This week, Sinn Féin should have seen the sunny, illuminated opposition countries to borrow a phrase from British politics. Instead, the party dug a political and PR hole for itself and jumped into its feet first. Despite the many attempts by SF officials and supporters to justify the damage done to the party’s reputation at the funeral of Bobby Storey in Belfast, the high-ranking backroom figure in SF and the former Irish Republican Army Director of Intelligence at the end of the Northern Conflict voters North and South were done.
Of course, this is not the first time the organization’s hubris and pretensions, born of decades of political isolation and persecution, have run into trouble. But this was certainly one of the most egregious examples of recent times. With a nationally ruled center-right government and a possible intent to usher in a new era of neoliberal austerity after the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis, Mary Lou McDonald and the company were well placed to take the lead Opposition in Dáil Éireann, which dwarfs other left and center-left parties in SF. No more. Or at least not until the deep memory of the voters begins to fade. And long before that, we will probably be in the middle of the next wave of Covid-19, when every comment and criticism of government measures by Sinn Féin in the winter months with reference to the Bobby Storey controversy is countered by ministers and the conservative press.
Exacerbating the bizarre actions of the local SF cumann in the Dublin South-West constituency and the appointment of the divisive figure of Paddy Holohan as Mayor of South Dublin County Council is another party target. And although the Ard Chomhairle acted quickly and effectively suspended the organization in the region, further damage was already being done to the ailing state of the SF.
While most readers will appreciate the pressure put on the Sinn Féin leadership and the broader (provisional) Republican movement regarding Bobby Storey’s funeral, most of us would also expect the party leadership to withstand that pressure and adhered to the restrictions that we as a nation have jointly agreed to. The failure and apparent willingness to break the lockdown rules are a reminder that some members of the party still consider themselves citizens of the Republic of Us.