If there is anything unionists should learn from the recent election, it is that Sinn Fein will remain alive and well, as long as they can appeal to their core motivating force, hatred.
History testifies to the fact that Irish republicanism has always thrived when it can appeal to this primitive motivating force, primarily directed against anything British.
Indeed, as Conor Cruise O’Brien once alluded to in his book ‘Ancestral Voices’, Irish republicanism was born more out of a hatred of Britain, than a love for Ireland.
However, it has become increasingly difficult over recent decades, to hate a British State that has long since ceased to replicate that animosity, as British relations with the Irish Republic continue to improve.
More recently, the ‘fresh start agreement’ was a political disaster in the making for Sinn Fein as it denied them of the animosity fuelled rhetoric they needed to motivate their support base.
Sadly however, unionism has failed to recognise Irish Republicanism’s ‘Achilles heel’, and simply deprive them that hate figure.
In moving forward, unionists should take comfort in the fact that a successful Brexit has the potential to push a united Ireland further away than ever.
In the meantime, dealing with Sinn Fein will necessitate a lot of ‘walking on eggshells’, but having awakened the Sinn Fein giant the onus is now on unionism to explore a smarter way forward.
After all, there is nothing new in this approach. The Apostle Paul admonished Christians to adopt just such an attitude toward their enemies two thousand years ago (Romans 12:20).
Ken McFarland, Omagh