Shatters extraordinary rant about Sinn Fin

January 10th, 2015 2:28 PM

By Southern Star Team


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Southern Star January 10 2015

RELUCTANT as this scribe is to criticise

former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

when he’s in the doghouse, his

extraordinary rant on the terrible dangers

of voting for Sinn Fein deserves

some comment – not least because of

his misrepresentation of political fact

and context.

The ravings appeared in the Sunday

Independent (28/12/2014), a newspaper

that promotes sensationalist-style

opinion articles that often verge on the

dark side of what might be considered


Indeed, to be blunt, ever since the

Indo urged the British to execute the

1916 leaders, the newspaper group has

consistently regarded the various manifestations

of republicanism as a legitimate

target for serious attack.

That’s their right, of course, but however

one-sided the Indo-Sindo group

might be in their treatment of republicanism,

the newspapers have a saving

grace. It is their occasional investigations

into political corruption. And for

that they deserve to be commended.

Indeed the readiness to criticise government

policy and decision-making

mark the group as a fluid and reactive

organ of the ‘free press’; and it is not

strictly true either that they are Fine

Gael’s unofficial cheerleaders. After all,

did not then owner, Sir Anto O’Reilly,

endorse Fianna Fáil in the 1997 general

election under an Indo front page editorial,

entitled ‘It’s Payback Time’?

A fascist party?

However, the dilemma for the reader

is when the Indo-Sindo puts Sinn Féin

under a journalistic microscope. The

result is loud, self-centered, irrational

and unfairly-focused comment that is a

distortion of political reality.

The venom directed at Gerry Adams

is a case in point. Any evaluation

or judgement of his political activities,

or of his party becoming a major

component of the next government,

is dealt with in a manner that reeks

of contempt and a shameless lack of

objectivity. It is as if his contribution

to the democratic political process has

the same status as something the dog


Last month Adams scored a significant

victory when the Press Council

and Press Ombudsman upheld his complaints

regarding Sindo articles about

him. The newspaper published a groveling

apology, and Adams commented:

‘The biased and downright offensive

nature of Sunday Independent coverage

of Sinn Féin and myself in particular

is unprecedented in the history of

newspapers in this country. The latest

decision by the Press Ombudsman is a

significant and positive development

which can only be good for fairness and

objectivity in political coverage’.

Which brings us to Shatter’s recent

bombast. Here’s how he defined Sinn

Féin: It was a party of fascists, a cult, a

disaster for the country, an outfit made

up of aggressive bullyboys, a serious

risk with a ballot box in one hand and a

propensity ‘to behave in a manner that

is completely undemocratically unacceptable

on the other hand’.

And, as well as all that, the party was

an enormous threat to civil liberties

and a threat to ‘our capacity to maintain

health and social services’. Worse

of all, it had an ‘outer-rim’ that presented

an even more terrible threat to

humanity (unfortunately not specified).

No substitute for facts

We recognise, of course, that there is

no such thing as a completely objective

point of view and that bias is part and

parcel of all policies and ideologies. After

all, politicos speak from inherently

biased political positions – and that’s

the nature of the game.

But, in a serious newspaper such as

the Sunday Independent, loony-toon

analysis is no substitute for facts and

information whose accuracy can be


Fascism, as Shatter well knows, was

the creature of Mussolini and Hitler

– dictators who violently suppressed

opposition, ruled by means of oppressive

controls, and who promoted a vile,

belligerent racism. To smear Sinn Féin

as fascist is, well, plain silly.

It suggests that Shatter believes the

Sindo’s readers have such a simple

understanding of politics that enlightenment

should be offered by means of

easily understood opposites: such as

‘them and us’, ‘good guys and bad guys’.

In other words, the public is considered

to be so dense when republicanism

is under consideration that without

people like Shatter and the Sunday

Independent to do the explaining, we’d

understand nothing at all.

Birth of the Blueshirts

Ironically, it is Shatter’s own party

that has the most appropriate claim

to a fascist heritage, not Sinn Féin. In

the 1930s, the Army Comrades Association

and Cumann na nGaedhael

were instrumental in fostering General

O’Duffy’s repulsive Blueshirt movement.

Happily, the Blueshirts turned

out to be a comical version of Mussolini’s

Blackshirts and, after a few scares,

nobody took them seriously.

Yet, for a time the Blueshirts very

much saw themselves as part of the

European fascist movement. Cumann

na nGaedheal deputy, John A Costello

(who went on to become leader

of Fine Gael and Taoiseach) said that

‘the Blackshirts had been victorious in

Italy, Hitler’s Brownshirts victorious in

Germany and assuredly the Blueshirts

will be victorious in Ireland’.

Ironic too that when Irishmen (many

of whom were republicans) fought fascism

during the Spanish Civil War, the

Irish Independent and Shatter’s party

enthusiastically supported the Franco

uprising, even though it was aided and

abetted by Adolf Hitler and Mussolini.

In the Dáil, WT Cosgrave declared

the ‘fate of European civilisation and

everything in it’ depended on a Franco


Some legacy!

Language most foul

This column has been bemoaning

the bad language emanating from

prominent Fine Gael politicos. Recently

a former FG strategist peppered

an interview in a family newspaper with

the f-word. Last month, a FG Minister

allegedly told a Dáil deputy to ‘f-off’

during an acrimonious debate on water

charges, and then, during the Christmas

season of goodwill, Foreign Affairs

Minister Charlie Flanagan got in on the

act when he appeared to brand Sinn

Féin as c***s.

In a Twitter exchange with TD

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, the Minister

tweeted that in 2015 Ireland would be

faced with the choice of constitutional

politics or cult politics. Instantly, the

SF man responded with a picture of an

array of Irish Blueshirts with their arms

raised in the fascist salute. He added:

‘Hopefully cult politics doesn’t make a


When another tweeter asked Flanagan

if he spelt ‘cult’ incorrectly, the

Minister replied: ‘Yep, left out the “n”.’

Immediately, demands were made for

Flanagan to resign.

Gene Kerrigan of the Sunday Independent

put it well in arguing that

because Sinn Féin was outside the cosy

right-wing cartel of FG, Fianna Fáil and

Labour, it was okay to insinuate that SF

were c***s.

However, if Flanagan referred to

Joan Burton in that manner he would

be sacked. ‘Similarly, if he had used

the term about Michael Martin. Had

Paul Murphy or Gerry Adams used the

term, there would have been uproar for

weeks,’ Kerrigan said.

It seems that when it comes to obscenity

in the rancid world of Irish

politics, it’s different strokes for different


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