Monday, May 5, 2008

An argument for voting Sinn Fein

As the Lisbon campaign rumbles on - or maybe that should be starts in the case of the yes campaign - one thing is as clear as always. Like in 2001, virtually the entire political and media Establishment is pushing us to vote yes. In an abberation in Irish politics also found in almost every EU country other than the UK and to some extent Poland, the party-spectrum in Dail Eireann is almost entirely on the Federalist side on the question of further European integration. Only Sinn Fein - a party I find it almost impossible to vote for in General Elections -stands against the cosy consensus. While there is much to lament about SF's policy and almost everything about its history in the last 40 years (other than the Peace Process), this steafast tendency to stand by Irish sovereignty is at least something to be admired. The culture of the cosy consensus - not merely on European issues but on other issues too e.g. immigration and asylum - has eroded Irish democracy by denying the electorate real choices on many policy areas. That is not to say that the parties are "all the same" - they are different for example on economic policy. But it is still bad for democracy when the choice of policies available to the electorate is so restricted. Who can I vote for if I want a tougher immigration policy? Noone other than a few Independents whose names are not widely known as our Politically-Correct media won't cover them. Who can I vote for if I want a more cautious approach to European integration? Only one party it seems - following the defection of the Green leadership to the Eurofederalist camp and of their party from Eurocritical to undecided following the decision of their party at their recent Ard Fheis to sit on the fence on the question of Lisbon. That party is Sinn Fein.

Yet I still can't bring myself to vote for them in a General Election. Few if any voters were convinced when in the 2007 General Election campaign, they suddenly started watering down their more hard-left tax-policies such as the 17% corporate-tax rate and the 50% top income-tax rate. While these were hardly policies that would appeal to Middle Ireland, they at least strengthened Irish democracy by increasing the plurality of ideological-choices available to the electorate increasingly bored of consensus-politics. I never had any intention of voting for them anyway. I was uncomfortable about a party linked to a terrorist organisation serving in my government (even allowing for the recent ceasefire and disarmament). I think the same position in local-elections, and it is unlikely I will vote for them then either. The one electoral-arena that I would seriously consider voting for them in - as well as calling on other Eurocritical voters to consider doing the same - is in the European Elections in 2009.

After all, voting for Sinn Fein in those elections is not going to bring terrorists or their associates into government - no MEP is allowed to become a Commissioner under EU law. And with only 16% of our MEPs in 2001/2 and 2008 being on the no side (MLM and Kathy Sinnott), there is unquestionably a strong case that our current cohort of Irish MEPs is woefully unrepresentative of public opinion. Even in the 80's and 90's it was unrepresentative, with 30% voting no to the Single European Act in 1987 and 39% against the Treaty of Amsterdam. Based on current polling-evidence, it is quite possible that we are in for a close referendum result in which the "No" side could well prevail. In that context, the current ideological breakdown among Irish MEPs, with all but 2 favouring the Eurofederalist position, becomes all the more an abberation and one that I think the Irish people need to rectify. This can happen by voting for Eurosceptic candidates in European elections. This should not be seen as a tacit acceptance of these parties/candidates e.g. Sinn Fein, as a party of government in the South, but rather as a rebalancing of the ideological playing-field among Ireland's cohort of MEPs. It is wrong that the Eurocritical position is so under-represented in the European Parliament as a whole, but we can only take responsibility for how we vote. We need to send a message to the Irish elite that there is a large segment of the Irish electorate that is opposed to substantial moves towards further European integration. Is voting for the same old Eurofederalist goons in FF, FG, Labour etc. going to force that message home? I think not. For that reason, I call on those of us opposed to Lisbon-type measures towards a European superstate to loan SF and other Eurosceptics our vote in 2009 in the Euro-elections. I intend at the time of writing to give them my vote in these elections, and these alone. I do not forsee myself voting for them in Dail or local elections. But with Ireland's representation in the European Parliament being just 13 (12 under Lisbon), we have less to lose in loaning them this vote than if it were national elections. It would simply be a warning to Irish politicians in the so-called 'mainstream parties' not to push the Irish people too far in the Eurointegrationist direction. The elites need to be made to think again, and this is one way of acheiving that.


kerdasi amaq said...

Interesting, if Le Pen came here to campaign for a YES vote; would all those YESSIES then vote NO?!

No to Europe! No to Lisbon!

Robert Synnott said...

Whatever their opinions on the Lisbon treaty (and Sinn Fein's opinions are generally rather changeable, anyway), THEY HAVE A TERRORIST WING, not to mention totally irrational economic policies. Can't you find someone less objectionable to lend your vote to?

FutureTaoiseach said...

The terrorist wing has been disarmed. I would not vote for them in a General or local election, but I would in a Euro election because the current cohort of Irish MEPs is out of touch with public opinion on the EU - even if you assume the no vote would be 30-40% - that is nowhere near reflected in there only being 2 Eurosceptic MEPs (Kathy Sinnott and MLM).