- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000


Now that the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) political ally, Sinn Fein, has gained representation in Northern Ireland's new shared government, it is seeking a greater political role in the neighboring Republic of Ireland too. If pro-British unionists sit in the United Kingdom's parliament in Westminster, the argument goes, Sinn Fein and other Irish nationalists should be able to have representation and speaking power in Dublin. The analogy is problematic, however, and acceding to the group's demands could severely harm the peace process.
The analogy is inappropriate in several ways. First, Sinn Fein already has two seats in Westminster's House of Commons but refuses to occupy them, as it believes that would recognize British sovereignty over Northern Ireland; Sinn Fein prefers to pretend 79 years of British rule there never happened. Second, Sinn Fein cannot use representation on the provincial and federal level of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland and Westminster respectively as a basis for demanding representation in a different country all together, the Republic of Ireland. It would be similar to a Democrat saying that since Republicans serve in a Texas state legislature as well as in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Democrats should be able to serve in Texas, the United States and Canada.
The Irish themselves are eyeing the proposal which is being considered by a committee representing all parties and is to be presented to the Irish parliament in October with caution. It provides, among other things, that Sinn Fein members could attend and join in debates on Northern Ireland. The party also wants voting representation in the Irish parliament. As the Republic's own Irish Examiner aptly puts it: "They would be representing people who do not pay taxes in this state, yet they would be determining how the tax money would be spent. In short, they would have power without responsibility, which has famously been described as the 'prerogative of the harlot through the ages.' "
Moreover, Sinn Fein would gain another political perch from which to pursue the reunification of the north and south of Ireland, effectively undermining those in Northern Ireland's government who wish to maintain union with Great Britain. This would defeat the purpose of the new government's fair representation set up by the Good Friday accords.
It is beneficial for discussions concerning Northern Ireland's future to continue between Ulster, Dublin and Westminster. But allowing Northern nationalists to take their new leadership roles accorded by the Good Friday agreement as a mandate for ruling elsewhere is ludicrous. The people of Northern Ireland voted to be ruled by their own. If they or the citizens of the Republic of Ireland wish to elect new "time-share" politicians, they do so at their own peril.



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