Thursday, 15 December 2016

Sides of the Emerald Aisle

Hiring a Sinn Féin staffer? Who knew that Jeremy Corbyn was quite such a pillar of the Establishment? 

Every British Government since 1998 has been as pally as you like with Sinn Féin even in public, and of course there was continuous communication before that.

The Royal Family are also well in with them these days, and the two appear genuinely to enjoy each other's company. 

The same has been true of both Unionist parties for years. 

If there is a story here, then it is that Corbyn is recruiting from an utterly Establishment party whose implementation of austerity on its home turf, when it can find the time between attending and even organising Royal events, is leading it to haemorrhage votes to the radical Left. 

The People Before Profit Alliance, which is basically the SWP, knocked Sinn Féin off the top of the poll in West Belfast at May's elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It also won a seat for Eamonn McCann in Foyle, which is to say, the Bogside.

Those are the real elections in Northern Ireland, where even benefit levels are devolved, and where social care was merged with the NHS years ago, so that they cannot see what the fuss is about.

Northern Ireland is an almost completely self-governing place, much like a small independent state that happens to receive a lot of aid. It is not very far at all from that. 

The West Belfast result was a shock to Sinn Féin. But they have had it coming.

The groundwork for what has become the People Before Profit Alliance has been going on for quite a while, and they chose to dismiss it.

They are now very left-wing in the Republic and anything but that in Northern Ireland. Something is going to have to give.

The People Before Profit Alliance now has two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Not for want of trying, the Conservatives and UKIP have none each. UKIP lost the one that, albeit by defection, it had previously had.

The emerging radical Left also has time. Its winner at West Belfast, Gerry Carroll, is only 29.

He has at least one friend, also a friend of mine, who is close to Corbyn. He would be in Momentum, or around it, if he were living over here.

That is why Corbyn's continued closeness to Sinn Féin feels faintly behind the times.

But what times he has seen.

Irish Republican connections have always gone down worst in the areas that were least affected by anything to do with them.

Right through the Troubles, Londoners cheerfully voted for Corbyn, John McDonnell and Ken Livingstone whenever they were given the opportunity to do so.

Meanwhile, right-wing Fleet Street types who caught the train back to the Home Counties every night forced those Londoners to pay the price of those types' principles.

No bombs ever went off where the hacks lived, or were ever going to.

Those papers ended up more Unionist than the actual Unionists, which was the long-overdue point at which everyone finally stopped paying any attention to them on this issue.

The matiness between Sinn Féin and both Unionist parties is very striking indeed, and it is thoroughly embedded.

That is just how Northern Ireland works, and that is how it has worked for many years now.

Whether that is a connection best kept up by Corbyn's Labour Party is, however, rather more of an open question.

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