations as to how any vote might break down. Will the DUP, despite its bluster, be persuaded that the deal is better than the alternatives, which can only be worse one assumes, from their perspective. What way will the Tories themselves divide?
And of course there is the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn who is even more unpopular among his own MPs than is May among Tories, might face a pro deal revolt by his own party. Certainly many of them might be tempted to kill two birds with one stone: avert a hard Brexit and finish off Corbyn as a plausible leader.
So what the Shinners will do or will not do, might be a minor issue. The margin in favour of a deal might be substantial, but if it is close then the votes of MPs from the Six counties, Wales and Scotland might well be crucial. No one knows as yet, and might not until close to when the vote is taken.
Which is why Sinn Féin is being urged to go to Westminster in order to keep the remnants of the old Empire within the new Empire.
On the face of it, for them to do so would really signal that the game is up. Curiously, however, it is a kite that has been flown in the past. Most notably around the time of the last British general election when there was a chance that Corbyn might become Prime Minister if he had sufficient votes from other parties on the centre left including the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Féin and perhaps even the Lib Dems.
Even afterwards there were some within the party who expressed regret that perhaps they ought to have done so in the interests of whatever.
As with many other things within Sinn Féin when something dramatic is being planned, there are usually kites flown. That has taken place to some extent but not with the conviction that marked earlier sallies into the collective republican consciousness prior to accepting Partition as defined in the Good Frinday Agreement, the disarming and disbanding of the IRA, coalition with the DUP, the abandonment of opposition to being junior coalition partner in Leinster House, acceptance of the surrender of sovereignty to a Federal EU and so on.
Undoubtedly there are a significant number of people in the public and not so public leadership of the party, and especially among the kitchen cabinet of daring intellectuals, who see the benefits of jettisoning as much of the “old baggage” as possible.
Interestingly, when asked about the prospects of Sinn Féin entering the mother of parliaments, Michelle O’Neill merely said that other parties had approached them to do so, but that their bottom line remained the “backstop” for the part of Ireland under British control. Pressure has continued and it will be interesting to see if the argument in favour gains traction, especially as it will be raised by other parties with whom they foresee being in government with in the near future.
But to take seats in Westminster. Surely that would symbolise the ultimate ideological bankruptcy of a party which claims to be the sole inheritors of the first Dáil Éireann which ratified the Declaration of the Republic of 1916.
One would imagine so. Then again who would have imagined all the other things which they have agreed to in the past 20 years,? including administering the part of Ireland under British rule as sort of leftie colonial satraps.
It might be recalled that recognising the partitionist northern state, and above all not only accepting Stormont but helping to run the place, represented at least as radical a demarche as would going to London to visit the Queen and bear her homage. Again.
So let not us lesser minds prejudge the issue. If minds superior to our own and with an understanding to which we can never aspire, decide that this is a good thing. Then it will indeed be a good thing. Even if the caravan of destiny is beginning to lose more stragglers who are living in the past.