Caracas tops Coalisland for Sinn Féin
One of this society’s admirable conventions is how we greet death. There is, generally, a circle-the-wagons response to bereavement, a funeral is often a celebration a life well lived. Attending one is an endorsement for the principles that shaped a life. Equally, choosing not to attend one can express reservations generally left unspoken.
Attending the funeral of a political leader is an opportunity to endorse and reaffirm alliances as President Trump’s absence — he was not invited — from Barbara Bush’s funeral last April showed. Accepting an invitation to the inauguration of a political leader is another endorse-by-attendance convention. Accepting an invitation to the inauguration of a political leader who secured office through means internationally questioned suggests collusion and denial that challenge the principles of democracy. Accepting an invitation to the inauguration of a leader whose first term in office destroyed their country suggests a cold indifference. It also brings the social-justice commitments of any who ignore this truth into a sharp, revealing focus.
Despite how vehemently she might harrumph, despite how she might, with a straight face, try to compare Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s and Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro’s record, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald must face those charges over Sinn Féin’s presence at Maduro’s inauguration. MLA Conor Murphy and general secretary Dawn Doyle were in Caracas last week for an event described as “a farce propping up a dictatorship”. That Ms McDonald should describe Maduro as “democratically elected” adds to that dangerous — if familiar — air of delusion. The UN, the EU, the Organisation of American States, the Lima Group and countries like Australia and the United States rejected Venezuela’s electoral process. It was recognised by China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Turkey, and others. By their friends, ye shall know them...
Maduro came to office in 2013 and created a humanitarian crisis unprecedented in recent Latin American history. Political and social chaos destroyed what was once one of the region’s most prosperous societies. Almost 10% of Venezuela’s 31 million citizens fled. Of those who remain, nearly 90% live in poverty. The IMF warned that inflation was heading towards one million percent, a rate comparable to 1920s Germany and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Democratically elected indeed — well maybe, Venezuela’s military dissuaded anyone prepared to oppose the inept Maduro so the field was small.
All of this could be dismissed as a greenhorn’s blunder — like Ms McDonald’s decision to run a candidate in our equally-predictable presidential election — but that it came days before SF’s anachronistic House of Commons abstentionism may have very real consequences for Northern Ireland’s majority who voted to remain in the EU sets it in a very different context, one far closer to hypocrisy than principled politics. But then, as the Stormont impasse shows, SF has long been indifference to chaos if it offers the party a chance strengthen its position. A far more admirable, practical policy would be to forget Caracas and remember Coalisland.