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20 September 2007 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Fianna Fáil essentially a pro-partition party

You wonder at the timing. For the first time in its history, Fianna Fáil is to organise in the Six Counties. The announcement was made at the end of a week that saw its leader again facing questions about his personal financial matters at the Mahon Tribunal.
The decision by the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ to mobilise on an all-Ireland basis should be taken with a large pinch of salt, especially when it is being spearheaded by Dermot Ahern, of the 26 County Foreign Affairs Department. Fianna Fáil is essentially a pro-partition party.
It could be argued that Fianna Fáil is responding to the Sinn Féin initiative calling for Irish unity and an all Ireland agenda, which has been supported by the majority of the North’s Councils despite opposition from many of the SDLP members on some of the Councils.
So what’s this all about, this sudden move to embrace the North? Fianna Fáil has hardly distinguished itself in that field. Indeed, at times it has shown downright opposition to the sentiments expressed by the first Dáil – ‘that English rule in Ireland was based on fraud and force and maintained by military occupation against the declared will of the people’ that created the Six Counties in the first place.
Who in the nationalist/republican community will forget or forgive Jack Lynch and Fianna Fáil who stood by in 1969, while nationalists were shot off the streets and burned out of their homes. The refusal of Fianna Fáil to organise then and defend Irish citizens, led directly to Interment, Bloody Sunday and all the bloody days that followed thereafter and while that party has sought to scapegoat the Republican Movement for events in the North, the reality is that Fianna Fáil and successive Dublin administrations abandoned the nationalist people.
The decision to set up a Fianna Fáil party in the Six Counties will have repercussions for the SDLP. In fact it is already being seen as a vote of no confidence in that party and will vindicate the assertion by senior members of the SDLP who last year resigned from the party claiming it  was ‘old, staid, blue moulded and set in their ways’.
Fianna Fáil has been deliberately coy in addressing speculation on a possible merger with the SDLP, stating only that they wouldn’t be interested in going to the House of Commons as a political party.
Having to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen as the SDLP do, might just be a bridge too far for the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ but is not beyond the realms of possibility given the special relationship between Bertie Ahern and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair,  and the close encounters between the British and Irish intelligences services.
Whatever strategy adopted by Fianna Fáil there is no doubt that electioneering in the North will damage the SDLP and may even see its demise.
This possibility has been recognised by Tom Kelly, the plate smashing recipient of an OBE and former SDLP executive member who is promoting a merger between the parties. That indeed would be ‘the carnival of reaction’ as foretold by Connolly.

An Phoblacht Magazine

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