Jude Collins

Monday, 3 May 2010

Bums on benches

It's a wonder some of our politicians and a fair number of public commentators have any hands left, they've been wringing them so hard in recent days. The latest occasion for exasperation has been Sinn Fein's commitment to abstentionism. The politicians down Fermanagh/South Tyrone way insist that it's important to oust Michelle Gildernew  because she doesn't represent the people of the constituency, since she's an abstentionist MP. Read that last sentence again, would you? You'll see the sub-text: I detest the woman because she's an abstentionist, not because she's a Shinner. Pardon me a minute while I put the cat in the recovery position - he's just passed out from laughing...

That's better. So is Gerry Kelly telling the truth when he says Sinn Fein serve the people of their constituencies fully and that they go to Downing Street when the need arises to press the necessary British buttons? Well, part-truth at least. Sinn Fein do rather well when it comes to squeezing the Brits, especially when they've the DUP by their side. To turn them away would be like saying you hate integrated education. But the reason Sinn Fein abstain from Westminster is not because they've found a better way of negotiating for the North. They do it because they want to send a loud, non-verbal message: we're Irish republicans and we don't believe we should be trucking across to England to take an oath of loyalty to their queen and to sit in their parliament. Every time a Sinn Fein MP is elected, tens of thousands of people are reminded that Ireland should be allowed to govern itself. It's a simple message and goes straight to the heart of what is wrong here. The SDLP, which still claims to be a nationalist party, blurs its message every time one of its MPs swears fealty and becomes a small lost face in a sea of British politicians. Unionist voters know this, which is why they will do all they can not just to elect their agreed unionist in Fermanagh /South Tyrone, but will give their vote to the SDLP in South Down. Paper tigers are much easier to tame.  And if you want a succinct, visual version of what I've stumblingly said here,  check out  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-62fOs2eWw&feature=player_embedded