When looking at the history of Sinn Féin’s attitude towards the European Union prior to the UK referendum held in June 2016 it has been dominated by Euroscepticism.
Ever since the Republic of Ireland followed the UK into the EU, Sinn Féin have opposed every step of deepening integration between Dublin and Brussels, arguing (believe it or not) that it dilutes the sovereignty of the Irish nation, and that it is nothing more than a right-wing sham.
As recently as February of this year, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams stated: “We are critical of the European Union because of the democratic deficit.”
Shortly after these comments in the same month, Liadh Ní Riada (Sinn Féin MEP for the Republic, South constituency) argued: “The economic and fiscal policies of the European Union have had catastrophic effects on the lives of many of its citizens.”
With Sinn Féin increasingly shifting leftwards, particularly to benefit themselves electorally in the austerity-ridden Republic, Martina Anderson, a Sinn Féin MEP and former IRA bomber, came out in support of the Eurosceptic and radical left-wing Greek party Syriza last year.
She said: “The Greek people have an opportunity to send a clear message to the right wing elites in Europe that austerity is wrong and will not be tolerated.
“This referendum is democracy in action and stands in contrast to the anti-democratic actions of the ECB, IMF, and the European Commission in attempting to force further austerity on Greece.”
From the 1970s through to early 2016, Sinn Féin have opposed every move that deepens integration with the European Union.
Even shortly before the UK referendum, Sinn Féin was still maintaining it’s traditional Eurosceptic stance. Many of the other Irish republican political parties and pressure groups were advocating to leave the EU. But why the sudden change in direction with Sinn Féin?
In a recent interview with VICE News, Gerry Adams said that the party noticed an impending crisis in London with the division the referendum was causing in the Conservative Party.
He also noted the party strategists believed that England would vote to leave the EU given the high levels of deep mistrust that have always existed there towards the direction of the EU. And whatever England does, Sinn Féin goes the opposite way, and they got the outcome they desired: England wanting to leave the EU and Northern Ireland voting to remain (albeit by a small margin).
It was a political strategy so devious and cunning. Shortly after the results, both national and regional, were announced, the cry for a Border poll could be heard coming from the depths of Irish Nationalism.
Sinn Féin did not have the interests of the people of Northern Ireland at the centre of their policy. They don’t care about the people that live here. They still strive for the goal of a united Ireland and that is what moved them to back the Vote Remain campaign. When their cry for a Border poll was rebuked by both the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and indeed the Prime Minister, up surfaced the potential for another political crisis.
Interestingly, when the VICE News reporter asked Gerry Adams about this, he said “you have to make the best out of a crisis.” With the failed promise of a united Ireland by Easter 2016, Sinn Féin will more than likely increase the calls for a Border poll.
This is why they dramatically shifted their attitude towards the EU in the final weeks running up to the referendum. It is the only way they can keep it on the agenda and stop the haemorrhaging of voters from their base to republican socialist alternatives. What Sinn Féin have to realise however is that not everyone who voted to remain in the European Union is an Irish nationalist.