Despite campaigning for decades against the further integration and expansion of the European Union and taking its seats alongside the Eurocritic communists and socialists of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left in Brussels and Strasbourg, Sinn Féin is now urging its supporters to “put Ireland first and vote to remain in the EU.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former abstentionist MP, is now urging people in Northern Ireland to vote tactically to ‘remain’ in a United Kingdom-wide referendum in two weeks.
“Sinn Féin will be campaigning vigorously in the coming days and weeks to encourage people to vote to Put Ireland First and Vote Remain in the EU,” he said.
The newly-elected Foyle MLA alluded to Sinn Féin’s awkward love-hate relationship with the European Union, which was exemplified when Gerry Adams campaigning against the Nice Treaty in 2001 asked supporters to vote ‘no’ because he believed it “paved the way for the creation of a new superpower, an EU Superstate with its own army dominated by the largest countries.”
In 2008, Mary Lou McDonald similarly warned the Treaty of Lisbon would mean lower wages, less power, more military spending and crushing family farms.
But backing ‘Bremain’ in 2016, Mr McGuinness said: “The European Union is far from perfect but the only way to address that and change it is from within. Our policy towards the European Union remains one of critical engagement.
“Brexit would be bad for Ireland, bad for business and trade, bad for our farmers and bad for human rights and workers rights.
“Many aspects of our society from community groups to business and education to agriculture have been able to grow and expand as a result of the support they have received from the European Union.
“We cannot allow the narrow interests of a section of the Tory party, which was not elected by the people of the North, to take us out of Europe and set our political agenda.”
MEP Martina Anderson echoed her fellow citizen’s ‘critical engagement’ theme.
“This is a hugely important vote, which will have implications not just for the north but for the entire island of Ireland,” she said.
“Brexit would be disastrous for Ireland north and south. We in the north, would be shackled to a Britain with a hostile, hawkish Tory government, wedded to the failed policies of austerity – a peripheral region of a peripheral state on the periphery of Europe.
“We critically engage with the EU, supporting what is right and good for Ireland while challenge shortcomings wherever we find them. And in doing so we want to build a better Europe.
“We in Sinn Féin have absolutely no confidence whatsoever that the British government has any interest in replacing funds and support lost to the north in the event of a Brexit.
“In order to build a better European Union, with a strong all-Ireland team of Sinn Féin MEPs, we need to vote remain.”