Ireland, North and South, is facing a political and economic crisis. But the key to preventing it lies in Irish hands. One Irish political party has the power to change the balance of power at Westminster and to alter the dynamics of British politics, prevent a no-deal Brexit, avoid a hard UK-Ireland border and save the economy of Northern Ireland from catastrophe. It can do this without compromising its principles. All it needs is boldness, imagination and patriotism.
Boris Johnson’s radical right-wing administration has no effective majority in the House of Commons, even with the support of the DUP. But given the fragmented state of the opposition, Johnson may still be able to drive onwards towards the Brexit deadline of October 31st and over the edge of the cliff. There is one party that can stop him: Sinn Féin.
Sinn Féin holds seven seats at Westminster but leaves them vacant. Calling on the party to take those seats is rhetorically satisfying but pointless. In the first place, it has an impregnable argument for not doing so. It won these seats on an abstentionist platform. And it did so in 2017, when Theresa May was pushing for a very hard Brexit. Its voters knew the dangers and supported abstention anyway. That fact cannot be set aside.
And secondly, even if Sinn Féin was somehow able to make an immediate decision to occupy its seats when the Commons returns in September, the effect would probably be counterproductive. The Brexiteers and their media wing would generate hysteria about the Provos thwarting the will of the British people. Johnson would relish it. Wavering Tories would step back into line