Sinn Fein was once one of the most extreme parties of all

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The MEP Martina Anderson is arguably the most blunt and self-righteous prominent member of Sinn Fein, which is saying something in that sanctimonious party.

Now she is reported to have disparaged the DUP during a panel discussion in Greece on the peace process.

Ms Anderson is said to have told the audience in Thessaloniki: “The far-right have mutated civic nationalism into the narrow nationalism of the DUP, Golden Dawn, the AFD, Front National, Fidesz, and the English Defence League.”

There is no definition as to what is or is not “far” right, but the term is typically used not merely as one of abuse, but of contempt. Neo Nazi organisations or avowedly racist movements such as the British National Party are so far to the end of the spectrum that they could be described as “far” right.

And even then the term is confusing, because the extremes of the right can tip over to the extremes of left. The Nazi party had ‘socialist’ in its name, after all.

Some less extreme but emphatically right wing parties are sometimes described as “hard” right.

The DUP today, however, is right wing on some issues, such as law and order, and somewhere towards the centre or left on issues such as welfare and public expenditure.

That mix of views could if anything be called populist, although even that term is often used as a dismissive label.

The DUP is a larger and much more moderate party than it once was but regardless of what is or is not the most apt adjective for its politics, there is an almost satirical quality to Ms Anderson trying to designate it as far from the mainstream.

She also projected her own party as progressive. Sinn Fein, like the DUP, has changed. But it was once so ‘far’ to the extremes, given its closeness to the IRA through the latter’s long campaign of murder and carnage, that it takes some nerve for one of its leading members to talk about the extreme nationalism of others, let alone when the person speaking was once so hardline as to have been convicted for explosive offences.