13 July 2000 Edition
Can't stomach Fianna Fáil
Regarding the ongoing debate re. the subject of coalition and what Mick Derrig seemed to suggest, propping up a minority government.
I joined Sinn Féin, the party of Pearse, Connolly and Sands, to oppose imperialism, right wing politics and inequality, ie to oppose the OUP, DUP, FF, FG and Labour. Sinn Féin offered an alternative.
Some Six County comrades seem to be under some illusions regarding the real nature of Fianna Fáil and Labour and believe the `first cousin nonsense' that they are in some way republican and close to our position. For those that do swallow this crap, please come and spend one week in Portlaoise with me, after which you will be in no doubt as to what they are really about. You will see how they exclude others, defend inequality and look after a powerful clique, much the same as the unionists.
If you doubt what I am saying, then simply check to see when the different pieces of repressive and mainly anti-republican legislation were introduced. You will find almost all were during terms of Fianna Fáil governments!
Any radical party that would enter coalition with Fianna Fáil or prop up a minority Fianna Fáil government would be rightly rejected by ordinary voters at the first opportunity.
Our TD in Leinster House has shown brilliant leadership, voting on every issue on its own merit, supporting what's in the interest of ordinary working people and republicanism, and opposing what's not. As our sole TD, he has used the `Dáil' chamber effectively and when necessary has stood on the picket line outside it to highlight and support many just and deserving causes.
Recent election results have clearly shown that our present policies, offering a radical alternative on social and economic issues and demanding a British withdrawal, are winning the support of a growing number of people throughout the island. What's being demanded is a party offering a clear alternative, not another bunch of smug politicians in suits.
Finally, during the abstentionist debate at the 1986 Ard Fheis, we were told by the `top table' that `there would be no coalition'. Personally, I was glad to hear this, as the mere thought of propping up Fianna Fáil in any way would make me vomit.
Where is McPhillips' alternative?
I read with interest Tony McPhillips' Right to Reply in last week's issue, in response to a recent letter from Sinn Féin Councillor Peter McAleer. I don't know either man or all the ins and outs of their background in political activity in Fermanagh, so I didn't expect to feel motivated enough to have any input into their crossing-of-swords. However, on reading Councillor McPhillips' diatribe, I can't avoid sticking my oar in, as the saying goes.
After stoutly denying making any racist comment at the arrival of an English-born Sinn Féin councillor into Fermanagh District Council, he then admits exactly that (in what I would call a very ``smart-alec'' sort of way) by using Stephen Huggett's background as some sort of proof of what he sees as the ``new-found pro-British credentials of the provisionals''.
This is but the first of a stream of insults directed at the republican movement and those who support it. Lines like ``Councillor Huggett is not a member of a party now espousing the republican tradition'', a party which has ``abandoned every last vestige of Irish republicanism'' and who have ``slid comfortably into their crown ministerial positions'' abound. Likewise, Sinn Féin Councillor McAleer now stands with only ``one time connections to Irish republicanism''. And there's plenty more where that came from.
Plenty of insults, that is, from Councillor McPhillips, as he stands before us as one of those who ``have remained true to the republican position to this very day''. As he obviously intends, his remarks are a disgraceful slur on every member of the republican movement across Ireland and on those who have struggled in the past and still back the movement today. Regardless of our views on the living, unlike him I do not propose to speculate on what our fallen republican dead might think of our current strategy - I do not have a crystal ball, divine insight or a ouija board, and, I dare say, neither does he.
Anyway, as I said, insults a-plenty to be going on with. So what I would like to see in your letters column, the sooner the better, is Councillor McPhillips' route-map of how Irish republicans can achieve their objective by a surer, quicker means than the strategy currently being used.
On that point, I shall sign off and await his response to my request. I look forward to reading the alternative offered by such a true Irish republican.
P.S. With regard to Councillor McPhillips' remarks on Sinn Féin allowing Englishmen to join our struggle. I sincerely hope that my upbringing as a Presbyterian doe not also make me some form of pollutant into the body politic of Sinn Féin, of which I am an active member.
Far from setting the record straight, Tony McPhillips has displayed amazing arrogance in his lengthy assertion that he and the tiny minority of Sinn Féin members who left the organisation in 1986 are `real republicans', while the rest of us are pro-British stooges.
In short, the overwhelming majority of the party of that period, the overwhelming majority of the republican community that supports us, the overwhelming majority of republicans and nationalists who endorsed the peace strategy upon which we embarked and who are supporting our analysis in increasing numbers - all are out of step, bar Mr McPhillips and his allies! And he calls us fascists?
If it is the case that McPhillips was approached as late as 1993 to become a Sinn Féin candidate - and I have only his word on this - then I can say that this was done without the knowledge or consent of any republicans in south Fermanagh that I am aware of and I would question the judgement of anybody who would have made such an approach. For my own part, I opposed Mr McPhillips' admission to Sinn Féin in the first place and I have had no reason to alter my views since then. The reason for my opposition, as stated in my recent letter, is that he is not a republican but a political opportunist. Nothing in his letter convinces me otherwise.
As for his allegation that my letter was ``a vindictive, untruthful, infantile and, above all else, fascist tirade'', it would seem that it is `independent' councillor McPhillips who suffers from `raw' sensitivities. My letter certainly questions his political integrity and I make no apology for that. In fact, the major part of what I wrote was a response to the reported exchange in Fermanagh District Council following the recent by-election success of Stephen Huggett. Whether Mr McPhillips' comments came at the beginning or end of his contribution makes no difference; the snide and racist innuendo is there for all to see. As to whether Mr Huggett and his colleagues represent the republican viewpoint, the people have already decided that matter. That is not fascism, but democracy and no amount of sour grapes on the part of Mr McPhillips will alter that fact.
Tony McPhillips represents himself as a paragon of republican principle but the abstentionist issue upon which he and others parted company with Sinn Féin was entirely bogus. He, and others who protested at the removal of the ban on taking seats in Leinster House, displayed absolutely no qualms when participating in Westminster contests on a non-absentionist basis.
Despite what the `no-men' of Irish nationalism may do or say, Sinn Féin remains unapologetically republican - a separatist party dedicated to ending partition and to uniting the people of Ireland in a national democracy. Whether we succeed in implementing that agenda depends entirely on whether we can build sufficient political strength to effect the changes that are necessary. That, Mr McPhillips, is realpolitik. It is recognising where things stand, not accepting the status quo. Mr McPhillips is well within his rights to challenge our analysis, but let him declare his real affiliation to stop the charade that he acts as an `independent'. If he and his colleagues have a strategy to put before the people, let them do os. I am confident that the electorate north and south will reject the `continuity' of failure and bitterness which Mr McPhillips represents and that they will increasingly support the positive strategy espoused by Sinn Féin.
Cllr Peter McAleer,