Only a month ago, I attended a civic unionism event on 18th February 2019 at Queen’s University where I listened to the Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald discussing reconciliation between unionists and republicans.
Shortly after that event, the Sinn Fein President made comments regarding the recruitment of the new Chief Constable for Northern Ireland which many considered to be political interference.
Sometime after that, Sinn Fein National Chairperson Declan Kearney tweeted a picture of the so-called ‘Certificate of Honor’ the San Francisco Mayor London Breed shamefully conferred posthumously to Martin McGuinness, with the description on the certificate referring to his ‘courageous service in the military’ whenever Martin McGuinness was never even in any state military and was actually in the IRA if that is what the description is supposed to be referring to.
Now, the Sinn Fein President allowed herself to be photographed behind a banner that states “England Get Out Of Ireland” in a St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City, USA. If this was not already offensive enough, Sinn Fein and its activists doubled down on its President’s decision to be photographed smiling behind that disgraceful banner. They say it refers to a banner that has been in use in the New York City St Patrick’s Day parade as far back as 1948 and that it should be read in that context. I can think of other disgraceful banners and slogans that were in use in the 1930s and 1940s but anyway.
Sinn Fein cannot claim ignorance in regards to the hurt and offence caused by this series of actions. I would have called them gaffes but as they are deliberate, they are actually displays of arrogance which Sinn Fein and its activists continue to defend, rejecting any criticism and dismissing any concerns as mere overreactions and misunderstandings.
I reflect a month later after listening to the Sinn Fein President’s platitudes at that civic unionism event of “respect” and “equality” and I am appalled by its actions since that event. I never took the words of the Sinn Fein President seriously but I also am taken aback at how careless and clumsy she has been in trying to promote a “New Ireland” that is supposed to be welcoming and inclusive while simultaneously getting behind quite literally an anachronistic banner that belongs in a museum.
As a person, I try to be fair but with Sinn Fein, it seems to be all one-way with no reciprocation or generosity of spirit in regards to common courtesy that all people should be afforded on a basic level of human dignity. Dignity is what is missing from our politics and I am not seeing any meaningful action from Sinn Fein to restore it.
Michael Palmer, Ulster Unionist Party, Newtownards