Social conservative split rocks Irish republicanism

Peadar Toibin, formerly of Sinn Fein, now leader of a new socially conservative party

The Republic of Ireland has no electorally credible racial nationalist, or even eurosceptic nationalist party. In 2014 the big story here was Sinn Féin’s success in gaining three MEPs with 19.5% of the vote. This year Ireland’s European parliamentary representation will increase from 11 to 13 MEPs, so Sinn Féin (political arm of the terrorist IRA) will almost certainly retain these three seats.

However Sinn Féin is now being challenged by social conservatives, who take a leftwing stance on economics and remain committed to taking Ulster into the Irish Republic, but are disgusted by their leaders’ new liberal policies on issues such as abortion.

Co Tyrone councillor Rosemarie Shields is among the new party’s recruits from SDLP

At the start of 2019 a Sinn Féin member of the Irish Parliament, Peadar Toibin defected to set up a new conservative nationalist party called Aontú (which means ‘Unity’ or ‘Consent’). Some see this party as a desperate last stand by a dying Catholic establishment, but it has already attracted a few defections from either side of the Irish border.

Mr Toibin is a business consultant and graduate of University College Dublin, and had been a Sinn Fein activist since his student days. He says that about one-third of the new party’s supporters come from Fianna Fail, Ireland’s second-largest party and successor to the tradition of the country’s first independent leader Eamon de Valera. North of the border recruits have also come from Sinn Fein’s declining rival the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), including a councillor in County Tyrone.

The latest defector to Aontú is Sinn Fein councillor for Central Craigavon, Fergal Lennon, who told the media: “My former party has lost contact with the grassroots and no longer represents the best interest of the electorate, choosing instead to put media sound bites in place of real action.”

Craigavon councillor Fergal Lennon is the latest defector from Sinn Fein to the new party

Arguably the roots of this split date back to the late 1960s when the Provisional IRA was formed. This rejected the old-fashioned Marxism of the ‘Official IRA’: instead of waiting and building towards a proletarian revolution, the Provisionals were determined to escalate a brutal terrorist war against the hated Brits.

Yet on the other hand these same Provisionals increasingly identified themselves with Third World ‘liberation movements’, and eventually with the entire gamut of trendy delusions ranging from feminism, through abortion rights, gay marriage, multiracialism and no doubt now ‘transgender’ rights.

For many years Sinn Fein / IRA disguised these leftist/liberal affiliations from their American donors, since most of the latter were old-fashioned nationalists with a romantic attachment to traditional Irish culture, and in most cases devout Roman Catholics.

Now the chickens have come home to roost. Emboldened by a decade of scandals that have undermined church authority, militant left/liberal secularists have openly taken control of Sinn Fein’s agenda.

The new Aontú party is an effort to reconnect Irish republicanism with its traditional roots: it will be interesting to see whether Sinn Fein’s hegemony (that has been consolidated over the past half century) will now be challenged.

There is also a new party called Irexit campaigning for Ireland to leave the European Union, but it’s not yet clear whether this will be officially registered in time to contest this year’s elections. In Ireland (unlike the UK) at least 300 registered members are required before a party is officially recognised to appear on ballot papers.

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