There’s a lot of soul-searching and comforting of each other going on in what we’ll loosely call the political class at the moment. For Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the rise of Sinn Fein is either a transient revolt against the system, which will fade away when the time for the real voting comes, or a natural left wing cannibalisation of Labour, which will fade away once Sinn Fein get into Government and “make the hard choices”. For Labour, there is a dawning realisation that the game is up for the time being, but talk to them and you’ll hear it froth up bitterly in them, too – “The shinners” they say, “will face their own day like this too, once they actually have to do things”.
This attitude is fundamentally flawed, and it at once explains the rise of Sinn Fein, and why they’ll stick around.
For the political establishment, politics in this country is a cycle. In opposition, you rebuild – using any excuse to make yourself palatable. In Government, you “make the hard decisions”, and take the consequences. Its swings and roundabouts, with parties rising and falling on the basis of the political cycle alone – and the voters see it, and increasingly, see through it.
Sinn Fein are different – really different. They can and will take that as a compliment, but the rest of us should take it as a warning. What sets them apart from the other parties is something that’s really quite simple – they have a three step approach to growth. First, they make a promise to you. Second, they work as hard as they can to keep that promise, and even if they don’t succeed, it’s plain to see that they’ve really made the effort. Third, they come back and ask for an increased mandate, and usually get it.
Sinn Fein have a mission, and it is to grow – not rapidly and subject to the tidal forces other parties face, but incrementally. They do this by winning over one voter on the ground, and then another, and then another. It has made them largely immune to the forces that would destroy other parties (Consider, if you will, what would happen to Enda Kenny if it was reported by credible media that he assisted a family member to cover up child sex abuse) and supremely confident in their own numbers and support.
Last week, I asked a Sinn Fein candidate how he thought he would do. He not only predicted to within 50 votes his own final tally, but that of his two running mates. This is a party that knows who votes for them, down to the last person. It knows this, because it works tirelessly to keep those voters loyal.
And that is what it will do in Government. I hear my moderate, liberal, conservative and nonaligned friends from all parties comfort themselves with the idea that Sinn Fein’s programme cannot be implemented, and that they will be left with no choice but to renege on it. That’s a horrible mistake to make.
If in Government, Sinn Fein will keep its promises. It will tax you as hard as it says it will, and more if it needs to. It will borrow as much as it says it will, and more if it needs to. It will increase spending exactly as it promises to, and more as it needs to. It will do every last thing it needs to do to deliver for the people who voted for it – and if that means impoverishing everybody else, that will be of no consequence, for they will keep the votes of those that brought them to power.
Sinn Fein are a party in the mould of Hugo Chavez – again, something they will take as a compliment, but that should terrify the rest of us. They will serve those who elected them, whatever the cost, and let others worry about who it impacts upon. Don’t believe me? Just listen to them, and watch them, and look at their record. Look at who they compare themselves to, and who they invite to their conference.
The author of this blog is right about many things, but when I mooted this, his response was that they would need to convince FF or FG in Government to go along with them. He may be right – but Sinn Fein differ from Labour or the Greens in that it won’t cost them to walk right out of Government if they don’t get their way. They’re an election fighting machine, and they’ll fight as many as needed until they do get their way.
Besides, there were those who thought their ilk could be civilised before, in other countries, who might tell us different.
The point of this post is not to dramatise, or analyse, but to warn. Sinn Fein are not like the others – they’d agree. They can be trusted to do what they say they will – they’d agree. For FF or FG or Labour to ignore this, or to wish it away, is to fully embrace their own very cynicism about how politics operates that has given Sinn Fein the chance to make it this far.
The time is running out to stop these guys, and people need to wake up.