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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Shinners are all Ireland champs, but party is over for SDLP

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Take over the North South Ministerial Council as a back door to a united Ireland.

That's the path Sinn Féin must take since chalking up the best all-island poll tally in almost a century.

Sinn Féin is on course to become at least a minority government partner in the next Dail.

On paper, it would be great for republicans to boast they could be in power, north and south, in time for the Easter Rising centenary in 2016.

But minority coalition partners have a bad habit of coming unstuck in subsequent polls – just ask Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who threw in the towel as Labour boss after the party's meltdown in the Southern European and council elections.

The Greens suffered a similar fate in a previous Dail. The North is done and dusted for the Shinners because with large splits in Unionism, Marty McGuinness is odds-on to become First Minister after the next Stormont election.

The Stoops suffered a Labour-style humiliation with the party turning in one of it's worst-ever election defeats.

The bitter pill for moderate nationalism is that it's time to wind up the SDLP and start over again with a new party before the Stoops end up in the dustbin of republican history.

Even if Shinner president Gerry Adams becomes Tanaiste in a pact with Fianna Fáil in the next Dail, whatever Sinn Féin does, it must not try to implement its daft Eire Nua policy, a pet hobby of the Provos.

It envisaged a federal all-island republic with regional parliaments in each of Ireland's four provinces. Looks good on paper, but in reality is merely pissing in the wind!

Smart republicans should implement a fresh Eire Nua using the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) set up by the Good Friday Agreement.

It features ministers from the Stormont Executive and Irish government agreeing policies on matters of mutual interest, effectively an all-island parliament on the sly!

The NSMC is one of the most effective political vehicles since republicans set up the first Dáil Eireann in 1919.

The nearest modern republicans got to the historic First Dáil was the Maryfield Secretariat set up near Belfast by the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

It gave nationalists the biggest all-island influence since partition, but could not bring the republican terror groups in from the cold.

In the 1980s, late former SDLP politician Paschal O'Hare – a nationalist visionary well ahead of his time – told me in an interview that nationalism needed a new political movement.

He could even see then that the Stoops would eventually run out of steam.

That was in an era when very few of the Southern parties would consider organising in the North.

But the Shinners' success will now prompt moderate nationalists to step up their campaign to develop Fianna Fáil north of the border.

If Sinn Féin is not to end up as the coalition whipping boy in future elections after 2016, it must go for bust and become the majority government partner in the Dail.

It must also build a safety net; the NSMC is that net.

Sinn Féin must use its new massive mandate across Ireland to ensure as many powers as possible are either given or devolved to the NSMC.

But the Shinners have an Achilles Heel, and it's not Fianna Fáil rebranding itself as an all-island movement.

Unionists could also use the NSMC to spark a spiritual revival for Christianity across the island.

This may not have Christian voters across the South flocking to pro-Union parties, but Unionists could use the NSMC to persuade significant numbers of nationalist Christians to abandon the Shinners and plump for Fianna Fáil.

June 3, 2014
________________

This article appeared in the June 2, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

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