“Every country has its own mafia. Putin’s Russia is the first where the mafia has its own country.”
One thing that strikes me about our politics (north, south, east and west) is how we’ve become so exceedingly inattentive about the operation of dark money circulating not just in the wider economy and in culture (think Chelsea?) but in our politics.
There’s something about larger volumes of cash (millions and billions) that renders them almost invisible to the public eye in ways that hundreds and thousands remain tangible to ordinary punters and readers of the news.
The increasingly ruthless Russian war on Ukraine has rendered visible many things that we previously either could not see or preferred to buy into the ‘it’s too difficult to think about/solve’ reasoning for allowing things persist in the old ways of doing things.
There’s no doubt western market fundamentalism, on the right, has much to answer for. The privatisation of energy has made for a chaotic landscape in Northern Ireland, such that when low sulphur Russian coal is being unloaded in Belfast no one owns the means for doing anything about it.
On the left there’s a furious conversation breaking out over an initial analysis from the far left that responsibility for Russian actions (including the shooting dead of civilians and members of the Press) remains firmly responsibility of western capitalism.
George Monbiot on Twitter explains the term #Westsplaining:
We need to talk about #Westplaining.
It’s a term coined by the Eastern European left to describe a tendency of certain Western leftists to ascribe everything that happens east of Germany to Western policy.
— George Monbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) March 15, 2022
With the exceptions of Claire Daly and Mick Wallace, most Irish politicians on the left have flipped their positions on Russia, but Sinn Féin has done with a thoroughness that hasn’t escaped The Irish Times leader writers this morning:
With Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a central plank of Sinn Féin’s foreign policy has gone up in smoke. A party that has long equivocated over Putin’s brutal regime has felt compelled to ditch its previous positions and embrace new ones. \
This has not been accompanied by any evident self-reflection within the party about why it could be so wrong about something so important for so long. On the contrary, the party simply wiped thousands of embarrassing statements from its website.
The material was “out of date”, it said.
Among the pronouncements Sinn Féin presumably wishes to forget are then-MEP Lynn Boylan’s suggestion in 2019 that the EU was being “overly confrontational” towards Russia. Four years earlier, Boylan joined the party’s other MEPs in abstaining on an “unbalanced” resolution condemning rights abuses in Russia and criticising Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
In 2018, party leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed Ireland had breached its military neutrality when it expelled a Russian diplomat after Russia’s deployment of a chemical weapon in England. Former foreign affairs spokesman Seán Crowe called for the abolition of Nato, a “Cold War relic” whose positions “have always been wrong”.
The reverse ferret has been a standard operating procedure (SOP) for Sinn Féin for many years in Northern Ireland, but this is the first many in the Republic will have witnessed in Mary Lou’s era. And yet, these are the tell tale signs of what a party really thinks and what it really stands for.
What they’ve yet to learn is that Sinn Féin’s past is in permanent revision, such that nothing, not it’s views on macro geo politics nor indeed, dare I say it, its housing policy de jour is sacred when it comes to throwing an inconvenient ‘bag’ or three off a moving bus.
The leader writer concludes:
Tell that to the people of Poland or the Baltic states as they watch Russian missiles hitting Ukrainian cities.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty